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Fincantieri's US subsidiary Fincantieri Marinette Marine beat the competition in the race to decide the design of the future guided missile frigate for the US Navy - known as the FFG (X) program. It was only on February 28, 2020 that the US Navy issued its "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 $ 15 million development contracts to Austal USA, Huntington Ingalls Industries, Fincantieri Marine, General Dynamics Bath Iron Works and Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin (with his subsidiary Marinette Marine is building the Freedom class of the Littoral Combat Ships (LCS)) announced his withdrawal from the program in May 2019. There remained

  • Austal USA with a design based on its 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 a designer of the F100 class and the Álvaro de Bazán class of the Spanish Navy.
  • Huntington Ingalls Industries. Little was known about the proposal of the shipyard group. Observers believe that the design carries features of the US Coast Guard's National Security Cutter - possibly down to a diminished Arleigh Burke class.

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

 

The U.S. Navy's wish list

With the Request for Proposal (RFP), the US Navy specified its expectations:

  • At least 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 launching anti-submarine missile
  • 21 RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM)
  • 8 to 16 ship-to-ship missiles (over-the-horizon)
  • Artillery: cannon Mk 110 57mm, gun M240 or M2
  • 150 kilowatt laser
  • Radar: Raytheon Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar (EASR)
  • COMBATSS-21 Combat Management System (based on Aegis)
  • Datalink (Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC)) for the exchange of (target) information with other ships and aircraft
  • Inclusion of a MH-60R Seahawk helicopter and an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) MQ-8C Firescout
  • AN / SQQ-89 (V) 15 U-Hunting Combat System (ASW)
  • AN / SQS-62 variable depth sonar
  • Electronic warfare: SLQ-32 (V) 6 Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program (SEWIP) with the option to expand to Block 2 Electronic Warfare Suite

The US Navy also determined that the FFG (X) should be built at a US shipyard. They must be based on an existing U.S. or ally design.

The FFG (X) program as a "small" battleship took shape in 2015. In contrast to the Littoral Combat Ships, FFG (X) is said to have air defense, submarine warfare and surface combat capabilities both near the coast and on the high seas. They are also intended to help relieve the large surface water units of routine tasks. The American Navy is thus reacting to the fact that the “Littoral Combat Ships” (LCS) are not fulfilling their originally intended role as expected. “FFG (X) is the evolution of the Navy's 'small' surface unit with increased lethality, survivability and ability to support the National Defense Strategy across the range of military operations. It will undoubtedly help us conduct large-scale maritime operations more effectively and improve our ability to fight both in competitive oceans and near coasts, "said U.S. Navy Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Michael M. Gilday, cited in US trade media.

The detailed design and construction contract include 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 (approximately € 5.03 billion) if all options are exercised . Building number 1 is estimated to cost $ 1.3 billion, while the following is expected to cost $ 800 million. Costs for the (!) Equipment and armament to be provided are not or only partially included. The first ship is scheduled to be delivered 72 months after the order was placed, with the US Navy expecting to sign the contract later this year.

While the Pentagon's procurement plans set out twenty new-generation frigates, the Navy has not committed to an acquisition strategy beyond the first ten units. She wants to retain the flexibility to order the next lot from or at another shipyard if necessary. This could be done from the 2025 financial year, observers say.

 

Why Fincantieri?

Fincantieri was awarded the contract to build the first unit and the options for the following nine - not only because the factors to be considered were in favor of the FREMM design. The US Navy expects its added value to be adaptable to future technological developments. In addition to operational requirements, two other aspects may have been crucial, according to American observers. First, the fact that Fincantieri Marinette Marine and Lockheed-Martin are already working together to build the Freedom class of the Littoral Combat Ship. So far, twelve units have been launched in Marinette. In the past, the shipyard has created potential for growth, 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 with a narrow lead of 0.77% - ten electoral votes.

A look at the competition reveals that Austal in particular has lost its reputation with its littoral combat ship variant (Independence class). In addition, the Australian aluminum shipbuilding is not very well received in the US Navy. Ingall's suggestion may have seemed too far-fetched - and therefore too uncertain in terms of risk control. In addition, the yard is considered busy. The same applies to General Dynamics Bath Iron Works - the yard is busy, but strikes are imminent. In addition, after the accident of the Norwegian frigate "Helge Ingstad" (also a Navantia design), doubts about the stability of their proposal, which is based on the Spanish F-100 or Álvaro-de-Bazán class from Navantia, may not be resolved .

 

FOREIGN

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

For Fincantieri, the American order is a success. The Italian Minister of Economy 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 by 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

Missile: 8x Naval 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