The US, for the first time in many years, decided to revive the construction of frigates for its naval forces. So far, only some requirements for the frigate of the new generation FFG (X) 6 are known, but something about it can be told right now. The Americans decided to return to the construction of the frigates not by chance, but with a possible look at Russia and its fleet.
The frigates of new projects were not laid in the US 30 years - since the construction of the last ship of the type "Oliver Hazard Perry" FFG 1987 "Ingraham" was started in 61. With 1994 for 2015 years were consistently written off all the "Perry" without any options for replacing them with more modern representatives of the same class. As it seemed, with the frigates in the Pentagon they decided to end forever.
And suddenly, in July of the outgoing year, the US Navy issues an information request (RFI) addressed to the shipbuilding industry, which sets out a draft tactical and technical assignment for the new frigate FFG (X). At the end of the same month, the Day of Industry is organized (in our opinion, the "Public Procurement Day") for the presentation of a potential order and clarifications regarding the requirements for it, and in the middle of November - another one, but already for a RFP proposal announced by ten days earlier and testifying to the seriousness of the intentions of the customer. The process has begun.
Ships of a difficult fate
The frigates are probably the most volatile of the permanent classes of the main US Navy warships. Starting with sailing and sailing-screw frigates and missing the colorful era of their armored variations, the Americans revived the already forgotten class only in 66 years - during the Second World War. And only in the form of patrol frigates such as "Tacoma", intended for escort tasks.
The doldrums that happened with the US Navy command 10 years later led to the fact that the destroyer leaders were called the destroyer leaders, a class introduced a short time before, in 1951. It is curious that in parallel in the United States were built and the real frigates, which belonged to the class of escort destroyers. Common sense only triumphed in 1975: "Mitchers" became destroyers, "Kuntsy" - rocket destroyers, "Legs" and "Belknap" (including their atomic versions), "California" and "Virginia" - missile cruisers, escort destroyers (" Bronsteins "," Garcia "," Noxes "and rocket" Brooks ") - frigates and rocket frigates, and all" Perry "were considered to be" URO frigates "from birth.
Ships of the "Oliver H. Perry" type produce an ambiguous impression. On the one hand, they were quite seaworthy even for the ocean zone (therefore, in the "home" flotillas of destroyers, they were often included in aircraft carrier strike groups, or acted independently in distant waters), had a missile weapon system (KRO) with SAM "Standard" SM-1MR zone defense of medium range (up to 46 km) and SCP Harpoon (total ammunition of 40 missiles), as well as an impressive air group for its displacement - two helicopters in separate stationary hangars.
On the other hand, missiles could be launched from one single-beam launcher with an interval of eight seconds, which made it impossible to fire simultaneously over the surface and air targets (for a sure defeat of the latter, at least two SAMs are necessary). At the same time, the ZRK was able to attack only one target at a time, and the anti-aircraft machine Vulcan-Falanx could not work at the forward angles, which caused the frigate Stark to suffer in 1987. And without that the weak 76-mm gun was placed so unsuccessfully that it could not shoot either in the nose or in the stern. The modest subsea hydroacoustic station left only the towed antenna, and the reach of the system was determined by the range of the small-sized 324-mm torpedoes (no more than 11 km).
The power plant was single-shaft with two thrusters, which had a negative effect on maneuverability, but first of all it could have the most unfortunate consequences for the survivability of ships in the combat situation. To top it off, since 2003, all the remaining "Perry" have been upgraded, as a result of which missile weapons were dismantled, and the FFG turned into patrol ships.
Deciding to abandon the frigates once again, but realizing that without the ships of the near and far sea zone the US Navy can not do without all their greatness, the Americans embarked on an adventure with the so-called Littoral Warships (LBK), which started in February 2002. Starting with the invention of a new class and the term that denotes it - an absurd, cutting rumor that has nothing to do with naval traditions and is borrowed from oceanology (the littoral - tidal part of the shore), the authors of the program soon faced even more serious problems.
Expensive and stupid
First, according to the report of the US Congressional Research Service on 30 November 2017, the average cost of LBC is 570 million dollars. This in 2,5 times exceeds the initially specified 220 million. And the amount includes only the platform, but does not include interchangeable functional modules, which are the highlight of the project. If their planned amount remains the same (64 module, of which 24 anti-tank, 16 anti-submarine and 24 anti-mine - the most expensive, 100 million apiece), each LBC will cost the treasury more than 700 million dollars - a prohibitive price for a small "coastal" boat .
Secondly, the construction of the LBC is too slow: for 12,5 years since the first of them, only nine units of two projects have been commissioned built at two shipyards (less than one ship per year, the average term of construction is about four years). Working as a clock machine of the US court industry (a worthy example for imitation for the Russian USC) in this case clearly failed. Incredibly, but the fact: multipurpose PLA type "Virginia" above-water displacement of more than 7000 tons and destroyers of the type "Arly Burke" IIA with a displacement of 10 000 tons are built on average less than three years with the pace of one PLA and 2,5 destroyers per year - faster than 3100 / 3400-TONE LBK.
In addition, ships designed on a modular basis are multi-purpose only until they leave the permanent base. By taking on board the mine module with the personnel serving it, they become naval or basic minesweepers and, in the event of contact with low-noise submarines or swarms of enemy combat boats (high-speed boats), are defenseless. By adopting the anti-submarine module, they are transformed into small anti-submarine ships, unable to adequately withstand the other two threats. Of course, it is possible to form tactical groups from the LBK, which will include combat units that have all three types of modules on board, but in this case a legitimate question arises as to the feasibility of building modular ships, which can be replaced with much less expensive specialized trawlers, missile and small anti-submarine ships.
But the main thing is not even that. LBK are not built to protect the coast and the sea border of the US - for this there is a coast guard. The US Navy is called upon to meet the enemy at distant approaches, as is unequivocally stated in the "Joint Strategy of the Naval Power of the 21st Century" (2007 year): "Naval forces will defend the Motherland by identifying and neutralizing threats as far from our coasts."
Therefore (according to the already mentioned report of the Congress), the Navy is planning a regular 24-month deployment of more than 50% of LBK in the advanced home bases around the world. To begin with - three in Singapore, three in Japan and seven in the Persian Gulf (Bahrain). The whole issue in the enemy, with whom they may there, will have to face.
The basic (permanent) LBK armament does not stand up to any criticism: the SAM of self-defense with an effective range of 9 km, 57-mm cannon, heavy machine guns and two helicopters "Sea Hawk" - a kind of mini helicopter carrier who, like his older brothers, . Replaceable modules enhance the shock capabilities of the LBK only slightly: in the countercased version - by the Hellmyre armed missile systems with mocking 8 km missiles and an 9 kg warhead, anti-submarine-towed and lowered ASGs, radio-hydroacoustic buoys, small airborne torpedoes and depth charges. What will the newfangled American do when meeting even an old frigate like MEKO 200 of the same displacement, armed with eight "Harpoons" and 127-mm AU, is known to one god - 40 with superfluous nodes here just will not help.
Why did the US Admiral for so long fail to understand that the ships being built by a large series to free the ships of the ocean zone (cruisers and destroyers) from their uncharacteristic and dangerous tasks near the enemy's coast can operate only under the cover of Berkov and Ticonderog? After all, all the self-respecting maritime powers have already acquired or are going to acquire modern multi-purpose corvettes and frigates, which, if necessary, will easily dismantle the LBK, which at the wrong time was in the wrong place.
Involuntarily suggests the lobbying of this program (a legal form of corruption, widespread in the US), which was bearing fruit until the absurdity of the concept of the littoral fleet in its original form became too obvious.
Progress is also a hindrance
After enlightenment of the US Navy's commander-in-chief, the LBK program was revised. With the same number of "coastal" component of the fleet in 52, the 20 pennant will be the very frigates FFG (X).
It is expected that they will be more and more expensive than LBC (head-up - 1200 million, serial - no more than 950 million, for comparison - EM type "Arly Burke" IIA is 1750 million dollars). The ship should be multi-purpose, that is, to provide local air defense in the zone of its responsibility, to perform anti-ship, antisubmarine tasks and EW tasks. Together with the LBK, it is called upon to liberate large combat surface ships so that they can concentrate on their main tasks (zonal air defense, strategic missile defense, strikes against coastal targets) and, if necessary, to join the AUG or the IBM (carrier-borne or shipborne strike group).
If we call things by their own names, the frigates strengthen the frankly weak LBC grouping, shutting up the holes laid in the program by its creators. The proportion of 20 / 32 suggests that the composition of the coastal group at a single point on the world map will be of the order of two FFG (X) and three LCS.
In its July request, the Navy outlined only some of the minimum requirements for the FFG (X) TTX: the service life of 25 years, the crew of no more than 200 people, the 3000 miles cruising range at 16 nodes, the 28 nodes speed at 80% of nominal capacity, the abstract over- eight launch vehicles, an air defense missile defense system (as on the LBK), an 57-mm artillery, one manned helicopter Si Hawk, an unmanned Fire Scout, etc. At the same time, the Navy stresses that they are interested in placing a vertical launching device on a new frigate for the street (ESSM) with a range of the order of 50 km and / or "Standard-2" MR (up to 170 km) and will be happy to consider any proposals on this issue.
It is not surprising that, having burned themselves on several innovative projects (Sea Wolf, Zumwalt, LBK), Americans this time chose to abandon new technologies or systems altogether, in order to reduce the risks of the FFG (X) program. Especially the impatience of the Navy intending to order a head frigate as early as the 2020 financial year (the second one in a year, then two ships a year before the year 2030 inclusive), does not leave time for the development of the project "from scratch" - this would delay execution program for about three years. Therefore, the fleet intends to build FFG (X) on a modified version of an already existing project, in other words - to design it on the basis of an American or foreign prototype.
Taking into account the cooperation agreement concluded between 23 November between the shipyard "Bat Iron Work" (a subsidiary of "General Dynamics") and the Spanish "Navantia", there are reasons to believe that the contract will get this duet, and FFG (X) will be very similar to F-100 "Alvaro de Basan" (once the Spaniards learned from BIW to build "Perry" for the Spanish Navy, and now they are ready to teach their teachers). F-100 has a full displacement of 5800 tons, 28,5-29 travel speed, 5000 18 cruising range, 201-216 crew, 127-mm cannon, 2 × 4 Garpoon, 1 × 48 MCP- 41 for the "2" MR and ESSM, the Sea Hawk helicopter (some of the RFI RFI RFIs are literally written off from the "prototype").
However, the final appearance of the new American frigate will not be determined soon. 18 December, RFP participants will have to respond to the proposal of the Navy. Then, the details will be clarified, the general contractor and subcontractors will be selected, and after agreeing disagreements and forming the final TTZ - sketch and technical design, development of the RDD, metal cutting for the main ship and its official laying in 2020-2021.
In all this touching story about foreign frigates, it is striking that foreigners (in this case Anglo-Saxons who consider themselves the pinnacles of human civilization) just like us, make mistakes, miscalculations and enthusiasm from time to time, road leading to a dead end.
At the same time, we and abroad have a point of view that building ridiculous ships and inventing for them an equally absurd classification is the exclusive prerogative of the Russians.
In addition, the question of the presence or absence of influence of Russian naval construction on the decision to launch the FFG (X) program involuntarily arises. It seems that such an influence certainly takes place - despite the unconditional superiority of the US in the World Ocean, the slow updating of the main naval structure of the Navy and the foggy, inappropriately classified program of military shipbuilding.
To counter threats from sea pirates and inadequate modes of underdeveloped countries with access to the sea, Americans would have had enough LBC. If we take absolutely uncontrolled US regimes outside the Americas, then the mosquito fleets of Iran and North Korea today can be neglected (left in the care of the same LBC), but with China, which has a myriad of missile frigates, corvettes and boats (174, according to Military Balance 2017), the United States is still trying not to confront (at least in the open).
There remains Russia, which has recently stepped up its naval activities so much that its surface combat ships have become more and more common in the eyes of American military men.
And if earlier modern BNK of the second rank were represented by only one project of the fourth generation (corvettes 20380) and they could be observed only in the Baltic (in the far corner of the World Ocean), then from the middle of 2016, everything changed: the Baltic corvettes began to regularly leave the North Sea and the English Channel with tactical groups of two units, while the 11356 (the three-plus generation generation) of the Black Sea Fleet began to settle the Mediterranean Sea.
Since September 2015, the fourth-generation frigate Admiral Gorshkov (project 22350) began to fly in the North Sea, although it was passing through the interflot passages from the Baltic to the North and back during the protracted state tests of the Polimen-Redut (analogue) the newest modifications of the "Standard" SM-2 and "S Sparrow"). That's where the Americans probably thought about how pale their LBC will look against the backdrop of 20380 / 20385 and 22350, if the Russians still manage to untwist their sudprom and the ships of new projects will be on a regular basis to carry out military service in the near and remote marine zone in all key areas of the world's oceans.
Thus, it is possible that the Navy and USC of Russia acted as indirect co-authors of a new ship for the US Navy, more balanced and possessing much better combat stability than LBK. Thanks to the Americans, of course, we will not wait, but this is not required - it is more important here.
If the world's leading naval power adjusts its shipbuilding program, in fact, according to our patterns (22350 - the equivalent of F-100, only better) - this means that we are building what we need. And we should not turn off this path in pursuit of chimeras like 20386, but adhere to the concept of naval construction adopted from the beginning of the 2000-x "from a simple multi-purpose ship to a complex one" (corvette-frigate-destroyer-aircraft carrier), shortening the construction time and increasing seriality. And so - right up to the saturation of the Russian Navy with new combat ships of the main classes to the required level (within the limits of the defense expenses acceptable for the state budget).