The Royal Danish Navy’s new air defence missiles are useless against Putin’s modern weapons

7. februar kl. 15:10
The Royal Danish Navy’s new air defence missiles are useless against Putin’s modern weapons
On the night of 5 May last year, the first SM-2 missile was launched from the Danish frigate Niels Juel. The Danish Defence and the Danish Defence Acquisition and Logistics Organization are integrating the SM-2 missiles for use in the Danish Iver Huitfeldt class frigates. Illustration: Flyvevåbnets Fototjeneste.
We are lagging behind again, Danish experts say as Danish frigates await the installation of long-awaited missiles.
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The Royal Danish Navy is preparing to install new missiles on three Danish frigates in order to enable them to better defend themselves and coastal areas against missiles and aircraft.

But the SM-2 missiles are not capable of shooting down several types of modern missiles that Russia is increasingly using in Ukraine, and that countries such as China and Iran are also in possession of.

The Royal Danish Navy has test-fired the first SM-2 missile for the three Danish frigates Iver Huitfeldt, Peder Willemoes, and Niels Juel, and Raytheon will deliver the missiles at the end of next year:

Illustration: Ingeniøren.

This applies particularly to the hypersonic ballistic missiles with a curved trajectory.

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“The SM-2 is completely inadequate for defence against several types of modern missiles. The frigates’ radar system is also not updated to detect the missiles in time. So we run the risk of the enemy missile not being discovered before it has hit the ship,” says Sune Hansen, commanding officer at the Danish Defence Command, who has also worked with the Royal Danish Defence College and taught at the Centre for Maritime Operations.

The major weakness of the SM-2 missile that Denmark has purchased is that it is a so-called semi-active homing missile.

That is, it does not have its own radar to lock onto a target, but must be constantly guided by the frigate’s APAR radar.

This makes the missile vulnerable to enemy diversionary manoeuvres, and it means that the frigates cannot attack missiles or aircraft hiding below the horizon.

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The U.S. Navy has also moved away from using the missile because, despite continuous updates since its introduction in the 1970s, it is now out of date.

“The SM-2 falls short against several missile types,” Hans Peter Michaelsen, defence analyst with 41 years of experience serving in the Royal Danish Air Force, says and mentions as an example the X-22 missile that Russia recently used to hit an apartment block in Ukraine.

Danish frigates will also be helpless against the Russian Kinzhal missiles, which are now deployed in the Arctic, as well as Russian SS-N-27 “Sizzler”, Iranian Zolfaghar, and Chinese missiles such as DF-21D and DF-26.

Not ready before the end of 2024

The installation of the SM-2 missiles on the Danish frigates in the Iver Huitfeldt class has otherwise been long awaited.

In fact, the frigates have been sailing around without any missiles for 13 years because the Danish Ministry of Defence has hesitated in purchasing missiles for the MK41 launchers, which the ships were equipped with from the start.

Iver Huitfeldt’s APAR multi-function radar enables the ship to have several missiles in the air at the same time and thus engage several targets simultaneously:

Illustration: Jane Stub Kirchhoff.

“The ships have been ready for new missiles for years, but they’ve been as empty as the Roskilde Cathedral,” says Torben Ørting Jørgensen, former rear admiral and now chairman of Folk & Sikkerhed, Denmark’s largest defence, preparedness, and security policy organisation.

And they will remain empty for quite some time.

Even though the Royal Danish Navy has carried out a test launch of an SM-2 missile, the missiles will not be delivered until the last quarter of 2024. By then, the crews must be trained and prepared to use the missiles, the Danish Defence informs.

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The SM-2 missiles were intended to “defend a naval force or coastal areas”, as stated in the current Defence Agreement 2018–2023.

But in practice, the SM-2 missile is just a slightly better version of the Sea Sparrow missile that the frigates are already equipped with. It cannot really defend Danish territory, Sune Hansen says.

“Only against cruise missiles, and only if we can see them on the radar. The SM-2 missiles do not give us anything new. It’s just more of the same. The missiles only drag the Royal Danish Navy into the 21st century. But that’s all,” he says.

Details of the Iver Huitfeldt class frigates:

Illustration: Forsvaret.

According to the Defence Agreement, the plan was that “preparatory work should be initiated for the acquisition of SM-6 missiles”, which can shoot down ballistic missiles, have their own active radar, and can work with F-35 fighter jets. But none of the experts have seen any of that work actually put in motion—and the Danish Defence merely refers to the wording of the Defence Agreement.

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