Navy Awards FFG Conceptual Design Contracts for FFG(X)–Speculation on a NSC Derivative

The US Naval Institute has the best report I have seen on the recent award of five contracts to five different vendors for development of conceptual designs for the projected FFG (X).

I’ll look at the parent craft and offer some speculation about what Huntington Ingalls might be doing to make their NSC based offering more attractive.

There are five venders but actually only four shipyards involved since Fincantieri Marinette Marine in Marinette, Wisc. is both the primary for an offer based on the Fincantieri Italian FREMM, and the build yard for Lockheed’s offer of a Freedom class LCS design.

Parent Designs:

Independence-class Littoral Combat Ship:

USS Independence (LCS-2)

The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) derived designs are the light weights in the competition. They both come with large open spaces that might be converted, but as built, they have limited crew accommodations. They will likely take substantial redesign to serve as FFGs. This class has exceptional aviation facilities, and functionally I find it preferable to the monohull Freedom class. Still it seems to have a fatal flaw, in that many do not like the aluminum hull and superstructure, but the Navy has not ruled out the design.

Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ship:

USS Freedom (LCS-1)

My primary problem with this class is its short range. Their engineering spaces are crowded and their seakeeping has been criticized. There is a good chance that their FFG(X) variant may have a lengthened hull. What that will mean for the ships’ range is unclear. This class, with its semi-planning hull, may not take kindly to the additional weight envisioned for the FFG.

Fincantieri Italian FREMM:

Italian FREMM Bergamini. photo by Fabius1975

These and the Navantia F-100 are the high end candidates. At about 6,700 tons full load the FREMM is about twice as large as the LCS derived designs. The FREMM comes in several versions, ASW, General Purpose, and AAW. Some of them have capabilities for land attack and Anti-Ballistic Missile Defense (ABMD). The Italian versions have an active electronically scanned array radar, but this would likely be replaced by an American system. They have a double helicopter hangar. While the Italian version has at most 16 VLS, the French version of the same ship, which do not have the 5″64 gun have up to 32 VLS cells. The latest versions have a 20 knot cruise on diesels. In addition they have two 3,000 HP electric motors which can provide very quiet slow cruise (my guess, about 15 knots). It also means they have substantial reserves of electrical power for future weapons like lasers and rail guns. Neither the French or Italian versions have more than eight anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM) but the Italian ASCMs are bulkier than likely American counterparts. The speed has been variously reported as 27 and 30 knots, but given that they only have LM2500 gas turbine, 27 knots is probably a realistic expectation. Because these ships’ systems are European, they may require substantial redesign. If these ships have a weakness it is likely that their cost will likely be near the but still under the Navy’s declared upper limit of $950M.

Navantia Álvaro de Bazán-class F100 Frigate:

HMAS Hobart, photo by Nick-D

There are actually three versions of this ship, Spanish, Norwegian, and Australian. The Australian ships are the latest version, so I would assume the offering is based most closely on these. These ships already use primarily American equipment including the Aegis system and a 48 cell Mk41 VLS. At 6,250 tons full load, they approach the size of many countries’ destroyers, and, in fact, that is the way the Australians and Spanish classify them. This already looks like an American design. The propulsion is CODOG with two 7,580 HP diesels and two LM2500 gas turbines for a max speed of 28+ knots. As currently configured all three versions of the design have hangars for only one H-60. All three versions are also equipped with no more than eight ASCMs. The likely stumbling block for this class is cost. When the Hobart class was constructed in Australia the three ships cost total was $9.1 B Australian, so they cost more than Burke class DDGs. The cost of the last of five F100s built by the more experienced Spanish shipyard was probably more representative, but even there the cost was $1B US. The US shipyard offering this is Bath Iron Works, a yard known more for quality than for low cost. There is perhaps the option of building a version of the smaller 5,290 ton Norwegian version of this design which mounts only a 16 cell Mk41 VLS.

The Bertholf class National Security Cutter:

Interestingly the USNI post reports, “Out of the competitors involved in the competition, HII was the only company that did not present a model or a rendering of its FFG(X) at the Surface Navy Association symposium in January.”

HII has already shown several models of NSC based frigates so perhaps they are doing something a bit different.

I suppose it is possible HII could build a stripped down version of the Burke class DDG or perhaps some other frigate design, but I will presume they will base their frigate on the Bertholf class cutter, but why the mystery?

I will speculate that they plan to make some significant changes relative to their previous presentation and they did not want to tip their hand. I’ll get to the likely changes in a moment.

The post has a short summary of the systems expected to be included in the FFG(X), I have noted the systems already included on the Bertholf class by having them in bold face.

“Many of the required weapons systems are pulled from the previous FF requirements: the COMBATSS-21 Combat Management System, which pulls software from the same common source library as the Aegis Combat System on large surface combatants; the SeaRAM anti-ship missile defense system (currently a Phalanx, but the SeaRAM is a drop in replacement–Chuck); a canister-launched over-the-horizon missile; the surface-to-surface Longbow Hellfire missile; the Mk53 Nulka decoy launching system; the Surface Electron Warfare Improvement Program (SEWIP) Block 2 program with SLQ-32(V)6; and a slew of undersea warfare tools such as the AN/SLQ-61 light weight tow, AN/SQS-62 variable depth sonar and AN/SQQ-89F undersea warfare/anti-submarine warfare combat system. It also requires use of the MK 110 57mm gun with the Advanced Low Cost Munition Ordnance (ALaMO) projectile being developed for the LCS and frigate,”

An NSC derived frigate may occupy the sweet spot between the too small LCS derived designs and the too expensive FREMM and F100 designs that are about the largest combatants (other than flat tops and amphibs) in their respective navies. .

In order to make it more competitive with the high end frigates, I suspect HII is making some changes. Here is a list of things that might be done.

  • Increase the length to make room for additional features, but keeping it under 5,000 tons full load.
  • Using the additional length provide for more VLS, perhaps 48, or even 64.
  • Provide for 16 canister launched anti-ship cruise missiles.
  • Increase the generator power to allow future use of systems such as rail guns and lasers.
  • Provide electric motors for quiet and economical cruise and loiter (which would also use the additional generator capacity. (HII put two 5,000HP/3,700kW auxiliary propulsion motors on USS America and some other big amphibs.)
  • Use an active electronically scanned radar array.
  • Use the extra length to put another davit amidships and free the fantail and stern for ASW systems.

85 thoughts on “Navy Awards FFG Conceptual Design Contracts for FFG(X)–Speculation on a NSC Derivative

  1. “It’s going to be a best-value type competition, so cost and capability will be factors,” acting Navy Secretary Sean Stackley. I suspect the Navy is split between wanting to save face on the LCS, and those with high end visions of a mini-Burke. But I think those with high-end visions are going to have difficulty with best-value after cost uncertainty factors are applied to the two European designs. While I agree with you that the Freedom class is going to have difficulty meeting minimum capability, not to say the current ship won’t do well for the 4th and 5th fleets. Which leaves the NSC and Independence class ships as the front runners… I wonder if HII beleives it is an a bit of institutional disadvantage and is waiting to bench-mark Austal. Austal for example has talked about redesigning the equipment spaces to make the ship quieter and more efficient at the expense of speed. As well as replacing some of the expansive aviation spaces with VLS cells all without changing the hull length.

    • The Navy trajectory has been toward more and more AAW capability. Have seen no indication either of the LCSs could manage more than 16 Mk41 VLS, I think the HII offering may be able to offer virtually everything the two larger designs offer at a cost not much more than that of the LCSs

    • coko, you are spot on. Frankly I think Ingalls has enough work and dont want to spend the overhead needed for a new build nor will it be as profitable as the big ships.
      Austal’s internals are easier to reconfigure, and that includes the engineroom.
      Simply put the LCS-2 variant is bigger inside. I’ve been on three of the type.

      • One reason might be for HII’s demise, is the US Department of Justice Judgement in May 2017 against Huntington-Ingalls. For overcharging the US Government ~$250-Million USD for work that was “Never” performed…

  2. IMO, I think the NSC based frigate is the front runner. The Italian FREMM and Spanish F-100 is nice to have but will be over priced. Though for me, I think the Spanish F-100 is a distant second follow by the Italian FREMM. I doubt the US Navy wants to play with the LCS after the fiasco and will want to try and save themselves by ending the LCS and go with another design

    • As I recall, though the “Jones Act” of 1920 was amended in May 2017 to include Foreign Ship Designs. As long as said Foreign Ship Designs are built in American Shipyards, it STILL Favors American Ship Designs over Foreign Ones…

    • Nicky the the ONLY reasons to support your opinion, is because Ingalls design is the oldest and because HII has the biggest lobbying outfit with congressional critters already in its pocket.
      IMHO of course, You ever been to Ingalls or Pascagoula?

      • IMO, I think the NSC is a front runner for the next frigate but the runner up would be the Italian FREMM in the GP or ASW version and the fall back is the Spain F-100 Frigate. I think the LCS would be out simply because the Navy doesn’t want to deal with the LCS’s shortcomings and the US navy doesn’t want to take fire from the public.

      • Actually Bath Iron Works Shipyards was founded in 1884, ~54-years before Ingalls Shipyard in 1938.

        Bath Iron Works Shipyards in 1884
        Newport News Shipbuilding in 1886
        General Dynamics in 1899
        National Steel and Shipbuilding in 1905
        Ingalls Shipbuilding in 1938
        Kaiser Shipyards in 1939
        Fincantieri Marinette Marine in 1942
        Litton Industries in 1953
        Austal USA Shipbuilding in 1999
        Huntington-Ingalls in 2011…

  3. I think it will be something like what the Saudi’s bought from LM.
    Bath is always too high.

    I remember a while back Gibbs and Cox were working on a new frigate, I suppose that could be HII’s proposal. Or maybe something like the miniburke that lost out to the F100 in the Aussie destroyer competition. But supposedly they want a design in service, and the miniburke will be expensive. Ingalls is probably positioned to offer the best product and the best price right now, but they aren’t going to let both Austal and Marrinette go out of business. Industrial base and politics will be as or more important than product and price.

    • Gibbs & Cox’s designed the Israeli “Sa’ar 5” class Corvette, Northrop-Grumman design the NSC for HII and the Arleigh Burke’s were designed by Bath Iron Works, though HII built most of them…

    • I’ll call B.S. on Austal and Marrinette going out of business.
      Marrinette is well suited, probably best overall for the future USCG inland tenders. But to be honest we need to separate design from construction. Company A designed the best ship, but company C can build it the cheapest.

      • Yes we used to do preliminary design on our own, but of course that gave us the 270. I’m not recommending we go al the way back to that, every ship was the first that engineer had ever designed, but we do need some in house design expertise.

        I do think we could design an in house version with help from outside and then challenge others to do better. The British used to do this.

      • Fincantieri Marinette Marine was founded in 1942, by a Joint collaboration of Palmer Johnson Yacht Company of 1918 and Italian-American Designer Nuvolari Lenard…

    • James, What I suspect the US Navy wants is an FFG that has everything that a Burke has in a small package. That’s why I suspect the US Navy has eyes on the Spanish F-100 or the Italian FREMM Frigate in GP or ASW version because they are essentially Mini Burkes.

      • @ Nicky.

        It may be what the US Navy wants! But I suspect it’s NOT what the US Congress will FUND and/or BUILD. Senator John McCain, can claim Victory in Amending the “Jones Act” of 1920 in 18 July 2017. But I suspect IT’S going to be a “Shallow Victory”, that the Rest of the US Congress have no intention in honoring. Which ONLY leaves one Victor, Austal-USA. My Two Cents Worth…

  4. @Secundius, If you read the USNI post, all five won a contract to develop their concepts. No one has yet been awarded a contract for detail design and construction. This is the same process we went through with the OPC when we awarded three design contracts.

  5. With ONE Exception! “Austal-USA” clearly states that they “Won” and the Website Address also has it in the Website Address as having Won. “Fincantieri” is the Odd’s Favorite AFTER a ~$15-Million USD Alteration of the Design is made. While “Navantia”, is Second Choice “IF” “Fancantieri” “CAN’T” make the Modifications…

    • As I recall, the ~$15-Million USD given to Fincantieri was for Modifications of Design presented at Competition. To be Resubmitted “After” Revisions have been made. If revisions “Aren’t” made it will be a Showdown between Austal-USA and Navantia, but with Austal being the “Clear Favorite” of the Two Designs.

      P.S. Curious as to Why your posting the Messages through “leesea” (i.e. Third Party) and then addressing it to me (i.e. Second Party)…

    • OK! So Four “White Elephants” and One “On the Good Ship Lollipop” Vessel that Doesn’t pass the the US Congressional Muster. “Buy American”. Great Update…

    • HI could be taking that $15million and modifying the NSC into a wartime frigate(making it more stealthy, shock absorbers, lengthened hull). An American FREMM that can operate in the Artic.

      Just don’t know what they are doing right now, or what the final product is going to look like.
      That we already have an establish supply chain for to support it.

  6. apparently they are going to start ordering three burkes a year instead of two. At least while times are good and neither party seems to have any interest in fiscal responsibility. They arent going to just build surface warships at Bath and Ingalls. I’m not saying that means one of the LCS is going to win, but somehow theyve got to account for that. Even if the yards dont close, if they stop building warships, they will restructure.

    Damn, the OSD and the Navy have made a travshamockery of the SSC. Besides all the LCS developmental issues, we went through Hagels cap, with Mabus fighting it, to the FF, now to the FFG competition with widely divergent hull offerings.

    They still cant tell us exactly what they are looking for because no one can agree on what is needed.

  7. This is pretty old now, https://www.defensenews.com/naval/2017/07/11/exclusive-interview-the-navy-s-surface-warfare-director-talks-frigate-requirements/, but it has one interesting bit that I had not seen. Apparently they intend to use the RADAR Modular Assemblies like the ones in the SPY-6 radar in four fixed 6’x6′ arrays for the multimode radar.

    “But the key element of the SPY-6 radar are these radar modular assemblies. They are these two-foot-by-two-foot cubes that you build. On an AEGIS destroyer, you’ll have 37 of those RMAs on one of four of those faces. So on this ship we are looking at something more like a three-by-three, so four six-foot-by-six foot arrays.
    “Is it going to be as powerful? No. Will it be able to connect virtually identically? [Yes]. Any changes we make to the big ship will work on the small ship. The combat system changes we make on the big ship will work on the small ship. Those are the things that I call spending in the right direction.
    “These commonalities make a difference. They make a difference in training, they make a difference in sparing. If you have a radar technician, they can fix the radar on both ships.”

    • Also depending on what East Bank Shipyards is being opened for! HII has a lot on it’s “Dinner Plate” in construction. From San Antonio Flight II’s, America class LHA’s, AB’s, NSC or even Commercial Shipping…

      • It’s interesting he is talking about a possible stripped-down Burke. To meet the Navy requirements, you can strip down a Burke or scale up an NSC. It will interesting to see the approach HI has taken.

      • A stripped down Burke would have more upgradability over its life but would almost certainly be much more expensive, more like the Navantia design, and unless they replaced a pair of turbines with diesels would not be very economical to run.

      • Scuttlebutt says that the Flight III “Arleigh’s” will be powered by Two Rolls-Royce MT30 Gas Turbines and Electrical Power supplied by Two Rolls-Royce RR4500 Gas Turbine Generator Sets. If diesels are employed, Rolls-Royce would probably be using MTU Diesels. Because RR owns MTU…

  8. It’s true a stripped down Burke will still be on the high end of the cost spectrum. It would have the most growth margin though and may still make sense if that is where the Navy places priority.

    The Navy has been unclear what it’s priorities are with FFGX, though they seem to now be signaling a shif from a cost focus to capabilities i.e. emphasis on VLS tubes and growth margin.

  9. If HII is using the NSC as the basis of their design, it will be fascinating seeing the ASW systems’ integration, as that could speak to potential war-time upgrades for the Bertholfs.

    Most of the other systems are already on NSC (Mk. 110, SEWIP, decoys, CIWS) or we already have spoken of the upgrade potential (space for VLS module, upgrading Phalanx to SeaRAM, adding an AShCM via cannisters, & short-range SSM – Hellfire).

    It seems the USN is looking for a “Burke lite” with Aegis (albeit with smaller panels) radar and software/combat system. That would seem to be a more difficult change if a war-time upgrade program of the Bertholfs were to take place.

    That last point still makes me feel like the NSC, with appropriate ASW upgrades, would be better utilized as an escort for convoys or the fleet trains.

    With the “Burke lite” concept, does anyone else think the USN may be looking at the viability of building a less-expensive version of the Burke? The USN is up around 60+ Burkes actually in commission, but if the FFG(x) is nearly as capable, but some-to-significantly cheaper… It seems magazine capacity would be the biggest detriment to the FFG(x), especially considering the air-/anti-shipmissile-/ballistic-missile-defense mission requires big numbers, as well as the recent use of Tomahawk strikes from DDGs, which have sometimes been so extensive as to nearly empty half the DDGs cells (which says something about the number of air defense missiles they were carrying to defend themselves…).

    • Will be interesting to see what HII actually is offering. Might be either an upgraded NSC or a simplified Burke.

      As discussed earlier I don’t think the upgraded LCSs can provide what the Navy is looking for. The Euro frigates may be too close to a Burke in cost to allow the numbers.

      The SPY-6 radar is scalable up and down, so it could fit on just about anything including the NSC. .

      Either way, looks like HII has a good shot

      • US Military and Saab struck a deal in June 2018 for their AN/SPS-77(V)1 “Sea Giraffe” Medium-Range 3D AESA Radar Systems, to be used on at least Five Classes. Including both “Littoral’s” and the NSC…

      • Or just maybe the USCG just changed their minds! Better still the “Bean Counters” in the US Congress (i.e. the Exchequer of the Purse), changed it for them…

      • The NSCs are using the EADS 3D TRS-16 AN/SPS-75 Air Search Radar. That is the radar on the Freedom class LCSs while the Sea Giraffe is the radar on the Independence class LCSs.

      • If you could build a stretched version of FF4923 version for an extra 16 mk41, and Aegis you would have a good FFG. But just have a 16 mk41 would allow you to carry 32 ESSM, and 8 ASROC.

        I don’t think it will be a Burke lite. If that’s the case you might as well build a DD version of the Burke as a true replacement for the Spruance.

      • As of 16 February 2018, HII ranks Second in the Five FF(X) Competition!
        #1 Austal-USA
        #2 HII
        #3 Lockheed-Martin
        #4 Fincantieri
        #5 GD/Bath…

  10. Looks like in response to a requirement for engine room separation on the FFG, the Freedom class derived FFG design will have a very different power plant than the LCS version. They will replace water jets with twin screws among other changes. Presumably the requirement would effect any NSC derived design as well. https://www.defensenews.com/digital-show-dailies/euronaval/2018/10/23/lockheed-planning-big-shift-away-from-lcs-propulsion-system-for-its-future-frigate-offering/

      • @Secundius. That is interesting. The article was apparently written in 2011 although there was apparently another paragraph tacked on in 2015.

        All the ships of the class are now longer than 378 feet. They have all been lengthened to I believe 387 feet. Also it seemed to indicate the 30mm guns were mounted all the time which they are not, only when the ASUW mission package is installed.

        What I found most interesting was the ammunition information. “The 57mm gun is auto-fed with 400 rounds in the turret and two additional magazines having 240 rounds each.” I did not think there was that much ammo on the carrousel, but maybe that is not what they meant. Anyway the total amount is probably correct. That is only 880 rounds. That is not much for a gun with a 220 round per minute rate of fire, about four minutes of shooting (assuming it could fire continuously for four minutes).

        The 5″/38, which fired a projectile ten times as heavy, at a rate of about 20 rounds per minute, were usually provided 200 or more rounds per gun, or about ten minutes worth, and they could fire continuously at that rate.

      • The Lightest 5″/38-caliber Naval Artillery Gun for the “Rudderdow” class Destroyer Escort was the Mk.30 Mod.42. Which tipped the scales @ ~41,400-pounds, compared to the Mk.110’s modest ~16,535-pounds. The maximum rate of fire for the Mk.30 Mod.42 was ~22-rpm and ~15-rpm sustained. Even though the Mk.110 used a Monobloc Steel Mineral Oil Cooled Barrel, I doubt even it could sustain a rate of fire of ~220-rpm without damaging the barrel. And I suspect the Marines would be carrying their own equipment as well.

        Keep in mind, the EPF, which is capable of Transporting up to 312 Marines and ~1.2-Million Pounds of Cargo to supply the Marines. Is essentially Unarmed, though it does carry at least One M1A2 “Abrams” MBT as part of its Vehicle complement…

      • I doubt the NSCs and OPCs will have any more ammunition on board than the LCSs do, so it means that old cutters that displaced half as much, carried probably more than twice as much ammunition.

    • How’s that! Up to now, all there is is a Conceptual Design of what the Frigate “Might” look like by “Navantia”. IF the Navantia design is chosen, I suspect there will be a Structural Review of the design, and Tweeks made to the design where needed…

      • If they do buy the design, there not required to have “Navantia” construct them, unless it’s in the Purchasing Deal. Remember Bath Iron Works deigned the “Arleigh Burke” class Destroyer, yet Huntington-Ingalls was the Prime Shipbuilders…

  11. @ Chuck Hill.

    And that Purchase of the Design (who ever it is) and the Shipbuilder (how ever they are) are “Set In Stone”. The US Government can’t simply change their collective minds. They OWN the Ship Design…

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