The Fast Attack Craft Sehested

Background

After World War II, world politics changed. With the threat posed by the Soviet Union, the Danish Navy turned its attention to the Baltic as the most important strategic area.

The Sehested was one of a total of 10 fast attack craft built in the period from 1974-1977. The construction of these ships in the Willemoes class began in 1974. The ships were built at Frederikshavn shipyard and dry dock and the Sehested was delivered on October 28th, 1977 as the second last of the 10 ships.

Today we know that the Warsaw Pact had plans to attack Europe if the Cold War turned hot, but NATO had commensurate defence plans. In the plans of the Warsaw Pact landings on the coast of Denmark played a crucial role. Nuclear and presumably biological and chemical weapons would be employed to weaken the fighting spirit of Denmark’s armed forces and population, and were to be aimed at both military and civilian targets in places like Roskilde, the Koege Bay area and Esbjerg. If a conflict arose, the Warsaw Pact had up to 160,000 troops it could deploy to Danish territory. To support these troops, more than 500 combat planes and helicopters were readily available. The Warsaw Pact’s Baltic fleet could transport over 5,000 marines at a time across the Baltic, and the landing craft were supported by several hundred warships. The Danish navy was significantly smaller!

But the Warsaw Pact knew that the 10 Danish Willemoes ships had striking power. Their captains were on the Warsaw Pact hit list, and it was assumed that if several of these officers suddenly died it was a sign of an imminent attack.

The main task of the Willemoes ships was to be ready to defend Denmark’s sovereignty, including helping to head off any attack by the countries of the Warsaw Pact. On a daily basis their task was therefore to fly the Danish flag, in Danish territorial waters and in the Baltic. But the ships had a long list of other duties.  The navy was responsible for the constant and active surveillance of Danish waters, and they kept a close eye on the activities of the countries of the Warsaw Pact both in and beyond international waters.

Weapons on Board

The Sehested had two torpedoes on board of the same type used by the Saelen submarine.The powerful gun on the foredeck was constructed to reach targets from a distance of more than 12 kilometres. The drum of the gun could be loaded with 84 grenades with six in the elevator. These shells were ready to be fired instantly, and the entire drum could be emptied in just 60 seconds. The total load was 480 rounds, which had to be loaded manually.

While they were being built, it was decided that the ships should be armed as quickly as possible with Harpoon missiles. These missiles can fly up to 130km, and are of the same type as the one the frigate Peder Skram (which now lies next to the Sehested) accidentally razed four Danish summer cottages to the ground with in 1982.

The Willemoes ships could also be used as minelayers.

Speed and Motor

The three gas turbines deliver a total of 12,750 HP, which under normal conditions would give a maximum speed of 36-38 knots or 60-65 km/h. At full speed the guided missile boats use as much oil per hour as a standard Danish family home uses in a year (4,500 litres per hour – or 75 litres per minute and 1¼ litres per second). This meant that at full speed they had a maximum range of about 10 hours’ sailing - one way.

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