Home » Budget Industry » Saudi Arabia Set to Buy Four Lockheed Martin Freedom-Class Variants in $11.25B Deal


Saudi Arabia Set to Buy Four Lockheed Martin Freedom-Class Variants in $11.25B Deal

A Lockheed Martin concept for variations of the Freedom-class LCS design from corvette to Frigate sized hulls. Lockheed Martin Photo

A Lockheed Martin concept for variations of the Freedom-class LCS design from corvette to Frigate sized hulls. Lockheed Martin Photo

Four Lockheed Martin Freedom-class ship variants are set to form the backbone of the Royal Saudi Navy’s Eastern Fleet as part of a $11.25 billion foreign military sales case presented to Congress on Monday.

The ships and the subsequent systems, weapons and munitions are the centerpiece of the long awaited Saudi Naval Expansion Program II (SNEP II) — the estimated $20 billon program to refresh the aging U.S.-built Saudi fleet operating in the Persian Gulf, according to a State Department notification issued on Tuesday morning.

“This acquisition will enhance the stability and maritime security in the sea areas around the Arabian Peninsula and support strategic objectives of the United States,” read the notification. “The proposed sale will provide Saudi Arabia with an increased ability to meet current and future maritime threats from enemy weapon systems. The Multi-Mission Surface Combatant ships will provide protection-in- depth for critical industrial infrastructure and for the sea lines of communication.”

Unlike the Freedom Flight 0 Littoral Combat Ships, the Saudi ships do not appear to have the modular mission package ability and will be rather a more traditional multi-mission model.

“We are very pleased to have the opportunity to provide the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with four multi-mission surface combatants (MMSC), based on the Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ship,” read a Lockheed Martin statement provided to USNI News.
“We look forward to working with both navies in developing a low-risk, cost effective approach that delivers value back to the customers.”

Lockheed as presented several sizes of the Freedom for foreign sales and is yet unclear what the final tonnage of the Saudi variant will be.

The quartet — as described in the DSCA notification — will emphasize traditional anti-air warfare and will be built around two eight-cell Lockheed Martin Mk 41 vertical launch system (VLS) and an Airbus TRS-4D active electronically scanned array (AESA) air search radar.

The list also included 532 Raytheon RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles (ESSM) which can be loaded four to a Mk 41 cell. With 16 cells per hull, the Saudi Freedoms will be able to potentially field 64 anti-air missiles per-ship.

A December Naval Sea Systems Command contract award to Lockheed Martin included about $93 million for Mk 41 systems for Saudi Arabia, giving early hints to the direction of their SNEP II ship buys.

The ships will also field the 1980s era Boeing RGM-84 Harpoon Block II anti-ship missiles (ASM), anti-submarine warfare (ASW) sonar suites and torpedoes as well as an OTO Melara 76 mm main deck gun.

The ships will also be equipped with Link 16 datalinks, which could allow for greater interoperability with U.S. forces in the Middle East.

The public announcement ends almost a decade of speculation and wrangling over the future of the SNEP II program.

The Saudis inquired into platforms ranging from both variants of the Navy’s LCS — Freedom and Austal USA Independence-class LCS — as well as the higher end Arleigh Burke-class (DDG-51) guided missile destroyer.

The ships are the largest dollar component of a series of upgrades that would also modernize the King Abdul-Aziz Naval Base on the Persian Gulf.

“This massive purchase could include destroyers, patrol craft, helicopters, ground vehicles and other platforms, as well as warehouses and substantial upgrades to port infrastructure. The requirements are still being developed, but recent estimates values the overall program at around $20 billion,” according to an October U.S. Army Corps of Engineers presentation.

In August, the State Department notified Congress of a potential $1.9 billion sale of 10 Sikorsky MH-60R helicopters to the kingdom, thought to be a component of SNEP II.

  • muzzleloader

    If the US can unload 4 of those pieces of crap on the Saudis, more power to them. LoL

    • Corporate Kitten

      The US navy will still be stuck with their full allocation of these fast patrol boats

  • Why not, if we can unload them to the Saudi’s, more power to the US.

    • Secundius

      @ Nicky.

      Hey Nicky, can I borrow your “Shillelagh”, there are a FEW that need to be “El Kabonged”. Oh, have you heard anything from “old guy”? I haven’t seen one of his Posting’s in Week’s…

  • disqus_zommBwspv9

    I buy frigates or corvettes from Indian first or France, britian, Italy, etc

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  • ElmCityAle

    The Navy will have a hard time explaining why the Saudi version of these ships is far better armed in almost every way than the proposed “up-gunned” version planned for our own forces.

    • Secundius

      @ ElmCityAle.

      The current Freedom/Independence class Designs are Block “Zero’s” (WIP’s). That Saudi Ship’s, will Either be a Block I, II, or III design…

      • Ctrot

        Dude, stop making up crap.

        • Secundius

          @ Ctrot.

          MY BAD! Flight “0’s”, NOT block “0’s”…

      • ElmCityAle

        I understand it’s a new platform and will undergo incremental improvements, but I’m focusing on the choices of weapons. The US Navy could already have this version under production – but didn’t want a real Frigate and has been clear in that decision.

        • Secundius

          @ ElmCityAle.

          There air at Least SIX Shipbuilder’s in the Frigate Design Contract Competition, Scheduled for 2019.
          1. Huntington-Ingalls, A Modification on the USCG “NSC” Design.
          2. Lockheed-Martin, A 25% increase in size to the Freedom class.
          3. BAE, Possible Varient of the Type 26 Frigate with 3-inch Gun, istead of the 5-inch gun that the UK will employ.
          4. 5. and 6. Are Unknown at this time. One speculation might be a 25% increase of the Independence class, or a Varient of the Same Design…

    • Secundius

      @ ElmCityAle.

      Actually, Sir? I don’t recall the US Navy, EVER asking for the Ship Design. As I recall SecDef Donald Rumsfeld, “Pushed” the Design Idea to then President George W. Bush, in 2001. Who “In-Turn” “Pushed” the Idea on Congress, in 2003. Which “In-Turn” Funded the Classes in 2005. With the First Ship LCS-1, USS. Freedom, being built in 2007…

      • vetww2

        Now, THAT’S the Secundius I remember.

      • USNVO

        Do you suffer from selective memory much? The LCS idea, although not called LCS, origionated with the Navy in response to Congressional questions about declining ship numbers. ADM Clark was its chief cheerleader, he even championed the unorthodox process of using R&D money to buy it. Sorry, can’t blame this on Bush, Rumsfeld, or any of the other normal whipping boys.

        • Secundius

          @ USNVO.

          As I recall, Sir. The Freedom class WAS designated as a Israeli Small Destroyer Concept in 1999. Then SecDef Rumsfeld, inherited the concept with the “Changing of the Guard”. When George W. Bush, came into Office in 2001…

    • Secundius

      @ ElmCityAle.

      Not really, what we (the USN) has are Flight “0” WIP’s (Working “Prorotypes”). What the Saudi’s are getting, are Flight 1 Mission Specific Working Classes…

  • Mr. Speaker

    Reminds me of the Kidd class deal with Iran.

  • Refguy

    P. T. Barnum lives!

  • Daniel Shenise

    $2.8125B per ship, not exactly cheap. It just goes to show that added capabilities add up.

    • DaSaint

      They are part of a larger defense contract. They are not $2.8B each.

    • ElmCityAle

      That includes all of the weapons and other components of the contract. Such costs are usually left out of discussions of the cost of ships, planes, etc.

      • Daniel Shenise

        My point being that LCS seaframes and modules are coming in well south of $1B combined now, yet these seaframes and associated hardware far exceed that. The Saudis are buying a much different ship, a highly up gunned small frigate in essence. Were we to up gun the FF variant to this degree we would be spending well north of $1B at which point it makes more sense to buy more Burkes. Armchair admirals can always say, let’s buy a “real” frigate, but can’t figure a way to make the accounting and roles work.

  • DaSaint

    8 SSMs, a 16 cell VLS capable of 64 ESSM, an affordable 3D radar, and two triple torpedo tube launchers per ship is not too much to ask for, is it?

  • ElmCityAle

    Yes, really: I’m not discussing the LCS version – which I think is a perfectly fine naval “pickup truck” – I’m discussing the announced “Frigate” version, which is a barely up-gunned version. The US Navy needs this Saudi Frigate version yesterday.

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  • PolicyWonk

    It sounds like the Saudi’s negotiated a vastly better deal for their LCS’s than the USN did. The Saudi version might even offer some pause to a potential adversary, as opposed to the “please sink me now b/c I can’t retaliate” versions purchased by the USA.

    It’ll be most interesting to see what the Saudi’s bought, versus what the US taxpayers are paying for.

    • Secundius

      @ PolicyWonk.

      With the Recent purchase of Two “Mistral” Gator-Freighters to Egypt by Saudi Arabia, weather the “LCS” Buy is Actually Saudi Arabia or a Back-Door Purchase for Egypt as well…

  • vetww2

    NICE TRY, HUNK-A-JUNK may be a great payola sale, but it, like the DD1000 is ill-conceived and of little value.
    Your denigrating comment reminds me of all the fools who resort to invective when they are too dull to present a good, valid argument.

    • USNVO

      Obvious you are one of the INTERNET pundits. The Navy needs inexpensive patrol ships, not missile Corvettes. The Saudis want a missile corvette. Cost is not an independent variable, even for the future “Frigates”. The major war fighting is covered by 100 and growing AEGIS ships. Now, back in the 90s, a more traditional Frigate could have been designed that replaced DDG-51s probably 5 to 3 and the Navy could have fewer high end ships and more medium combatants, but that was torpedoed by the AEGIS mafia and is ancient history. Explaining why the LCS “frigate” isn’t armed like the Saudi ship will be easy, the Saudi ship costs way more. Or is that too hard to understand? Should the Navy not make submarines? LHAs? SSBN follow on? There is no top line relief. Anyone can think of an impossible plan, which anyone looking at the 30year shipbuilding plan can see. How do you plan to stay within an already wishful thinking budget when your inexpensive ship is $1.5 Billion or more vice $500 million?

      • disqus_zommBwspv9

        Buy Chinese like Nigerian did with 2. Type 56 (F18 export )corvettes 22 million each.
        Wonder when the Chinese will have basing rights there
        Which is another thing that has always bother me. Why with all it’s riches why America never other to suck up to African countries

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  • Rob C.

    Wish the US could use the Frigate variant their selling the Saudis. I don’t have a lot faith in the upgunned and slower LCS turned Frigate. I rather have ship that was design from the beginning to be combatant not, boot strapped.

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