Around the world, navies are procuring multi-purpose and flexible frigates and destroyers with new generation sensors and weapons capable of accomplishing a wide-range of missions with reduced personnel, procurement and life-cycle costs.
For example, the Franco-Italian FREMM (Frégate Européenne Multi-Mission/Fregata Europea Multi-Missione) European multi-role frigate remains the most ambitious and largest European naval initiative of its kind, with eight frigates ordered by France and ten by Italy. Between 2014-2019 the Marine Nationale (French Navy) expects to retain a fleet of 15 frigates fleet including eight ‘Aquitaine’ class FREMM frigates, six of which will be configured for Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) with two optimised for air defence. In addition to the FS Aquitaine, the lead ship in the class declared fully operational in December 2015 with the completed integration of its MBDA MDCN (Missile de Croisiére Naval) naval surface-to-surface cruise missile, the French Navy has commissioned two additional FREMM ships, the FS Provence and FS Languedoc, and a further three are expected to be commissioned by 2019 (FS Auvergne, FS Bretagne and FS Normandie), while the two air defence ships, FS Alsace and FS Loraine are expected to be commissioned by 2022. Beyond the ‘Aquitaine’ class, French Navy has launched the Frégates de Taille Intermédiaire (Intermediate Sized Frigate) programme of five ships, the first of which could be delivered in 2023.
The French ‘Aquitaine’ class use a Combined Diesel Electric or Gas Propulsion (CODLOG) system based on a General Electric (GE) 32 MW LM-2500+G4 gas turbine and two Jeamount electric motors and four MTU diesel generators providing a maximum speed of 27 knots (50 kilometres-per-hour) and a quiet low-to-medium speed up to 16 knots (29km/h). A high level of automation allows for a crew of 108 which is made possible in part by the ship’s DCNS SETIS Combat Management System (CMS). The vessel’s sensor fit include the Thales Herakles S-band (2.3-2.5/2.7-3.7GHz) naval surveillance radar and Artemis optronics system, a Safran defence electronics optronic fire control system and Elettronica-Thales Sigen EW (Electronic Warfare) suite. ASW capabilities include a Thales UMS 4100 bow-mounted sonar and UMS 4249 low-frequency Variable Depth Sonar (VDS). The ship’s armament package includes one Leonardo/OTO Melara 76/62 mm Super Rapide main gun, two DCNS Sylver A43 eight-cell VLSs (Vertical Launch Systems) for 16 MBDA Aster-15 Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAMs) and two Sylver A70 VLSs for 16 MDCN missiles, plus two EuroTorp MU-90 torpedo launchers and eight MBDA MM-40 Block-3 Exocet Anti-Ship Missiles (AShMs). The two ‘Aquitaine’ class configured for air defence will differ with a more capable Herakles radar and four Sylver A50 VLSq for 32 Aster-15/30 SAMs.
DCNS, which builds and markets the FREMM ships alongside its Italian counterpart Fincantieri, has already gained international export success with the vessel, having delivered one ship to Royal Moroccan Navy in January 2014 and one to Egyptian Navy on June 2015. DCNS has now developed a new FREMM version with an integrated mast incorporating Thales’ SF-500 S-band naval surveillance radar and enhanced CMS, which is being promoted worldwide for a number of requirements including the Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) programme to replace both the Royal Canadian Navy’s current ‘Halifax’ class frigates and ‘Iroquois’ class destroyers. Developed with exports in mind, this FREMM design will have air-defence capabilities thanks to its radar and enhanced ASW and Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW) capabilities. Design studies for this new vessel were launched in late 2015.
The FREMM programme for the Marina Militaire (Italian Navy) comprises ten ships in the ‘Bergamini’ class, including six ‘general purpose’ platforms enhanced to perform ASuW, and four configured for ASW. With the delivery of the ITS Alpino, the fourth ASW variant, in the second-half of 2016, the Italian Navy now have five FREMM frigates with four designed for ASW, and the ITS Bergamini, the first-in-class which was designed as a general purpose vessel. Five additional ships are either performing trials or are under construction.
Unlike their French sisters, Italy’s ‘Bergamini’ class employ a Combined Diesel-Electric and Gas (CODLAG) propulsion system based on an Avio/GE 32 MW LM-2500+G4 gas turbine, two electric motors and four Isotta Fraschini diesel generators. In design terms, Italy’s ships differ from their French counterparts in that their stern can be equipped to launch and recover a RIHB (Rigid Hulled Inflatable Boat). The Italian ships use the Leonardo/Selex MFRA C-band (5.25-5.925GHz) naval surveillance radar and two eight-cell DCNS Sylver A50 VLSs, although employing the same Elettronica-Thales EW suite. The general purpose variant of the ‘Bergamini’ class has a weapons package which includes the Leonardo/OTO Melara 127/64 LW main gun, a Strales Close-In Weapons System (CIWS) equipped with the 76/62 Super Rapide gun and eight MBDA Otomat Mk.2 Block-4 AShMs. Italy’s ‘Bergamini’ class ships optimised for ASW share a similar equipment fit to the French vessels, although they are also equipped with MBDA’s Milas, the ASW version of the company’s Otomat Mk.2 Block-4. Fincantieri is currently offering its FREMM design to satisfy the Royal Australian Navy’s requirement.
Fincantieri’s export campaign has so far gained the access to Royal Australian Navy’s (RAN) Future Frigate Programme to replace its existing ‘ANZAC’ class frigates. The Australian Department of Defence is expected to select a bidder for this requirement in 2018, and commence construction in Adelaide in 2020. According to Fincantieri, the ASW version Italy’s FREMM design, which is being offered for the Australian requirement, can incorporate the Australian-developed CEA Technologies’ CEAFAR S-band naval surveillance radar, with Fincantieri also proposing the Lockheed Martin Aegis CMS with the design.
Beyond the ‘Bergamini’ class, the Italian Navy is planning the procurement of a new multi-role combatant dubbed the PPA (Pattugliatore Polivalente d’Altura/Multipurpose Offshore Patrol Vessel), with seven vessels (plus options for three) expected to be constructed by Fincantieri. The PPAs will be delivered in three configurations, ranging from a light configuration to support low-intensity operations to a platform design for high-tempo naval combat. Deliveries to the Italian Navy are expected between 2021 and 2026, with one vessel to be delivered each year except in 2024, when two ships will be delivered.
With a light displacement of around 4500 tonnes, the PPA will have a CODAG (Combined Diesel and Gas) propulsion system with two electric motors for low-speed operations, based on an Avio/GE LM-2500+G4 32MW gas turbine, two diesel engines and two electric motors, while electrical power will be provided by four diesel-generators. Capable of accommodating up to two naval support helicopters, the PPA will have a reduced crew of 90 but accommodations for up to around 180. This will be the first Italian Navy vessel to feature a dual-band (C-band and X-band) AESA (Active Electrically Scanned Array) radar currently being developed by Leonardo which will join the vessel’s IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) communications and EW sensors integrated in the ship’s forward superstructure. The ship’s weapons package will be based on the evolved MBDA Aster-15/30, which will be joined by a 127/64 mm LW main gun and 76/62mm Super Rapid gun. Meanwhile, up to Otomat Mk.2 Block-IV AShMs will be carried along with Leonardo/Whitehead Sistemi Subacquei Black Shark heavy-weight torpedo launchers.
Last April, the first of four ‘Baden-Wüttemberg’ class frigates for the Deutsche Marine (Germany Navy) builders’ underwent sea trials. ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) are building the ships which displace 7200 tonnes and use a CODLAG propulsion system based on a single GE LM-2500+G4 20MW gas turbine providing a maximum speed of 20 knots (37km/h) using diesel-electric propulsion, and 26 knots (48km/h) using the gas turbine. The ships’ armament includes a single 127/64mm main gun, two Mauser BK-27 auto-cannons, five Leonardo/OTO Melara Hitrole 12.7mm remote weapons stations and two 12.7mm machineguns. Raytheon’s RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile will provide air defence, with the vessel also equipped with Boeing RGM-84 Harpoon family AShMs, conceived to be deployed and maintained in out-of-areas operations lasting two years with crew rotations every four months. In addition to the already mentioned weapons package, the ‘Baden-Wüttemberg’ class’Atlas Elektronics ANCS (Atlas naval Combat System) CMS will consolidate the vessel’s sensors, communications and weapons systems, the former of which include Airbus’ TRS-4D C-band naval surveillance radar which uses four antennae divided between the two masts.
The first-of-class is expected to be delivered by mid-2017 while the remaining will follow by 2020. Based on the aforementioned design, TKMS has been developing a platform which could satisfy the German Navy’s MKS-180 multi-role combat ship requirement. In June 2015, the German MoD (Ministry of Defence) announced bidding plans for a ‘transparent and open international competition’, to procure a large platform, expected to eclipse the ‘Baden-Wüttemberg’ class with crew up to 180 people and equipped with more extensive, mission-specific modular combat systems. The programme is moving forward for a contract award for an initial four ships and an option for two additional vessels. The contract award could occur in 2017, with first deliveries following in 2023.
In March 2016, the UK MoD awarded BAE Systems a $626 million contract to continue the engineering development of the Royal Navy’s ‘Type 26’ Global Combat Ship class ahead of a planned transition into construction. Designed to meet requirements for a globally deployable, multi-mission warship capable of undertaking a wide range of missions, from low intensity and high tempo warfare to humanitarian assistance, the ‘Type 26’ class is expected to remain in Royal Navy service until around 2060. The ‘Type 26’ class design has been down-selected for the RAN’s ‘ANZAC’ class replacement (see above). The November 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), which outlines UK government defence spending and strategic priorities has capped the number of ships to be procured at eight platforms to replace the same number of ‘Duke’ class frigates currently in service, with deliveries of the ‘Type 26’ class commencing from the mid-2020s. Those ‘Duke’ class ships not replaced by the ‘Type 26’ class will be replaced by the new ‘Type 31’ class, which will also be offered for export.
Displacing 6000 tonnes, the ‘Type 26’ design uses CODLOG propulsion featuring a single Rolls Royce MT30 gas turbine providing in excess of 28 knots (51km/h), and four MTU diesel generators powering two motors for quiet operations. An innovative large flexible mission bay, hangar and flight deck provides flexibility to accommodate up to four RHIBs or a single Boeing CH-47F Chinook size heavylift helicopter. While featuring accommodations for 190, the ‘Type 26’ class has a crew of 118 and a CMS combat system based on a further development of the ‘Type 23’ class’ BAE Systems DNA(2) CMS, alongside a Rohde and Schwarz communications suite and Raytheon integrated navigation package. In terms of sensors, the ‘Type 26’ will carry BAE Systems’ Type-997 ARTISAN S-band naval surveillance radar. The ship’s ASW suite is based on the ‘Type 23’ class’ Thales Sonar 2087 VDS. The weapons package is based on two VLSs carrying 48 MBDA Sea Ceptor SAMs, Raytheon RGM-109E Tomahawk SSM/AShMs and the recently selected BAE Systems Mk.45 Mod.4 127mm main gun. The latter is aided by two Raytheon Phalanx-1B CIWSs, two MSI-Defence Systems DS30M 30mm guns and BAE Systems’ Sting Ray torpedo launchers.