“Navy Frigate (FFG[X]) Program: Background and Issues for Congress,” Updated June 8, 2020, CRS

The Congressional Research Service has updated their analysis of the FFG(X) program. You can view the 38 page pdf here.

The FFG(X) equipment lists, which you might be better able to see here constitutes a list of possibilities for upgrades to the Polar Security Cutters, Coast Guard National Security Cutters, and Offshore Patrol Cutters.


44 thoughts on ““Navy Frigate (FFG[X]) Program: Background and Issues for Congress,” Updated June 8, 2020, CRS

  1. Seems like they are trying to keep much of the equipment in common between FFGX, NSC, LCS and the OPC. Not 100% of it, but much of it.

    • What would be interesting to know is if the FFGX will have eight or sixteen Naval Strike Missile (NSM) launchers amidships.

      If sixteen, that would give the FFGXs the 48 launch cells that the public and naval experts so wanted. If eight, then that is 40 launch cells. An additional eight freed VLS cells from Anti-ship missile duty can then house LRASM, ESSM, ASROC, Tomahawk, and Standard missiles. Yes, it IS a “Big Deal” to add sixteen NSMs to separate the FFGX from the LCS, NSC, and OPC and give it the punch that it really needs. Many in the public wanted 48 VLS cells and the Navy decided on 32 VLS. The FREMM model shows eight NSM launchers, but the graphic shows sixteen NSMs, so it is unclear what the USN intends.

      Having 24 NSM launchers would be even more incredible and it appears the FREMM decks can accommodate 24 NSM launchers for 56 launch cells.

      • Believe 16 NSM is the current plan. I am starting to see a lot of ships with 16 ASCM launchers, but most of them are not US or European. India, Vietnam, Russia.

      • Adding additional NSM launchers does not free up VLS cells. The US Navy fields no VLS capable ASCM. The 32 VLS cells still must accommodate the same mix of Tomahawk, Standard series missiles, ESSMs and ASROC.
        8, 16, 24 ASCM. Doesn’t matter. If anything, the additional NSM launchers only start to make up for the lost capability from when the Navy ceased fielding Harpoon launchers on new Arleigh Burke-class destroyers two decades ago. That would be the last 39 (of 67) ships commissioned.

        And, please don’t “LRASM” me. Vertical launch LRASM is not a current US Navy program. In fact Offensive Anti-Surface Warfare (OASuW) Increment 2, the program under which Vert-LRASM would fall, was defunded in 2018.
        The US Navy is currently reevaluating future development programs for both the Next Generation Land Attack Weapon (NGLAW) and OASuW. Personally, I would not expect the Navy to waste another dollar on fielding a new class of heavy subsonic anti-ship missiles.

      • So, I was completely correct.
        1. The Block Va is not fielded. Initial operating capability is not expected until 2023.
        2. It is not a “new class of heavy ASCM” It’s an existing system being modified to engage new target sets. Plus, there were already anti-ship Tomahawks. They were retired two and a half decades ago.
        3. Block IV Tomahawks are “Tactical Tomahawks”

  2. It would have an incredible impact if the new frigates had 40 VLS instead of only 32. 8 extra x 20 ships = 160 more missiles. That’s as many missiles as five extra frigates at the current configuration. Or, it’s like making up for one lost retiring SSGN.
    It would also help reduce the cost per vertical missile on the frigate. A ship costing half a DDG ought to pack half the missiles. Instead, the current plan puts only 1/3 as many onboard. Adding 8 more VLS would help mitigate that problem.

    • Much as I think more VLS are always a good idea, it is only fair to point out the design includes launchers for 16 Naval Strike Missiles. None of the DDGs have more than eight ASCM specific launchers, so the DDGs have at most 88 launch tubes while the FFG(X) has 48.

      • The U.S. Navy could install the horizontal Adaptive Deck Launch System (ADLS) of four MK 41 VLSs in an installment and then mount that on top of each other (8 VLS facing port and starboard) for about 16 more VLSs for 48 VLS total per FFGX in place of the 16 NSM launchers amidships. That would give the FFGX access to the entire arsenal of VLS missiles compared to NSM ASCMs.

        ADLS doesn’t penetrate the hull or deck and just sits on top of it.

  3. Burkes flight 1 have 90 vls +8 Ashm the others have 96 vls no tubes, but there is a lot of empty space in the hangars roof i wont be surpriced if you can install at least 16 Ashm there

    • It is too early to sound the alarm bells. The CBO’s concerns are based on what other ships cost per ton and the Navy’s recent track record of coming in over budget.

      As far as I know, the found nothing specifically wrong with the FFGX project.

      • If the Navy is going to have a fleet anywhere near the size Espar is advocating, they are going to need lots of lower-end assets.

        The Navy I believe, has been forced to realize this.

        What is not clear is what shape those lower-end assets with take.

  4. Yeah, It a bit too early to know what the per unit cost willl be once serial production begans. And I believe we will see competition coming in the near future as a second and maybe third builder is contracted to began constructions, with 4-6 units contracted each year. If we are going to have 60 – 70 SSC in the navy’s fleet we’re going to have to start building them in large numbers.

    I am interested in what the future force of unmanned and optionally-manned surface vessels will look like and how that may help the CG in increasing it’s hull numbers.

  5. @ Malp

    One would suggest even if they needed a ‘second rate’ frigate (as it were) then NSC still isn’t the place to start. I think the Danish Iver Huitfeldt (should check spelling!) would be a better fit.

  6. Thanks for posting the CBO study Chuck, it was an interesting read. As advantageous as it may be for the Navy to procure a smaller, cheaper and less capable frigate like the NSC, Type 31, FDI, etc, along side the new Constellation Class I doubt we will see it happen. The Navy has choosen it’s FFG and it will soon be in serial production at several shipyards with 50+ units being build just like the FFG-7 class.

      • Of course the Navy’s different flights of Burke class could have been easily considered different classes. Using the flight term may have been a political maneuver.

      • The reason I am predicting the 50+ number is based on part from Secretary Esper’s recently announced Preview of Future Fleet, plus what navy leadership having been saying for several years. The FFG will have to play a big part in reaching the 355 ship goal. Here is a quote from a article regarding his announcement, “That’s broadly in line with the 70 small surface combatants Esper called for today, which would include the new class of frigates, along with LCS. The Littoral Combat Ship will be replaced by the frigate, large unmanned ships, and potentially a corvette.


    • There are already 35 LCS built or contracted. That is half the 70, though we know four will go away soon. I don’t think much of the idea of a large unmanned surface vessel. I do think we are going to see a lightly manned corvette. It might also make a decent Coast Guard Cutter.

      There is a good chance this DOD and SecNav will not be around next year, but I hope the push for a stronger Navy survives.

      • Defence blogs everywhere seem to be thick with those who think unmanned vessels can do everything, cheaper, and smaller. Persuading the believers that it ain’t so is hard work and often fruitless…….

      • Yes you are correct we will soon have 31 LCS’s (35 – 4 being decommed next year) but by the time we have constructed the 30-40 new FFG it will be time to replace the LCS’s as their life in the US Navy will only be 15 – 20 years. So I believe some of them will be replaced by new FFG as will some of the Flight I & II Burkes. One of the favorable reasons for choicing such a large hull for the FFG is that it will have room for growth. I think we will see multiple flights of the FFG just like we did with the Burkes. Future flight will include increase in power generation, larger SPY 6 radar, increased VLS and more. Has you stated earlier part of this will be political. Once you have a hot production line with several shipyards going it’s hard to get polticians to let that go. (On a side note regarding that comment that’s what kinda happen with NSC, the CG only wanted 8 but Congress funded 11 and that production line is still hot. I know that the CG is all in on the OPC now but wish they would have just keep building the NSC and moved forward on your Cutter X idea to replace the current medium endurance cutters)

        Regarding the unmaned vessels, I too am skeptical about them, especially the LUSV. Bryan Clark with Hudson Instiitue has been lobbing that LUSV should be a minimally manned vessel the size of a corvette, maybe using the OPC hull as a basis. We will see where that goes.

        You are also correct we mere mortals don’t know the future and all of this plans could change tomorrow.

  7. @ Chuck

    My favourite is mine warfare. They seem to think something the size of a torpedo dropped off a ship (be it a tug or a destroyer or whatever) can ‘sweep’ vast areas of ocean and deal with everything it finds. And then there is modularity. Oh well. 😦

    • I hear you on that!

      I also don’t like the fact that an EOD swimmer has to swim up to a mine to attach explosives. Why not use a drone, UAV, flyboard, or some aerial device to attach explosives to bobbing mines?

      MCM seems so slow with USuVs and these MCM underwater drones. In an artillery, ASCM, torpedo, and shrapnel-filled environment of underwater explosions, who has the time and safety to deploy USuVs from a RHIB and swim in mine-infested waters to attach explosives personally to mines? The process needs to be more automated. I think it was better just to sweep for mines instead of the slow, methodical, and laborious LCS MCM Mission Module drone and EOD swimmer approach that seems too exposed and dangerous to the crews involved.

      • Well they do use ROV submersibles to deploy explosives.

        There just appears to be no appreciation of the tasks involved. Also they seem to think it can deployed off anything. As I keep asking them, who is doing the work you $750 million escort should be doing while it is playing MCM mothership? There seems to be no understanding that operations do originate from seaward in hostile environments.

      • The best de-mining method would probably be to Carpet Bomb the entire minefield from high above with B-52s or B-1Bs, but the Environmentalists, lawyers, and the public will protest and file lawsuits over the loss of sea life and Marine habitat. Carpet Bombing will ensure the destruction of anything explosive, be it moored mines or acoustic bottom ones, and unfortunately also destroy anything alive in the area.

        Funny how Environmental Law and public opinion works against some nations and aids others who are not restricted by these conventions and public opinions.

      • I’m not sure the Carpet bombing solution would work reliably. It might cover bottom influence mines and make them harder to recognize.

        I have seen explosives used against mines on land, but “carpet bombing” may not be precise enough.

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