MILAN — The air defense malfunctions that plagued the Danish frigate Iver Huitfeldt during its deployment to the Red Sea earlier this year have yet to be fixed, leading Danish authorities to renege their offering of having the vessel serve as the lead ship of a regional NATO force.

The frigates Iver Huitfeldt and Niels Juel had been expected to take turns as the flagships of NATO’s Standing Maritime Group One, which provides an immediate naval response capability in the Northern Atlantic, North Sea and Baltic Sea, between July 11 and Nov. 5.

“We have had to change the Danish contribution to NATO’s SNMG1, the challenges experienced by the crew of Iver Huitfeldt during the mission in the Red Sea have still not been resolved – therefore, we are following the Defense Command’s recommendation not to deploy the frigate for seagoing service,” Danish Defense Minister Troels Lund Poulsen announced on June 27.

The Iver Huitfeldt was deployed to the Red Sea in January to participate in an international effort to protect maritime cargo traffic against attacks from Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi militants.

Some of the vessel’s weapons and mission systems encountered major shortcomings during the engagement of drones on March 9, which prevented the firing of surface-to-air missiles against the incoming threats for about 30 minutes. The frigate began to sail back home around two weeks after the incident.

A 13-page report by the Danish government, released in May, found that the trouble started in the Evolved SeaSparrow Missile launcher system, where an unknown error condition occurred after the firing of the first missile.

Poulsen called the decision to not deploy the frigate “necessary,” and noted that once the faults of the air defense equipment were fixed, it would be ready for service again.

Denmark has offered instead to take on the obligations as force commander for NATO’s naval force from Danish naval stations, pledging to provide the requisite command staff.

June saw the largest number of attacks carried out by Houthi militants on commercial ships this year, according to data gathered by the UK Maritime Trade Operations.

At least sixteen strikes on ships were confirmed, even amid large international efforts to thwart the attacks, in what Denmark’s acting chief of defense Michael Hyldgaard referred to as a “worsening threat picture.”

Last month, the Iran-backed militants also claimed responsibility for an attack that targeted and significantly damaged a Greek-owned cargo ship using drones, missiles and an unmanned surface vessel.

Meanwhile, the Greek frigate Hydra reportedly also encountered technological difficulties while in the Red Sea.

The ship deployed in late February to partake in the EU-led security mission Operation Aspides to provide further protection to commercial ships in the area.

According to some Greek media, the Hydra crew reported that the dated equipment found onboard left them unable to effectively respond to the scale of the drone threats faced. Local iEidiseis news website reported that on May 19, while in the Gulf of Aden, a Houthi-deployed drone exploded 150 meters from the vessel.

The Hellenic Ministry of Defense declined to comment, citing security reasons.

On June 19, Hydra returned home after what Greek Minister of National Defense Nikos Dendias called a “successful” deployment but made no mention of any shortcomings.

“I am not going to conceal the truth from you, you already know it – you are going to a risk area,” Dendias told the crew of the sister ship Psara, which set sail on that day for its turn in the Red Sea protection mission.

Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo is a Europe correspondent for Defense News. She covers a wide range of topics related to military procurement and international security, and specializes in reporting on the aviation sector. She is based in Milan, Italy.

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