With nearly 83 destroyers and cruisers, the US Navy today has the most formidable naval capacity in terms of anti-aircraft and anti-ballistic defense, as well as in the field of firepower towards the land, all these ships being both equipped with the AEGIS anti-aircraft and anti-missile system and Tomahawk cruise missiles. On the other hand, it suffers, since the withdrawal of the OH Perry frigates, from a major weakness in the field of anti-submarine escort. Indeed, if the Arleigh Burke destroyers do indeed have an AN/SQS-53 hull sonar, a towed sonar and two SeaHawk anti-submarine warfare helicopters, their displacement and acoustic discretion do not not a leading anti-submarine warfare platform, especially since it is almost impossible to carry out an effective anti-aircraft defense and anti-submarine warfare mission simultaneously. Beyond the surface fleet, the other components of the fight under the surface of the US Navy have also lost many capabilities, with the withdrawal of the S-3 Vikings from the onboard air group, nuclear submarines Virginia-class attack aircraft more effective in power projection than in the hunter-killer role, and P-8A Poseidons which, to date, only have part of their capabilities in this area.
The fact is, most Western fleets significantly reduced their anti-submarine warfare capabilities with the collapse of the Soviet bloc and the end of the Cold War. Most of them have indeed, like the US Navy, largely favored anti-aircraft capabilities or even autonomy at sea and low-intensity missions, rather than maintaining this type of capability. In this respect, the French Navy which, with its very effective Aquitaine class frigates in this area, its Atlantic 2 maritime patrol aircraft and its new Suffren class SNAs, is an exception by having maintained a high level of combat skills below the surface, to the point of being regularly highlighted by NATO during joint exercises. However, anti-submarine warfare has again become, for several years, a subject of major concern for Western navies, with the modernization and rapid increase in power of the Russian submarine fleet, but also of that implemented by the People's Liberation Army, both with efficient and discreet submersibles like the Russian Iassen and Borei, or the Chinese Type 039.
It was to meet this need that at the end of the 2010s, under the impetus of the late Senator John McCaine, and almost against the advice of the US Navy, the latter launched a new program aimed at to acquire 20 multi-purpose frigates but with advanced anti-submarine warfare capabilities. It was the Italian Fincantieri which imposed itself in 2020 at the end of an open competition, the European manufacturer having been able to simultaneously benefit from an excellent offer both in terms of performance and price on the basis of the Italian FREMMs, and a significant industrial presence across the Atlantic thanks to the Fincantieri Marinette Marine shipyards, which already produced the Freedom class LCS. The first unit of this class, the USS Constellation, is under construction, while the next two units, the USS Congress and the USS Chesapeake, have been ordered in 2022. But if current planning calls for delivery to from 2025 alternately 1 then 2 frigates each year in a jagged pattern, the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Gilday, now intends to produce 4 frigates per year thanks to the involvement of a second shipyard.
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