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Danish frigate suffered weapons system failure in Red Sea combat, says captain

April 4, 2024 at 4:03 pm

02 Maxar medium view satellite imagery off the southern Red Sea near Hudaydah [Satellite image (c) 2023 Maxar Technologies]

A frigate of the Royal Danish Navy deployed to the Red Sea as part of a US-led operation suffered malfunctioning of its weapons system when attacked by drones operated by Yemen’s Houthi movement last month, the ship’s captain explained on Thursday as the ship arrived back in Denmark.

The failure, which until today had only been reported by local defence media Olfi, citing a confidential report by the captain, prompted the government to dismiss its top military official, Flemming Lentfer, on Wednesday.

Defence Minister Troels Lund Poulsen said the dismissal was a result of a breach of trust, after Lentfer failed to inform the ministry in detail about the incident on 9 March, when the frigate Iver Huitfeldt was attacked by the Houthis. Despite the malfunction, the frigate shot down four drones, the vessel’s captain and commanding officer Sune Lund told Reuters.

“We had some system failure, or system degradation, which challenged a bit our engagement,” Lund said, without elaborating. “But at no time during the engagement were we left defenceless. We were able to continue fighting and neutralising the threats.”

The armed forces posted a dramatic video on social media showing the downing of the drones. It was the first time that a Danish warship had been in direct combat since 1943.

The frigate was deployed as part of the US-led Operation Prosperity Guardian to help safeguard commercial sea traffic in the Red Sea. It was recalled early from the mission.

The Danish defence minister and head of the Danish Navy Command Henrik Ryberg had on its departure been assured that the ship was ready and capable of the mission.

“Leaving the naval base, everything was good,” said the minister, adding that the reason for the failure was still being investigated. “I feel confident that all steps have been taken in order to mitigate the challenges that we faced during the night.”

Separately, an activated but faulty missile launcher on another Royal Danish Navy vessel docked next to Iver Huitfeldt on Thursday triggered the closure of airspace and shipping traffic in the Great Belt Strait, one of the world’s busiest sea lanes and the main maritime access to the Baltic Sea.

A founding member of NATO, Denmark scaled back its military capabilities after the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s. Now, however, the Nordic country has announced a major boost in military spending to achieve a NATO target of two per cent of gross domestic product per member state, from 1.4 per cent last year.

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