Damen Wins Giant Contract for Four German Navy Frigates

Illustration courtesy Bundeswehr / Twitter

Published Jan 14, 2020 1:26 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Tuesday, the government of Germany announced that it has selected a bid from Dutch shipbuilder Damen and Hamburg-based Blohm + Voss (a subsidiary of Lürssen Group) to build the next German Navy frigate, the MKS 180.

The $6.7 billion, four-hull contract is the largest in recent German naval shipbuilding history, and the award includes options for two additional hulls - plus the possibility of future export sales. The first ship is slated for delivery in 2027.

Damen is the prime contractor, but about 80 percent of the investment created by the construction will be spent in Germany. Similarly, around 70 percent of the electronic applications services will be provided by the German subsidiary of Thales and by other German subcontractors. 

Sea change for German shipbuilding

German procurement agency BAAINBw eliminated the German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems early on in the bidding, citing the price and the serious construction issues affecting the ThyssenKrupp-led Type 125 (F125) frigate program, a predecessor to the MKS 180. TKMS and its subcontractors experienced significant delays and cost overruns during the F-125 program, and the German government returned the lead vessel in the class due to quality problems - the first time that this has occurred in the history of Germany's navy.  

After its first rejection for the MKS 180 program in 2018, ThyssenKrupp partnered with German Naval Yards Kiel and American defense contractor Alion to re-enter the contest. That bid was also turned down - a major upheaval for Germany's naval shipbuilding industry.

The award drew sharp criticism from ThyssenKrupp and from politicians representing Kiel. "More than 1,000 jobs are at stake. ThyssenKrupp took over the shipyards in 2004 at the request of the federal government. Now it is up to politicians to tell us how they envisage a future for the shipyards," said ThyssenKrupp AG CEO Oliver Burkhard in a Twitter statement.

Schleswig-Holstein's prime minister, Daniel Günther, also criticized the decision and called for maximizing the number of German jobs in the MKS 180 program. "For the largest naval armament project to date, it would have been important for the German government to rely on the existing know-how in Germany," said Günther.

German industrial union IG Metall also expressed disappointment. "We are very surprised at the outcome, especially since naval surface ship building has finally been established as a key competence. The fact that this order should not be part of this key competence [leaves us without] understanding,” said Achim Hass, IG Metall's chairman of the works council at TKMS.