February 8, 2020 (Google Translation) – On Monday, KNM “Helge Ingstad” set out on its final journey. It is now more than two years since the vessel was in operational service, but the frigate has performed a number of important missions for Norway and the world community.
Prior to the accident in 2018, KNM “Helge Ingstad” both operated for NATO and transported chemical weapons out of Syria.
When “Helge Ingstad” was handed over to the Norwegian Navy on 29 September 2009, the vessel was the fourth of five frigates in the Fridtjof Nansen class, which was handed over between 2006 and 2011. This class is an upgrade from the old Oslo class. The vessels are larger, with better sea-going properties and more modern sensor and weapon systems.
It was necessary to build new frigates that are adapted to today’s threat picture and technology. The large, long surfaces make the vessels more difficult to detect on radar, and less prone to attack by radar-guided weapons. In addition, they are more effective in anti-submarine warfare, and have the ability to carry NH-90 helicopters.
As part of the Fridtjof Nansen class, KNM “Helge Ingstad” was an important contributor to Norway’s preparedness and defense capability. She has operated both in the Mediterranean, along the Norwegian coast and on submarine hunts in the Arctic with port visits on Svalbard. More than 500 people have served on the vessel during the ten-year period.
Retrieved chemical weapons in Syria
While the Christmas preparations were in full swing at home in Norway in December 2013, the crew of “Helge Ingstad” was on their way to Syria. They were to take part in Operation RECSYR, a comprehensive operation to transport chemical weapons out of Syria.
The mission of the frigate was to escort the cargo ship “Taiko” which carried the chemical substances. In addition to the crew at KNM «Helge Ingstad», operators from the Coastal Hunter Command and the Minesweeper Command participated as force protection. They completed missions commissioned by the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
After participating in the operation for six months, Helge Ingstad was replaced by the coastguard vessel KV “Andenes” in May 2014.
In September 2018, KNM “Helge Ingstad” joined NATO’s standing maritime force (SNMG1). This force is part of the NATO Response Force, and can respond to sharp missions at short notice, anywhere in the world.
The frigate contributed with good capabilities, and had, among other things, the task of controlling anti-submarine warfare within the force. One month after they became part of SNMG1, KNM “Helge Ingstad” participated in the major exercise Trident Juncture at home in Norway. It was to be the last exercise the frigate took part in.
On the way to the next commitment in Dundee, Scotland, the story was abruptly rewritten. In a meeting with the tanker “Sola TS” in Hjeltefjorden north of Bergen, the fate of the frigate was decided in a few minutes. The crew members fought to save the vessel, but the damage to the hull was too great and the crew had to leave the vessel before the water filling made it unstable. KNM «Helge Ingstad» operational history stopped here. Fortunately, no lives were lost during the accident, and no one was seriously injured.
– The crash of KNM “Helge Ingstad” has written itself into the Navy’s otherwise proud history with a sharp and uncomfortable pen. Since then, it has all been about learning about what went wrong and can be improved so that we avoid a similar accident in the future, says Chief of the Navy, Rear Admiral Rune Andersen about the accident.