When the Norwegian Navy required a new, ultra-modern frigate for its inventory, the Fridtjof Nansen-class of surface fighting ship was born. Naturally, the lead ship became the HNoMS Fridtjof Nansen (F310) which would represent a group of five-strong. The Spanish shipbuilder Navantia was selected for its construction (the F310 was, itself, based on the Spanish Navy's F100) to which construction began on April 9th, 2003. The vessel launched on June 3rd, 2004 and formally commissioned into HNoMS service on April 5th, 2006. She has since been joined by her sisters Roald Amundsen (F311), Otto Sverdrup (F312), Helge Ingstad (F313) and Thor Heyerdahl (F314).
Frigates are a general surface warship type designed primarily for main fleet support and, therefore, are completed with a plethora of offensive and defensive capabilities. They are generally dimensionally larger than destroyers and feature anti-ship and anti-submarine measures to undertake a variety of combat roles. In this fashion, the frigate is also designed to be a self-sustained vessel capable of operating apart from the main fleet for hunting enemy submarines and the like.
The Firdtjof Nansen offers state-of-the-art onboard facilities and active/passive protection as well as proven offensive measures. As with most modern warships, the Nansen lacks use of any side rails or passageways on its deck to help promote stealth characteristics on the high seas. The bow is elevated at its front peak and expands along a downwards slope towards amidships. The deck gun is housed in a turret with a Vertical Launch System (VLS) missile bay directly aft. After the missile cells is the bridge superstructure identified by the large, rectangular window array. The forward superstructure is dominated by a tall enclosed polygonal mast which is home to a bevy of antenna and communications sensors as well as the required radar facilities. At amidships is the first of two inline smoke funnels that are well shielded while presenting a noticeably low profile. The second integrated superstructure is aft of amidships and ahead of the helipad at the stern. The helipad can accept or launch a medium-lift class helicopter (the European NHIndustries NH-90 being the primary type). The vessel can also field a pair of RHIBs (Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boats) in lieu of the NH-90 for fast sea-based responses. The RHIBs are stowed along the sides at amidships near the first funnel. The standard crew complement of the Fridtjof Nansen is 120 personnel though this can be increased to 146 as required.
The Fridtjof Nansen makes use of a specialized propulsion configuration known as "CODAG" - "Combined Diesel and Gas". As the name suggests, the system utilizes a hybrid arrangement to provide propulsion extra darting speed above the listed cruise speed while offering a smaller footprint than conventional diesel-only engines. The Nansen features 2 x BAZAN BRAVO diesel engines with a General Electric GE LM2500 series gas turbine driving 2 x controllable pitch propellers at the stern. For precise dock maneuvering, the Nansen relies on a retractable, electrically-powered bow thruster. All told, the vessel can make headway at 26 knots with a range of 4,500 nautical miles.
Primary armament for the Nansen is the 8-cell Mk 42 series VLS system located aft of the deck gun. Each cell contains four reloads of the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) which debuted in US Navy service in 2004. The deck gun is a 76mm/62 OTO Melara "Super Rapid" autocannon for use against surface targets - at sea or on land. Norway engineers developed the indigenous "Naval Strike Missile", a sea-skimming, cruise missile having entered service recently in 2012 of which the Nansen is outfitted with eight. Six 324mm torpedo tubes are also carried which can be used to engage submarines or surface ships. Extreme close-in defense is handled by 4 x 12.7mm Browning M2HB heavy machine guns. The 76mm deck gun can also be replaced by a more potent 127mm/54 gun while there is support for a 40mm/70 gun short-range defensive gun.
Beyond its obvious weapons array, the Nansen is fielded with all-modern suites of sensors and processing systems. Lockheed Martin supplies the AN/SPY-1F 3D multifunction phased array radar system while Reutech is charged with the RSR 210N air-sea search radar facility. A fixed sonar system is embedded within the hull while an active/passive Captas MK II V1 sonar can be towed. Weapons are assisted by 2 x Mark 82 fire control radars - one installation fitted above the bridge and the other atop the aft superstructure. For self-defense, the Nansen fields the Terma DL-12T chaff decoy launcher and the Loki torpedo countermeasures suite.
The Firdtjof Nansen has since deployed (in 2009) to the Gulf of Aden in the joint European response to ongoing pirate activity in the region, mainly near Somalia. She has already fired her guns in anger against Somali pirate vessels during her tenure there.