The U.S. Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) has been plagued with cost overruns and multiple breakdowns including catastrophic engine failures and cracked hulls. A week after the Combat Ship Billings’ (LCS-15) christening, the U.S. Navy has released formal details for its Guided Missile Frigate Replacement Program FFG(X). USNI News describes the replacement ship as “much like the Littoral Combat Ship,” but with greater capabilities.
The Navy released the first formal details on what it wants in its guided-missile frigate in a new request for information to industry issued today. The new ship concept outlined in the RFI in many ways resembles the Navy’s previous frigate plans but also looks at upgrades like more powerful radars and vertical-launch missile tubes.
The RFI notes the Navy is still seeking industry input on a variety of capabilities – including, how to incorporate missile launchers for Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) Block 2 and Standard Missile (SM)-2, according to an early draft of the RFI obtained by USNI News.
However, the document outlines many key details on the frigate’s mission set, the weapons systems the Navy would like it to employ and the ship class’s procurement profile.
Much like the Littoral Combat Ship that currently fills the small surface combatant role, the FFG(X) mission will focus heavily on unmanned systems, using them to expand “sensor and weapon influence to provide increased information to the overall fleet tactical picture while challenging adversary ISR&T (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting) efforts.”
“This platform will employ unmanned systems to penetrate and dwell in contested environments, operating at greater risk to gain sensor and weapons advantages over the adversary,” according to the RFI.
“The FFG(X) will be capable of establishing a local sensor network using passive onboard sensors, embarked aircraft and elevated/tethered systems and unmanned vehicles to gather information and then act as a gateway to the fleet tactical grid using resilient communications systems and networks.”
In many ways, this FFG(X) design goes beyond what today’s LCS can do, particularly as it relates to surface warfare. The RFI states the frigate should be able to conduct independent operations in a contested environment or contribute to a larger strike group, depending on combatant commander needs.
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