The U.S. Navy has come up with a likely pricetag for its future frigate: $950 million dollars. That’s the cost of the FFG(X), a small surface combatant ship the Navy plans to purchase. The Navy is evaluating ship designs and will announce a winner in 2020.
The Navy announced the pricetag at the Surface Navy 2018 Symposium in Washington, D.C. , the Navy wants at least 20 of the new ships, each of which will cost an average $950 million, and will award development contracts to four to six shipbuilders by the end of March 2018 to refine their designs before making a final decision.
FFG(X) Stands for “fast frigate, guided, experimental,” although the “experimental” designation will get dropped once the ship goes into production. FFG(X) ships will operate both on their own and likely as part of carrier and amphibious task forces, providing anti-air and anti-submarine warfare support.
Each ship will likely carry a 76 or 57-millimeter deck gun, anti-submarine torpedoes, and a helicopter hangar and launch pad capable of carrying one or two SH-60 Seahawk helicopters. A smaller, downgraded version of the Aegis Combat System is possible but probably not a must-have. Breaking Defense the requirement that ships have to make sure the ship can function after a nearby underwater explosion.
Importantly, the Navy wants a minimum 16 Mk.41 vertical launch systems per ship, and ideally as many as 32. The Mk.41 is an armored silo built into the deck of a ship, each of which can carry a single air defense missile, rocket-powered anti-submarine torpedo, land attack cruise missile, (JSM), or (LRASM). Four shorter range Evolved Sea Sparrow (ESSM) air defense missiles can fit in a single Mk. 41. The Navy also wants a minimum of eight, and ideally 16 long-range anti-ship missiles.
The Mk.41 will allow the Navy to tailor FFG(X) to the mission. If FFG(X) is sent to escort convoys, it could mostly be equipped with ASROC and Standard missiles. If the ship sails to support an amphibious landing where larger, more competent ships provide air defense, its missile silos could be loaded with Tactical Tomahawks to strike land targets. Operating alone on in a crisis, FFG(X) could carry a little bit of everything to protect against air, land, sea, and subsea threats.
The $950 million price tag is a tough one to swallow. As USNI News points out, that’s just over half as much as the $1.8 billion Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, and the Littoral Combat Ships cost $588 million. While it might seem like the Navy gets more for its dollar just building Burke-class destroyers, the service really needs more hulls, particularly those that can accomplish low-end missions, to keep up with its exhaustive list of worldwide missions. To do that, it needs to build relatively cheaper, less capable ships.