So the Navy has handed out some cash ($15 million each) for five different frigate designs to actually replace the FFG7s, the FFG(X) Guided Missile Frigate concept.
They went to General Dynamics Bath Iron Works (for a Spanish design F100 frigate, which the Aussies are using as HMAS Hobart), Fincantieri Marine’s Fregata Europea Multi-Missione (FREMM) frigate, Huntington Ingalls (for a grey hull frigate based on the Legend-class National Security Cutter they have been making for the Coast Guard), Austal USA (for an up-gunned LCS), and Lockheed Martin (see Austal).
Out of all of them, I think the Ingalls pumped-up Coast Guard cutter is the most likely as its the most mature with the least issues, but the F100 and FREMM are very nice (though suffer from “not made here” origins).
Meanwhile, in other ship news, Ingalls just landed a $1.43 billion, fixed-price incentive contract for the detail design and construction of LPD 29, the 13th San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship. Ingalls has built and delivered all 11 San Antonios since 2000, a group of massive 25,000-ton 684-foot gators capable of toting up to 800 Marines along with a few helicopters/MV-22s and two LCAC landing craft to put them ashore. The 11th of the class, Portland (LPD 27), will be commissioned on April 21 in Portland, Oregon. The 12th, Fort Lauderdale, is under construction and is expected to launch in the first quarter of 2020. Preliminary work has begun on LPD 29, and the start of fabrication will take place later this year.
Above is an interesting look at the inner workings of a MK VI patrol boat assigned to Coastal Riverine Group (CRG) 1 Detachment Guam, part of Coastal Riverine Squadron (CRS) 2.
The U.S. Navy Mark VI patrol boat is a very well-armed successor to classic PT boats of WWII (sans torpedoes), Nasty boats of Vietnam, and Cold War-era PB Mk IIIs. The Mk IIIs, a heavily armed 65-foot light gunboat, was replaced by the Mk V SOC (Special Operations Craft), a somewhat lighter armed 82-foot go fast and the 170-foot Cyclone-class patrol ships.
Now the Navy coughed up the idea for the Mk VI back in 2012, and plan on obtaining as many as 48 of these boats and are deployed in two separate strategic areas of operation: Commander, Task Force (CTF) 56 in Bahrain and CTF 75 in Guam.
At $6-million a pop, they are twice as expensive as USCG 87-foot WPBs and with much shorter legs, but they have huge teeth. Notice the 25mm MK38 Mod 2 forward and aft, the M2 RWS mount atop the wheelhouse, and the four crew-served mounts amidships and aft for Dillion mini-guns, M240Gs, MK19 grenade launchers, or other party favors. Of course, these would be toast in a defended environment like the China Sea but are gold for choke points like the Persian Gulf, anti-pirate ops, littoral warfare against asymmetric threats etc.
They also provide a persistent capability to patrol shallow littoral areas for the purpose of force protection for U.S. and coalition forces, as well as safeguarding critical infrastructure.
You know, classic small craft warfare dating back to to the Greeks.
I give you, DARPA’s robot subchaser, Sea Hunter, testbed of the ACTUV program, which is now part of ONR.
DARPA has successfully completed its Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) program and has officially transferred the technology demonstration vessel, christened Sea Hunter, to the Office of Naval Research (ONR). ONR will continue developing the revolutionary prototype vehicle—the first of what could ultimately become an entirely new class of ocean-going vessel able to traverse thousands of kilometers over the open seas for month at a time, without a single crew member aboard—as the Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MDUSV).
The handover marks the culmination of three years of collaboration between DARPA and ONR that started in September 2014. An April 2016 christening ceremony marked the vessel’s formal transition from a DARPA-led design and construction project to a new stage of open-water testing conducted jointly with ONR. That same month, the vessel moved to San Diego, Calif., for open-water testing.
ONR plans to continue the aggressive schedule of at-sea tests to further develop ACTUV/MDUSV technologies, including automation of payload and sensor data processing, rapid development of new mission-specific autonomous behaviors, and exploring coordination of autonomous activities among multiple USVs. Pending the results of those tests, the MDUSV program could transition to U.S. Navy operations by 2018.
The Armada of the Mexican Republic awhile back contracted with the Dutch (Damen) to build a series of four Sigma 10514 POLA (Patrullera Oceánica de Largo Alcance, eng=Oceanic Long Range Patrol) ships to replace the elderly 1960s steam FFs bought from the U.S. and augment their locally-produced light (read= lightly armed yacht) OPVs.
The 344-foot, 2,000-ton frigates are pretty nice and are really comparable to the German MEKO 200s (and frankly better than the LCS). While Indonesia is getting some that are pretty tricked out, the Mexican Navy has opted for a Bofors 57mm, 25mm secondaries (Mk38s), RAM, Harpoon, and Mk. 32 ASW tubes. Check out the below to get a fix on them and how the work will be split into modules between Holland and Mexico.
DSCA approved the following sale earlier this month to help give these ships a little bite. Though the quantities suggest that the outlay is for the first ship only:
The Government of Mexico has requested to buy six (6) RGM-84L Harpoon Block II surface launched missiles, twenty-three (23) Block II Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) tactical missiles and six (6) MK 54 Mod 0 lightweight torpedoes. Also included are eight (8) MK 825 Mod 0 RAM Guided Missile Round Packs (GMRP) tri-pack shipping and storage containers; RAM Block 2 MK 44 Mod 4 Guided Missile Round Pack (GMRP); two (2) MK 32 Surface Vessel Torpedo Tubes (SVTT) triple tube launchers; two hundred and fifty (250) rounds of AA98 25 mm high explosive and semi-armor piercing ammunition; seven hundred and fifty (750) rounds A976 25mm target practice and tracer ammunition; four hundred and eighty (480) rounds of BA22 57mm high explosive programmable fuze ammunition; nine hundred and sixty (960) rounds of BA23 57mm practice ammunition; containers; spare and repair parts; support and test equipment; publications and technical documentation; personnel training and training equipment; U.S. Government and contractor representatives’ technical assistance; engineering and logistics support services; installation services; associated electronics and hardware to control the launch of torpedoes; and other related elements of logistics and program support. The estimated cost is $98.4 million
The Naval Research Laboratory has been testing a light rotary drone called the Nomad from USS Coronado (LCS-4). The cool thing about it is that it is CO2 launched from a tube, and they can carry (and operate) multiple Nomads at once.
According to NRL:
The Nomad is a highly affordable expendable design, allowing for execution of its mission without concerns for returning to the ship. This new upgrade retains the original affordable expendable design, but now has a recovery feature that allows operators to retrieve and reuse the Nomad vehicles multiple times in support of development, testing, training, and potentially future operational missions.
A kinda interesting concept, especially if you allow the tech to grow to where a single LCS could serve as a “drone carrier” flying dozens or even possibly hundreds of small tube-launched Nomads or weaponized successors operating in swarms. Now that actually sounds like a useful littoral combat ship.
Drone video footage of the Freedom-class littoral combat ship PCS USS Little Rock (LCS-9) docked in Buffalo, New York 14 Dec 2017, two days before her commissioning. She is the fifth Freedom-variant LCS built by Lockheed Martin and Fincantieri Marinette Marine, at a cost of $350 million, and was laid down 27 June 2013.
She is the second USS Little Rock with the first, (CL-92/CLG-4/CG-4), a Cleveland/Galveston-class light/ guided missile cruiser launched in 1945, decommissioned in 1976 and currently part of the museum at Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park– hence the Buffalo tie-in.
Video by Bart Schrum, Defense Media Activity