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Report to Congress on U.S. Navy Frigate (FFG(X)) Program

The following is the July 3, 2018 Congressional Research Service report, Navy Frigate (FFG(X)) Program: Background and Issues for Congress.

From the report:

The Navy in 2017 initiated a new program, called the FFG(X) program, to build a class of 20 guided-missile frigates (FFGs). The Navy wants to procure the first FFG(X) in FY2020, the second in FY2021, and the remaining 18 at a rate of two per year in FY2022-FY2030. The Navy’s proposed FY2019 budget requests $134.8 million in research and development funding
for the program.

Although the Navy has not yet determined the design of the FFG(X), given the capabilities that the Navy’s wants the FFG(X) to have, the ship will likely be larger in terms of displacement, more heavily armed, and more expensive to procure than the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs). The Navy envisages developing no new technologies or systems for the FFG(X)—the ship is to use systems and technologies that already exist or are already being developed for use in other programs.

The Navy’s desire to procure the first FFG(X) in FY2020 does not allow enough time to develop a completely new design (i.e., a clean-sheet design) for the FFG(X). Consequently, the Navy intends to build the FFG(X) to a modified version of an existing ship design—an approach called the parent-design approach. The parent design could be a U.S. ship design or a foreign ship design. The Navy intends to conduct a full and open competition to select the builder of the FFG(X). Consistent with U.S. law, the ship is to be built in a U.S. shipyard, even if it is based on a foreign design. Multiple industry teams are reportedly competing for the program. Given the currently envisaged procurement rate of two ships per year, the Navy envisages using a single builder to build the ships.

The FFG(X) program presents several potential oversight issues for Congress, including the following:

  • whether to approve, reject, or modify the Navy’s FY2019 funding request for the program;
  • whether the Navy has accurately identified the capability gaps and mission needs to be addressed by the program;
  • whether procuring a new class of FFGs is the best or most promising general approach for addressing the identified capability gaps and mission needs;
  • whether the Navy has chosen the appropriate amount of growth margin to incorporate into the FFG(X) design;
  • the Navy’s intent to use a parent-design approach for the program rather than develop an entirely new (i.e., clean-sheet) design for the ship;
  • the Navy’s plan to end procurement of LCSs in FY2019 and shift to procurement of FFG(X)s starting in FY2020;
  • whether the initiation of the FFG(X) program has any implications for required numbers or capabilities of U.S. Navy cruisers and destroyers.


via fas.org

  • Duane

    This report doesn’t say much.

    A design selection is due in about a year, then it becomes a contracting negotiation, with contract signing due in 2020.

    • Curtis Conway

      Yea, like the radar will be a “…scaled SPY-6 Fixed Array Radar,”.

      • Duane

        No, the RFP says no such thing. It specifies EASR. EASR is an air volume search radar nearing operational status, while SPY-6 does not actually exist on any ship in service, and will not even be operational until at least 2023. Raytheon, the supplier, does not even claim that EASR is a “scaled down SPY-6” (which by the way is now called “AMDR”), but merely claims that the two radars share some technology content, which is only natural that they would, since Raytheon designed both of them.

        • NavySubNuke

          Actually the radars share a lot more than just some technology content — according to Raytheon:
          1) EASR leverages the highly-scalable design and mature technologies of AN/SPY-6(V) Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR), in a tailored configuration to deliver superior capability to meet the mission requirements of carriers and amphibious ships.
          2) “Both EASR and AMDR are built with the same individual ‘building blocks’ called Radar Modular Assemblies. Each RMA is a self-contained radar in a 2’x2’x2’ box. These individual radar RMAs can stack together to form various size arrays to fit the mission requirements of any ship.”
          3) “The commonality – in both hardware and software – with SPY-6 offers a host of advantages, including performance, availability and reliability; maintenance, training, logistics and lifecycle support. Its open architecture design enables maximum use of commercial-off-the-shelf components and the seamless and rapid insertion of future technology.”
          Hence why the report calls the EASR a “scaled SPY-6 Fixed Radar”

          • Duane

            Yup just as I wrote, of course they share design technologies, just as a Ford Mustang shares some design technologies with a Ford F-150. But a Mustang is not a scaled down F-150.

          • NavySubNuke

            Not at all what you wrote but that is ok — I know your over developed pride and complete lack of personal integrity ensure you never admit to it when under developed intellect causes you to say ignorant and incorrect things.

          • Curtis Conway

            He didn’t read the report. Check out the bottom of page 4.

          • NavySubNuke

            He flagged it already because he hates people pointing out his constant mistakes but he doesn’t actually know what CRS is — last time I quoted one of their reports he accused me of quoting a CBS news reporter!

            Here is what I posted before he flagged it:
            Well at least by reading this report you (hopefully) now realize the difference between CRS and CBS.
            That way the next time I specifically cite a CRS report you won’t accuse me of “Now you are quoting CBS News reporters?” though I did get a good laugh out of that one.

        • Curtis Conway

          It really pains me to . . . point out that at the bottom of page 4 of THIS REPORT . . . the following is listed: “…Similar to the original FF, the primary mission areas for the FFG(X) will be Anti-Submarine Warfare, Surface Warfare, and Electromagnetic Maneuver Warfare. In addition, the FFG(X) will provide upgraded Air Warfare capability and improved lethality and survivability that include a scaled SPY-6 Fixed Array Radar…” UNQUOTE!

          Might want to review that. There is additional language in this report that emphasizes the use of common equipment with other combatant platforms. Those equipments would include Signal Processors, Transmitters, Array Face Radar Module Assemblies, etc.

  • Ser Arthur Dayne

    As I have stated many times before- I believe one of the defining characteristics of this vessel will be 32 VLS cells vs 16. I realize VLS loadouts vary and I am just making up things here- but let’s have a quick look … 32 VLS cells allows you to carry a very formidable and balanced “standard” load of both offensive and defensive missiles. For the moment I will assume there would be a 16-cell VLS farm fore and aft … This allows you to carry 8 (four and four) ESSMs (for a total of 32 very capable, increasingly effective AAMs that can protect other ships in the area) and 8 SM-2 (allowing long-range AAW and defense and taking advantage of the radar the FFG will carry) … plus some combination of the following, like , 4 SM-6 (giving the FFG an ultra-long-range AAW or ASuW missile with CEC capability) , 4 ASROC (standoff ASW weapon) and 8 TLAM (giving each and every FFG a strike capability, with increasing flexibility and capability with the improvements of the Block IV Tomahawks, with re targeting ability and soon ASuW capability … and what that means is each FFG would truly be a multi-mission, multirole SSC with a very potent offense AND defense capability. When you add the included RAM missiles for point-defense, the 8 canister-launched SSMs (I guess will be the NSM, which has half the warhead of the Harpoon but supposedly is more likely to hit the target? And uses an infrared seeker for less jamming ability) the Nulka and EW packages, and of course the “main battery gun” (which I still hope they realize should be >>> 57mm but I realize 57mm is spec’d) …. this is a formidable ship. Plus of course, very configurable… You could load it up with ASROCs and ESSMs for ASW and/or Escort duty… you could load it up with TLAMs for strike missions… you could pack on the SM-2 and SM-6s for CSG integration…. just a ton of flexibility. I for one am looking forward to the FFG(X) with great anticipation.

    • Curtis Conway

      Like the thought and concept. I would put SM-6 (without Mk72 booster) instead of SM-2s. No one seems to be mentioning Arctic Operations, or being able to function withing the presence of ice. Disturbing.
      “In contrast to cruisers and destroyers, which are designed to operate in higher-threat areas,
      frigates are generally intended to operate more in lower-threat areas.” I guess no one ever told those assembling our Battle Groups back in the day that the OHP FFG-7s were
      ONLY for low threat areas. The same will occurr in the future. Plan For It!!!

      • Ser Arthur Dayne

        I agree completely — the SM-6 is very interesting… when it came out, it was openly stated that it “was not replacing the SM-2, it was merely integrating WITH the SM-2 and working alongside it as another option” etc. — paraphrased of course. HOWEVER, the SM-6 has both performed so well, opened up so many options and displayed a ton of versatility, it is now one of the most in-demand weapons in the service (it was just stated the other day by some big-wig, that Combatant Commanders across the country, they all want SM-6s and more of them) … but the thing is price. An SM-2 is listed on Wikipeida (I know, I know) at ~$400K … an SM-6 is ~$4 million… I am pretty sure the SM-2 Block IV was stopped at only 72 units, and the IVA cancelled, because of price. So in a perfect situation, we’d have purely SM-6s because it can do everything an SM-2 can do, but not vice-versa. However, the price probably prohibits that. But I agree, the SM-6 is huge for our future naval assets and if it’s true we have made a sub-launched version, all the better…. SSGN baby.

        • DaSaint

          I’m ok with 1-57mm, 8 NSM, 24 or 32 VLS with either 32 ESSM + 16 SM2 or 32 ESSM + 24 SM2 respectively. Loadouts of VLS can change to incorporate TLAM or ASROC as needed. I’d also include 1-20mm Phalanx CIWS forward and 1 SeaRAM CIWS aft, or 2 SeaRAM CIWS P/S. And finally 2 Typhoon 25mm stabilized systems and 2-.50 cal.

          If I had my way, it would be 2 MH-60R helos and 2 UAVs but I know that’s not realistic due to manning shortages. So it’s likely to be 1 Romeo and 2 or more UAVs.

          • Ser Arthur Dayne

            I know you’re a big fan of the BAE Type 26… I know you and others have said it will get consideration anyway, which I could see, I really don’t know. I like the FREMM 1A and the HII “Sea Control/Patrol” Frigate IB, very much hope one of those two wins, but I am not so much of a fool as to say, “I’d rather my pick win with less-good-stuff than another one win with lots of good stuff” etc. [For example, there is a model of the Freedom-class based entrant that has ALL SORTS of stuff, tons of SSMs, all sorts of stuff.] I agree that a Phalanx and a SeaRAM fore/aft would be ideal. I think a Phalanx makes a great last ditch weapon and will go great with much-increased-capability of the RAMs and SeaRAM/Phalanx combo. Lastly, I definitely agree on those 25mm remote weapons stations- big enhancement for force protection and up-close shooting protection. Again I see a ton of potential for this ship, and as I have said before, if we can get it down to like a 5:2 cost acquisition deal of FFGs:DDGs, it will be big time enhancement to the fleet.

          • Duane

            The RFP is set. No 20mm or 25 mm guns – FFG(X) will have two Mk 46 30 mm “Bushmaster” guns, along with the Mk 110 57 mm gun system. I believe the aviation requirement is 1 MH60R and two MQ-8s (probably 1 each of the B and C models). VLS minimum of 16 cells, but 32 cells is preferred. Plus a minimum of 8 cells of angled cannister deck launched OTH ASCMs.

            Of course, designers are free to exceed minimums, but are still constrained by costs.

          • DaSaint

            Glad you added that get-out-of-jail disclaimer at the end.

            And only the RFP for the Conceptual Design Phase was issued to ‘inform’ the Navy. The RFP for the Design Development gets issued in late 2019, according to this report…..so….you don’t KNOW definitively what it will say. None of us do.

            Unless you’ve seen a leaked draft…?

          • Duane

            The latter is not a get out of jail card. Cost and schedule are two primary drivers as selection criteria. No competing designer is going to lard up his design with non-required and expensive capabilities in a competive selection where cost is king.

            Have you ever run a competitutve proposal past a customer who told you and the other bidders that low cost was a driver in the selection? Apparently not.

          • DaSaint

            Actually I’ve done that quite successfully for over 30 years. And my experience has taught me that at the end of the day, when quality is expected, it is far easier to remove capabilities than add them, as the cost is absolutely known. It doesn’t work well the other way.

            Now you’re in my area of expertise.

          • Duane

            Customers appreciate unsolicited proposed additional features that help the product better meet the customer’s defined needs. But customers do NOT like to be told they are too dumb to know what their needs ought to be Such as, that NAVSEA should have spec’d an arctic hardened hull for a vessel that is extremely unlikely to do duty in the arctic.

            Yes, I get it that about 90% of the regular commenters at USNI believe they are way smarter than the supposed dumbasses that run NAVSEA now.

            USNI comment threads are assuredly ground zero of the “Wannane Fleet Designers of the World” club. But NAVSEA knows their business better than does any USNI commentor, including yours truly. That’s why they always deserve the benefit of the doubt. They do make mistakes, just like all humans, but they are not free to pursue ego driven pet projects.

          • DaSaint

            Yeah, NAVSEA aren’t human, they’re perfect! Just look at LCS or Ford CVN development.

            Good platforms in principle, but poorly executed programs as per USN leadership and Congressional testimony.

            Yes, sometimes individuals can be smarter. I’m sure there have been several times that you’ve made better decisions than supposed experts, no?

            Or not.

          • Curtis Conway

            There is NO Surface Combatant in the inventory TODAY that can operate in the presence of ice. I’m not talking about icebergs every few miles. I’m talking about following the Icebreaker through the icefields close aboard. That will NOT be like the USS Little Rock (LCS-9) following the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent, a Canadian Coast Guard Heavy Arctic Icebreaker out of the Great Lakes . . . and the Arctic is warming up.

          • DaSaint

            So true! At a minimum the Heavy Icebreakers need to have some real armament, starting with 1 57mm and reserving space for Harpoons or NSMs or whatever.

          • Curtis Conway

            The suggestion by some that submarines can provide “Presence” in the Arctic is false, a faint, and pretense to pull anyone thinking such, off the thought. A submarine can no more provide Presence, than a Naval Mine. It can threaten Destruction, but once activated, the jig is up. The naval mine will work once. The submarine becomes a target the instant it reveals itself from a conning tower above the water, to launching a weapon. No, we need a US Navy Surface Combatant that can steam in the Northern Latitudes, and do it close behind a Heavy Icebreaker that is crushing ice. THAT is NOT an Aegis Cruiser, or DDG-51 with their relatively delicate sonar domes. This is the job of the FFG(X). It can’t be an LCS, not heavy enough, and wrong kind of propulsion system.

            If we select the FFG(X) intelligently, it could also be the base platform for DDG-51 Flt Is. The FFG(X) is going to prove itself to be very capable, and more slots for its use, will open up. The Command Staff will rapidly wish they had more, and 21 more is about right.

            As for the ASW mission and the FFG(X), in my day the OHPs with their tails were always WAY out there, away from the noise of the Battle Group, and hunting the layers with their VDS and tail. Combined with a submarine, there are few better ASW teams.

            The SWAMP creatures driving this argument have money in specific places, and must maximize their return. It’s just like all the USAF seniors who are heavily invested in SNC, and they are blinded by it.

        • Duane

          SM-6 is not really that versatile. It is a huge (long) missile weighing about 3,400 pounds and, as you noted, is very expensive, yet carries a very small warhead, just 140 pounds (less than half the size of the Naval Strike Missile, less than one quarter that of a Harpoon, and just over 1/8 the size of LRASM).

          The SM-6 was designed especially to take out high flying aircraft and incoming terminal phase ballistic missiles, with a very high speed, very high engagement altitude. It works well for that role, but is not very good as an ASCM (much too expensive, and much too heavy to be maneuverable to avoid counterfires, as can NSM, and a very small warhead).

          LRASM and NSM are far superior to SM-6 as ASCMs, and cost about 1/4 that of an SM-6. ESSM and RIM116 are far superior to SM-6 as ASCM counterfires because they are vastly smaller and lighter, and in the case of RIM116 Block 2, has a vectoring nozzle (like its cousin AIM9X) for extreme maneuverability to take out a maneuvering ASCM in its terminal phase.

          SM-6 is essential for high end air and ballistic missile defense, but it is no jack of all trades.

          • Refguy

            And the FFG(X) won’t have a radar that will support the high-end air and BMD missions.

        • In FY19 SM-6 Block IA all up round has a unit cost of $3.3m. However, this is somewhat misleading as this is only the second year of Block IA procurement and in FY17 a Block I missile had a unit cost of $2.2m. ESSM Block II (also in its second year of procurement) has a cost of $1.7m in FY19 while Block I (Aegis) had a cost of $1.2m in FY17. When SM-2 Block IIIB was last procured in FY11, it had a cost of $1.1m.

          From my reading SM-2 Block IV was not cancelled because of price, but because they wanted to integrate an active seeker. That upgrade was then delayed and eventually morphed into SM-6.

          • Ser Arthur Dayne

            I believe you — but I believe on this very site, the Congressional reports specifically state that SM-2 Block IV was cancelled because of price and they often use a cited number of 72. I can completely understand if they were cancelling it to go forward with the SM-6. Anyway I have long advocated on here that we should simply build the cost of a *full* load of (various) missiles into the cost of a ship, so each ship has at least some sort of full load, that can then be varied accordingly when necessary. Not happening but still.

          • Curtis Conway

            Yes, what you said. The AIM-120 AMRAAM has really come in handy.

        • Curtis Conway

          We should be licensing SM-2/6 missile production in South Korea and Japan. They don’t have to make the front end, but they are sure capable of making everything else, except the rocket motor. The SM-6 is the cat’s meow for everything from surface ships to ICBMs (marginally) and everything in between.

        • Thomas Weyandt

          Perhaps cost is from limited production? Increased production runs might lower the price while a variant of SM-2 will feature the active SM-6 seeker and would be installed during future refurbishments of SM-2 to give them the active radar of the SM-6 which is based on the AMRAAM seeker but with a larger antennae.

          • Curtis Conway

            Having had several days to let this percolate, if you recall we have three commenters that have STOOD on the concept that a SeaRAM missile is sufficient. I’m glad we have come this far, particularly in this very dangerous Battle Space in which our future surface combatant must operate.

      • DaSaint

        I hear you on the Arctic operations. If that’s a consideration, and it should be, the Independence variant will be out. I would then think that either the Type 26 or the Dutch AAW Frigate would be favored, but Canada’s selection may be telling here.

        • Duane

          Arctic ops were NOT part of the FFG(X) RFP requirements.

          The arctic is not where our naval warfighting will be done.

          • Curtis Conway

            The ONLY problem with your observation is we have NOTHING that can go there and function in the presence of Ice (worse case scenario). Plan for the worse, hope for the best.

          • Duane

            We have no need to defend the frozen arctic with surface ships. There will never be US or allied shipping lanes to defend, or convoys to defend up there. We have no naval ports to defend in the arctic. We are not Russia with a 5,000 mile arctic shoreline, and lack of warm water unfrozen naval bases to defend.

          • Curtis Conway

            Whatever you say Duane. Obviously the concerns of USNORTHCOM, US Coast Guard, most of the nations in the Arctic Council most of which are NORDEFCO members (Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Iceland), are of no concern to you, but they are to the US Navy who must ‘Plan for the Worse.’ Icebreakers are to be Command Ships, and may require an escort from time to time. Not going to be pushing around icey water with a DDG-51 sonar dome.

          • Rocco

            So just let Russia put their Flag up on every ice flow or Land!!!

          • We have the attack submarines. But as has been pointed out – what exactly would we be fighting over in the arctic?

          • Duane

            That is exactly the point, ARCNS442.

          • Curtis Conway

            As has been pointed out before . . . a submarine IS NOT the platform maintaining a ‘Presence’, and when the submarine is ‘Showing the Flag’, it’s a target. For those who are up to speed on Arctic activities, and the concerns of USNORTHCOM, US Coast Guard, most of the nations in the Arctic Council most of which are NORDEFCO members (Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Iceland), the activities of Russian development in the region (particularly in international waters), and the growth of the Xi Jinping’s Polar Silk Road, have been disturbing. The US Navy needs a Surface Combatant that can function in the Arctic without impediment in all weather, and in every condition except solid ice.

          • I hear lots of talk about the arctic, but very little in the way of actual activity. Until we see routine use of the arctic shipping routes and large scale exploitation of arctic resources, I think investing in ice hardened warships is premature to say the least. Right now, there just isn’t anything up there that demands our attention. Even if peacetime presence is deemed absolutely necessary, the USCG ice breakers are far better suited to the task than warships (safer, cheaper, and higher endurance).

            In wartime, nuclear submarines are again better than surface combatants because they can operate safely below the ice without logistics support or air cover. Remember, warfare hinges on logistics and ice hardened surface combatants are of little use without ice hardened auxiliaries and arguably ice hardened carriers.

          • Curtis Conway

            “…but very little in the way of actual activity. Until we see routine use of the arctic shipping routes and large scale exploitation of arctic resources…”.

            Need to do your homework. Check Lloyd’s of London, and USNORTHCOM, US Coast Guard, NORDEFCO sources for the increased transit traffic numbers. Then check out Arctic Circle Oil Exploration, not just by the US (which is increasing). Then consider who will escort the Icebreaker Command Ships in the Arctic when they are doing their jobs, particularly in the winter time, and when perhaps placed under duress (threatened) by a foreign power. You propose having NO PLAN (great planning). An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you didn’t plan for that pound of cure, then your just STUPID?! The evidence is there, and these Crystal Balls are pretty clear. Russia has a ready habit of using energy as a wedge to get their way. They will use other things too.

            As for your force growth model, the Icebreaker will no doubt have expanded air capability. Logistical support is mostly via NORDEFCO Allies and their ports, unless we build a base on the Arctic Coast and I don’t see that in our future any time soon. The Polar Vortex moves in that direction, not the Russia / International Waters direction on their side.

          • There is certainly massively increased arctic traffic – the problem is that a massive increase of very little is still very little. The Russian arctic ports have seen a five times increase in cargo since the 2000’s – but they still only handle around 5m tonnes annually (which is actually slightly less than what they saw under the USSR).

            Almost all the real activity has been in the oil industry and today both the US and Russia produce around 200m barrels of oil annually from arctic fields – but that represents just 5% of each nation’s total production. Further, 80% of US arctic oil comes from fields that began production prior to 2000 (half of it from Prudhoe Bay which began production in 1977). While I don’t have detailed numbers, Russian production follows a similar story with the much touted Priraziomnoye offshore field producing less than 10% of their arctic oil.

            In short, the situation has not dramatically changed from when large scale exploitation of arctic resources began back in the 1970’s. And even if temperatures continue to increase, the arctic will remain an incredibly inhospitable environment in which economic growth is difficult and military action all but impossible (just look at what happened during the Japanese invasion of Alaska back in WWII – and that was a thousand miles south of the Arctic Circle).

          • Curtis Conway

            The location of the center of the Arctic Vortex each winter is the issue. That Arctic Vortex moving deeper South into Canada is why US winters have been getting a bit worse lately, and the Russian Arctic coast is near ice-free almost year round.

            If the US oil exploration of crude oil and natural gas liquids in the coastal plain area of ANWR, with a mean estimate of 10.4 billion barrels (1.65×109 m3), of which 7.7 billion barrels . . . is of no concern (?), and does not need attention?

            China is ALWAYS looking for new fishing grounds for their new factory ships. Guess what they have their eyes on?

            The new Icebreaker is going to be a very capable Command Ship. Is this of any concern to you from a US Coast Guard, or Defense point of view?

            Exercises in the Arctic are on the increase. The US Coast Guard will be the only naval participation save US SSNs? I think not.

          • My position isn’t that the arctic is of no concern – it is clearly increasing in importance. However, I believe that it should still be very low on the list of priorities and that current naval forces are good enough to handle any near-term problems. Talk of building a class of specialized arctic warships is extremely premature – especially given the far more pressing issues currently facing Naval procurement.

            That said, I think the new icebreakers are much needed move and I think it would probably be worthwhile to give them a 57mm and a RAM launcher (and perhaps leave space for a set of NSM launchers as well). Arctic exercise are also good, although they should not take forces away from more important areas.

          • Curtis Conway

            To make the assertion of FFG(X) as “…building a class of specialized [A]rctic warships…” is argumentative, and misses the point. It would/should best have Arctic Capability . . . right now we have an NSC at best, and not enough of them! Otherwise, US Navy Arctic Combat Capability is limited to Submarines, and MPA aircraft with tanker support (P-8A Poseidon) which has not been attempted to date. Hope that capability is included in future USNORTHCOM Exercises. Using an Icebreaker Command Ship certainly will be included in future USNORTHCOM Exercises . . . with no escort save that one you cannot see. Think man think!

          • Curtis Conway

            Lomonosov Ridge, look it up.

          • Refguy

            At least one cruise ship has already made the passage

          • Thomas Weyandt

            Virginia class subs have only 26 torpedo/Tomahawk weapon slots plus 12 Tomahawks in bow VLS for a total of 38 torpedoes, and Tomahawks. Virginia Payload module will add 28 Tomahawk VLS or seven for each of the Modules for a total 66 weapon slots. That is less than an AB with 96 VLS cells. So our subs have limited magazine depth.

          • The final class of WWII fleet boats carried 26 torpedoes. However, those were unguided weapons with relatively low hit rates and were generally fired in spreads of up to 6 torpedoes per target. Since a modern submarine would likely fire just 1-2 torpedoes per target, this suggests that a Virginia actually has several times the magazine depth that was considered perfectly adequate in the last great naval war (and the Type VII U-boats had just 14 torpedoes).

            The comparison against a Burke isn’t exactly apples to apples as the majority of the destroyer’s VLS cells are used for defensive weapons (SM-3, SM-2, ESSM) that a submarine doesn’t need. Further, a Mk48 is a far more devastating antiship/antisubmarine weapon than anything a Burke has, vastly reducing the number of weapons needed per a kill and giving the Virginia the advantage in magazine depth against those targets. In land attack the Burke is indeed superior to a standard Virginia, but the VPM will erase the difference.

          • Thomas Weyandt

            It should be noted that the Seawolf class SSN has eight torpedo tubes of 30 inch diameter and a net diameter of 26.5 inches with length unspecified but probably greater than the 21 foot standard USN torpedo tube. These eight tubes have 50 weapon slots and if fitted with six VPMs would have a total of 92 weapon slots vice the 66 of the Virginia Block V and later Blocks. The Russian Yasen class has eight or ten torpedo tubes including 26.5 inch diameter tubes that can handle weapons up to 11 meters(?) in length or about 36 feet long. Their 21 inch tubes are also longer than USN/NATO standard tubes.

            When we get around to a replacement for Virginia class, perhaps we should have an eight tube layout with a double level torpedo room with 52 weapon slots and six Virginia payload modules to 92 weapon slots. We might have larger diameter tubes to allow larger weapons ala the Russian Yassen class SSNs.

          • Rocco

            What’s the difference surface ships even though visible are just if not more or a target. At least we can put Sub on station! Nobody up there anyway but Russian subs. When they know they are present just give them a ping!! There’s your presence!

          • Curtis Conway

            The Russian Surface Fleet has grown times four in the region, as has the infrastructure to support them, and their deployments. If you think we do not need to respond to that, then schedule a conference with our NORDEFCO neighbors, who have actually invested quite a bit, and establish agreements for support in the region. Our Surface Combatants and Icebreakers will need logistical support hubs throughout the region. The NORDEFCO members will be more than happy to have US Navy Surface Combatants around.

            The exploitation of the regions minerals in international waters is the issue, and Russia has set itself up to exploit them. Green Peace is NOT going to be able to handle this one.

          • Curtis Conway

            One must THINK like a submariner, and they never give their position away . . . It’s in the DNA!

          • Refguy

            Oil?

          • Curtis Conway

            Lomonosov Ridge

          • Rocco

            Subs!!!???

          • DaSaint

            Arctic ops were not specifically listed, nor did they need to be.

            But unless you’re God, and something tells me that you’re not, then you have no absolute knowledge that we will never conduct naval warfighting in the Arctic at some point in the future.

            In the immortal words of Sean Connery, ‘Never Say Never Again!’ 😉

          • Duane

            You are arguing with the US Navy, not me. I guarantee that if arctic ops were important to NAVSEA, they would have driven the RFP requirements. Adding an arctic capability would add a great deal of cost and otherwise inhibited ship performance and the ability to integrate other capabilities. This is a procurement where NAVSEA stated clearly that cost is king, the vessel shall not exceed $900M and needs to be less than $800M. None of the competing designs including the Euro designs are designated ice hardened.

          • DaSaint

            No, right now I’m arguing with you. LOL! I hear and understand what you’re saying, but I’m also convinced that with the continued melting of the Arctic, some areas will be transited by USN vessels. And while not in heavy ice season, they all need to keep it in the back of their operational minds. We can’t afford to write off an area for surface combatant presence, even though we do have a significant submarine capability, as you well know better than most.

          • Duane

            Without addressing how fast arctic ice is melting, I listed what the FFG(X), and any existing or planned USN warships need to protect, and no arctic assets are involved. The frigate isn’t being built to serve imagined naval warfare a century from now, when these ships will be long gone. This is a warship that will start delivering in 2025, and the last to be delivered will retire no later than about 50 years from now. If it turns out that 100 years from now …. or 10,000 years from now, that the US Navy needs a combination ice breaker/frigate then such a design will be ordered by NAVSEA, or its successor by then.

            Sheesh!

          • DaSaint

            Sorry buddy, but neither you or I will be around that long, but I would bet that a Burke or an FFGX IS going to do an Arctic patrol during their class lives.

          • Fred Gould

            Melting ice means more drifting ice.

          • Rocco

            & built by Whom???

          • Curtis Conway

            He forgot about the Icebreakers that will be Command Ships.

          • Rocco

            He don’t know Jack!!

          • Curtis Conway

            NAVSEA does not set Foreign Policy

          • GreensboroVet

            AMEN!!!!!!!!!!!

          • Rocco

            Copy that! Kudos!

          • Fred Gould

            Seeing all the interest Russia and China have in the Arctic, it better be a requirement. I remember Newport back in the 70’s all the frigates (DE at the time) with Blue Noses.

          • Rocco

            Kudos I’m a blue nose but off a carrier.

          • Fred Gould

            Never got mine, jealous. The guys that had one had a certain swagger.

          • Rocco

            Yeah OK think again!! CNO!!

          • ShermansWar

            Cede the arctic. Gotcha.

        • Curtis Conway

          There is no hull-mounted sonar like an AN/SQS-53.

          • DaSaint

            I’d be stunned if there’s no hull-mounted sonar, irrespective of how good the towed array and/or VDS is.

          • Curtis Conway

            If one encounters ice with the bow mounted SQS-53 sonar you will be seeing a drydock in your future. It was our primary concern when north of the Arctic Circle. Scratch, dent, cut or damage the rubber window in any way and its BIG BUCKS repair time. Don’t know how well the retractable units were on the destroyers and frigates of the past, but the Sonar Techs always called them Fish Finders. Now if those Fish Finders work as well as some of that equipment in Cabelas, then we might have something.

          • Rocco

            Lol love your last line!! Sale on depth finder!!

          • Marc

            Towed array worked, so adding a high frequency sonar for first zone, and with a helo and ASROC-like weapons, we might kill subs.

          • Curtis Conway

            Another data point for you is a hull-mounted sonar will break the bank, and put space and weight over budget. When you consider the sonar equipment spaces, associated displacement required, crew size limitations, there just isn’t any way to shoehorn it in, and maintain draft requirement. Ain’t happening.

      • Rocco

        I would like to see more ASW built into the new FFG-X not from Italy. Should use what we’ve been harping on all along here under our control. With Russia & China ramping up with subs I would think this should be a priority.

    • Duane

      VLS are not the only missile launchers for the frigate, per the design RFP. The frigates will also feature a minimum of 8 cells of cannister deck launchers for ASCMs (the new modification of the old M141 launchers used on the Flight I Arleigh Burkes) that will fire a combination of LRASM and NSM, and possibly others to come such as the Harpoon Block 2ER now under development.

      Also, a designer might also elect to use a Mk 57 VLS in lieu of the old Mk 41, as it can handle slightly larger missiles and is mounted along the hull periphery rather than in a central portion of the main deck. The Austal Independence class trimeran hull might benefit from the Mk 57, which is used in the DDG1000 class, which also has a better gas management system than the old Mk 41.

      There are options beyond what have been the standard Mk 41 VLS with multiples of 8 cells per installation.

    • DaSaint

      I too can’t see a design with 16 VLS cells being selected. 32 is inherently more flexible. I guess 24 would be acceptable.
      I also note that this report retains the comment that participation in the conceptual design contract is not a requirement for participation in the design development contract. With BAE’s win in Australia of the Type 26, I’m sure they will also enter this competition. And if Canada also selects it, I think it does become an option, though possibly an expensive one.

      More likely cost will be an important factor than capability, so it probably won’t be selected, but I can dream, right?

      • Curtis Conway

        The majority of the weapons employed by the platform will come out of VLS. The ESSM gives you the greatest AAW loadout. The SPY-6 w/ CEC and NIFC-CA gives you the Super Skirmisher capability with donated weapons. This would be the little fast guys in front of the mid-court line during Dodge Ball. Quick . . . and dangerous.

        • DaSaint

          Freedom and Indy variants provide 16 VLS to date.
          FREMM provides at least 24 and possibly 32.
          Navantia provides 48.
          Ingalls has to be at least 16 of its NSC based…but I think they have something up their sleeves. I think they’re submitting a reworked Burke! If so, it could have up to 48 VLS .
          Type26 provides 24 VLS.
          The Dutch AAW FFG provides 40 VLS.

          • Joseph Maloney

            I happen to like the Navantia design, it is large robust and packs a wallop. Navantia has had a long tradition of building American class frigates including OHP FFGs. I believe their design is the closest thing to an uprated OHP , slightly larger with two screws and VLS. Now I would be happy with any of the frigates as long as it isnt an LCS clone.

        • Thomas Weyandt

          Bryan Clark claims that ESSM is not sufficient to intercept supersonic ASCMs aimed at escorted vessels like the CLFs that FFG is supposed to protect from air/ASCM attack and that SM-2s are needed for that role in a YouTube video.
          There used to be an idea of slimming down the SM-2 so that two missiles could fit a standard Mk 41 canister while another approach proposed adding booster stages to quad packed Sea Sparrow or ESSM as it has morphed into. Either approach might provide the speed/range needed to kill supersonic ASCMs attacking escorted ships.

          • Curtis Conway

            Blk II will cover the base with the semi-active/active dual seeker and Mach 4+ speed out to 27nm (50Km). Not worried with 3-RMA SPY-6(v) providing tracking data, and midcourse autopilot updates.

          • Thomas Weyandt

            I think Clark was saying that the SM-2’s greater range made it more suitable to killing a supersonic ASCM aimed at escorted ships. Perhaps the distances between the FFG escort and the CLF ships made the 90 mile SM-2 more able to intercept the supersonic ASCMs.

    • I think you hit the nail on the head with the issue of VLS numbers. But I think you are being optimistic when you say 32 cells is “formidable and balanced.” While 32 ESSM is fine, 24 cells for other weapons is not.

      Mason went through 8 SM-2 fending off attacks from a terrorist group, against China 12 SM-2/6 would likely be gone in a matter of minutes and then your ship has to turn around and sail home. 4 ASROC is similarly low when you consider misses, false targets, or multiple weapons being needed to finish off a sub. Historically, no ship has been built with fewer than 8, and by the mid Cold War the Navy wanted 16-24. Finally, the 9 USN Tomahawk attacks that I have found decent information for show an average of 23 missile being fired per ship (and several of those attacks included non-VLS submarines that drag down the average).

      My minimum VLS numbers would be 48 cells with: 32x TLAM, 32x ESSM, 8x ASROC. Such a ship would be capable of defending itself, but its emphasis is on offensive operations unlike the FFG(X) that I fear is devoting all of its combat power simply to protecting itself.

      • Ser Arthur Dayne

        OK.

      • Duane

        Why on earth would a frigate need to load TLAMs? Land attack is not a specified role of FFG(X). It is a low cost, low capability naval escort with an emphasis on ASW, SuW, and limited area air defense.

        For land attack, we don’t even need a ship at all. Aircraft, especially heavy bombers and penetrating, stealthy small attack aircraft, are far more capable (i.e., far faster and much longer range esp. with aerial refueling, and support a far higher sortie rate) and are far more economical than any ship and its long range land attack missiles.

        A single B-1B can launch up to 24 very long range land attack missiles. Even a little Super Hornet or F-35 can load up with at least 4 to 6 JASSM-ER, so a single 4-ship sortie of SHs can deliver as much as or more land attack firepower than your larded up land attack frigate. And unlike the frigate, the SHs can return to the carrier (or an air base), load up again, and ride out on another such sortie within 24 hours or less. Once your land attack frigate shoots its load, it has to make a run back to port for a reload, taking it out of action for at least a couple weeks.

        Your suggestion is another example of trying to turn every platform into a jack of all trades that is very very expensive and not an optimal warfighting platform.

        • Navies exist to influence events ashore and the best way to do so is by directly attacking targets ashore. The USN recognizes this and land attack has been its primary mission since 1944. Without TLAM, a frigate is entirely incapable of contributing to this mission. With TLAM, the frigate provides the same land attack capability as a Burke at half the price, freeing up the Aegis ships to carry more of the SM-6/3 that they would need in a high end war.

          As to your assertion that aircraft are far superior – if that is true why has the USN fired around 1000 TLAM over the past few decades? According to your reasoning that was completely pointless and wasteful.

          Further, the latest version of TLAM can attack ships as well, providing the frigate with a powerful ASuW capability (as we saw off Yemen, 8 subsonic missiles is not a real threat to a modern warship). Without TLAM, FFG(X) simply lacks any offensive capability and effectively exists solely to defend itself, contributing little to the larger fight.

          Finally, my suggestion would actually produce a far cheaper ship than what the Navy is apparently considering, as TLAM and the requisite combat systems are far cheaper than the SM-2/6 that is currently planned for FFG(X).

          • Duane

            Well when navies stop paying attention to naval warfare, then they stop being as effective as they can be at their prime role of naval warfare.

            That is exactly what CNO Richardson said a couple weeks ago when he called for the Navy to get out of the business of using Navy ships for BMD defense of land facilities. He correctly pointed out that full staffing of an AEGIS Ashore radar and missile defence battery only takes 33 crew to operate. While a BMD ship takes a crew of 300+ to do the same job. And while we dedicate 6 AEGIS BMD ships on patrol at all times, that commitment actually requires 18 ships, with at any given time 6 ships in maintenance, and another 6 ships in workup and training.

            Plus the BMD ships cost $2+B to buy, as well as being far more costly to operate, than an AEGIS Ashore battery costing well under a billion to buy and a tiny fraction of what a ship costs to operate. And AEGIS Ashore can have unlimited and quick reloads ashore, which the ships cannot do at all. And we don’t have to worry about an AEGIS Ashore battery colliding with merchant ships or running aground.

            CNOs words do not just apply to BMD. We have limited funds for a navy, and we had damned well better take care to not waste them as we clearly are today.

          • What is “naval warfare?” Some glorious decisive battle in the middle of the Pacific Ocean? That’s what everyone thought going into WWII – turns out it never happened because nations don’t throw their fleets away defending useless bits of ocean. Every single major naval battle of the Pacific was the result of attacking targets ashore and if you can’t threaten such targets the enemy navy won’t come out to fight you.

            Further, what happens after you defeat the enemy fleet? I can’t think of a single nation that ever surrendered simply because its navy was sunk. Instead you have to then apply naval power against land targets – something that a frigate without TLAM cannot do.

          • Retired

            “Well when navies stop paying attention to naval warfare” thus we end up with the useless toy ship the LCS, right admiral?

    • RobM1981

      If you view a frigate as “half of a destroyer,” then 16 VLS cells are simply too few. Our current DDG ships 90 cells. If you argue that the Burke’s are more like cruisers than destroyers, all the more reason to have the FFG fill more of a destroyer-role.

      32 cells is still light, but it’s a fair compromise and your logic around the flexibility that this brings is very strong.

      Who believes that vertical launch cells aren’t the future? Who believes that trainable mounts will return to replace the VLS? From a future-proofing perspective, alone, the ship should be built with the capacity required to deploy whatever the next system is, under the fair presumption that it will be built to work in a current VLS cell.

      • Rocco

        Last paragraph not in agreement!! I’m more of an external modular system that doesn’t render the ship useless in 20 yrs!!

    • BMC retired

      Back when men were men and Frigate were warships, my lowly Knox class Frigate had;
      -the world best bow mounted sonar
      -a very effective tail
      -5 in gun with a large mag (we always scored well in exercises)
      -ASROC and Harpoons with a very large magazine
      -Torpedoes
      -ASW helo
      -ESSM or CIWS depending
      -Very powerful surface search and air search radars
      -SLQ-32
      -Praire/Masker
      -she as fast, could go 31 knots on a single boiler (she had two)
      -great range
      -good sized crew

      today we have the mighty sub hunter the LCS with:
      -pea shooter 57mm gun (short range, inaccurate, no radar guidance, etc etc)
      -No ASW weapons
      -Extremely noisy
      -Extremely complex and unreliable plant
      -Short range
      -No bow sonar, no tail and only a unproven sonar you have to deploy and drag behind (how convenient)

      Bottom line,the only way the LCS will ever ‘find’ a submarine is the moment they realize a torp just hit them

      So yes, we are making progress

      • Ser Arthur Dayne

        Brother you’ll hear no argument from me… I not only have a lot of love and respect for you and the Knox-class, I agree totally on your assessment of the LCS … I have repeatedly called for the FFG to be the FREMM FFG from Italy , which has both a General Purpose variant and a dedicated ASW variant, which is probably the best ASW frigate and perhaps best ASW platform other than the Udaloy destroyer from Russia, on the planet. (And the Udaloy is huge, and, outdated.) An Americanized FREMM would be the best thing we could put out there.

  • Currently, I think the French/Italian FREMM has the best shots at being the US Navy’s Next frigate

    • It really depends on what they are looking for. If they want a multipurpose warship, you’re probably right. If they just want LCS with ESSM then you’re probably wrong.

  • Ed L

    In building the FFGX using existing technology and systems. Cool. What would be the chance of a 16 to 24 cell VLS forward and another 8 or16 cell VLS inbeded in the unused portion of the flight deck? With a 5 inch forward and a 57mm aft atop the hanger? The Perry Class Frigates carry a missile magazine of 40 with a mix of SM-1 and Harpoon missiles. A beautiful little ship the OPH were. Put the Same turbine that the Burke’s use the GE LM. 2500

    • Duane

      Guess we’ll just have to wait and see what the designers come up with. They could also propose using the Mk 57 VLS which arranges the cells not in a central block but around the perimeter of the main deck, as do the Zumwalts.

      • I can all but guarantee they’re not going to use the Mk57 – it is completely unproven and weighs twice as much as the Mk41 (8,400# per cell vs 4,100# per cell).

  • PolicyWonk

    “given the capabilities that the Navy’s wants the FFG(X) to have, the ship will likely be larger in terms of displacement, more heavily armed, and more expensive to procure than the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs)…
    =============================================
    The above being said, “more expensive” than LCS is relative. LCS has so far proven horribly expensive given the poor ROI, and anything called “littoral combat ship” that the former CNO declared “was never intended to venture into the littorals to engage in combat” shouldn’t have been built in the first place.

    PEO USC (formerly LCS) created what the USN called “the program that broke naval acquisition”. As much as I want to see the USN with solid SSC/FFG(X), I see little reason for optimism given the history of the actors. We can only hope that some adults are in the room when the decision is made.

    I hope to be pleasantly surprised.

    • Rocco

      Kudos!!

  • Retired

    Me wonders what kind of total meltdown fleet admiral dueene will have when his favorite bathtub toy (the LCS) is not chosen for FF(X)?

  • Premaberg Manufacturing

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  • Paul Antony

    Why doesn’t the USN just make an upgraded/enhanced version of the good old FFG7 Perry class? I’m sure it’d be more cost effective than going for those European variants that are basically destroyers termed as frigates. This’ll even give a boost to the local economy too. They can sell the decommissioned ones to allies that need them if possible. The below can be the specs/equipment in general..
    1) length 453 ft, beam 50 ft (widened by a total of 5 ft at the deck but with the same old width at the top of the superstructure to give an angled side profile), draft 22 ft
    2) gas turbine propulsion
    3) speed of 30 knots
    4) 76 mm Oto Melara (Leonardo) super rapid bow mounted gun in stealth turret
    5) 32 cell MK41 VLS – 10 cells x quadpacked ESSM (40 x SR/MR SAMs), 16 cells x SM2 MR/LR SAMs, 6 cells x VLASROC ASW missiles.
    6) 8 x Harpoons or better yet – long range supersonic AShMs like Taiwan’s Hsiung Feng 3 ER or the upcoming LRAShM. These 8 missiles will be in armored launchers on the top of the superstructure like the Taiwanese Cheng Kung frigates.
    7) 1 x Thales STIR 2.4 & 1 X STIR 1.8 EOFC directors.
    8) Thales NS200 + SMART S-MK2 radars OR Sampson 2 faced AESA radar (as used on type 45 destroyer) OR Raytheon EASR AN/SPY-6 in a 4 faced fixed/phased array format.
    9) 1 x RIM 116 Block-2 21 cell RAM launcher
    10) 1 x Thales SIGMA Seahawk 30 mm gun with 7 x LMMs
    11) 2 x 40 mm single/dual gun turrets like the ones on the Cheng Kung frigates.
    12) 2 x triple tubed Mk32 torpedo launchers for Mk46 or similar torpedoes.
    13) 1 x Vulcan Phalanx Block 1B CIWS gun atop the hangar
    14) Decoy systems like – 4 x Mk53 Nulka, 2 x Sea Sentor torpedo decoy launchers, Mk36 SRBOC etc..
    15) Hangar with 2 bays for 1 X MH60R Seahawk & 1 X AW159 Wildcat + 1 x MQ8B Firescout drone.
    16) 1 x helideck
    17) 1 x AN SQS-56 or similar bow mounted sonar, 1 x Mine/Obstacle avoidance sonar & 1 x towed array sonar like AN/SQQ 89 or similar..
    18) twin rudder & twin propeller set up unlike the previous versions.
    A ship like this can easily take care of frigate business. I have a diag. if anyone wants to see..