Tag Archives: FFGX

A Closer Look at the FFG-62 Class

PEO USC this week gave an unclassified presentation to the Surface Navy Association of the Constellation-class Guided Missile Frigate (FFG 62) program thus far. The PowerPoint included a few interesting slides, repeated below for posterity.

Big likes of mine on the 7,300-ton, 496-foot frigate, is that it has almost 50,000shp, a “Baby AEGIS” phased-array system, and a fit for 16 anti-ship missiles. The AAW/missile defense is taken care of by a 32-cell VLS (which can be expanded with the use of quad-packed ESSM Sea Sparrows) coupled with a 21-cell RAM, 57mm Bofors (which can be used to good effect in such a role with its 3P shells) and soft kill systems.

Big dislikes: USW/ASW is limited to an SQQ-89 combat system, an unnamed VDS and towed array, and a single MH-60 type helicopter. The only “hard kill” option is the possibility of a couple of VLS-ASROCs (unlikely when headed into the Westpac against a heavy AShM threat) while soft kill is the elderly Nixie device. At least the Perrys had Mk.32s with a big torpedo magazine and twice the rotary-wing. Even the Knox class of the 1970s and 80s had the 8-cell ASROC “Matchbox” launcher while the SpruCans— which were almost the size of the planned FFG-62s– had the Matchbox (with space for two full reloads), Mk. 32s, and same-sized helicopter capacity.

I guess I just miss Matchboxes, and I am not ashamed to say it.

USS Bronstein (FF-1037) firing an ASROC rocket from her Mk-16 box launcher, circa 1980s NHHC S-550-G

Welcome back, USS Constellation

I am a sucker for naval tradition and, while 20th Century frigates/destroyer escorts were named either for small towns (see Asheville– and Tacoma-classes) or heroes that are often otherwise forgotten (see Evarts-, Buckley-, Cannon-, Edsall-class, et.al), it was announced yesterday that the fleet’s next frigate class will start off with a familiar name– that of one of the First Six frigates of the newly-formed U.S. Navy, USS Constellation.

Action between U.S. Frigate Constellation and French Frigate Insurgente, 9 February 1799. Painting by Rear Admiral John W. Schmidt, USN (Retired), depicting Constellation (at left) taking position ahead of Insurgente. After an hour-and-a-quarter engagement, the badly outmaneuvered and damaged French frigate surrendered. Constellation was commanded by Captain Thomas Truxtun. Courtesy of the artist. Official U.S. Navy photograph, KN-2882.

Serving from 1797 and named in honor of the collection of 15 stars on the young country’s flag, the original 164-foot, 38-gun Constellation, called “The Yankee Racehorse” due to her speed, endured until 1853 when she was “greatly repaired” at Gosport Navy Yard to become the 179-foot 20-gun sloop-of-war that carried the same name and is currently preserved in Baltimore.

The third completed Connie, of more modern vintage, was the massive Kitty Hawk-class supercarrier which was in service from 1961 to 2003 and is remembered for her hard service in Vietnam, the Cold War, the Tanker War, and Iraq as “America’s Flagship.” Sadly, she was scrapped in 2015.

An aerial port beam view of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Constellation (CV-64) as crew members form the Battle E awards for excellence on the flight deck of the ship. 1 August 1986 National Archives and Records Administration photo, cataloged under the National Archives Identifier (NAID) 6429186 https://catalog.archives.gov/id/6429186

Now, as announced by SECNAV Kenneth J. Braithwaite this week, USS Constellation (FFG 62) will be the lead ship in the new Guided Missile Frigate (FFG(X)) class.

Appropriately, he made the announcement while aboard the museum ship Constellation in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

BALTIMORE (Oct. 7, 2020) Secretary of the Navy Kenneth J. Braithwaite announces USS Constellation (FFG 62) as the name for the first ship in the new Guided Missile Frigate class of ships while aboard the museum ship Constellation in Baltimore Inner Harbor, Baltimore, Md., Oct. 7, 2020. As the first in her class, the future Guided Missile Frigates will be known as the Constellation Class frigates. Braithwaite visited the museum ship Constellation for the announcement to honor the first U.S. Navy ships authorized by Congress in 1794. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Levingston Lewis)

The Navy emphasized that the FFG-X will be fighting ships, rather than the LCSs we currently have:

As the next generation of small surface combatants will contribute to meeting the goal of 355 battle force ships. With the ability to operate independently or as part of a strike group, it will deliver an Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar (EASR), Mk 41 Vertical Launching System, and Baseline 10 (BL 10) Aegis Combat System capabilities. The ships lethality, survivability, and improved capability will provide Fleet Commanders multiple options while supporting the National Defense Strategy across the full range of military operations.

It would be great if the next ships of the class repeat other First Six names (Chesapeake, Congress, and President) not currently in use, and carry forward with other famous ship names moving forward (e.g. why do we not have a Ranger, Hornet, Intrepid, etc?).

Either way, it is better than naming them for politicians and labor leaders. 

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).

Looks like Lockheed-Martin may get a lock on frigate sales

With the U.S. Navy just three weeks ago fronting cash ($15 million each) for five different frigate designs for the new FFG(X) Guided Missile Frigate concept, one of the companies, Lockheed, just pulled down a big bonus that could help.

You see, LM just picked up a plump $481 million contract for long lead work on four of what they term Multi-Mission Surface Combatant (MMSC) ships for the Royal Saudi Navy. The MMSC? An uparmed version of the company’s Freedom-variant Littoral Combat Ship which is very similar to one of the five proposals greenlighted for the USN’s FFG(X) contract.

Lockheed-Martin’s Multi-Mission Surface Combatant (MMSC) ship, just really what LCS should have been

MMSC has a range of 5,000 nautical miles and can reach speeds in excess of 30 knots, packs the basic armament of the LCS (57mm Mk110 deck gun, MH-60 Seahawk, UAVs, and SeaRAM) but adds Over-The-Horizon surface-to-surface missiles (8 Harpoons are shown on the sketch), port and starboard 20 mm remote guns (Mk.38 25mms could be substituted), a new fire control radar and a forward centerline 8 cell MK 41 Vertical Launch System equipped with 32 quad-packed RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles. The MMSC is also equipped with the AN/SLQ-25 Torpedo Defense system.

The Freedom-variant FFG(X) uses the same hull as the LCS and the MMSC but includes a mini-SPY style phased array, a set of Mk.32 ASW torpedo tubes and upto a 32-cell VLS. But who’s to say the company won’t leverage the work going on simultaneously on MMSC when it comes to the cut for the FFG(X) winner…

Freedom-variant FFG(X) lcs via LM

Frigates, forward

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).

Lockheed’s FFGX, another upgunned LCS variant

Italian FREMM Carlo Bergamini (F590), a score of which may be built/are building for Italy, France, Morocco, and Egypt via Wiki

Austal’s FFGX, a greatly modified version of their current LCS complete with VLS and more sensors

Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Hobart enters Jervis Bay as part of her Mariner Skills Evaluation period (Photo by Mr. Pup Elliott via RAN)

Ingalls Shipbuilding Sea Control Frigate based on National security cutter

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.

Rendering of LPD 29, the 13th San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship, note 30mm Bushmaster gun forward