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photo - FREMM European Multimission Frigate

By Dave Majumdar - senior contributing writer Warrior Maven

The Navy is now analyzing concept designs from a range of US and European shipbuilders as part of its effort to acquire and deploy a new, well-armed and highly survivable Frigate FFG (X) vessel intended to fortify the surface force with advanced blue water attack missions, anti-submarine missions and a range

Five companies are working on a concept design phase for the new frigate—which must be based on a “mature” design—that are worth $15 million each. A production contract will be awarded—if all goes as planned—in Fiscal Year 2020 for the construction of 20 new frigates.

Austal USA, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics Bath Iron Works, Huntington Ingalls Industries and an Italian Bergamini class vessel known as Fregata Europea Multi-Mission or FREMM.

Special Profile: Navy Examines Italian Warship (Dave Majumdar went on a special tour of the FREMM)

The FREMM is one of 10 such vessels being built for the Italian Navy in two configurations, one version for Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) role and another for general purpose missions.

Rome is buying four of the ASW variant and six of the general purpose variant. Other versions of the FREMM—which is a joint venture between Rome and Paris—include a French ASW variant and a French air defense variant. Another potential buyer for the FREMM design is the United States Navy, which has a requirement that it needs to fill for 20 FFG(X) frigates.

The Fincantieri Group—which would build the ship at its Marinette Marine shipyard in Wisconsin—is offering a version of the Italian FREMM for the FFG(X) competition. The Italian design is competing head-to-head with designs from

For the American version of the FREMM, Fincantieri would modify the easily adaptable vessel for the U.S. Navy’s requirements according to Fincantieri’s chief strategy officer Vice Adm. Rick Hunt, the service’s retired former staff director.

Hunt said that the FREMM—modified for the Navy’s specifications—could mount as many as 32 Mk-41 vertical launch tubes. There are several configurations Fincantieri has looked at including 16 normal missile tubes and 16 so-called “deep stack” missile tubes, which can hold outsized weapons such as the Tomahawk land attack cruise missile or the Raytheon Standard SM-6. Potentially, Fincantieri could also offer a vessel with 32 deep stack tubes—offering a formidable payload.

Hunt said that with the Raytheon SM-2 Block IIIC active medium range missile, the vessel would be able to provide area air defense capability even without specific modifications for that role. In addition to anti-air missiles, the vessel will be able to accommodate a variety of anti-ship missiles depending on the U.S. Navy’s requirements.

However, it is most likely that the vessel will ultimately be armed with the Norwegian-designed Kongsberg—partnered with Raytheon—Naval Strike Missile, which was selected to be incorporated onboard the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ships. The weapon has a range greater than 100nm, but it was the only competitor for the program after Boeing and Lockheed Martin had dropped out.

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Alpino, which is equipped with the Thales CAPTAS-4—a combination variable-depth towed array sonar (VDS) and a hull-mounted sonar—is an exceptionally capable submarine hunter. The ship’s VDS offers exceptional performance according to several naval experts—and it is possible that the U.S. Navy will adopt the European hardware for its own needs. The FREMM also makes use of a quite propulsion system, intended to enable more effective on-board communication.

The propulsion system incorporates one 32 MW LM2500 gas turbine for high-speeds and four 2.1 MW diesel generators that turn two electrical motors. The ship can sustain 15 knots with just its electrical motors, but the LM2500 cuts in when greater speeds are needed. The ship can make 27 knots—which means it is not fast as Ticonderoga-class cruiser or an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer much less a Nimitz-class carrier, but with its forward-mounted auxiliary propulsion unit, it is maneuverable. Speed might be the ship’s one weakness—the ship will have a hard time keeping up with a carrier strike group.

In terms of the ships navigation systems, damage control systems and crew spaces, Alpino seeks to incorporate cutting edge technology. The damage control system is more or less fully automated with remote cameras and temperature gauges monitoring conditions. The lighting in the crew quarters seemed equivalent to many of the high-tech lights used on the USS Zumwalt and USS Gerald R. Ford.

--- Dave Majumdar is a senior contributing writer with Warrior Maven ---

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