Following years of analysis and an international competition, the U.S. Navy has selected Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri to build its FFG(X) “future frigate” design at the company’s Marinette Marine shipyard in Wisconsin. Based on the Italian multimission FREMM (Fregata Europea Multi-Missione), the guided-missile frigates will be optimized for operations in both blue-water and littoral environments and will incorporate a number of design modifications for the Navy.
The U.S. version is expected to be slightly larger than its Italian cousin, the Carlo Bergamini class, displacing about 7,400 tons, an increase of more than 500 tons. Length will increase by 22 feet, giving a hull 496 feet long, with a 65-foot beam and draft of 23 to 24 feet—shallower than the Italian version because the U.S. variant will not have a bow sonar dome. The ship will be powered by a combined diesel-electric and gas (CODLAG) propulsion linked with a hybrid electric drive system and controllable pitch propellers. Its sustained maximum speed will be in excess of 26 knots, while cruising ranges of 6,000-plus nautical miles will be possible traveling at 16 knots in electric mode. The crew will number about 200, with the Navy reportedly considering blue/gold crew options for the frigates, similar to missile submarines and littoral combat ships.
Primary armament will consist of a 32-cell Mk 41 vertical launching system (VLS) carrying a mix of medium-range SM-2 surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) and shorter-range Evolved Seasparrow Missiles that can be fitted in quad packs within a cell. A standalone 21-tube Mk 49 SAM launcher with RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missiles will be mounted atop the hangar for point defense against antiship cruise missiles and other air threats. Sensors will include the 3-D multifunction SPY-6(V)3 Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar and SLQ-32(V)6 SEWIP Block II electronic support measures suite.
Antiship capability will come primarily from 16 RGM-184 Naval Strike Missiles, which have a range of roughly 100 nautical miles and are carried in launch canisters amidships. These can attack naval and land targets. A single Mk 110 57-mm gun capable of firing Advanced Low-cost Munitions Ordnance precision-guided projectiles will sit forward of the VLS. Antisubmarine warfare capabilities will be provided by an array of systems, including the SPS-62 variable-depth and TB-37 multifunction towed-array sonars. Two MH-60R Sea-hawk helicopters or one MH-60R and one MQ-8C Fire Scout unmanned helicopter can be carried in the ship’s hangar.
Construction is set to begin on the first FFG(X) by April 2022, with delivery planned for 2026. Initial operational capability is expected around 2030. The initial contract allows for construction of up to ten units, with a total of 20 FFG(X) frigates eventually planned.