Current European designs such as the Dutch De Zeven Provincien class, the German Sachsen-class, and the Franco-Italian, the FREMM multipurpose frigates represent these revolutionary designs today.
The U.S. Navy on April 30, 2020 announced it had awarded a $795 million contract to Fincantieri of Italy to design and build the first generation guided missile frigate. Fincantieri will build the frigate at Fincantierri Marinette Marine in Marinette, Wisconsin, USA. The vessel will be designed based on the FREMM multipurpose frigates, which are currently operating by the French and Italian navies. The contract includes options for an additional nine ships, which, if all options were exercised, would value the contract at $5.5 billion.
The vessel built by Fincantieri will be the lead ship of a new generation of US Navy frigates. The Pentagon’s 2018 Defense Strategy shifts the US military’s focus from counterterrorism to competition with China and Russia. Consequently, the U.S. shipbuilding and training programs also changed according to this strategy. The new frigate will be able to conduct a variety of missions, including anti-submarine and electronic warfare capabilities.
Current European designs such as the Dutch De Zeven Provincien class, the German Sachsen-class, and the Franco-Italian, the FREMM multipurpose frigates represent these revolutionary designs today. These ships are a quantum improvement over their Cold War predecessors. They occupy a special place in their respective naval structure.
As a product of cooperation between Naval Group and Fincantieri for the navies of France and Italy, the FREMM frigates are evaluated as equally powerful as the destroyers. This is one of the most modern frigate generations in Europe. It has a powerful weapon system, advanced stealth features along with the most advanced reconnaissance, surveillance and fire control systems in the world.
FREMM is not a class name, it is a design type. In France, the FREMM frigates are called the Aquitaine class, while in Italy they are known as the Bergamini class. Initially, FREMM was proposed with three variants: an anti-submarine variant, a general-purpose variant, and a land-attack variant. These frigates will replace the existing frigate classes in the French and Italian navies.
A total of 27 FREMMs have been planned – 17 for France and 10 for Italy – with additional aims to seek exports. However, due to budget cuts, France canceled orders for nine ships, leaving only eight, while the order for Italy remained unchanged. The land-attack variant was subsequently cancelled. The last two ships that France intends to put into operation in 2021 and 2022 will be air defense variants.
FREMM is a frigate type but can also be considered a destroyer because it has a displacement of approximately 7.000 tons. The French frigate FREMM has a displacement of about 6,000 tons, a length of 142m (466 ft), a beam of 20m (66 ft), a draft of 7.6m (25 ft). Italian vessels has a displacement of 6,700 tons, a length of 144.6m (474 ft), a beam of 19.7m (65 ft), a draft of 8.7m (29 ft).
The FREMM frigates have a two-shafts design, driving controllable pitch propellers. A gas turbine engine General Electric LM2500 works together with two electric motors Jeumont Electric and four diesel generators. There is also a bow thruster that allows flexible adjustments to maneuverability in high-speed dashing or general cruising to achieve maximum efficiency in the actions needed.
Maximum speed for the French version is about 27 knots, while the Italian version is 30 knots. The difference in speed is due to the two countries not using the same engine configuration. While France uses 4 MTU Series 4000 diesel generators via COmbined Diesel-eLectric Or Gas, Italy uses 4 Isotta Fraschini VL 1716 diesel generators via COmbined Diesel-eLectric And Gas arrangement. The FREMM frigate has a range of 6,000 nautical miles for the French version and 6,800 nautical miles for the Italian version. The requirement for the Aquitane-class is 145 crew and this becomes 199 in the Bergamini-class.
In addition to the OTO Melara 76 mm naval guns and machine guns, basically the French and Italian FREMM frigates are equipped with different main weapons.
Regarding anti-ship cruise missiles, French FREMM has 2 launchers with a total of 8 MM-40 Exocet block 3 long-range anti-shipmissiles, reaching a range of 180 km, while Italian FREMM uses 8 Otomat Mk-2/A anti-ship and land attack missiles, with a range of 200km.
Regarding air defense, French FREMM installed 16-cell MBDA SYLVER A43 vertical launching system for 16 Aster-15 medium-range surface-to-air missiles, with a range of 30 km. Italian FREMM has more powerful anti-aircraft capabilities, with 16-cell MBDA SYLVER A50 vertical launching system, using medium and long-range surface-to-air missiles Aster 15 and Aster 30, reaching ranges of 30km and 120km, respectively.
For anti-submarine warfare, the French ships are equipped with two double Leonardo B-515 launchers for MU 90 torpedoes. The Italians equipped their ships with two triple Leonardo B-515/3 launcher for MU 90 torpedoes and 4 MBDA MILAS missiles. Since 2017, the Italian Bergamini class has been equipped with two additional SITEP MASS CS-424 acoustic guns.
The French FREMM uses a 3D HERAKLES multi-purpose passive electronically scanned array radar, manufactured by Thales Corporation, operating in the S band. It has an air surveillance range of 250 km, and 80 km for surface targets.
Italian vessels are equipped with the 3D EMPAR multifunction phase array radar, which is fitted at the top of the superstructure. This radar has an aerial target search range of up to 480km. It was designed primarily for anti-aircraft and anti-ship duty. With a powerful radar system and Aster-30 air defense missile, Italian FREMM has very strong fleet anti-aircraft capabilities.
However, the French FREMM is also equipped with the land-attack ability with the 16 cells MBDA SYLVER A70 vertical launcher system for MBDA SCALP Naval cruise missile with a range up to 1000 km. If the French FREMM is equipped with both the Aster-30 air defense missile, it would have become a true destroyer.
The French ships are equipped with a hangar for an NH90 helicopter. The Italians equipped their ships with a double hangar for 2 SH90 or 1 SH90 and 1 AW101 helicopters. These helicopters are armed with MU 90 torpedoes or MBDA Marte Mk2/S missiles.
Each FREMM frigate costs between €470 million and €670 million, depending on the equipment configuration requirements of the customer.
Currently, in addition to France and Italy, there are two other countries that own FREMM, Royal Moroccan Navy and Egyptian Navy, each own a frigate. Other countries are also very interested in this ship like Canada, Greece, Australia, Brazil, but currently only the US is the latest customer.
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