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U.S. Navy: Coming soon with FREMM-class frigates?

Fincantieri's U.S. subsidiary Fincantieri Marinette Marine won the race to decide on the design of the future guided missile frigates for the U.S. Navy - known as the FFG (X) program - beat the competition out of the field. It wasn't until February 28, 2020 that the U.S. Navy issued their "Request for Proposal" for the planning and construction of the next generation of frigates. Such a quick decision was not expected.

In February 2018, the U.S. Navy awarded five development contracts, each worth 15 million U.S. dollars (around 13.5 million euros), to Austal USA, Huntington Ingalls Industries, Fincantieri Marine, General Dynamics Bath Iron Works and Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin (building the Freedom class of the Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) with its subsidiary Marinette Marine) announced its withdrawal from the program in May 2019. It remained

  • Austal USA with a design based on their Independence class (one of the two types of Littoral Combat Ships (LCS)).
  • Fincantieri Marinette Marine with the FREMM concept.
  • General Dynamics Bath Iron Works, which works with the Spanish Navantia. Navantia is the designer of the F100 class or Álvaro de Bazán class of the Spanish Navy.
  • Huntington Ingalls Industries. Little was known about the shipyard group's proposal. Observers believe that the design was designed by the U.S. National Security Cutter. Coast Guard carries - possibly down to a scaled-down Arleigh Burke class.

Originally ten shipyards applied for the FFG (X) program, including Atlas North America with a proposal based on the MEKO A-200 frigate.

 

The wish list of the U.S. Navy

With the request for proposal (RFP), the U.S. Navy their expectations:

  • A minimum of 32 Mark 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) cells for either Standard Missile 2 Block IIICs or RIM-162 Evolved SeaSparrow Missiles (ESSM) and a designated vertical launch anti-submarine missile
  • 21 RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM)
  • 8 to 16 ship-to-ship missiles (over-the-horizon)
  • Artillery: Mk 110 57mm cannon, M240 or M2 gun
  • 150 kilowatt laser
  • Radar: Raytheon Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar (EASR)
  • COMBATSS-21 Combat Management System (based on Aegis)
  • Datalink (Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC)) for exchanging (target) information with other ships and aircraft
  • Image of an MH-60R Seahawk helicopter and an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) MQ-8C Firescout
  • AN / SQQ-89 (V) 15 Anti-submarine combat system (ASW)
  • AN / SQS-62 depth variable sonar
  • Electronic warfare: SLQ-32 (V) 6 Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program (SEWIP) with the option to expand to Block 2 Electronic Warfare Suite

Furthermore, the U.S. Navy states that the FFG (X) are to be built at a US shipyard. They must be based on an existing U.S. or an ally design.

The FFG (X) program as a "small" combat ship took shape in 2015. In contrast to the Littoral Combat Ships, FFG (X) is said to have capabilities for air defense, submarine warfare and surface combat both near the coast and on the high seas. They are also intended to help relieve the large surface units from routine tasks. Thus the American Navy reacts to the fact that the "Littoral Combat Ships" (LCS) do not fulfill their originally intended role to the expected extent. "FFG (X) is the advancement of the Navy's 'small' surface unit with increased lethality, survivability and improved ability to support the National Defense Strategy across the full range of military operations. It will undoubtedly help us conduct large-scale sea operations more effectively and improve our ability to fight both in contested oceans and near coasts, "said the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) of the U.S. Navy, Admiral Michael M. Gilday, quoted in U.S. media.

The detailed design and construction contract includes a ship in the current financial year (FY 2020) and options for up to nine additional ships with a total value of $ 5.58 billion if all options are exercised . The cost of construction number 1 is estimated at 1.3 billion U.S. dollars (approx. 1.17 billion euros), while the following are expected to come to 800 million U.S. dollars (around 721 million euros). Costs for the (!) Equipment and armament to be provided are not or only partially included. The first ship is scheduled for delivery 72 months after the order is placed, with the U.S. Navy is expected to sign the deal later this year.

While the Pentagon's procurement plans specify twenty new generation frigates, the Navy has not committed to an acquisition strategy beyond the first ten units. She wants to maintain the flexibility to be able to order the next lot from or with another shipyard if necessary. This could take place from budget year 2025, observers note.

 

Why Fincantieri?

The contract to build the first unit and the options for the next nine went to Fincantieri - not only because the factors to be considered spoke in favor of the FREMM design. The U.S. Navy expects added value through its adaptability to future technological developments. In addition to the operational requirements, according to American observers, two other aspects may have been decisive. One is the fact that Fincantieri Marinette Marine and Lockheed-Martin are already working together on the construction of the Freedom class of the Littoral Combat Ship. So far, twelve units have been launched in Marinette. In the past, the shipyard has created growth potential, both in terms of infrastructure and finances. Export projects could be acquired, e.g. multi-purpose frigates for Saudi Arabia (ESuT reported). The American election campaign may also cast a shadow. In the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump Wisconsin unexpectedly won by a narrow 0.77% - ten electoral votes.

A look at the competitors reveals that Austal in particular has gambled away its reputation with its littoral combat ship variant (Independence class). In addition, the Australian aluminum shipbuilding industry has received little response from the US Navy. Ingall's suggestion may have seemed too far-fetched - and thus too insecure to control risk. In addition, the shipyard is considered to be busy. The same applies to General Dynamics Bath Iron Works - the shipyard is busy, but strikes are threatened. In addition, doubts about the stability of their proposal, which is based on the Spanish F-100 or Álvaro-de-Bazán class from Navantia, may not have been dispelled after the wreck of the Norwegian frigate “Helge Ingstad” (also a Navantia design) .

 

FOREIGN

The French-Italian FREMM design is used by the Egyptian, French, Italian and Moroccan navies. The FREMM (Fregata Europea Multi-Missione) has been in use since 2012. The variants differ in top speed and crew size. With the French Navy, whose eight planned FREMM are considered to be more automated than their Italian equivalents, the commissioning of the "Normandie", hull number 6, is imminent. Italy ordered ten FREMM - six as multi-purpose and four as specialized anti-submarine frigates (France: six anti-submarine and two anti-submarine versions). The two "Spartaco Schergat" and "Emilio Bianchi" still under construction are now planned for delivery to Brazil.

For Fincantieri, the American contract means success. The Italian Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance Roberto Gualtieri commented on the result of the tender in a tweet: “The award of the US Navy tender for ten new frigates confirms Fincantieri's excellence in shipbuilding. An order of high technological and economic relevance, which confirms the quality of Italian industry and the ability to restart our country. "

Hans Uwe Mergener

 

Framework data (according to an exhibition brochure from Fincantieri Marinette Marine):

Length: 151 meters

Width: 20 meters

Displacement: not specified

Drive: CODLAG (COmbined DieseleLectric And Gas), two screws

Speed:> 26 knots, in electric mode: 16+ knots

Range: 6,000+ nautical miles (at 16 knots)

Accommodation capacity: 200 people

Crew: no information

Armament:

Artillery: 1xMK 110 57mm

Missiles: 8xNaval Strike Missile, 32xVLS RAM

Electronic warfare: 2x AN-SLQ-32 (V) 6 CM (SEWIP) BLK II, 4x MK 53 MOD 9 DLS (NULKA)

Miscellaneous:

2xRHIB 7 meters

Hangar for 2 Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk helicopters