Norway’s Ruined Frigate Is Afloat Again and It Doesn't Look Good

Helge Ingstad is floating on its own but officials are doubtful it can return to service.

image
Norwegian Navy

A guided missile frigate that sank last year after a collision with an oil tanker is floating on its own while the Royal Norwegian Navy assesses the damage. The Helge Ingstad spent more than three months submerged in the frigid Norwegian Sea before being raised again in March. Experts believe the warship, exposed to oxygen-rich salt water, is so badly damaged it will never sail again.

The Helge Ingstad, in NATO, collided with the civilian tanker TS Sola in the early morning hours of November 8, 2018. The warship’s captain steered the stricken ship onto the rocky Norwegian shoreline to prevent it from sinking, but the Helge Ingstad sank anyway as it was being towed off the rocks. The crew sustained only a handful of minor injuries.

NORWAY-DEFENSE-NATO-ACCIDENT-TRANSPORT-FRIGATE
Helge Ingstad being raised, March 2019.
VIDAR RUUDGetty Images

The frigate spent more than three months underwater in corrosive salt water before finally being raised in early March. The Norwegian Navy ordered custom-built steel plating to make the ship watertight again. The plating was used extensively on the starboard side of the hull, where Ingstad sustained huge, twenty meter long gash just above the waterline. The ship was almost fully flooded when it went underwater, although there were a few sections that remained watertight and dry.

Repair crews are currently inspecting the ship for leaks, all of which must be found before any work can be done. Many of the ship’s weapons, particularly the anti-submarine torpedoes, were offloaded before the ship was raised. The Norwegian Navy is still assessing whether or not the ship can return to service. Ingstad was one of just five frigates in the entire navy, so the loss represents a 20 percent reduction in the number of Norway’s large surface combatants.

image
The re-raised ship from the starboard rear quarter.
Norwegian Navy

Still, maritime experts polled by the Norwegian media are the ship can return to operational status. The experts are surprisingly upbeat about fi the steel hull, although there are concerns expressed about damage the hull might have sustained during the raising process. The real problem is that ship’s electronics, electrical equipment, fixtures and weapons systems are all ruined by saltwater contamination and would need replacing. Coupled with the costs of repairing the hull, bringing Helge Ingstad back into service may not be worth it.

At the very least, according to one Norwegian defense official, Norway would like to salvage whatever it can for possible use in the navy’s other four Nansen-class guided missile frigates.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
More From Naval Vessels