The new FDI frigates of the French Navy less well armed than expected

La ceremony of the laying of the keel of the first of the Defense and Intervention Frigates, or FDI, of the French Navy, was held on December 16 at the Naval Group site in Lorient. Named Admiral Ronarc'h, this first frigate of an eponymous class of 5 ships which will enter service between 2025 and 2030, will measure 4500 tonnes for 122m in length, will be one of the pillars of the renewal of the surface fleet of the Navy. And if it will embark many new capabilities for the French navy, such as Thales Seafire 500 active plate antenna radar which offers unparalleled performance in its field, and very advanced electronic and cyber warfare capabilities, the new frigate, like its 4 sister-ships, will not fail a tradition well anchored in the French Navy since the Light Furtive Frigates of the Lafayette class, with on-board armament significantly lower than expected.

Indeed, if the FDI will indeed embark a 76mm gun, 8 anti-ship missiles MM40 Block 3C Exocet, and 2 torpedo tubes for anti-submarine torpedo Mu90, its anti-aircraft defense will not rest, as for the FREMMs of the Aquitaine class, only on 16 Aster 15 and 30 missiles. There is no question, from now on, of aligning the French frigates on the model sold to Greece, which will have 4 Sylver 50 systems allowing embark 32 of these missiles, and even less integrate a CIWS close missile defense system, whether it is the American SeaRam which will equip the Greek frigates, or another model. The hypothesis of aligning the armament of the IDF with that of the FREMM, by equipping them with 2 Sylver 70 systems allowing to embark 16 MdCN cruise missiles, was also ruled out, leaving these frigates, which will have cost the trifle of 800 m € each, with only 16 Aster missiles and the possibility of adding 2 complementary Sylver systems later, one day, maybe ...

The Greek IDF will carry 32 Aster anti-aircraft missiles as well as a CIWS SeaRAM system. Does this mean that the ships of the National Navy will potentially be less exposed than those of the Hellenic naval forces?

This decision, taken on purely budgetary grounds so as not to increase the price of the program, is widely open to criticism. Indeed, not only are the crises and tensions today both much more numerous and much more intense, with the participation of countries with military means allowing them easily to saturate the defenses of a frigate with only 16 missiles. anti-aircraft, but they also have an extremely rapid dynamic, as the Taiwanese, Ukrainian and even Turkish-Greek crises have shown. In these conditions, who can think that it could be useful to reserve spaces allowing to incorporate silos of additional missiles to a ship, knowing that if the need were felt with sufficient notice, it would require several months of immobilization? for the said building? Moreover, what is the point of equipping the FDI with the best radar at the moment, especially for the detection of fighter jets and missiles, if the ship itself does not have the means to neutralize its threats with a number? minimum of vectors?

The decision of the DGA and the Ministry of the Armed Forces is all the more open to criticism as it seems, according to the information published, that the first FDI will not be equipped with the powerful electronic jamming systems with which the FREMM frigates of the Aquitaine class are equipped. , and which, from the point of view of the French Navy at least, constitutes the best defense against the threat of anti-ship missiles. Therefore, while countries like Russia, but also Turkey, deploy significant means likely to launch a large number of anti-ship missiles and drones against a ship to saturate its defenses, the FDI of the French Navy will be , obviously, an easy prey for these systems, and can therefore not be deployed in isolation as it would risk being vulnerable. Under these conditions, can we really qualify the FDI as a 1st rank frigate as is the case today? Above all, can we justify the cancellation of the last 5 FREMMs better armed, heavier and less expensive than the 5 FDI ​​which replaced them? Because if one can understand without difficulty for reasons of industrial sovereignty, that the FDI program was essential to Naval Group to supply its Design Offices in activity, it is much more difficult to accept the fact that the new ships will have operational capacities lower than those of the FREMMs which will have given way to them….

the FREMM DA Alsace frigate is carrying 32 Aster anti-aircraft missiles and anti-ship and ASM capabilities identical to that of the FDI, for a unit price equal to that of the new frigate

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