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Skjold-class Surface Effect Ship HNoMS Steil

Hard-hitting Norwegian Navy combatant is hard to detect, harder to catch

The small, stealthy, Skjold-class “coastal corvettes” such as HNoMS Steil can quickly sneak into the fjords along the Norweigian coast. But when they strike, they pack a lethal punch, and an enemy might never know what hit them.

HNoMS Steil is one of six fast attack craft of the Skjold-class of all-composite, gas turbine with waterjet propulsion surface effect ships that ride on a cushion of air. How fast? Sixty-knots fast! That makes Steil and her sister ships the fastest combatants afloat.

HNoMS Steil is one of six fast attack craft of the Skjold-class of all-composite, gas turbine with waterjet propulsion surface effect ships that ride on a cushion of air. How fast? Sixty-knots fast! That makes Steil and her sister ships the fastest combatants afloat.

Skjold-Class

Skjold-class missile craft are surface effect ships, which ride on a cushion of air bounded by the two catamaran hulls and skirts at bow and stern. Photo by Edward Lundquist

“We can go from engines at full idle to full speed in less than one minute,” says Lt. Cmdr. Johan Reinboth, Steil’s commanding officer.

The Pratt & Whitney Canada engines – the same as found in commercial turbo-prop aircraft – provide the push, while diesel-powered lift fans maintain the air cushion that the ship rides upon.

“This ship was made to hide,” says Lt. Cmdr. Tor Loddengaard, chief engineer of Steil. “We hide anywhere we can, and move between our hideouts.”

Steil was built at Umoe Mandal shipyard, and launched in 2008. She and her sisters are homeported at Bergen.

While the Skjoldclass are essentially what would be known as fast attack craft, or missile boats, the Royal Norwegian Navy considers their seaworthiness to be in the corvette class, and therefore calls them kystkorvett (coastal corvettes), built for littoral operations among Norway’s many rocky fjords and expanses of shallow water. “This ship was made to hide,” says Lt. Cmdr. Tor Loddengaard, chief engineer of Steil. “We hide anywhere we can, and move between our hideouts.”

NDM Anti-ship Missiles

The NDM anti-ship missiles are kept in containers mounted on racks aft, which can be raised into firing position. Photo by Edward Lundquist

Steil is very heavily armed for such a small ship. She has the Oto Melara 76 mm gun, which can engage air, surface and land targets and has a burst-firing rate of 120 rounds per minute. Steil also carries the Kongsberg Naval Strike Missile (NSM for Nye Sjoemaals Missiler, or Norwegian strike missile), carried on launch ramps that elevate in the aft end of the ship for firing.

NSM can be launched based on targeting from a different source, and fly based on GPS, inertial navigation, or a terrain reference system for contour following. The missile can attack in sea-skimming mode, or fly up, over and around landmasses.

Steil can be hiding in one fjord, receive targeting from a different source, fire its missile and hit the target, which may be in another fjord, oblivious to what’s about to happen to it.

It can also independently detect and recognize hostile targets at sea or ashore with its onboard target database. The IR seeker is used in terminal phase. The random terminal-phase maneuvers make it very hard to defeat. “This missile is very sophisticated,” Reinboth says.

Steil can be hiding in one fjord, receive targeting from a different source, fire its missile and hit the target, which may be in another fjord, oblivious to what’s about to happen to it. “We can hit targets at up to 150 kilometers with third party targeting,” he says. “We can plan the trajectory so the enemy has a very short reaction time. If they are anywhere close to our coastline they should be nervous. Our missile could pop out of anywhere.”

Nest of Skjolds

Three ships of the Skjold class fast missile boat in port at Frederikshavn, Denmark for Exercise DANEX/NOCO 2012. Photo by Edward Lundquist

Steil carries the MBDA Simbad portable system incorporating infrared-guided Mistral short-range surface-to-air missiles for air defense.

For sensors, Steil has the multirole Thales 3D radar and the Saab Ceros 200 fire control radar – which includes a Ku-band radar target tracker, optical video camera and tracker, thermal imager and laser rangefinder – along with the Rheinmetall MASS decoy system. The sensors and weapons are integrated with the Senit 2000 combat management system, a product of DCNS and Kongsberg Defense and Aerospace.

Reinboth says Steil is extremely maneuverable – even at high speed and in shallow water – because of the steerable waterjets. As both a catamaran and an SES, he says it’s also very seaworthy.

Reinboth says Steil is extremely maneuverable – even at high speed and in shallow water – because of the steerable waterjets. As both a catamaran and an SES, he says it’s also very seaworthy.

The vessel displaces just 275 tons. To reduce weight, corrosion and magnetic signature, virtually all piping is made of titanium or glass reinforced fiberglass.

Skjold-Class Corvette

The HNoMS Storm, a Skjold-class corvette, during Exercise Cold Response 2014. NATO photo

“It’s noisy, and it rides hard.  That’s the price of being fast and lethal,” Reinboth says.

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Capt. Edward H. Lundquist, U.S. Navy (Ret.) is a senior-level communications professional with more than...