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German Navy despatches air-defence frigate to Mediterranean ahead of launch of EU operation ‘Aspides'

Hessen departs Wilhelmshaven naval base on 8 February, bound for the Mediterranean. (Bundeswehr/Julia Kelm)

The German Navy has despatched its Type 124 Sachsen-class air-defence frigate FGS Hessen (F 221) to the Mediterranean ahead of the launch of the European Union's (EU's) new naval operation to protect merchant shipping against attacks by the Ansar Allah group (commonly known as the Houthis) in the southern Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

Hessen departed Wilhelmshaven, bound for the Mediterranean, on 8 February, the German armed forces announced the same day. From there, it will move into the Red Sea after receiving final approval from the German federal parliament to join the EU's new operation, dubbed ‘Aspides', which is expected to launch on 19 February.

Hessen is the youngest of three Sachsen-class frigates that entered service with the German Navy between 2004 and 2006. The 143 m vessels have a full load displacement of around 5,800 tonnes, a top speed of 29 kt, and a standard range of 4,000 n miles at 18 kt.

Hessen set sail with a crew of around 240, which includes soldiers from the navy's Sea Battalion and naval aviators for two embarked Super Lynx Mk 88A helicopters.

The Sachsen class is designed to provide long‐range air surveillance and area air defence for a navy task group, and the radar systems and armament on board are optimised for such operations.

The primary air-defence armament on board Hessen

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