(Marine Nationale)

When the last of the Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigates (FFGs) retired in 2015, the littoral combat ship (LCS) was expected to pick up the slack. Well, between mechanical failures and the fact that the LCS is under-armed, that hasn't happened.

As a result, the Navy has cut the LCS program down to 40 vessels and is now looking for a new generation of frigates. Two contenders for the FFG(X) program have surfaced, one from Lockheed based on the Freedom-class LCS and one from Spain based on the Álvaro de Bazán-class guided-missile frigates. There's a third contender, however, and it's also from Europe, based on the Franco-Italian FREMM.


The French Aquitane-class frigate Provence during Joint Warrior 17-2.

(Photo by Mark Harkin)

FREMM stands for "Frégate européenne multi-mission," which is French for "European multi-mission frigate." France has 11 of these vessels either in service or under construction, while Italy has 10. Morocco and Egypt have also acquired or ordered vessels of this class.

The FREMM comes in three varieties: One is optimized for anti-submarine warfare, the second is a general-purpose warship, the third is an anti-air destroyer called FREDA (or, Frégate de defense aeriennes). All of these vessels carry the ASTER 15 surface-to-air missile (the FREDA also carries the ASTER 30). The French FREMMs, called the Aquitaine-class, can also fire the SCALP cruise missile (and did so during the recent retaliation against Syria's use of chemical weapons), while Italian vessels pack the Teseo surface-to-surface missile and Milas anti-submarine missile and a five-inch gun equipped with the Vulcano round.

An Italian FREMM sails alongside an Italian Horizon-class air-defense destroyer.

(Photo by ItalianLarry)

French and Italian FREMMs also have 76mm OTO Melara guns, torpedo tubes for the MU-90 anti-submarine torpedo, and can operate an NH-90 helicopter. The FREMM variant proposed for the FFG(X) competition will displace 6,500 tons, reach a top speed of over 26 knots, and use a hybrid-electric drive for greater range. The vessels will have a crew of 133.

Could the French and Italians have already solved America's need for a new frigate? That remains to be seen. The Navy plans to buy 20 vessels from this program and will announce the winner in 2020.