Defence Policy,
Foreign Policy,
& Canada-US


In Detail



In Detail


Danish Naval
Projects Index


In Detail
Arctic Viking



Comparisons  –  NATO Allies  –  Current Danish Naval Projects  –  May  2008

An Overview of Current, On-Going Danish Naval projects  2005-2009
Absalon class  Command and Support Ship (CSS / Transport Frigate)

Danish Navy  Multi-Use Transport Ships  –  Absalon class (HDMS Absalon & Esbern Snare)

The Absalon class  have been variously described as combat support ships or even as transport frigates. In Danish service, the Absalon class are termed Kommandostøtteskib or Command and Support ships. The Absalons were jointly conceived by the Danish Navy (specifically, the KDM Søværnets Materielkommando) and the Odense Lindø Shipyard (Odense Staalskibsværft, a part of  the AP Møller Group).  The contract was signed with the Odense Lindø in November of  2001.

Construction of the first Absalon hull began in May of  2003. The first ship was delivered in June 2004 and named Absalon
(founder of  Copenhagen) by  HM Queen  Margrethe II.  The ship was ready to sail but not yet fitted with all of  its military hardware  –  although the ship was already equipped with its BAE  127mm main gun.  HDMS Absalon then went to a naval base for its  first fit of  government-supplied  naval hardware. After its initial fitting out, the new ship was sent out into the Atlantic for two months of  sea trials including climatic tests. Absalon  travelled south of  the equator  before turning west towards North America, visiting  Norfolk, Baltimore, and then Halifax  (arriving 28 October 2005).

Upon the ship's return to Denmark, KDM personnel installed and tested the remaining hardware, cables, electronic units, etc. All ship tests are now complete and Absalon has been declared fully operational. She will join Combined Task Force 150, the multinational maritime security operation in the Indian Ocean, in August 2008. The second ship in the class, HDMS Esbern Snare (named after the brother of Absalon, Esbern the Resolute),  has already undergone sea trials and  partici- pated in NATO exercises. She will most likely be declared operational during the autumn 2008.[1]

Both  Absalon (L16) and  Esbern Snare (L17) have been active for some time.  However, both vessels were delivered without  their complete systems for reasons of economy. The full weapons and sensor suites have now been  installed  and  containerized hospitals are being completed.  So, what exactly are the Absalon  class?  Similar in size and armament to
a modern frigate, Absalon lacks the sensors to meet that standard. Instead, the Absalon class have Roll- On, Roll-Off  ramps and  interior space for  vehicles.

The Absalons have 900 square metres (240 lane-metres)
of multi-use interior space. Measuring 84m x 10.9m x 5m, this so-called  "flex-deck" would  normally carry military vehicles. Using the RO/RO ramp which extends from the stern, vehicles as heavy as the 62-ton Leopard 2A5 DK main battle tank  (right), can be embarked.  The capacity
of this cargo deck is around 450 t. Along with vehicular cargo, the containerized hospital and extra living quarter modules for troops can also accommodated on this deck.

The door  for the RO/RO ramp is on the starboard side of the transom. On the port side is another door for two fast landing craft and their retractable launch/recovery gantry. These waterjet-propelled  LCP-class  landing craft can hit
40 knots and  have a range of  200 nm (370 km). The LCPs have crews of  2-3 and can carry 10 fully-equipped troops
or 4 stretcher cases. LCPs are based on a Swedish design but are basically crew boats. [2]  When not needed, both LCPs are stored  in a bay beside the vehicle loading ramp.

Above the vehicle deck and LCP bay is an 850 square metre helicopter landing deck.  This deck can accommodate 20-t helicopters  (including Chinooks) but was sized specifically for two EH-101s (the KDM has 4 EH-101s on order for the Absalon class) as were the twin-bay hangars.  When  helicopters are  not  in  use (or weren't  embarked)  the landing  deck  serves as further  vehicle parking  space  and  container storage.

The Absalon class was designed to accommodate up to 200 soldiers (a company-sized force with a command staff). Living quarters or a hospital module can be fitted on the RO-RO deck in a day.

The armament for the Absalon class follows the Danish Standard Flex approach  but  the guns are permanently mounted. The main gun is the US 5" (127mm) Mk 45 Mod 4 by BAE Systems (United Defense) which was installed at  the shipyard.  The Mk 45 Mod 4
is the largest calibre gun fitted  to any Danish warship [3] and  for good reason. The Absalon class gun must be able to engage land targets. To do that, a 127mm gun was chosen for the weight of its shell  –  up to 32 kg compared with only 6 kg for the 76mm/62 gun used on most Danish ships. Range was another consideration.[4]

Mounted later were two close-in weapons system turrets  – one mounted  behind and above the main gun, the other mounted on top of the rear hangar. The CIWS are 35mm Millenium revolver cannons by Rheinmetall (formerly Oerlikon)  which can fire up to 1000 rounds per minute (cyclic).

At the same time as the 35mm CIWS guns were added, launchers were installed for decoys and torpedos. There are four six-tubed Mk 36 launchers for the Seagnat / SBROC chaff decoys and  two Mk 32  twin launchers for MU90 (M/04) anti-submarine torpedos. Forward of  the torpedo launchers, in a sunken mid section, there are five  Standard Flex armament  container slots for Harpoon [5] surface-to-surface cruise missiles (16 Harpoons in two groups of paired quad cannisters) and three rows of  six vertically-launched NATO Sea Sparrow or  twelve  ESSM  surface-to-air missiles. [6]

One of  the reasons  that  the Absalon class was attainable, was a willingness to accept systems being installed  in phases. This meant a delay in acheiving full operational status but  both ships were available for limited operations in the meantime. It has also resulted in some confusion over costs.  Prices as low as 1.256 billion Kroner  (Cdn $263M)  have been quoted.  The actual cost for the entire Absalon class  program,  completely equipped,  is quoted as 2.7B Kroner (Cdn $565M).

    Absalon class Command & Support Ship
  Displacement:   6.300 tonnes
  Dimensions:   length 137m,  beam 19.5m,  draught 6.5m
  Complement:   100 crew  (accommodation for up to 300 )
  2  x  8,200 kW  (11,000 hp)  MTU 8000 M70
  diesel engines, 2 x props, 1 x bow thruster
  Range:   9,000 nautical miles  (10,356 mi / 16,666 km)
  Performance:   service speed  23 knots  (42.5 km/h)
  1 x 127 mm main gun  (5"/62 / M/02 LvSa)
  2 x 35 mm CIWS (Millenium / M/04 LvSa)
  16 x SSM, 3 x SAM (VLS), 4 x SAM (light),
  2 x twin torpedo launchers, 7 x heavy mgs

[1] A third Knud Rasmussen class will probably be included in the next defence agreement (there were three Agdlek class cutters in service although one has now been decommissioned and sold off). There is also speculation that a fourth Knud Rasmussen class might be added to replace the Beskytteren, a 1,970-t OPV decommissioned in 2000 and transferred to Estonia as Admiral Pitka.

[2] The LCPs are essentially enlarged equivalents of  the CF diver recovery boats. The design is based on the 12m Swedish SRC 90E rescue boat (hence the stretcher capability). The SRC 90E is also used as a fast insertion boat making it suitable as a light  landing craft.  Hull construction is of composite laminate (carbonfibre with  vinyl ester resin).  In a strengthened, ice-resistant  form, the LCP is the same boat chosen for search and rescue duties from Knud Rasmussen class OPVs.

[3] The retired Peder Skram class frigates had twin mount 127mm M/60 LvSa2 (US 5"/38 Mk12s).

[4] The Danes were relying on the steerable EX-171 Extended-Range Guided Munition to boost the gun's range from 36 km to 117 km. Unfortunately, the ERGM was cancelled in March of 2008.

[5] Denmark was the first international customer for the Harpoon Block II upgrade  –  50 in 2002, Canada followed in 2004. Along with anti-shipping, Block II missiles can also attack land targets.

[6] As with the CF,  Sea Sparrows will be replaced by ESSMs (Enhanced Sea Sparrow Missiles).

Further reading: Danish Naval History (Absalon class, Absalon, Esbern Snare, CIWS, & MU90).

  Advertise  on  CASR  
 Contact: CASR   Promotions