FREMM -French Multi Mission Frigates
© 2012 FrontLine Defence (Vol 9, No 2)

Aquitaine, shown on our cover, is the first of 11 FREMM (Frégate Multi-Missions) being built by DCNS to form the backbone of the French surface fleet. She is presently conducting her combat system sea trials and will enter service this year. Initiated in 2002, the FREMM is Europe’s largest surface combatant program.

These 11 frigates for the French Navy – nine anti-submarine (ASW) variants and two air defence (AAW) variants – are being built as a single batch, which represents a significant industrial challenge calling for innovative shipbuilding.

DCNS, the Prime contractor for this warship programme, is responsible for the design and construction of the platform, for the design and integration of the combat system vessels, and for through-life support during their first five years in service.

The FREMM design combines lessons learned from earlier frigate programmes for the French Navy and international customers, feedback from France’s NATO partners, and the latest technologies developed by DCNS and other naval innovators.

The two FREMM variants utilize a common hull, general layout and platform systems, and incorporate strong requirements that navies all over the world have identified, such as: stealthiness, advanced automation, optimal working and living conditions, ease of maintenance, high performance combat capabilities, full interoperability with NATO and USN allies, low global ownership cost, plus compliance with environmental protection requirements.

The French frigates will carry NH90 helicopters, Exocet anti-shipmissiles, MU90 torpedoes and Aster 15 anti-air missiles for self defence. The SETIS Combat Management System, designed by DCNS, manages all battle domains.

The two AAW frigates will carry Aster 30 missiles for zone air defence. The nine ASW frigates will carry naval deep strike cruise missiles.

The innovative design is flexible, evolvable and modular – intended to easily adapt to new requirements. The DCNS design process focused on the ready integration of an evolvable high-performance combat system and compatibility with both reduced crewing and concentrated command and control systems. Designed with wide lower-deck passageways, dedicated doors for equipment access and maintenance, and special provisions for equipment loading and unloading, these vessels significantly improve operational availability.

To improve essential tasks from navigation and conning to platform and combat system management, considerable attention was focused on the simplification of key operator tasks. Automatic control systems were developed to enable operators to respond quickly and efficiently to accidents, incidents and changes in the ship’s tactical situation.

All operators (bridge and CIC) work on multifunction consoles designed for real-time task reallocation – a major advance compared with multitudes of dedicated consoles required in the past.

DCNS has invested heavily in improved design and production facilities in Lorient to ensure timely product delivery (one new frigate approximately every 10 months for the French Navy) and compliance with the relevant quality standards. Their shipyards boast high-tech machine tools including a state-of-the art plasma cutting system, welding robots and a large welding centre.

The FREMM vessels on order will provide 50 million hours of work over the duration of the programme. In France, the workload is split 50/50 between DCNS, overall Prime contractor, and the subcontractors such as MBDA (missile systems), Thales (radars, sonars, comms, EW), SAGEM (INS, decoy launchers, electro-optic systems), MTU (diesel generators) and Jeumont (electric motors).

By incorporating Canadian re­quirements into this design, this innovative FREMM frigate could be the basis on which the future Canadian Surface Combatant could be developed. The creation of more high quality jobs in Canada’s industrial sector will further strengthen Canada’s economic outlook. Stay tuned.

Richard Bray is FrontLine’s Senior Writer.
© FrontLine Defence 2012