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What the U.S. Navy Wants in Its New Guided Missile Frigates

The Navy’s vision and mission scope for its emerging new combat-capable Frigate includes the ability to destroy swarming small boat attacks, operate undersea and aerial drones, support carrier strike groups, conduct disaggregated operations, attack enemies with an over-the-horizon missile and engage in advanced surface and anti-submarine warfare.

These plans for the ship are taking a large step forward, following the Navy’s recent ship development award to Marinette Marine Corp. for up to 10 new Guided Missile Frigates (FFX(X)). Concepts for the ship include an advanced, heavily armed Frigate with a stronger, reinforced hull, space armor, over-the-horizon missiles and a wider complement of additional high-tech weapons. Sure enough, according to Navy officials, the ship is now being designed as much more than a “toughened” Littoral Combat Ship, but a ship with an even wider combat scope to include additional air-defenses, AEGIS radar systems and major missile attack options with Mk 41 Vertical Launch Systems.

Following years of debate and deliberation regarding what particular weapons and technology configuration would ultimately take shape for the new vessel, the service appears to have identified a handful of specifics. In a Navy report, service officials identified some of the intended missions and weapons applications for the ship. Initial specs include Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar, a Baseline Ten AEGIS Combat System, a Mk 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) and MK 57 Gun Weapon Systems, among other things. This kind of baseline configuration is of course engineered with the technical foundation necessary to integrate new weapons, computer technology, electronics and information warfare systems as they emerge. A Navy official described it as having “countermeasures and added capability in the EW/IO (Electronic Warfare/Information Operations) area with design flexibility for future growth.”

Upon initial conception, it was not instantly determined that the new ship would include VLS; clearly the service saw the need to more heavily arm the new ship, in keeping with its increased lethality and Distributed Maritime Operations strategic approach for aggressively arming its surface fleet for major warfare on the open seas.

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