The Navy’s New Frigate

Italian FREMM Bergamini. photo by Fabius1975–no its not going to look like this

The US Naval Institute has a one page description of the new Navy frigate in the July 2020 issue of Proceedings, including a nicely annotated side view of the ship (you can see it here). Other than the diagram and the intro, the article is behind the paywall. It not only illustrates how the ship is equipped, it also explains the differences between the US version and the Italian version. I will summarize and include some observations.

The already large FREMM frigate grows to 7,400 tons and 496 feet in length, an increase of “more than 500 tons” (700 tons according to Wikipedia) and 22 feet in length. Draft is reduced from 24 to 23 feet, but only because there is no bow mounted sonar, so the draft over the rest of the hull is likely greater.

This large size appears to open the possibility of a smaller combatant class of 2,000-4,000 tons which might be dual service (Navy/Coast Guard) ships, or perhaps simply an upgraded Bertholf class.

It appears the power plant is much the same as the Italian version, combined diesel electric and gas turbine. In the Italian ships, that consists of four diesel generators totaling roughly 15,000 HP, two electric propulsion motors totaling 5 MW or about 6700 HP, plus an LM2500 gas turbine rated at 32 MW or about 42,895 HP. The combination is reportedly good for more than 30 knots in the Italian frigates and the US version should not be much different despite the increase in displacement. The USNI report claims only a sustained speed in excess of 26 knots. I would note that this is slightly less total horsepower than the National Security cutters.

The one characteristic of the design that gives me pause is the cruise speed. For the Italian frigate the reported max is 17 knots, limited by the power of the electric motors. The USNI article reports a cruising range of 6,000 nmi at a speed of 16 knots in electric mode. These ships are likely to, at some point, perform escort duty for convoys or amphibious ready groups. Many modern merchant ships and all amphibious ready group ships can maintain 20+ knots. It is entirely possible that they may need to escort convoys with a base speed of 18 knots or more, which would require them to operate almost continuously on their one turbine engine which would seriously degrade their range. It is possible they have included higher power electric motors which might allow a 20 knot cruise, but there has been no indication of this. When escorting an aircarrier, they would be expected to operate on turbine virtually al the time, but in that case at least a tanker can be expected to be near by.

The systems reported on the new frigate include:

  • .50 cal. machine guns, looks like ten positions: four bow, two stern, four in the superstructure.
  • 57mm Mk110, ALaMO ammunition is mentioned as a capability.
  • 32 cell Mk41 VLS for SM-2 and quad-packed ESSM (no mention of vertical launch ASROC but that should be a possibility)
  • SPY-6(V)3 EASR multi-function radar, a smaller version of the radar being used on the latest Burke class DDGs
  • Mk20 Electro-optic gun fire control system
  • Cooperative Engagement Capability Datalink
  • UPX-29 IFF
  • SLQ-32(V)6 SEWIP EW system
  • Mk 53 Nulka decoy launchers
  • 16 (four quad) RGM-184 Naval Strike missile launchers
  • 7 meter RHIB hangar
  • 21 tube Mk49 RIM116 RAM launcher (on the hangar aft)
  • Hangar space for up to two MH-60R or one MH-60R and one MQ-8C Fire Scout
  • SQS-62 variable depth sonar
  • TB-37 multi-function towed array sonar
  • SLQ-61 lightweight tow or SLQ-25 Nixie towed torpedo decoy

Construction is expected to begin in 2022, first of class delivery 2026, and Initial Operational Capability (IOC) 2030. Apparently this is a contract with options for out years rather than a “Block Buy.”

Late Addition: Contrary to what I think I remember about the supposed equipment, there was no mention of vertical launch Hellfire. Notably there are none of the weapons normally associated with dealing with swarming high speed inshore attack craft e.g. no 25mm Mk38 and no 30mm Mk46, which seems surprising. Also don’t see a position that seems likely for a laser weapon, unless it is the small area elevated one deck forward of the RAM launcher and aft of the stack.

 

28 thoughts on “The Navy’s New Frigate

  1. Construction is expected to begin in 2022, first of class delivery 2026, and Initial Operational Capability (IOC) 2030. this is the bad news 10 years????? are those Russian Frigates?

  2. I can’t see the USN not switching to MTU diesels instead of the Italian diesels. That’s what the French version uses also.

  3. The picture is in the free section, article is not. There are 10 labelled .50 cal, but it was pointed out to me there are actually 12 in the picture w 2 on the bridge wings. The LM2500+G4 is also rated at 30.3MW for the navy. 100F vs 59F. GE loves to use the rating at 59 and Rolls uses the Navy rating at 100. Power Density of the LM2500+G4 is still better than MT30 at those numbers. I also struggle with how the draft is that deep. It will be interesting to see when its commissioned.

  4. The size is just a few percent under a ddg-51. Yet the tonnage even increased is a very large percentage lighter. I wonder just how fragile this ship is. Is it going to be a $1.3B light destroyer that is as fragile as an LCS?

    Yes, I will be shocked if it comes in under $1.3B after the first two. Well over $1.5B for each of the first two.

  5. For those of you who saw the article before I did this,
    I added a Late Addition: Contrary to what I think I remember about the supposed equipment, there was no mention of vertical launch Hellfire. Notably there are none of the weapons normally associated with dealing with swarming high speed inshore attack craft e.g. no 25mm Mk38 and no 30mm Mk46, which seems surprising. Also don’t see a position that seems likely for a laser weapon, unless it is the small area elevated one deck forward of the RAM launcher and aft of the stack.

  6. Absolutely amazing, go to tenders for a proven off the shelf design and then materially redesign it. Including moving from a bow bulb to a clipper bow and cutting down the hull from the bridge to the bow. For the record, a ship is an exercise in weight and balance and they have just weight and balance. The USN is back to a prototype. Standby for the blowout in cost and schedule.

    • We knew that the weapon systems would be all standard US Navy.

      This is closer to the parent design than OPC was to its, whatever it might have been.

      The Polar Security Cutter parent design never went past preliminary design stage so, not even close.

    • The artist rendering show’s shows ten M2 .50BMG’s, but if you look closely on either side of the Bridge Wings, there appears to be an additional two machine gun mounts for a total of twelve. But then again, the artist rendering may be that of the “Lead Ship” as fitted, and not the actual commissioned vessels after Fleet Testing…

  7. Do you know if that diagram is a sort of “official” Navy graphic, or just an illustration by an independent artist?

    • @Sunny Yang, the author was the editor of the last Combat Fleets of the World, which was published by the USNI in 2013. It is the same sort of diagram I would expect in that reference. It is about time for a new edition so would not be surprised if it was prepared for a new Combat Fleets. In any case you can be sure it is as accurate as possible at this stage in the design process. He would have gotten information from the Navy and/or the Shipyard.

  8. Ok looking at those drawings the distance from the top of the vls to the keel is 12 m (39.37 feet) so a Strike legth vls fit, also the distance from the vls to the start of the bridge structure is 4.68 m (15.35 feet) and ftom the vls to the rear of the 57 mm gun is 5.25 m (17.22 f)
    The hull is 19.7 m (64.63 f) wide, 151.18 m (496f) in length it has space!

    • I am concerned the mk 41 will be tactical length based on how the FFG(X) mk41 price is noticably lower per launcher than the DDG price in the budget.

      • The ship is being designed and equipped to a price point. There will be trade-offs and tough decisions to be made.

      • The “Lead Ship” is expected to employ the “Tactical VLS” initially, and employ the “Strike VLS” at a latter date. But “Latter Date” is unclear as to after “PCU Trials” or 5 to 10-years after being in service…

      • @Secundius, can’t see how installing Tactical length and then swapping out for Strike lengths makes any sense, but the Navy has not been making a lot of sense lately.

  9. What I find amazing with the U.S. Navy is that none of their current or future ship designs seem geared to adapt to future wars or missions…the FREMM Frigate is just a “Plain Vanilla” frigate without modifications for the future. There are no accommodations for Lightweight surface torpedo tubes, no MK38s 25mm cannons, no MK50 Protector .50cal RWS, no Adaptive Deck Launch Systems horizontal VLS array to replace the 16 NSM launchers, no 24 NSM launchers instead of 16, no 48-cell VLS bank, no 76mm cannon in place of the 57mm, no CIWS, no laser, no circular CIC, etc. It’s as if the FFGX design specs were locked in decades ago and can’t budge even with the changing threat times.

  10. Leonardo DRS at SNA2020 stating that they would be supplying HED system for Fincantieri FREMM-FFG(X), assuming they will they use tandem shaft mounted 1.7MW electric drive motors develeped for HED Burke (since cancelled), giving 3.4MW per shaft, total 6.8MW to give the necessary power for 16 knots cruise with 7,400t ship.


    • The Offshore Patrol Cutters are also going to have electric motors. Theirs will be mounted on the gear box, meaning they will make more noise than if mounted directly to the shaft with a clutch to disengage the gear box, but it will provide power for up to about 9 knots. More loiter than cruise but still useful.

      • Correction to my post above, the DRS gear mounted motor 1.5MW/2,300 HP (same method as the 625 HP motor fitted to the OPC as you mention) was planned to fitted to the Flight IIA Burkes, not as said the 1.7MW shaft mounted motor. The DRS 1.7MW shaft mounted motor being fitted to the Korean FFX-II class frigates which assuming to be used on the FFG in tandem per shaft. Do wonder if the 1.7 and 1.5 basically same PMM but able to maximize output in shaft mounted configuration?

        An advantage of a shaft mounted motors is that it enables astern power mode, so no need for a CPP, so the FFG will use the less expensive/simpler/quieter FPP which require less maintenance.

        Think the FFG displacement of 7,400t, 500t increase on the Italian FREMM, plus 400t for Service Life Allowance will end up at 7,800t, double the displacement of the previous gen OHP class FFGs, can see the same trend to larger displacement ships with the OPC EOSL quoted at ~ 5,000t (metric) and the new Australian Hunter frigate at 9,700t FLD!

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