Return of the phantom frigate

By Philip Ewing Wednesday, January 11th, 2012 7:24 pm
Posted in International, Naval

Huntington Ingalls Industries is not giving up on its “Patrol Frigate” concept.

After years of promoting the idea of an up-armed, gray hulled version of the Coast Guard’s National Security Cutter with no luck, company officials renewed their pitch again on Wednesday, with a twist: Now there are two models.

Mike Duthu, Ingalls’ program manager for the NSC, said in a briefing at the Surface Navy Association trade show that company officials think navies across the world — including Australia’s, Saudi Arabia’s and others — could buy as many as 215 new frigates over the next 20 years, and that’s a perfect opportunity for two export versions of the Patrol Frigate.

The 418-foot National Secuirty Cutter is the largest USCG cutter ever produced and its armarment and size are very very similar to the current missile-less FFG-7 frigates of the US Navy

One would essentially be the Coast Guard’s ship painted gray, but with all the same standard equipment — a law enforcement or coast guard-type ship. The other would be the high-speed version we talked about before, with everything from an onboard sonar to vertical missile tubes, to Aegis — the whole shootin’ match. Duthu said the high-end ship, which Ingalls has given the lyrical name of “Patrol Frigate 4921″ can accommodate all the new weapons and sensors without major modifications to its hull and with the power and engines it already has.

Duthu said Ingalls hasn’t talked with any international clients yet about either 4921 or the base model — “We’re just rolling this out,” he said. But H-I’s corporate leaders feel there’s a growth market in play and “We believe we have a great opportunity out there with both versions,” Duthu said.

It was hard to know what to make of the company’s presentation on Wednesday. The concept of a naval NSC was something first pitched when Northrop Grumman owned the shipbuilding arm it later spun off into H-I, and nobody went for it. What’s different now? The U.S. Navy decided years ago to turn up its nose at what the Coast Guard calls its Legend-class, and other navies seem to have followed suit.

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