The US Navy's next generation of frigates will be capable of carrying 20 guided missiles, but each of them will come at a massive cost of $950 million (£704.14 million) per hull. The project, called the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) FFG(X) programme, has a total requirement of 20 vessels.
A report from the US Naval Institute (USNI) has mentioned that the average cost "threshold requirement" per hull of $950 million is for the second to the 20th frigate and added that the contract to build them will go to a single shipbuilder in 2020. The first one in this class is expected to cost over the above-mentioned average. The announcement was made at the Surface Navy Association 2018 symposium by NAVSEA's Regan Campbell, noted USNI.
When compared to a few of the US Navy's current vessels, the FFG(X) frigates seem to cost quite a lot more. According to USNI, a Flight IIA Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer (DDG-51) costs about $1.8 billion (£1.33 billion) not just to build, but also equip with weapons and sensor systems.
The FFG(X) will need to field a minimum of eight over-the-horizon anti-ship missiles, with an objective requirement of 16, noted the report. It will also need to be able to hold Mk-41 Vertical Launch System cells. The objective target is set at 32 cells with a minimum of 16, apart from other missile launch systems.
Both Austal USA Independence-class (LCS-2) Littoral Combat Ships and Lockheed Martin's Freedom-class (LCS-1) cost around $588 million per hull.
The FFG(X) is slated to be a follow-up to the LCS vessels as a conceptual redesign for the US Navy after a proposal was issued late last year. An unknown number of bidders are said to be involved in this project.
NAVSEA is expected to award between four to six contracts by March 2018 to develop conceptual designs for the FFG(X) project. Based on these proposed designs, the final contract will be awarded in 2020, noted the report.
"We're going to have a technical review of each of these proposals by the end and provide them feedback in where these designs might need some buffing up to get to a full and open competition," Campbell said.
"You will see those requests for proposals by the fourth quarter of 2019, with an award in 2020."
While the exact number of proposals are not yet known, USNI has speculated that up to eight designs are under current consideration for the next phase of the project. This is likely to include shipbuilders from Europe as well, the report stated. Spanish Navantia, for example, was mentioned as being one of the companies that have sufficient experience in building frigates and frigate-sized warships.
Navantia have built warships using the Lockheed Martin Aegis Combat System. This system shares common threads with the COMBATSS-21, which is used in the LCS class vessels and is also expected to be installed in the FFG(X).