US Navy Frigates

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US Navy Frigates

Postby MikeJames » 04 Nov 2017 20:51

The US Navy has got back on board with the need for a frigate.

The retirement of the FFG7 or Oliver Hazard Perry Class ships has exposed a few major flaws with the Navy's thinking, in particular that the so-called Littoral Combat Ship can ever be capable in combat. Designed to face a singular threat, operations in shallow and confined waters against fast moving small attack craft, such as the Iranian Revolutionary Guards iconic 'Boghammer' boats, they have struggled in simulations against more capable, open ocean foes.

The two classes of aluminium ships are large, fast and capable of consuming a vast amount of fuel doing so, but don't bring a whole lot of firepower to the fight. Something the Navy realised and attempted to rectify. Unfortunately the attempt to up-gun the LCS classes has proved to be an expensive and somewhat painful exercise.

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The painful realisation that both classes of LCS don't deliver anywhere near the capability of the Perry class, the Navy's last frigate class, has reopened a discussion between Navy and Industry for a new design of frigate for the Navy.

The U.S. Navy has released the first formal requirements for a proposed new frigate design, which it is now referring to as Guided Missile Frigate Replacement Program or FFG(X). A key component of these new ships is what is described as a 'robust' area air defense capability.

Navy is looking at what are, by it's standards, some very agressive timeframes to begin a frigate program, in part driven by the Trump Administration's desire to increase the size of the Navy in the face of today's threats. China and to lesser degree Russia are starting to challenge the Navy's sea dominance capabilities. and to counter those challenges the Navy needs new and far more capable ships.

The emphasis is on existing designs that can be modified to meet the Navy's needs, rather starting with a clean sheet of paper design, which has theoretically opened up the contest to international bidders.

In order to meet these mission requirements, there are 11 “desired” systems prospective vendors will want to assure make it into their proposals. The most important by far is the inclusion of an undefined “self defense launcher” in the final design. The Navy specifically said it was interested in available “trade space” for a system that could potentially launch the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) and the Standard Missile-2 (SM-2). The most obvious choice would be an array of Mk 41 vertical launch system (VLS) cells somewhere on the ship. These can accommodate single SM-2s or quad-packed ESSMs. Using a VLS array for the self defense launcher requirement could have the potential to supplement or even replace the containerized anti-ship missile requirement, too. The Navy’s request specifically asks for vendors to mention if they can include “strike length” cells in the self defense launcher.

This would be a major capability upgrade over the existing LCS. Even the up-gunned LCS concept, also known as the Small Surface Combatant (SSC), lacked any real air defense capability, making it effectively a sitting duck in almost any real combat scenario, despite adding $70 million to the ship's price tag.

The other 10 desirable systems for the notional FFG(X) include the COMBATSS-21 battle management system, a three-face fixed array Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar (EASR), the SLQ-32(V)6 electronic warfare suite, two four-round canisters with over-the-horizon anti-ship missiles, a SeaRAM self-defense system, the Mk 53 Nulka anti-missile decoy system, and more. There should be space on each FFG(X) for at least one MH-60R multi-mission helicopter, as well as an MQ-8C Fire Scout drone or similarly-sized unmanned aircraft, too.

On top of all that, there is an entire second tier of equipment that would add even more functionality. There 14 systems in this category, such as AN/SLQ-61 Light Weight Tow (LWT) and AN/SLQ-62 Variable Depth Sonar (VDS) linked together with the centerpiece AN/SQQ-89F underwater warfare system, the Mk 110 57mm gun with the Advanced Low Cost Munition Ordnance (ALaMO) projectile, Longbow Hellfire capability, and other radars and sensors.

Together, these systems would address many of the existing LCS’s deficiencies, which prevent them from independently operating in even low-threat environments at present. Equipped for its main functions, the new FFG(X) would be able to seamlessly integrate into larger task groups, including aircraft carrier strike groups and amphibious expeditionary strike groups, as well as provide escort for logistics convoys and other formations. The ships should have weapons and equipment that complement and enhance the existing anti-ship, air defense, and electronic warfare capabilities of those groupings.

As an independent surface combatant, the frigates would be able to operate in low to medium threat environments, hunting submarines and taking on other surface ships under certain conditions, as well as performing less intensive security cooperation and humanitarian assistance missions as necessary. The second tier of possible equipment includes provisions for two rigid hull inflatable boats, which could help the ship support anti-smuggling and special operations support missions, as well.

The FFG(X) should be able to travel at least 3,000 miles at a cruising speed of at least 16 knots, while being able to sustain a speed of least 28 knots during combat.

While lip service is being paid to foreign designs, with the Spanish F100 and franco-Italian FREMM being mentioned (though given the F100 comes with AEGIS it's already halfway to a Burke capability) most seasoned observers in Washington believe the competition will come down to two contenders, the heavily modified Freedom Class LCS that Saudi Arabia is buying, or the military version of the Coast Guard's Berthholf class National Security Cutter.

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[youtubehd]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_wusP9gBvs[/youtubehd]

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This one still has a long way to go, even the Pentagon's 'fast track' programs take what can seem like forever, but there is a likelyhood that the US Navy will develop a spiritual successor to the FFG Class that for several decades heped define the Navy during the Cold War and the hot peace that followed.

Not before time either.

Mike
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Re: US Navy Frigates

Postby MikeJames » 12 Jan 2018 14:18

The contenders for the Navy's new frigates are out in public.

On a personal note I don't think either LCS design can cut it, the USN wants a capable combatant that can defend itself and other ships from a range of threats and provide effective convoy escorts, whereas the proposed upgraded LCS cannot handle subsurface threats in particular and lack the sorts of ranges needed.

That really leaves FREMM vs the modified National Security Cutter and I can't see the French and Italians overcoming the 'home team' advantage that Huntington Ingalls has.

Mike


Frigate Design Awards By April; $950M Max, VLS Mandatory

By Sydney J. Freedberg Jr. on January 09, 2018 at 4:00 PM

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Lockheed Martin model of their proposed frigate design, based on the Littoral Combat Ship, on display at the 2018 Surface Navy Association conference. Note VLS hatches on foredeck, behind turret and flanked by OTH launchers.

CRYSTAL CITY: By the end of March, the Navy will award four to six contracts for “conceptual” designs of a future frigate. That ship that must cost under $950 million, have “Grade A shock hardening” on key systems to survive blasts, and carry at least 16 Vertical Launch System cells to defend itself and nearby vessels, program manager Regan Campbell told the Surface Navy Association conference here.

Those requirements, among many others, demand a much more formidable and more expensive vessel than the current, controversial Littoral Combat Ship. They make winning harder for the builders of the two existing LCS variants — Marinette Marine’s Freedom monohull and Austal’s Independence trimaran — which are making ships for under $500 million apiece that lack VLS and heavy-duty shock hardening. On the other hand, that $950 million maximum may be a challenge for the larger and more capable foreign frigates in the competition.

A crucial caveat: The forthcoming decision doesn’t knock anybody out of the competition. The four to six winners will split $90 million to do conceptual designs due in 16 months, and they’ll get intensive feedback from the Navy how to improve their work. But the Navy will also keep updating a “bidders’ library” with the latest specifications and files of Government Furnished Information (GFI), which will be available to all interested and qualified parties. When the government issues its final Request For Proposals (RFP) late this year — in the first quarter of fiscal year 2019 — any company can enter the “full and open competition,” even if they didn’t get a conceptual design contract.

The choice that really counts will come in 2020, when the Navy chooses one design to actually build. The first ship will be bought in 2020 (and delivered in 2026), the second in ’21, and two a year after that.

Image
Austal’s proposal for an LCS frigate with Vertical Launch System (VLS) tubes.

That $950 million figure is the maximum average price allowed for ships two to 20: The first of class can (and almost certainly will) go higher. Those caveats aside, the $950 million is the real average cost per ship, including the Government Furnished Equipment (GFE) provided by the Navy rather than the winning contractor. (You can hide hundreds of millions in costs by not counting all GFE).

The Government Furnished Equipment will be expensive, Campbell said, to ensure that whichever design wins, it will have compatible technology with the rest of the fleet. Used tried-and-true tech also reduces cost and risk. That includes standard Navy radars and the COMBATSS-21 combat management system, a dialed-down derivative of the Aegis air and missile defense system used on destroyers. (By contrast, the original LCS were allowed to use sui generis electronics, creating all sorts of headaches).

The GFE also includes Mark 41 Vertical Launch Systems, specifically the full-size “strike length” version capable of carrying the Navy’s entire array of offensive and defensive missiles. Earlier frigate concepts had made VLS optional; now it’s mandatory, Campbell made clear. 16 VLS cells is the minimum, 32 the preferred or “objective” number. In addition, the frigate needs eight dedicated on-deck launchers for Over-The-Horizon anti-ship missiles.

Image
Huntington Ingalls concept for their Patrol Frigate, a militarized version of their Coast Guard National Security Cutter.

The VLS cells, by contrast, are primarily needed for anti-aircraft and anti-cruise-missile weapons, like the SM-2 Standard Missile and the ESSM Sea Sparrow. (Though VLS can load offensive weapons if the situation warrants, she said). These defensive weapons are not just to protect the frigate itself but nearby vessels for which it’s providing “close escort.” How close?

Campbell carefully didn’t say — details are classified — but she made clear there was no appetite, and no money, for the frigate to replicate the extensive air and missile defense capabilities of a full-size Aegis destroyer.

While better armed and better protected than LCS, the future frigates will still — like LCS — serve as the “low” half of a “high-low” mix alongside destroyers and cruisers. Unlike LCS, however, the frigates will have the VLS, shock hardening and reinforced hull structures to accompany the destroyers into so-called contested environments under threat from a hostile and well-armed enemy. That’s a big shift from the early vision for LCS. The frigates will also have the command, control, and communications systems to work with amphibious and aircraft carrier task forces. In short, the Navy doesn’t want an auxiliary ship: It wants a frigate that can fight with the fleet.

Image
France’s first two FREMM frigates, the Aquitaine and the Normandy, built by Italy’s Fincantieri.

On an even larger scale, the frigate is a test case for a new and more streamlined approach to shipbuilding, the Chief of Naval Operators told reporters later at the conference. “We’ve been doing anything we can to reform our (acquisition) processes so we can challenge the assumptions, particularly (for) shipbuilding — I think we can just do that a little faster,” Adm. John Richardson said. “The one that we’re going to see, I hope, a big step forward in that regard is the frigate program.”

"We need to get the frigate right," Adm. RIchardson said, “not only because we need those ships, but also we’re really trying to approach how we design and build of our ships differently, which might define a new era in shipbuilding.”
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Re: US Navy Frigates

Postby SlatsSSN » 12 Jan 2018 20:01

I like the cutter design ... and from a modelling perspective, I understand Christian at MTB does the hull.

J
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Re: US Navy Frigates

Postby littoralcombat » 12 Jan 2018 20:32

One of our members here at FBP has the Christian MTB hull, it is excellent.
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Re: US Navy Frigates

Postby MikeJames » 13 Jan 2018 14:11

Yes, I saw the Bertholf hull in 1:96 and encouraged Christian to consider doing the hull in 1:72. Fortunately there were enough customers to support the build.

I would like to build either the Bertholf or if it gets selected, the new frigate, once I get past the current backlog of projects.

That however is some way off. On the bright side, it means I should know what the final USN frigate design will be.

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Re: US Navy Frigates

Postby RussF172 » 14 Jan 2018 10:12

I also saw a post from Bath Iron Works (BIW) who are at the conference and working with NAVANTIA. They have put forward their F-105 design so basically our "HOBART" for the FFG(X) program. Wouldn't that be funny if the US followed us in stead of the other way around!
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Re: US Navy Frigates

Postby MikeJames » 14 Jan 2018 17:54

Not going to happen for a couple of reasons.

The biggest one being a comment by one of the USN's top procurement people.

"Frigate Program Manager Regan Campbell carefully didn’t say — details are classified — but she made clear there was no appetite, and no money, for the frigate to replicate the extensive air and missile defense capabilities of a full-size Aegis destroyer"

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Re: US Navy Frigates

Postby MichaelB » 14 Jan 2018 18:14

MikeJames wrote:Yes, I saw the Bertholf hull in 1:96 and encouraged Christian to consider doing the hull in 1:72. Fortunately there were enough customers to support the build.

I would like to build either the Bertholf or if it gets selected, the new frigate, once I get past the current backlog of projects.

That however is some way off. On the bright side, it means I should know what the final USN frigate design will be.

Mike


The guy who Christian did the 1/96th hull has a cnc set for the superstructure for this and shortly, if not already, the 1/72 as well. He should be doing the FREMM too.

Call me if you want a hull. :D :)

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Re: US Navy Frigates

Postby MikeJames » 27 Feb 2018 22:22

The US Navy has selected five designs to go forward to detailed design competions.

They are:

The Modified National Security Cutter from Huntington Ingalls
The upgraded Austal USA LCS
The Fincantieri Marinette Marine FREMM
General Dynamics Bath Iron Works modified ASW-specific frigate based on Navantia's F105
The upgraded Lockheed Martin LCS

The final design will be selected in 2019 with the first ship ordered in 2020 with ships 2 in 2021 and 3 & 4 ordered in 2022.

At least 20 ships are envisioned, but more will probably be built.

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Re: US Navy Frigates

Postby MichaelB » 28 Feb 2018 08:55

At least 20 ships are envisioned, but more will probably be built.

Far too logical I suppose for the RAN to "piggy back"onto the USN order to save time & money. :yes:
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Re: US Navy Frigates

Postby MikeJames » 28 Feb 2018 18:53

It would mean no opportunities for politicians to wax lyrical about 'jobs' in South Australia.

Buggar the fact that we will pay between 2.5 and 3.5 x what we should to build them here, plus they will be late.

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Re: US Navy Frigates

Postby SlatsSSN » 28 Feb 2018 20:02

echoing Michael Brown - Christian does indeed already do a 1/72 scale Bertholf

photos of the hull are on Facebook - he posted these last yr in May 2017
i.e.

Screen Shot 2018-02-28 at 8.00.36 pm.png
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Re: US Navy Frigates

Postby littoralcombat » 28 Feb 2018 22:48

As indicated earlier John, one of our Members here at FBP has one. Delivered in two halves (as is the norm for P&P economy reasons from the Med). It has been joined together, with excellent results I might add. A really nice Hull, which is what we have become accustomed to from Christian. I have three of his masterful creations. :tup:
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Re: US Navy Frigates

Postby rritchie71 » 02 Mar 2018 22:05

Serge may have a photo of the Berholf hull from the last run, can back up the comment that it is a very nice hull indeed. as is the Fremm, with Bergamini and Alpino under construction in Perth.

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