Navy goes FREMM for FF(X), or, Why FFG-62 Smells Like Spaghetti-Os

The great FF(X) competition is over and the assorted conglomerates have been weighed and measured.

The losers: Austal USA, GDBIW/Navantia, and Huntington Ingalls.

The winner: Fincantieri Marinette Marine with a version of their popular FREMM (Fregata Europea Multi-Missione) frigate, already in service with Italy, France, Morocco, and Egypt. That alone should help pave the way to a fully-fleshed out warship with few teething problems while having the bonus ability to more easily interact with those overseas allies while underway.

200430-N-NO101-150. WASHINGTON (April 30, 2020) An artist rendering of the guided-missile frigate FFG(X). The new small surface combatant will have the multi-mission capability to conduct air warfare, anti-submarine warfare, surface warfare, electronic warfare, and information operations. (U.S. Navy graphic/Released)

The lead ship will cost $1.281 billion, with $795 million of that covering the shipbuilder’s detail design and construction costs and the rest covering the GFE, including the combat systems, radar, launchers, command and control systems, decoys and more. For the rest of the class, the total ship cost pegged at $781 million. The Navy plans to build 20 ships as part of the future frigate program.

For comparison, the Oliver Hazard Perry-class FFGs cost $122 million a pop in 1977, a figure that adjusts to something like $520 million today.

Fincantieri will build the new frigate in Wisconsin at its Marinette shipyard, which in the past has had good luck with the Coast Guard’s freshwater icebreaker, the service’s Juniper-class 225-foot ocean-going buoy tenders, a few fleet tugs, and Avenger-class minesweepers as well as (grrr) all of the Freedom-class littoral combat ships. Going further back, they used to be part of Manitowoc, which built submarines back in WWII.

The cool thing about the FREMM frigates is that they are super flexible, with Fincantieri having pitched a variety of hulls specialized towards ASW, another that was a land-attack variant, and a third general-purpose variant. The U.S. Navy’s version seems to be focused on the latter, with enough of a combat suite to survive in a warzone– something the LCS just can’t do.

Notably, FFG-62 will be the smallest U.S. Navy hull with AEGIS. Ever.

FFG(X) will include an Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar (EASR) radar, Baseline Ten (BL10) AEGIS Combat System, a 32-cell Mk 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS), communications systems, MK 57 Gun Weapon System, a battery of 16 Naval Strike missiles and a RAM system for point defense. The CODLAG plant will supposedly produce the same amount of electrical power as a Flight III DDG, which is good for future systems.

Personally, I’d like to see a 5-inch gun rather than the 57mm piece, which is apparently the Navy/Coast Guard answer to anything smaller than a destroyer, and a sharper focus on ASW, because it seems no one is doing that these days. but then again the Navy isn’t building them for me. The Italian and French models have both a Thales bow and towed sonar as well as a mine-avoidance sonar by Leonardo while it looks like the FFG-62 will only have a towed array (if that).

Maybe the Navy will be successful in turning the LCS into a subchaser at some point.

Anyway, the award announcement, for the record:

Marinette Marine Corp., Marinette, Wisconsin, is awarded a $795,116,483 fixed-price incentive (firm target) contract for detail design and construction (DD&C) of the FFG(X) class of guided-missile frigates, with additional firm-fixed-price and cost reimbursement line items.  The contract with options will provide for the delivery of up to 10 FFG(X) ships, post-delivery availability support, engineering and class services, crew familiarization, training equipment and provisioned item orders.  If all options are exercised, the cumulative value of this contract will be $5,576,105,441.  Work will be performed at multiple locations, including Marinette, Wisconsin (52%); Boston, Massachusetts (10%); Crozet, Virginia (8%); New Orleans, Louisiana (7%); New York, New York (6%); Washington, D.C. (6%), Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin (3%), Prussia, Pennsylvania (3%), Minneapolis, Minnesota (2%); Cincinnati, Ohio (1%); Atlanta, Georgia (1%); and Chicago, Illinois (1%).  The base contract includes the DD&C of the first FFG(X) ship and separately priced options for nine additional ships.  The FFG(X) will have the multi-mission capability to conduct air warfare, anti-submarine warfare, surface warfare, and electronic warfare and information operations.  FFG(X) represents the evolution of the Navy’s small surface combatant, with increased lethality, survivability, and improved capability to support the National Defense Strategy across the full range of military operations in the current security environment.  Work is expected to be complete by May 2035, if all options are exercised.  Fiscal 2020 shipbuilding and conversion (Navy) funding in the amount of $795,116,483 will be obligated at time of award and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year.  This contract was competitively procured via the Federal Business Opportunities website and four offers were received.  The Navy conducted this competition using a tradeoff process to determine the proposal representing the best value, based on the evaluation of non-price factors in conjunction with price.  The Navy made the best value determination by considering the relative importance of evaluation factors as set forth in the solicitation, where the non-price factors of design and design maturity and objective performance (to achieve warfighting capability) were approximately equal and each more important than remaining factors.  The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00024-20-C-2300).

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