On February 16, the US Navy (USN) awarded five conceptual design contracts for the 20 next-generation guided-missile frigates (FFG(X)).
Austal USA, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics Bath Iron Works, Fincantieri Marine and Huntington Ingalls Industries were each awarded $15 million contracts for FFG(X) conceptual designs that will be evaluated over the next 16 months. This evaluation will serve as a basis for the USN to better understand the cost and capability drivers across the various design options, and will lead to a final request for proposal scheduled for 2019 and a contract award in 2020.
Each design the Navy selected was based on a “mature” parent design that is already in production for the US or foreign navies, these included: Austal USA’s ‘Independence’ class Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), an upgunned variant of the current LCS ships; Fincantieri Marine Group offered Fincantieri elected to offer both its 6,700t Italian Fregata Europea Multi-Missione (FREMM) design for construction in its Wisconsin Marinette Marine shipyard, as well as to partner with Lockheed Martin on its ‘Freedom’ class pitch as a subcontractor; General Dynamics Bath Iron Works partnered with Navantia to offer the ‘Alvaro de Bazan’ class F-100 frigate. Huntington Ingalls Industries’s pitch remains unknown to date, although local media speculate that it could be the ‘Legend’ class National Security Cutter design that has already been presented at trade shows in the past, and which it labels ‘Patrol Frigate’.
The FFG(X) programme follows the LCS programme, which has been criticised for not having enough offensive fire-power to sustain a battle in a meaningful way; as such, the FFG(X) will be outfitted with equipment to succeed in “complex electronic warfare and anti-ship missile threat environments” as both an independent-deployer and as part of a larger battle group.
The Navy expects to pay anywhere from $800 to $950 million per hull for the next-generation frigate.