The future frigate program for the US Navy is getting fully underway and some idea of the urgency behind the program can be gauged by the recently issued draft request for proposals (RFP) issued by the US Navy for the FFG(X) program.
The wording of the draft proposal to industry states: “The government will evaluate favourably an effi cient and reasonable schedule based on a mature design that results in an accelerated detail design and construction period. The government defines ‘accelerated’ as faster than 72 months for detail design, construction, and delivery of the fi rst FFG(X) ship.” It is likely that detailed design and construction of at least an initial ten ships will be issued towards the end of this year or early 2020.
At the other end of the age range, the future of up to six of the most elderly Ticonderoga class cruisers could be in the balance as the US Navy considers whether, or not to sanction the planned service life extensions. The six ships Bunker Hill, Mobile Bay, Antietam, Leyte Gulf, San Jacinto and Lake Champlain could, if the plan is approved, leave service as early as 2022.
The proposed decommissioning of these powerful vessels will leave a hole in the US Navy that will be hard to fill as no replacement vessels are currently on order. The cruisers are all nearing the end of their service lives and are becoming increasingly difficult to maintain due to their ages.
That is, at heart, the reason why the newest frigate in the fleet, Admiral Gorshkov, in early March passed through the English Channel on her first long range operational cruise. She was shadowed by HMS Defender as she made her passage.
The frigate was supported by the supply ship Elbrus, the tanker Kama and the tug Nicolay Chiker.
It is French policy only to admit warships into active service after they complete their first operational taskings. The Bretagne has been configured as an anti-submarine frigate and is the fifth member of the eight-ship class with sister ships Normandy, Alsace and Lorraine at different stages in the construction process, but all will have entered service by 2023.
Once safely onboard the barge, the frigate was towed to Haakonsvern navy base after spending almost four months on the rocks after colliding with the commercial tanker Sola TS on 8 November 2018.
The Royal Norwegian Navy will carry out a full study of the vessel to ascertain whether or not it is commercially viable to repair the ship or simply to scrap her.