No Timeline Yet to Add Tomahawk, SM-6 to Constellation Frigates, Says Program Manager

April 11, 2023 7:01 PM - Updated: April 11, 2023 9:46 PM
Rendering of Constellation (FFG-62). Fincantieri Image

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. – The Navy is still working through a timeline to meet a congressional mandate to add Standard Missile 6 and the Tomahawk Cruise Missiles to future Constellation-class guided-missile frigates, service officials told USNI News.

A requirement from the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act directed the Navy Secretary to add SM-6s and Tomahawks to the Connies starting with the second hull. The frigates, based on the Italian and French navies’ FREMM frigate, are multi-mission, but will specialize in anti-submarine warfare.

The original design of the 7,300-ton frigate called for a 32-cell Mark 41 vertical launch system that would field the smaller Evolved Seasparrow Missile (ESSM) Block 2 anti-air missile and the SM-2 Block IIICs.

In an explanatory statement accompanying the FY 2023 NDAA, Congress said it wants the integration of the Tomahawk to serve as a test bed for a virtualized system to control the Tomahawk and to experiment with the missile options for future unmanned surface vehicles.

“The committee notes the Navy is developing and fielding ‘virtualized’ weapons control system technology, including systems to support its vision for Tomahawk-capable unmanned surface vessels. The committee believes the FFG-62 class should include optimized Tomahawk Weapons System hardware and software, which would both provide a necessary lethality increase for the FFG-62 class and serve as a key technical risk reduction advance in realizing Tomahawk-capable USVs,” reads the statement.
“The committee believes that jumping directly to Tomahawk-capable USVs without first having ensured that the FFG-62 class is Tomahawk-capable presents excessive technical risk in such USV programs.”

SM-6 and Tomahawks are larger missiles and require a longer version of VLS and additional software – and in the case of Tomahawk – additional control stations.

Constellation-class frigate program manager Capt. Kevin Smith told USNI News last week that the program office, Naval Air Systems Command and Naval Sea Systems Command are working to feather the new requirements into the frigates starting with the second frigate, but there is no firm timeline.


“It’s been very clear to me from my leadership, we don’t want to make changes to the baseline until we get to a certain point,” Smith said in a response to a question from USNI News at the Navy League’s annual Sea Air Space symposium.
“From an Aegis perspective, with the [Aegis] common source library, you can imagine SM-6 may not be that far out of reach … Tomahawk is a little different. If you were trying to install a Tomahawk suite, like on a Flight III [Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer], it wouldn’t fit on a frigate.”

Constellation (FFG-62) is under construction at Fincantieri Marinette Marine’s shipyard in Wisconsin following a $795 million contract award that the Navy issued the yard in 2020. Since then, the service has awarded follow-on contracts for Congress (FFG-63)in 2021 and Chesapeake (FFG-64) last year.

The first hull is set to deliver to the Navy by Fiscal Year 2026. The service will then install the new capabilities on the other ships in the class.

“The plan here is to get at that after we get through our initial operational capability and our test events. We are working right now with NAVAIR, as well as NAVSEA on a roadmap to get us that capability,” Smith said.
“Nothing is decided quite yet but we are working on meeting the tenant and language, but right now the plan is not to cause any disruption to the lead ship as far as production and integration.”

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
Follow @samlagrone

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