Extending Naval Capabilities
© 2013 FrontLine Defence (Vol 10, No 4)

As highlighted in a recent FrontLine article, FS Aquitaine (above) arrived in Halifax for a 5-day port visit in April during her maiden voyage, a few months after her delivery to the French Navy.


Aquitaine, shown above, is the first of 12 FREMM ­(FREgate Multi Missions) designed and built by DCNS in its Lorient shipyard in France. Of the 11 ships ordered by France, the first nine will be in the Aquitaine ­configuration (a multi-mission frigate with enhanced ASW capabilities), and the last two will have enhanced capabilities in area air defence. The Moroccan Navy has also ordered one FREMM; the Mohamed VI is undergoing sea trials now.

Unveiled during the last Euronaval trade show, the Extended Range variant (FREMM-ER) is largely identical to Aquitaine, both in terms of design and on-board systems (particularly propulsion, weapons, and combat system) and fitted with area air defence ­capabilities and, potentially, ballistic missile defence (BMD) as well – retaining, for example, its impressive stealth qualities and capacity to accommodate a Task Group commander and his staff.

Considered the most advanced multimission frigate to date, the design of the FREMM-ER has benefitted from experience gained with the Horizon class and other frigates.

In ­particular, the FREMM-ER features an ­integrated combat system to provide accurate multi-sensor tactical ­pictures with monitoring and decision-making aids that are designed to reduce workload during operations. The platform’s stealthy qualities in all fields (acoustic, electromagnetic, magnetic and infrared) are expected to give her a major tactical edge. Advanced automation of the ship systems significantly reduces the operational and logistic workload of the crew, improving efficiency and lowering through life cost. Through these and other improvements, the company is confident its FREMM-ER provides an ­unrivalled solution on the multimission ship market.

Olivier Casenave-Péré, Director of the DCNS Canada office, believes the most significant enhancement of the FREMM-ER is its situational awareness package, which integrates the latest ­generation of Multi-Function Radar with four fixed Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) panels. Combined with the SETIS combat management system’s powerful algorithms, such radar is designed to perform well even in the most challenging environments, including for BMD capability.

The two variants of this enhanced FREMM family will form the backbone of the French Navy’s surface fleet, and in this regard, the programme shares many similarities with the CSC (Canadian Surface Combatant) project of the RCN: one common multi-mission platform; two ­variants (General Purpose and Area Air Defence), reduced life-cycle cost, and best value for money.

As many of today’s Navies look at modularity and flexibility to improve their efficiencies within tight budget constraints, Casenave-Péré explains that the FREMM frigates have been designed with considerable growth margins to accommodate large evolutions, additional equipment and system upgrades that could be required now or in the future.

DCNS is reportedly already studying a “Canadianized” version of the FREMM-ER with a view to meeting specific Canadian requirements for the replacement of the Iroquois destroyers while also incorporating Canada’s industrial requirements and impressive marine capabilities.

According to Casenave-Péré, this Canadianized design is in “permanent evolution” thanks to a company-sponsored programme called “Advansea”. Established in 2011 by its Surface Naval Systems division, Advansea will assist the development of new capabilities and innovative solutions for responding to the challenges and issues of tomorrow (chiefly for naval surface systems).

The group’s R&D engineers are tasked with anticipating breakthrough technologies and exploring innovative developments to ensure navies can benefit from state-of-the-art technology and integration.

Detection and situational awareness are key to the success of any mission. With the FREMM-ER’s single mast infrastructure incorporating most of its sensors, transmitters and electronic warfare system, it is able to provide panoramic, unmasked detection of all threats and targets. Maintainers will note that radar maintenance operations have been simplified by providing access from inside.

The Sea Fire 500 radar improves ­capabilities in areas such as uptime (due to simplified maintenance at sea); responsiveness in littoral waters; tracking continuity; real-time interception assessment; and detection of stealthy and highly agile targets. Developed by Thales Air Systems (France), the Sea Fire 500 operates four of the active antennas made up of independent transmission-reception modules.

FREgate Multi Missions - Extended Range

Owing to her large growth potential, the Extended Range variant can be fitted with a 127-mm main calibre gun, a double hangar for two helicopters (or one helicopter and UAVs), and complementary self-defence armaments (short-range or CIWS missiles). Being based on the multi-mission design allows the Extended Range variant to be fitted with 127-mm main ­calibre gun, a double hangar for two helicopters (or one helicopter and UAVs), and complementary self-defence armaments (short-range or CIWS missiles).

In addition to being capable of launching naval cruise missiles (derived from the air-launched Scalp missile) both variants will integrate Aster missiles with BMD capabilities.

With its many sensors and DCNS’ trademarked SETIS combat management system, the FREMM-ER can handle all types of latest generation conventional threats, whether underwater, surface or airborne, during all phases, from detection right through to elimination. They can also carry out in-depth land strike missions and intercept ballistic missiles.

DCNS’ R&D policy focusses not only on product improvement, the company also places a sustained emphasis on developing creative new concepts to meet the future needs of Navies around the world.

The ADVANSEA is a comprehensive R&D programme aimed at coordinating efforts of the Ministry of Defence, DCNS partners and DCNS self fundings. The ­concept ship shown above is one example of ADVANSEA outputs. First presented at Euronaval 2010, it offers a glimpse of what a next-generation all-electric surface combatant might look like in a near future. The Advansea programme will address four key areas of naval operations: joint, allied, and intergovernment requirements; littoral ­warfare; maritime surveillance and action; and territorial defence.

DCNS Advansea programme

Engineers are focussing R&D themes on: dynamic stealth, naval integration of UAV/USVs, energy control, new combat capabilities, information dominance, integrated topside. For instance, the New Combat Capabilities theme looks at new systems for technically effective detection and action to fight the new stealthier and more agile threats – in a context which is most often a crisis.

ADVANSEA’s capabilities will protect high value units against future anti-ship supersonic missiles or ballistic threats. The FREMM-ER frigate is a good example of these new capabilities for 2020 requirements as it unites the know-how and R&D of DCNS with industry partners around the world to offer a competitive and high-performance product.

Bethan Nodwell is a military spouse with a passion for politics, international relations and the defense industry.
© FrontLine Defence 2013 issue 4