DefenseNews is reporting Adm. Giuseppe De Giorgi, chief of the Italian Navy says their experience with their massive migrant interdiction operation “Mare Nostrum,” that saved over 150,000, is influencing the design of future frigates.
“The experience of Mare Nostrum has helped shape the design of Italy’s new frigates, which are dual use and can engage in large-scale rescues. Openings on the sides of the vessels allow people to disembark from fishing boats as they would on a dock.
“These ships will have a large space under the flight deck which is wired and plumbed so containers with bathrooms or hospital facilities can be installed, not to mention sleeping quarters. We will also be able to store large inflatable boats for special forces, which can be used, alongside landing craft, to evacuate Italian nationals from conflicts where helicopters are vulnerable to man-portable air-defense systems.
“I think this is the future. Increasingly, I don’t think countries will be able to deploy separate naval forces for policing, civil use and military use. I believe a navy must be designed from the start to be as flexible as possible.
“There are other innovations on the new ships. We are aiming to use electric propulsion up to 10 knots and to use bio-fuel and liquid gas fuel. The fuel tanks are being designed to use regular fuel as well as liquid gas. I think we are the first to do this.
“Additionally, the frigates will be able to provide electricity and drinking water for a community of 6,000 hit by a natural disaster.
“We will also be able to carry sea-skimming robots to clear up pollution on the surface, with the polluted water then stored in the tanks of a new refueling ship we are also designing.”
Italy has both a Coast Guard and a maritime Customs Service, but neither has large patrol vessels (over 1,000 tons) like the USCG, so the Italian Navy performs some coast guard functions.
The next class of US Coast Guard cutter, the Offshore Patrol Cutter, includes a design requirement to hold, shelter, and feed up to 500 illegal immigrants on deck. There are still a number of unknowns, but there is reason to believe that the winning design may also include provision for support of containerized modules and a hybrid propulsion system even though neither were included in the specification.
Aside from the ability to provide electricity to communities ashore, the excess generator capacity of a hybrid propulsion system may also allow the vessels to support electrically powered weapons like lasers and rail-guns.