A US expert questions the relevance of the FFG(X) program

In a report submitted to the Congressional Research Services, Defense expert Ron O'Rourke bluntly tackles the FFG(X) program. According to him, the rushed launch of this program is not based on an effective analysis of the US Navy's needs, but on the opinions of experts, which are by nature subjective.

He draws a parallel with the launch of the LCS program, arguing that if the program had been the subject of a methodical analysis, it would not have met its fate, stopped after 20 units built against 50 planned, and ships with insufficient performance to be deployed in a combat zone.

And it is clear that Mr. O'Rourke's arguments make a lot of sense. Indeed, today, the US Navy has more than 100 cruisers (Tironderoga class) and heavy destroyers (A.Burke class), very efficient ships in two areas: anti-aircraft defense and power projection at earth.

On the other hand, both perform poorly in terms of anti-submarine warfare. In addition, a destroyer or frigate cannot simultaneously carry out an ASW and anti-aircraft protection mission, the mission plans being very different.

The FFG(X) program should therefore essentially focus on frigates capable of ensuring self-defense against air attacks and surface ships, but above all having significant anti-submarine potential. However, when we look at the 5 finalists selected, ASM wrestling is far from being the best represented function.

Indeed, ASW combat does not require a ship of too large a tonnage, even if its mission is oceanic. Thus, Fincantieri's FREMM is particularly heavy (7000 tonnes), whereas a 4000 tonne vessel would be more than sufficient. On the other hand, the ship must be able to use a towed sonar, a streamer, a bow or hull sonar, and a helicopter rigged for ASW combat, in rough seas. Hulls from the LCS program are poorly suited to this need.

Therefore, when 3 of the 5 finalists are already out of the game with regard to a basic analysis of needs, and are only present on industrial considerations, they obviously doubt the relevance of the program and its specifications.

Because, without going into details, the ship that would best meet the needs of the US Navy today would be a 4000 ton class ship, designed by a very experienced ASW design office, with a suite complete sonar, with a strong self-defense and detection capacity, to complete the protection capacity of the naval device, and an ASM-rigged onboard helicopter of the 9-10 ton category. The ship must also be economical to be able to be produced in quantity (1 ASW escort / destroyer or cruiser).

In other words, it is not the FREMM, but the FTI, which would admirably meet the exact needs of the US Navy.

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