BALTIMORE – A large Danish frigate was again tucked into a berth at Fells Point in mid-November, an almost common sight. Four of Denmark's five large frigates and command and support ships have visited this Maryland port in recent years.

But this visit of the Peter Willemoes was different. This time, the Danes were in the US to train up with a US Navy carrier strike group and deploy as an integral part of a battle formation.

"We're not here just to follow around the carrier. We want to be a part of this," Commander (Senior Grade) Kristian Haumann, commanding officer of the frigate, said Nov. 17.

The US and Danish navies came to an agreement in December 2015 for a Danish frigate to deploy with a US Navy carrier, the George H. W. Bush, to operate in the Mediterranean and Middle East regions. The Bush will likely deploy in January as the centerpiece of Carrier Strike Group Two (CSG-2).

"This is a significant project and a milestone," Rear Adm. Frank Trojahn, Danish chief of naval staff, said of the upcoming deployment. "If we succeed in integrating with a carrier strike group this time, the next time will be easier. This is an opportunity to show our frigates are capable of operating with a carrier. This will be a challenge – a good challenge."

The 6,645-ton Willemoes is one of three Iver Huitfeldt-class frigates that entered service between 2012 and 2014. The ships have been praised for their capable design built at lower costs than contemporary foreign ships, including US Navy warships.

Along with the two Absalon-class command and support ships, the frigates are mainstays of NATO formations and coalition operations in the Mediterranean and western Indian Oceans. The Absalon is operating as the flagship of a NATO force shadowing the Russian Admiral Kuznetsov carrier group in the eastern Mediterranean.

The Willemoes, Trojahn said, will bring a unique set of sensors to the US carrier group with its Thales Smart-L search radar and APAR search-and-fire-control radars. But the ship won't be able to provide area air defense – Denmark has yet to purchase Standard missiles for the ship's 32-cell Mark 41 vertical launch system.

"These ships are supposed to be anti-air platforms," Trojahn said. "The reason we haven't used it as such is financial." But a request to buy missiles for the ships is due for a decision early next year. "We're working hard to get a decision to buy SM-2s," he said.

Nevertheless, "we will operate in a sensor role."

The government also is studying how the ships could participate in ballistic missile defense role, Trojahn said. The ships are unlikely to be shooters, but the Smart-L could be modified as a BMD tracker. A decision, he said, could come sometime in 2017.

Trojahn is confident the Willemoes will succeed in the deployment, and that the ship has the command and control assets it needs to successfully integrate with the US Navy.

"We have had the most excellent cooperation from day one," he said. "We have what we need."

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