Germany plans to send a warship to the Indian Ocean

Sebastian Sprenger

COLOGNE, Germany – The German navy plans to send its frigate “Hamburg” to the Indian Ocean in June to conduct port visits and partake in a regional, naval powwow on the French island of Réunion, the service announced on March 12.

The air-defense vessel will begin its journey in May with interceptor test-firings off the coast of Norway. It is then scheduled to steam towards the Indian Ocean for a five-months training mission.

In late June, a visit at Réunions's Indian Ocean Naval Symposium is on the agenda, followed by a trip to Australia and various port visits and exercises along the way, the German defense ministry announced.

The planned Hamburg deployment comes as Germany’s defense leaders are testing the waters for new engagements far from home. The sea service, especially, is seen here as potential harbinger for the type of out-of-area missions that the homeland defense-focused German military wants to expand to underwrite its geopolitical ambitions.

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“The deployment is a step in the right direction,” said Sebastian Bruns, a German naval analyst affiliated with the University of Kiel in northern Germany. “German navy chief Vice Adm. Andreas Krause has for years argued that Germany needs a presence in the Indian Ocean.”

Bruns said the German navy has been operating in the Indian Ocean’s environs for some time, with mine clearing in the Persian Gulf, counterterrorism missions under the Operation Enduring Freedom banner and the European Union’s counter-piracy operation Atalanta off the coast of Somalia.

“The Indian Ocean is a vibrant and strategically important maritime theater,” he said. “German sea lines of communication run through the area, and the great powers are wrestling for influence.”

Krause, the German navy chief of staff, outlined the country’s maritime spheres of interest in a Defense News op-ed last December. “They range from the northern flank, i.e., the north Atlantic, the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, down to the Mediterranean, and extend into the wider Indian Ocean region,” he wrote.