On August 2nd, 2021 “Bayern” a German Navy Brandenburg-class Frigate (F217) departed Wilhelmshaven for a six month tour of the Indo-Pacific region with aspirations to tackle the challenges of that area. Germany had hopes that the warship would play a small role in the political standoff between China and the West. The German government said that the ship’s mission was to strengthen security co-operation in Asia and coordinate more closely with Japan in particular. “Bayern” was set to dock at a Chinese port earlier this month but after a certain period of consideration, China called off the planned visit, deciding that they did not want a port visit by the warship. After being turned away from China the ship made its way south to Perth being the first German Navy vessel to dock in Australia since 1988.
The Brandenburg-class Frigates are equipped with a flight deck and two hangers for operations of their unique Westland Super Lynx Mk.88A. The specialised anti-submarine helicopter is an indispensable asset of German Navy Frigates, with only 22 of them in the German Navy. The Sea Lynx significantly increases the range, flexibility, and speed of reaction of the vessels. The helicopter’s sensors and armament are designed for its main role: hunting submarines. The naval helicopter is equipped with a depth-variable sonar for active and passive location, as well as Mk46 or MU90 torpedoes for attacking enemy submarines. There are usually three aircrew required to operate the helicopter: a pilot, a co-pilot and a sonar system operator. In total, 18 aircrew embark on a frigate mission to both fly and maintain the aircraft.
When hunting submarines, one of the two Sea Lynx helicopters has its sonar module installed to search for targets far away from the ship. Directed by the frigate into an approximate target area, this helicopter, referred to as the “dipper”, hovers over a probable contact and then lowers its sensor into the water. Whilst this is happening the second Sea Lynx, known as “pony”, carries two torpedoes and waits nearby until it is ordered to deploy its weapons against an identified target.
Apart from being an anti-submarine aircraft the Sea Lynx is also on standby as a rescue helicopter to save those who have gone overboard or otherwise need help. The helicopter is also available to transport personnel and materials, for example between warships in the naval fleet.
In addition, the Sea Lynx is tasked with the job of getting boarding teams onto suspicious ships. For this secondary role, one of the two Sea Lynxes is usually equipped with a heavy machine gun in order to provide machine gun cover for the other aircraft and the boarding team.
The German warship arrived in Fremantle on the 28th of September and now, a week later, it is has departed to continue its mission, bound for Darwin.