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

An Overview of Current, On-Going Danish Naval projects  2005-2009
Knud Rasmussen class  Ice-Resistant  OPV  (Offshore Patrol Vessel)


Danish Navy  Arctic  and   North Atlantic "Inspection Ships"  —   the  Knud Rasmussen class

[ Update: Dec 2013, the Folketing has approved funding for a third Knud Rasmussen class ship. In August of 2010, the crew of the Knud Rasmussen established a record by reaching the further north of any ship sailing on the west coast of Greenland – 82°02'N, 62°01'W – placing the Danish inspection ship just off the coast of  Ellesmere Island where Quttinirpaaq National Park meets the Robeson Channel in northernmost Nares Strait.  For comparison, CFS Alert is 82°30'N, 62°19'W.]

In December 2003, the Danish parliament approved 507M Kroner (Cdn $105.8M) for construction of  two new Knud Rasmussen class offshore patrol ships for North Atlantic and Arctic waters. In Danish service, such OPVs are termed Inspektionsfartøjer (IF) or inspection ships. Contracts for the Knud Rasmussen class OPV were signed almost exactly one year later, on 20 December 2004.

Prime contractor is the Karstensens Skibsværft of Skagen but the OPV hulls were build by the Stocznia Pólnocna in Gdansk, Poland  –  these subcontractor arrangements are now the general trend in European shipbuilding (hulls are build as far away as Ukraine or Rumania and towed as far as northern Norway).  Propulsion gear  is fitted  in Poland before hulls are towed to Denmark for complete outfitting.

At 1720 tons displacement, these new patrol vessels are substantially larger than their predecessors  –  the 330-t Agdlek class Inspektionskutteren. In the image at right, first of class HDMS Knud Rasmussen is seen at a dock
in Greenland sandwiched between an inspection cutter,
Y388 Tulugaq, (left) and a larger Thetis class OPV, F359 Vædderen, (right). The new Knud Rasmussen class will replace the cutters one for one. [1]  Like the cutters, the new OPVs are ice-hardened. The Knud Rasmussen class will sometimes be called upon to act as light icebreakers.

In April 2008, HDMS Knud Rasmussen deployed to Greenland for tests in Arctic conditions. Off Nuuk, the vessel handled Beaufort 6 conditions (25 m/s winds and 3-to-4m waves) without major difficulty. Encounters with sea ice did reveal minor problems. Although the hull could easily deal
with routine 40cm sea ice and the specified 70cm of  hard fjord ice, broken ice was injested by the engine cooling seawater intakes. Some reshaping will be required before the return to Greenland.

Tasks will include sea surveillance, sovereignty and fisheries patrol, environment protection, search and rescue, assistance to the Danish and Greenland governments –  including police and transport service for government officials –  icebreaking, towing, salvage, medevac, and diver assistance. The increase in size over the Agdlek class results in greater endurance (for both crew and ship) enabling patrols  further offshore. Larger engines and a longer hull line also allow a higher top speed –  17-to-18 knots compared with 11-to-12 kts for the old cutters. This top speed is important, considering  the great distances which must be covered in Greenland waters. On average, the old Agdlek class cutters on station have each covered more than 25,000+ nautical miles per year.

Another advantage of  the increase in size  is the ability to carry  more equipment and armament. However, having taken the Standard Flex approach, mounting this containerized gear is optional.

The 76mm main gun  (shown in the sideview, below) won't normally be mounted.  Instead, armament will be restricted to two .50-cal  Browning machineguns (easing crew workload  and  helping keep crew size down). When heavier armament is needed, the gun will be fitted into the forecastle StanFlex slot. A rear container position can hold a Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) launcher. The MU90 antisubmarine torpedo is another quick fit. Larger ship size allows
a sizeable rear helicopter deck as well. Medium heli- copters can land-on and fuel but there is no hangar.

Beneath the helicopter landing deck is an internal bay
for a 12m LCP class  landing craft with its own  launch- and-recovery slipway. The high-speed LCPs meant for the Knud Rasmussen class are strengthened for Arctic service and outfitted  with search-and-rescue gear. [2]
A roll-up door  on the starboard upper hull side covers
a stowage bay for two RHIB boats and davits. Stowage for ships boats and  LCPs may seem extravagant but it helps limit the deleterious effects of  Arctic ice buildup.

For surveillance, the Knud Rasmussen class are fitted with the Danish Terma Scanter 4100 radar which is effective for small  targets at distances up to 160 km in difficult conditions. The Scanter 4100 can be used for detecting both air and surface targets. Terma A/S has also provided the C4I system (Command, Control, Communication, Computerization and Information). This C4I system will enable Knud Rasmussen class  vessels to participate in net-based operations by exchanging data between national and  international  naval units, as well as  Danish army and  air force units.

HDMS Knud Rasmussen is expected to be fully operational by the summer of  2008. The second hull – Ejnar Mikkelsen – is being outfitted at Karstensens and is expected in September of 2008.

[ Update: The second Knud Rasmussen class OPV has now been been named (by the Speaker of the Landsting, Greenland's Parliament).  Continuing the Danish Arctic explorer theme begun with HDMS Knud Rasmussen,  P571 is HDMS Ejnar Mikkelsen.  A further two OPVs were considered but, as of Dec 2013, funding has only just been approved for a third Knud Rasmussen class ship.]
    Knud Rasmussen class Inspection Ship
  Displacement:   1,720 tonnes
  Dimensions:   length 61m,  beam 14.6m,  draught 4.95m
  Complement:   18 crew  (but can accommodate up to 43 )
  Propulsion:
 
  2  x  2,720 kW  (3650 hp) at  800 rpm, B&W
  Alpha 8L27/28 diesel engines,  1 propeller
  Range:   3,000 nautical miles  (3,452 mi / 5,555 km)
  Performance:   top speed  17 - 18 knots  (31.5 - 33.2 km/h)
  Armament:   2  x  12.7 mm Browning M/01 LvSa  HMG*
*  Standard fit (which is lighter than that of the Agdlek class). As noted, containerized armament
   can include a 76 mm gun (M/85 LvSa), ESSM, and EuroTorp MU90 (M/04 antiubaadstorpedo).


[1] A third Knud Rasmussen class was included in the next defence agreement – there were three Agdlek class cutters in service. Funding for that third ship was confirmed in Dec 2013 – 513M kr in 2013-2017. There was speculation that a fourth Knud Rasmussen may be added to replace the Beskytteren, a 1,970-t OPV decommissioned in 2000 and transferred to Estonia as Admiral Pitka.

[2] The 6.5-t LCPs are powered by a 625 hp diesel driving a water-jet. A top speed of  38-40 knots will speed up SAR work and be an asset in the vast fjords off Davis Strait. These boats are same as those purchased for the Absalon class support and command ships other than equipment  fit and strengthened hulls. Ships boats are a twin-engined 7m RHIB and a 4.8m RHIB.  All three are kept in heated spaces so that they are not covered with ice and  their engines can be kept ready.

Further reading: Danish Naval History (Knud Rasmussen class, commissioning, & second hull ), Forsvaret presentation  (pdf, in Danish).  Plus  Agdlek class  and  more on the LCP landing craft.

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