Danish Defense Chief’s Dramatic Exit over Frigate Iver Huitfeldt Fiasco

A malfunctioning weapons system on the Danish frigate Iver Huitfeldt, deployed in the Red Sea, led to the resignation of General Flemming Lentfer, the Chief of the Danish Defense Staff, after the Defense Minister lost confidence in him.

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

On April 3 evening, Danish Defence Minister Troels Lund Poulsen announced the resignation of General Flemming Lentfer, Chief of the Danish Defense Staff. The decision came after the frigate Iver Huitfeldt was sent to the Red Sea and found to have faulty weapons.

Poulsen explained that he had lost confidence in the head of the armed forces. At a hastily convened press conference, he stressed that a change was needed in this position, as Denmark is facing a historic strengthening of its defense.

What Went Wrong?

In January, the Danish Parliament approved the air defense frigate HDMS Iver Huitfeldt’s deployment in the Red Sea as part of the “Guardian of Prosperity” naval coalition. The United States initiated this coalition to protect maritime traffic from attacks by Houthi rebels associated with Iran.

The situation in the Red Sea directly impacts Maersk, one of Denmark’s major companies, prompting Denmark to take action.

“We have responded to Denmark’s desire to participate in the Guardian of Prosperity coalition. This is not merely a symbolic military action. It’s a serious situation, and Denmark is taking political responsibility to address it,” remarked the Danish Minister of Defense.

On March 9, the HDMS Iver Huitfeldt intercepted four kamikaze drones out of fifteen launched by Houthi rebels from Yemen towards ships in the southern Red Sea.

“We understood from the outset that this mission involved a high likelihood of using armed force. It’s been accomplished, and I’m proud that the ship and crew executed their duties professionally, namely to safeguard freedom of navigation,” stated General Lentfer.

However, according to the specialized website Olfi, this operation nearly went awry for the Danish crew.

According to a restricted NATO message dated March 13 and disclosed by Olfi, HDMS Commander Iver Huitfeldt, and Frigate Captain Sune Lund reported a malfunction between the APAR radar and the C-FLEX system. This malfunction prevented the firing of RIM-162 ESSM missiles from intercepting hostile drones for thirty minutes.

Olfi revealed that the frigate Iver Huitfeldt could not fire a missile for half an hour during an exchange of fire on March 9. Instead, the grenades fired as an emergency measure exploded near the ship, missing their targets.

A similar problem has occurred with the German frigate Hessen. During its deployment as part of the European naval force Aspides, the German frigate encountered difficulties firing RIM-162 ESSM missiles. It shares the same Smart-L and APAR radars as the HDMS Iver Huitfeldt. But its combat management system is different.

Most concerning is that, according to the Danish officer, this issue is not new and has been “neglected” for years due to a lack of “urgency” in addressing it.

In addition to this malfunction, the commander of the Danish frigate also indicated that half of the shells fired by the two 76mm turrets had “no effect” on the hostile targets because they exploded prematurely, sometimes just after leaving the cannon. “All the shells in stock are over thirty years old. They were fitted with a proximity fuse in 2005, which seems unsuitable for actual combat,” he wrote in the message relayed by Olfi. “I must emphasize the critical and unacceptable nature of sending a frigate into a hostile environment with ammunition consisting of such unstable shells,” he wrote.

The three frigates of the “Iver Huitfeldt” class can carry up to 56 surface-to-air missiles, including 32 RIM-66 Standard (or SM-2) and 24 RIM-162 Evolved SeaSparrow Missiles (ESSM) with a range of 50 km. They are armed with two 76-mm OTO Melara main guns and a 35-mm Oerlikon CIWS system. Additionally, they feature a SMART-L long-range surveillance radar and an APAR (Active Phased Array Radar) multifunction radar provided by Thales Nederland. The Danish group Terma A/S developed the C-FLEX combat management system, which manages all systems.

For its part, the Danish military staff sought to downplay the situation. “The media’s depiction of the situation is based on a snapshot, where many things remain unclear. Following the incident, several technical observations regarding sensors and weapons were made. They are currently being analyzed. It is, therefore, too early to draw clear conclusions. The only thing that can be said with certainty is that the frigate shot down four drones and that procedures and tactics worked,” they responded in the newspaper Avisen Danmark.

However, the matter did not end there. The Danish Defence Minister demanded an “immediate” investigation. “This is very serious, which is why I have requested an explanation,” he said on April 2. He said he had not been informed of the frigate’s malfunctions, and its deployment has apparently been cut short, as it is already on its way back.

The Defence Minister said he learned about the incident when the media published the details. However, the Danish Navy commander confirmed that he had submitted a report on the incident to the military leadership in mid-March.

The frigate Iver Huitfeldt has already returned to Denmark.


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