Frigates of new projects were not laid in the USA 30 years - since the construction of the last ship of the Oliver Hazard Perry type FFG 1987 Ingraham, began in 61. From 1994 to 2015, all Perry were successively written off without any options for replacing them with more modern members of the same class. As it seemed, the frigates at the Pentagon decided to end forever.
And suddenly, in July of the outgoing year, the US Navy issued a request for information (RFI) addressed to the shipbuilding industry, in which they set forth a draft tactical and technical assignment for a new frigate FFG (X). At the end of the same month, Industry Day (in our opinion, “Public Procurement Day”) is organized to present a potential order and clarify requirements for it, and in the middle of November another one, but for a request for proposal (RFP) announced ten days later. earlier and indicating the seriousness of the customer. The process has begun.
Ships of a difficult fate
Frigates are probably the most impermanent of the permanent classes of the main combat ships of the US Navy. Starting with sailing and sailing-screw frigates and letting through the colorful era of their armored variations, the Americans revived the already forgotten class only after 66 years - during the Second World War. And only in the form of patrol frigates of the “Tacoma” type, intended for escort tasks.
The frenzy that happened to the US Navy command 10 years later, led to the fact that destroyer leaders began to call frigates - the class, introduced shortly before, in 1951. It is curious that in parallel in the United States were built and these frigates, which belonged to the class of escort destroyers. Common sense triumphed only in 1975: Mitschers became destroyers, Kunzians became missile destroyers, Lehi and Belknapa (including their atomic versions), California and Virginia - missile cruisers, destroyers (" Bronstein "," Garcia "," Knox "and missile" Brooke ") - frigates and missile frigates, and all" Perry "were listed as" frigates of URO "from birth.
Ships such as "Oliver H. Perry" make a dual impression. On the one hand, they were quite nautical even for the ocean zone (therefore, they were listed in the “home” fleet of destroyers, often included in aircraft-carrier strike groups, or operated independently in distant waters), were armed with a missile complex weapons (KRO) SM-1MR medium-range zone defense (up to 46 km) and Garpun missile (total 40 missile ammunition), as well as an impressive air group for its displacement - two helicopters in separate stationary hangars.
On the other hand, the launch of the missiles could have been carried out with one single-grenade launcher with an interval of eight seconds, which made it impossible to simultaneously fire at the surface and air targets (for the sure defeat of the latter, at least two missiles are necessary). At the same time, the air defense system was able to attack only one target at a time, and the Vulcan Falanx anti-aircraft machine could not work on the nasal course angles, due to which the Stark frigate suffered in 1987. The already weak 76-mm cannon was placed so poorly that she could not shoot either at the bow or at the stern. A modest under-the-wheel hydroacoustic station left hope only on the towed antenna, and the reach of the PLO system was determined by the range of the small-sized 324-mm torpedoes (no more than 11 km).
The GEM was single-shaft with two thrusters, which had a negative effect on maneuverability, but above all it could have the saddest consequences for the survivability of ships in a combat situation. To top it all, since 2003, all Perry remaining in the ranks have undergone an “upgrade”, as a result of which rocket weapons were dismantled, and the FFG turned into patrol ships.
Having decided once again to abandon the frigates, but realizing that the US Navy cannot do without the ships of the near and far sea zone with all their greatness, the Americans embarked on an adventure with the so-called littoral warships (LBK), which launched in February 2002. Starting with the invention of a new class and a term denoting it - an absurd, cutting ear, having nothing in common with naval traditions and borrowed from oceanology (the littoral - a tidal section of the coast), the authors of the program soon faced even more serious problems.
Expensive and stupid
First, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service of 30 in November of 2017, the average cost of an LBK is 570 million dollars. This is 2,5 times the originally agreed 220 million. Moreover, the sum includes only the platform, but does not include replaceable functional modules, which are the highlight of the project. If their planned amount remains the same (64 module, of which 24 are anti-caterable, 16 anti-submarine and 24 mine are the most expensive, 100 million per unit), each LBK will cost the 700 million or more dollars for the treasury - the exorbitant price for a small “coastal” ship .
Secondly, the construction of LBK is too slow: for 12,5 years from the moment of laying the first of them only nine units of two projects built at two shipyards (less than one ship per year, the average construction period is about four years) were put into operation. The US shipbuilding machine working like a clock (a good example for imitation for the Russian USC) in this case clearly failed. Unbelievable, but true: multipurpose Virginia-type submarines of the surface displacement of more than 7000 tons and destroyers of the Arly Burk IIA type with full displacement under 10 000 tons are built on average less than three years with the rate of one destroyer and the 2,5 of the destroyer per year - faster than 3100 / 3400-ton 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 maritime border of the United States - for this there is a coast guard. The US Navy is called upon to meet the enemy on distant approaches, which is unambiguously stated in the “Joint naval strategy of the 21st century” (2007 year): “The naval forces will defend the Motherland, identifying and neutralizing threats as far as possible from our shores”.
Therefore (according to the aforementioned Congress report), the Navy plans regular 24-month deployments of more than 50% LBC at forward locations around the world. To begin with - three in Singapore, three in Japan and seven in the Persian Gulf (Bahrain). The whole question in the enemy, with whom they may have to face.
The basic (permanent) LBK armament does not stand up to criticism: self-defense air defense systems with a 9 km range, a 57-mm cannon, large-caliber machine guns and two Sea Haw helicopters are a kind of mini-helicopter carrier, which, like its older brothers, requires combat protection . Replaceable modules enhance the LBK’s striking capabilities only slightly: in the anti-boat version - with Hellfire missile-controlled ATGMs with 8 km long and 9 kg warheads for anti-ship missiles, in anti-submarine - towed and lowered ASGs, radio-acoustic buoys, aviation small torpedoes and depth charges. What will a new-fangled American do when he meets even an old frigate of the MEKO 200 type with the same displacement, armed with eight Harpoons and a 127-mm AU, one god knows that 40-odd knots will not help here.
Why didn’t the US admiralty understand for so long that ships being built by a large series to liberate the ships of the ocean zone (cruisers and destroyers) from uncharacteristic and dangerous tasks near the coast of the enemy can act only under the cover of Berkov and Tikonderok? After all, all self-respecting sea powers have already acquired or are going to acquire modern multipurpose corvettes and frigates, which, if necessary, will easily deal with LBK, who were at the wrong time at the wrong place.
The idea of lobbying for this program (a legal form of corruption that is widespread in the USA), which bore fruit as long as the absurdity of the concept of littoral fleet in its original form did not become too obvious.
Progress is also a hindrance
After the enlightenment of the US Navy Main Board, the LBK program was revised. With the same number of "coastal" component of the fleet in 52, the pennant 20 of them should be the same ffg FFG (X).
It is expected that they will be more and more expensive than LBK (head - 1200 million, serial - no more than 950 million; for comparison, EM of Arly Burk IIA type costs 1750 million dollars). The ship must be multipurpose, that is, to provide local air defense in its area of responsibility, to carry out anti-ship, anti-submarine and EW tasks. Together with the LBK, it is called upon to release 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, join the AUG or KUG (aircraft carrier or naval 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 set out just some of the minimum requirements for FFG (X) performance characteristics: 25 years service life, crew no more than 200 people, 3000 miles range on 16 nodes, 28 nodes speed on 80% of nominal power, abstract horizon missile system with eight transport and launch containers, self-defense SAM systems (as at LBK), 57-mm gun mounts, one manned "Sea Hawk" helicopter, unmanned Fire Scout, etc. The Navy emphasizes that they are interested in placing a vertical launch vehicle on a new frigate for st “Sea Sparrow” missiles (ESSM) with a range of about 50 km and / or Standard-2 MR (up to 170 km) and will be happy to consider any suggestions on this issue.
It is not surprising that, having been burned by several excessively innovative projects (CW Wolfe, Zumwalt, LBK), the Americans this time chose to completely abandon new technologies or systems in order to reduce the risks of the FFG (X) program. The impatience of the Navy, which intends to order the lead frigate already in the 2020 fiscal year (the second year later, then two ships a year before 2030, inclusive), leaves no time for developing the project “from scratch” - this would delay programs for about three years. Therefore, the fleet intends to build FFG (X) on a modified version of an existing project, in other words, to design it on the basis of an American or foreign prototype.
Given the cooperation agreement made by 23 November between the Bat Iron Works (a subsidiary of General Dynamics) and the Spanish Navantia, there is reason to believe that this duet will get the contract, and FFG (X) will be very similar to F-100 "Alvaro de Bassan" (once the Spaniards learned from BIW to build "Perry" for the Spanish Navy, and now they are ready to teach the teachers). F-100 5800 has a total displacement tons, the speed of the 28,5-29 knots, cruising range 5000 18 miles on the nodes, 201-216 crew of people armed with 127-mm gun, 2 4 × RCC "Harpoon», 1 48 × OHR Mk- 41 for the Standard-2 MR and ESSM, the Sea Hawk helicopter (some TTX from the RFI of the US Navy are literally copied from the “prototype”).
However, the final appearance of the new American frigate will not be determined soon. December 18 RFP members will need to respond to an IUD proposal. Then details clarification, selection of general contractor and subcontractors will begin, and after agreeing on disagreements and forming the final TTZ - draft and technical design, development of design documentation, cutting the metal for the lead ship and its official bookmark in 2020 – 2021.
In all this touching stories about other frigates catches the eye the fact that foreigners (in this case - the Anglo-Saxons, who consider themselves the pinnacle of human civilization), just as we, from time to time, make mistakes, miscalculations and enthusiastically embark on the road leading to a dead end .
At the same time, both here and abroad there is a point of view that building absurd ships and inventing for them no less ridiculous classification is the exclusive prerogative of the Russians.
In addition, the question of whether or not Russian naval construction influences the decision to launch the FFG (X) program inadvertently arises. It seems that such an influence certainly exists - despite the unconditional superiority of the United States in the oceans, the impermissibly slow renewal of the main naval personnel and the hazy, inappropriate, classified shipbuilding program.
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 fourth-generation project (20380 corvettes) 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 go to the North Sea and the English Channel tactical groups of two units, and the TFR pr 11356 (generation three plus) of the Black Sea Fleet began to settle in the Mediterranean.
Since September, the fourth-generation frigate Admiral Gorshkov (project 2015) began to appear in the North Sea, although passing through the inter-fleet transitions from Baltic to North and back in the process of protracted state tests of the Poliment-Redut air defense system (analogous to the newest modifications of the Standard SM-22350 and Sea Sparrow). It was here that the Americans probably wondered about how pale their LBK will look at against the background of 2 / 20380 and 20385, if the Russians still manage to unleash their own shipbuilding industry and the ships of the new projects will start combat service in the near and far sea zone in all key areas of the oceans.
Thus, it is possible that the Navy and USC of Russia acted as indirect co-authors of the new ship for the US Navy, which is more balanced and has much better combat stability than the LBK. Thanks from the Americans, of course, we will not wait, but this is not required - here more is more important.
If the leading world maritime power adjusts its shipbuilding program, in fact, according to our templates (22350 is an analogue 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 stick to the concept of naval construction “from a simple multipurpose ship to a complex one” (corvette - frigate - destroyer - aircraft carrier) adopted at the beginning, reducing the construction time and increasing seriality. And so - right up to the saturation of the Russian Navy with new warships of the main classes to the required level (within the framework of defense spending acceptable for the state budget).