In 2017, as part of France’s proposed FTI medium-size frigate programme, Naval Group booked an order for five ships, as replacements for the Navy’s La Fayette-class frigates which entered service between 1996 and 2001. Construction of the first unit is scheduled to start in 2019 for delivery in 2023.
The FTI frigates will be the first variants of Naval Group’s new Belharra family, a range of medium-size warships meeting the emerging needs of international client navies. Belharra frigates will be based on a modular, all-digital platform incorporating breakthrough technologies.
Belharra frigates, the first all-digital warships, will feature an new IT architecture and combat management system (see p77). The IT architecture will be inherently upgradeable throughout a ship’s life to accommodate changing power requirements and data flows as well as new and improved digital systems. And all in a secure cyber environment. Naval Group will also fully deploy its smart maintenance concept based on smart systems and connected tools enabling the crew to manage failures and updates more efficiently.
The FTI frigates will feature the latest advances in stealth, making the vessels difficult to detect while improving the efficacy of the EW suite, including the Thales-designed Sentinel system’s two jammers and the fixed and mobile anti-missile and anti-torpedo decoy launchers.
The powerful combat system offers serious firepower for all types of warfare. ASW systems will include the KingKlip Mk2 hull-mounted sonar and the new compact Captas 4 towed array supplemented by an NH90 helicopter with a dipping sonar and MU90 torpedoes. Note too that the hangar will be sized to stow and maintain a 10t helo and an uncrewed aerial vehicle, or drone, such as the VSR 700.
The Belharra frigates will have state-of-the-art anti-air defences thanks to 32 Aster 15 and Aster 30 missiles. These will also be the first ships to be equipped with the Thales group’s new Sea Fire radar.
The development of the ‘all-digital ship’ concept will include cameras and sensors to scan the visual space around the ship. The optical ops centre, behind the bridge, will display a panoramic (360°) day/night view of the exterior as well as the ship’s real-time situation. The centre’s warning systems will receive data from various sensors and cameras and provide data concerning each target track.
The French Navy FTI frigates will have a crew of 125, including 15 for the air wing. Accommodation will be provided for 20 passengers, including HQ staff and special forces, along with dedicated spaces for each category. The design also provides for a pair of 9m RHIBs. Protected by curtains, the RHIB mission bays will be located near the funnel, as part of the superstructure.
Thanks to a variable-length block (up to 9m) between the mast and the funnel, Belharra variants will be offered with lengths from 121 to 130m. This flexibility can be used to increase endurance or the number of berths (to a maximum of 165). The larger boat deck of an extended-hull variant can be used to stow two additional RHIBs, or drones or up to six 20-foot containers for additional hardware.
Turning to the propulsion system, Naval Group has opted for a conventional CODAD concept. Unlike the FREMM frigates with their electric propulsion motors and alternators powered by a gas turbine, the Belharra family will be powered by four diesels for a combined rating of up to 40MW and a top speed of 29 knots. The proven CODAD layout is more economical to purchase and maintain. Even without the FREMM’s silent mode, the Belharra family will use a variety of technological solutions to meet demanding acoustic discretion requirements.
Designer : Naval Group
- Displacement: 4,300 t
- Dimensions (m): 121 x 17
- power: 40 MW
- Speed: 27 to 29 kts
- Range: 5,000 nm at 15 kts
- Electronic systems: 4-panel phased array or 3D rotating radar, KingKlip Mk 2 and CAPTAS 4 sonars
- Accommodation: 125 (+20)
- Weapons: 8 x MM40 Exocet missiles, 32 x Aster 15/30 and MdCN (VLS), CIWS and/or Short-range SAM, 1 x 76 or 127 mm, Torpedo launchers, 1 helicopter (10 t) + UAVs
More information in Mer et Marine Euronaval 2018 Special issue : "Naval Forces : focus on french technology"