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Only one operational corvette:
The RDN can no longer maintain the force set in the Defense Agreement
RDN personnel shortage now so acute, that the target headcount set in the current Defense Agreement (the military budget approved by the Danish parliament) can no longer be achieved.
PETER TORDENSKIOLD, here seen entering Copenhagen in connection with
DANEX 07, will from next year be the RDN’s only operational corvette.
By Johnny E. Balsved
RDN personnel shortage now so acute, that the target headcount set in the current Defense Agreement can no longer be achieved. Admiral Danish Fleet Headquarters (SOK) confirmed this today to navalhistory.dk.
The personnel shortage means that from next year, there will only be one fully operational corvette with trained crew, whereas the Defense Agreement stipulates three corvettes with three crews, and a maintenance crew!
One corvette remains
The corvette NIELS JUEL, now 27 years old, has long laid mothballed at Korsør, in part due to shortage of personnel, but has since also been used to provide spare parts for the two corvettes that are still in use.
Her sister ship OLFERT FISCHER is currently en route from the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean on a deployment patroling around Africa as part of "Standing NATO Maritime Group One" (SNMG 1).
The patrol concludes when the naval force passes through the Suez canal around 1 October, after which the corvette OLFERT FISCHER will leave SNMG 1 upon arrival at Souda Bay on Crete.
The corvette will be replaced in SNMG 1 by sister ship PETER TORDENSKIOLD, which departs Korsør September 29 to join the SNMG 1 force in Souda Bay. She will join the force until December 16, and will subsequently also return to Denmark.
According to SOK press officer, lieutenant commander Klaus Randrup, from next year, 2008, it's planned that OLFERT FISCHER will be used exclusively as a training vessel or as a training facility.
Corvette as training vessel
And so the active service of one of the most well-known Danish warships of recent years is almost certainly over. This means that going forward PETER TORDENSKIOLD will be the only fully-operational corvette with a trained crew.
"The plan is to use OLFERT FISCHER as a training facility, in order to temporarily increase training capacity" says lieutenant commander Klaus Randrup to navalhistory.dk. "This shouldn't be seen as an interim step towards mothballing."
"For some time now the RDN has required more training places at sea. This has resulted in, amongst other things, up to a year's wait for those wanting to do their national service in the RDN.
Similarly, the RDN also needs to show the 2nd Squadron to those doing national service, so they don’t just experience (and submit their applications to) the 1st Squadron.
Finally, there is a requirement to train/re-train personnel for service on board ESBERN SNARE, and the new patrol vessels, in order that we have crews ready for the new ships once these are completed.
The solution that's been adopted is to reduce OLFERT FISCHER's normal complement, in order to create training places. Redundant crew members from the corvette will primarily be assigned to ESBERN SNARE", explains SOK's press officer.
New frigates on the way
There is no doubt that the three NIELS JUEL-class corvettes, with almost 30 year's service, are nearing the end of their service life, and indeed the current Defense Agreement allocates the necessary funds for the construction of three new frigates.
However, construction of these new frigates will not start until next year, with the first ship expected to be launched late 2010, and probably not operational until the end of 2011.
The last remaining operational corvette will therefore have its work cut out in the coming years, if she's expected to carry out both national and international assignments on her own.
It would of course be possible to refit the two remaining corvettes to become fully operational, if it became necessary, but it would be a particularly expensive task, and perhaps impossible to find a crew.
In the meantime, we simply have to note that the clause in the Defense Agreement about having three corvettes with three crews and a maintenance crew can no longer be met.
Short-sighed decentralization policy
For decades, hundreds of millions of kroner, if not billions, have been spent on dispersing front-line parts of the Danish military (army, navy and air force) to some of the least populated areas of Denmark.
So perhaps it comes as no surprise that in times of full employment it’s difficult to persuade personnel to relocate to the back of beyond.
An aircraft technician in Værløse, (former air force base near Copenhagen) with a wife in employment and children in local schools, will hardly consider a deployment to Karup or Skrydstup (rural air force bases) a particularly attractive proposition!
Indeed, many youngsters may need a map to even find out where these places are.
This was already evident in the early 1990s when the navy was decentralised from Holmen in Copenhagen to Korsør and Frederikshavn, so much of the current personnel shortage appears to be partly their own fault.
And yet at the same time the military can use hundreds of millions of kroner on consolidating all the top brass in the middle of Copenhagen (Holmen), as presumably Vedbæk (near Copenhagen) was a bit too far away.
Maybe they should have considered moving the (front-line) military establishment a bit closer to the centre's of working-age population!
NIELS JUEL has long been tied up at Korsør due to personnel shortage,
but it seems that metal fatigue is also beginning to take hold.
Translated by Alan Russel (December 28, 2007)
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This page was first published: September 19, 2007