19 March 2016
TOULON, France — Rand Corp., a think tank, is due to conclude a short list of competitors this month for Australia’s tender for nine frigates to replace the Anzac warship, Hervé Boy, DCNS business development manager, said March 16.
An announcement of a “short list of two or three” candidates is due later this month in Australia’s Sea 5000 Future Frigate Program, he told journalists as DCNS formally handed over the Languedoc, a Frégate MultiMission or multimission frigate, to the Organisation Conjointe de Coopération en matière d’Armement (OCCAR), the international program manager.
The Languedoc handover took place as the stealthy frigate took to sea for a brief cruise in heavy rain and strong wind off the coast of southern France, with Navy Seals sailing close by in an Ecume rigid inflatable commando boat and an NH90 naval helicopter flying over.
OCCAR delivered the frigate to Direction Générale de l’Armement, the French procurement office, which in turn will hand the warship over to the French Navy.
Canada is also among the export prospects for DCNS, as Ottawa seeks to acquire 15 frigates, of which 12 would be multipurpose and three air defense versions, he said.
The Australian frigate program, estimated to be worth AUS $20 billion (US $15.2 billion), would replace eight Anzac frigates. DCNS is pitching an extended-range version of its frigate, which could be 6,000 to 7,000 tons, and could be 5 to 6 meters longer than the 6,000-ton standard version built for the French Navy and sold to Egypt and Morocco.
Morocco and Egypt have each bought one FREMM vessel, with the latter expected to sign contracts this year for two more Gowind corvettes under options, to add to the four already acquired.
A Thales Sea Fire radar would be fitted on the extended-range version.
DCNS is also offering Australia its planned intermediate frigate, as the FREMM is much bigger than the Anzac, which displaces around 3,500 tons, Boy said. The intermediate warship could be around 4,200 tons, and could be extended 3, 6 or 9 meters to displace up to 4,600 tons, depending on the requirement and budget.
Also competing is Navantia with a design based on the F-100 hull; BAE with the Type 26 frigate; and Fincantieri with the Italian version of FREMM.
New Zealand is also looking to buy two frigates, and there is speculation Wellington might pick the same warship as selected by Australia, as Canberra could build locally and then sail two vessels to its island ally.
In December, France granted DCNS a study contract for the intermediate frigate, Boy said.
French procurement chief Laurent Collet-Billon has said a launch contract for the intermediate frigate is due to be signed this year. France is due to order five intermediate frigates.
The intermediate frigate is still under study and while the planned vessel would be armed with anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and surface-to-air systems, the weapon set would not be identical to the heavier FREMM warship.
There is stiff competition in the Canadian planned order, attracting close attention from Britain, which is buying the BAE Systems Type 26; Damen of Netherlands; Fincantieri of Italy; Navantia of Spain; and ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems of Germany.
France also hopes to sell frigates to Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Collet-Billon has said. DCNS declined to comment.
The Languedoc is the third FREMM frigate for the French Navy, which will receive six of the vessels in the standard version by 2019, and then two air defense variants in 2021 and 2022. The latter would have a more powerful Herakles radar and a longer-range Aster 30 missile for air defense, and the cruise missile would be removed, said Anne Bianchi, DCNS FREMM program director.
The frigate is armed with a naval cruise missile, which delivers a “deep strategic strike capability” with a range of up to 1,000 kilometers, a French Navy operations officer said in the operations room, which manages the combat management system. There is a powerful ASW capability with the Captas 4 variable-depth sonar, and a helicopter equipped with sonar sensor.
There is also high automation in weapons and sensors with a flexible combat management system that can be easily upgraded, he said.
There is interoperability as the Aquitaine, the first of series, sailed with the US Task Force 50, which was commanded by the French Navy Charles de Gaulle nuclear power aircraft carrier, he said. The French vessels are equipped with NATO standard datalinks.
The frigate’s combat systems include electronic warfare, Herakles multifunction radar, cruise missiles, Aster and Exocet MM40 missiles, and MU 90 torpedoes.