End cap for the FREMM ASM program

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On the occasion of the end of work on the 6th FREMM in anti-submarine warfare version at the Lorient Arsenal, Naval Group announced that the ceremony marking the start of construction of the FDI frigates[efn_note]Frégate de Défense and Intervention[/enf_note] will take place in mid-October 2019, on the occasion of the first “sheet metal cutting”, a key moment for a naval program. On this same occasion, the Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, specified that the Thales Sea Fire radar, an AESA radar which will equip the FDI, had been installed for evaluation at the DGA test site.

There would be a lot to say about the FREMM program, which would moderate the influx of superlatives used during this ceremony, as well as the FDI program, which is taking over. Initially, the FREMM program involved 17 units, 9 in the ASM version, and 8 in the AVT (Action towards Land) version, with the aim of replacing not only the Type 70 (7 units) and Type 67 (3 units) frigates. of the French Navy, but also part of the 17 A69 escort avionics which had been sold to Turkey. The program, which is European only in name, since the French and Italian FREMMs share only 15% of common components, was then estimated at €8,5 billion, with a production rate of 1 new building every 7 month. Backed by the Horizon program, which then provided for 4 anti-aircraft frigates per country (Italy/France), the French Navy would then, if completed, have 21 frigates of more than 6000 tonnes each, with a total anti-aircraft capacity 592 Aster 15/30 missiles, and 128 MdCN cruise missiles, to which were added the 5 second-rate light stealth frigates.

With only 16 Aster30 anti-aircraft missiles, the FDI Belharra will be very vulnerable to saturation attacks Defense Analysis | Armed Forces Budgets and Defense Efforts | Military naval construction
The FDI Belh@rra will replace 5 FREMM ASM

Remember that for around fifteen years, the French Navy has estimated its need for frigates at 24 units, including 6 anti-aircraft, to be able to carry out its missions in France and around the world. Without going into the details of the format reduction decisions and successive postponements, today, the FREMM program consists of 6 anti-submarine frigates with land strike capabilities, and 2 anti-aircraft frigates, “ lightened" of the 2 Horizons canceled, because they only carry 32 Aster missiles compared to 48, and have a modified Herakles radar, less efficient in this mission than that of the Horizons. The program will have been spread over 15 years, i.e. 3 years more than initially planned, and ultimately cost €8,5 billion for 8 buildings, compared to €8,25 billion initially planned for 17 ships.

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In addition, it was decided to replace the last 5 FREMM ASM (No. 7 to 12) with 5 Intermediate Size Frigates, a new 4500 ton building, which will become the FDI. The overall contract for the study and construction of these 5 buildings, but also of the SeaFire AESA radar which will equip it, will reach €3,8 billion, with deliveries extending from 2022 to 2028. However, the French IDF, although they have a modernized digital architecture, and an ASM capacity substantially equivalent to that of the FREMM ASM, on the other hand they only carry 16 Aster30 anti-aircraft missiles, certainly served by a much more efficient Radar. In addition, to ensure the interim of 1st rank frigates, the number of which was set in the 2013 White Paper at 15, 3 Light Furtive Frigates will be equipped with Sonar (but not torpedo tubes, etc.), in order to attempt not to stray too far from the established political format.

In the end, therefore, the modernization of the National Navy will have increased from 17 FREMM and 4 Horizon, for a total budget of €12 billion, i.e. 21 buildings with a tonnage of 140.000 tonnes and 800 major missiles (Aster15/30, MdCN, MM40 ), 6 FREMM ASM, 2 FREMM anti-aircraft, 5 FDI ​​and 2 Horizon, i.e. 15 vessels weighing 90.000 tonnes, carrying 530 major missiles, for €14 billion, i.e. a drop in efficiency and operational potential of 35%, for a 16,5% increase in costs…

The Forbin air defense frigate of the French Navy from the Franco-Italian Horizon Analyzes Defense program | Armed Forces Budgets and Defense Efforts | Military naval construction
The Forbin Anti-Aircraft Defense Frigate carries 48 Aster 15/30 missiles

Furthermore, we can wonder what the commercial success of the FREMM would have been on the international market if it had been offered at €500 million, the current price of an FDI, instead of the €700 million of the version of the degraded program.

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This budgetary mismanagement should lead us to review the decision-making and arbitration processes of planning in terms of Defense programs, in many aspects, whether concerning the duration of current planning incompatible, because too short, with reality industrial (requiring the urgent development of a new FDI program to maintain the load of the Naval Group and Thales BEs), as well as on the effects of program postponements and reductions which, in the end, end up costing as much as the application of the entire program (because otherwise, we would have to lay off a lot of people...), and, finally, on the impartiality and relevance of political and budgetary arbitration, which we know is based on erroneous economic paradigms.

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