Salvors Detonate Torpedoes from Wrecked Frigate Helge Ingstad

Courtesy Norwegian Navy

Published Feb 5, 2019 5:05 PM by The Maritime Executive

Despite long delays due to weather, the salvage process for the sunken Norwegian frigate Helge Ingstad is nearing completion, and the Norwegian Navy expects to raise her on Thursday for transport to a nearby naval base. 

The Ingstad collided with a tanker off the Sture oil terminal on November 8. Despite attempts to keep her afloat, she ultimately sank on a rocky, sloping seabed near shore, and salvors have rigged a series of steel cables to prevent her from sliding deeper into the water. According to minister of defense Frank Bakke-Jensen, one of these wire ropes parted and struck a small boat during operations; while no one was hurt, the incident could have resulted in serious injuries. 

In recent weeks, salvage operations have been focused on removing the frigate's weaponry and on pulling several large chains underneath her hull. Using these chains as lifting straps, two large floating shearlegs will raise the frigate and place her on a semisubmersible barge for transport from the site. 

Among other tasks in preparation for the lift, salvage divers have removed most of the Ingstad's missiles and torpedoes for disposal. The torpedoes were considered too sensitive to relocate and were destroyed at a nearby site, as captured on video (above). Norway's Directorate of Fisheries, the Norwegian Coastal Administration, the Institute of Marine Research, the Environment Agency and the Norwegian Defense Research Institute had input on the decision. 

"The seawater activated batteries in the torpedoes can react in contact with air and cause fire and harmful smoke," said on-scene commander Captain Bengt Berdal. "Based on thorough professional assessments of the condition and alternatives, it was decided to detonate the torpedoes."

Filling the gap

The Norwegian Navy does not yet know whether the Ingstad can be repaired and returned to service. She suffered extensive structural damage in the collision, and her complex electronic and mechanical systems have been submerged for nearly three months. On Tuesday, Bakke-Jensen assured Norway's parliament that the navy would fill the capability gap left by the loss of one out of its five full-featured surface combatants.  

Among other options, the minister suggested that Norway could increase the number of ThyssenKrupp submarines it intends to purchase; it could keep its ultra-fast missile torpedo boats, the Skjold-class vessels, rather than phase them out; or it could order a replacement frigate on the international market.