WASHINGTON — The German Navy plans to equip its F124 frigates with new radars that expand the vessels’ capabilities into the field of ballistic missile defense, the German military acquisition branch announced Aug. 24.

To that end, the Bundeswehr awarded a €220 million (U.S. $258 million) contract to German sensor specialist Hensoldt in conjunction with Israel Aerospace Industries’ Elta Systems. The two companies will enter into a “strategic cooperation,” as Hensoldt calls it, to deliver four radar sets based on Germany’s TRS-4D product and beefed up with Elta’s long-range capabilities.

Officials plan to install the new equipment on three air defense frigates of the Sachsen class between 2024 and 2028, according to a statement from the military acquisition office. A fourth system will be set up on land to help the German Navy train its sailors.

The new radars would elevate the ships’ surveillance and target-tracking capabilities for various aerial threats, including ballistic missiles, the office said.

The Navy’s foray into ballistic missile defense follows the government’s strategy of inserting requisite sensor capabilities into its arsenal whenever substantial weapon upgrades are on the books anyway. Berlin has pledged missile defense contributions to NATO as the alliance assembles a network of sensors and interceptors in Europe meant to one day protect the entire continent from such attacks.

Naval vessels are considered especially desirable in that equation because they can be moved around and seek the most advantageous positions when it comes to detecting and intercepting missiles.

Hensoldt and Elta are already teamed up on an upgrade for the land-based Hughes Air Defense Radars, which marks another step in Berlin’s quest for greater ballistic missile defense capabilities.

For years, Germany’s missile defense ambitions rested on a replacement of its Patriot fleet with the TLVS weapon, short for Taktisches Luftverteidigungssystem. Officials shelved that program earlier this year to free up money for drone defense, though it’s unclear what the Defence Ministry intends to field to that end.

Sebastian Sprenger is associate editor for Europe at Defense News, reporting on the state of the defense market in the region, and on U.S.-Europe cooperation and multi-national investments in defense and global security. Previously he served as managing editor for Defense News. He is based in Cologne, Germany.

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