At the height of the Cold War (1947-1991), the West German Navy committed to a small class of destroyer warships. These were to become the only such ships built for the West German Navy during the period and were specifically designed for operations in the Baltic Sea region with the primary threat being from the Soviet Navy. Four vessels were ultimately commissioned into what became the Hamburg-class and these encompassed Bremen (D181), Schleswig-Holstein (D182), Bayern (D183) and Hessen (D184). The lead ship of the class, Bremen, was laid down on January 29th, 1959 by Stulcken-Werft of Hamburg and launched on March 26th, 1960. She was formally commissioned on March 23rd, 1964 and led a service life into the mid-1990s.
The class was eventually superseded, ship-for-ship, by the more advanced Brandenburg-class commissioned from the mid-1990s onwards.
The Hamburg-class was also known under the class name of Type 101. These warships was given a displacement of around 4,050 tonnes and featured an overall length of 438.7 feet with a beam of 44 feet and a draught of 15.8 feet. Power was from 4 x Wahodag boiler units feeding 2 x steam-based turbines developing 72,000 horsepower and driving 2 x shafts under stern. Maximum speed in ideal conditions could reach 35 knots with a range out to 3,400 nautical miles. The crew complement numbered 284. Onbaord systems included three HSA Fire Control (FC) radar units and the 1BV2 sonar fit.
Armament-wise, the Bremen was given 3 x 100mm /L55 caliber DCN turreted main deck guns. This was backed by 4 x 40mm Bofors Anti-Aircraft (AA) guns. Additionally there were 2 x depth charge ramps containing 10 total depth charges for submarine hunting. 4 x 533mm torpedo tubes were also carried and up to 90 naval mines could be dispersed by the ship. A 2 x 375mm Bofors quadruple launcher installation carried Anti-Submarine ROCkets (ASROCs) for attacking close-to-the-surface submarines. 2 x 20-barreled chaff dispensers aided in guided missile avoidance.
Early on in its career (and like her sisters), Bremen was outfitted with largely conventional projectile-minded weaponry. It wasn't until the mid-to-late 1970s, that the group was outfitted with more potent guided missiles to meet rising challenges at sea. This involved removal of one of its 100mm deck guns for installation of 2 x MM38 Exocet twin missile launchers. The Italian Breda Mod 64 40mm gun (in four twin-gunned mountings) succeeded the Bofors mounts. The torpedo launchers were subsequently welded over.
These changes also coincided with modifications to the bridge (enlarged windows) as well as the radar system (French F97 series) and operations sections of the warship. The edits were enough to warrant a revision of the class name to "Type 101A" as a result.
Bremen managed an active service life in the West German Navy - and onto the unified German Navy - until February 24th, 1994 to which point she was decommissioned from service. The last warship of the class to be retired was Schleswig-Holstein in December of that same year. The line was given up in the mid-1990s in favor of the more advanced and all-modern Brandenburg-class of fighting frigates - detailed elsewhere on this site.
In service, the class was derided for its top-heavy design which made for poor sea-keeping in rough waters. This was a design choice - and ultimate flaw - for speed and armament were the prized qualities of the new West German destroyer. To achieve this, the height and weight of the steel freeboards were reduced, creating a rather tall bridge superstructure in profile and this making the warship top-heavy. Early on, this was manageable as the warship was only to defend shipping lanes of the Baltic nations but all that changed when the class was pressed into service across the North Sea and its volatile wave action.