Unlike the preceding Hamburg-class destroyers of the West German Navy of the Cold War years, which were fast-tracked in construction by doing away with more modern systems and weaponry, the succeeding Brandenburg-class warships of the reunified German Navy were all-modern warships from the get-go. The class replaced the four-strong Hamburg ships one-for-one and were built by various German shipbuilders from the period spanning 1992 to 1995. The group is also known as the "F123" - or "Type 123" - class.
Ordered by the German government in June of 1989 (then to be known as the Deutschland-class), the Brandenburg-class ultimately encompassed FGS Brandenburg (F215), FGS Schleswig-Holstein (F216), FGS Bayern (F217) and FGS Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (F218). The lead ship of the group, FGS Brandenburg, was laid down on February 11th, 1992 by builder Blohm und Voss and launched on August 28th, 1992. She was formally commissioned on October 14th, 1994 and remains in active service as of this writing (2017).
With the Hamburg-class seeing decommissioning in the early-1990s, the Brandenburg-class took over various duties within the German Navy by the mid-1990s. By design, the frigates were intended for deep water travel and to serve in the sub-hunting role - the primary enemy of the period being the Soviet Navy. The construction phase utilize a time-saving modular approach which would aid in long term maintenance of the vessels down the road and the same propulsion scheme used in the Bremen-class guided-missile frigates (eight of these being built) were carried over into the Brandenburg-class. Some stealth qualities were built into the new breed and all-steel construction formed her vital hull components.
FGS Brandenburg is powered by a CODOG (COmbined Diesel Or Gas) arrangement in which different pairs of engines are selected to accomplish varying actions such as dashing and cruising - essentially an economical measure for such a large ship. This arrangement involves 2 x MTU 20V956 TB92 diesel-engines with 2 x General Electric LM2500 gas turbines and both tie into the 2 x Renk BGS 178 Lo transmission systems driving 2 x shafts under stern. Speed in ideal conditions can reach in excess of 29 knots with a range out to 4,000 nautical miles.
Displacement equals 3,600 tons under load and length reaches 455.5 feet with a beam of 55 feet and a draught of 21 feet.
Internally, the vessel is crewed by 219 personnel including 26 officers. The warship carries the Thales LW08 air-search D-band radar unit, the Thales SMART-S air-surface surveillance F-band radar and a pair of Thales STIR 180 series Fire-Control (FC) radars. There is also a hull-mounted sonar and a towed sonar array.
In profile, the warship manages a relatively squat profile with the bridge superstructure concentrated ahead of midships. There is a sold turreted deck gun over the forecastle. Smoke funnels are integrated at the middle of the design aft of the bridge superstructure and an aft superstructure completes the aft section of the ship, just ahead of the helipad over stern. The main mast is of an enclosed pyramidal design. The enclosed nature of this structure and the slab-sided nature of the upper hull structures aid in radar signature reduction.
Armament is led by 1 x 76mm OTO-Melara Mk-75 Dual-Purpose (DP) turreted deck gun in the A-position. There are also 2 x rapid-fire automatic cannons for close-in defense (namely anti-aircraft/anti-missile warfare). The warship is outfitted with 1 x bank of Mk 41 Mod 3 Vertical Launch System (VLS) housing 16 x Sea Sparrow anti-aircraft missiles. There are also 2 x Mk 49 launchers to fire the 21 x Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM). 4 x MM38 Exocet anti-ship missiles are also carried as are 4 x 324mm torpedo tubes housing Mk 46 series torpedoes.
All told, the capabilities of FGS Brandenburg go far beyond its intended sub-hunting role for it can participate in fleet defense, airspace denial and take on enemy surface ships and submarines as required. For a frigate-type warship, the multi-mission approach has always been the call of the day. Before the arrival of the more advanced Sachsen-class (Type 124) ships, the Bradenburg-class was the most advanced surface warship in the German Navy.
At the stern, the vessel can support up to 2 x Sea Lynx navy helicopters (medium-class) and these can be outfitted for the submarine-hunting role to further broaden the capabilities of the Brandenburg.
With service entry in the mid-1990s, FGS Brandenburg and her class was inevitably due for a modernization which has arrived with the FuWES (FAF) project. The goal of this program is to upgrade the Combat Management System (CMS) of the warships to bring them closer in line to more modern Western offerings and increase situational awareness. The Thales Nederland TACTICOS system will be installed as will a new IFF (Identification Friend-or-Foe) system.