KEY POINTS

The FFG(X) will replace Perry-class frigates
The FFG(X) is based on European design
The next-gen frigates will deploy in 2026

The U.S. Navy is preparing to upgrade its fleet of guided-missile frigates. The service is ready to acquire a small surface armed ship prepared for low and high-end sea missions. The next-generation FFG(X) (fast frigate, guided, “experimental”) warships are based on a Franco-Italian design, but the sensors and weapons will be made in the U.S.

Over the next two decades, the Navy is planning to buy up to 40 or more frigates, according to Popular Mechanics. An initial purchase of 10 ships will allow the deployment of the first next-gen frigate in 2026. This will be the first guided-missile frigate to enter U.S. Navy service in more than 30 years, after the decommissioning of the 80s-era guided-missile frigates of Oliver Hazard Perry-class.

The 51 Perry-class frigates operated by the U.S. Navy were 4,000 tons ships equipped with up to two helicopters, anti-aircraft, anti-submarine, and anti-ship missile launcher, as well as with a 76-millimeter rapid-fire gun. The frigates were ideal for situations not requiring more expensive destroyers or cruisers. They could interdict drug shipments at sea, protect merchant convoys, be part of a carrier task force, or operate during regional crises.

The next-gen FFG(X) ships will have the multi-mission capability for information operations, electronic warfare, surface airfare, anti-submarine warfare, and air warfare. They will be able to defend against small boat attacks, defend convoy ships, detect enemy submarines, destroy surface ships over the horizon, and employ passive and active electronic warfare systems.

The company selected to produce the new warships is the Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri, one of the largest shipbuilding groups in the world. The U.S. Department of Defense awarded the contract to Marinette Marine (FMM), a subsidiary of Fincantieri U.S. The company already received $795 million to begin building the first frigate.

Three other companies were competing to win the contract with the U.S. Navy, including Huntington Ingalls Industries, Austal USA, and a partnership of Spain’s Navantia and General Dynamics Bath Iron Works. Fincantieri’s winning ship design is based on European missile frigates’ FREMM class. Variants of the design are already in service with the French, Italian, Egyptian and Moroccan navies.