By Luca Peruzzi
With a sober ceremony at Fincantieri’s Riva Trigoso shipyard on 25 February, the Italian shipbuilding group cut the first steel for the first of two new FREMM frigates destined to the Italian Navy. These new Bergamini-class platforms in the General Purpose (GP) configuration will replace, as confirmed by the Italian Minister of Defence, Lorenzo Guerini, during the Parliament hearing last July, the two frigates – Spartaco Schergat and Emilio Bianchi – respectively under delivery and fitting out for the Italian Navy, which were sold later last year to the Egyptian Minister of Defence. In addition to the new two FREMM platforms, which according to the Italian Minister of Defence will be delivered to the Italian Navy without additional costs, the Italian industry, as a further compensation for the deal, will provide an in-service support and logistic package in order to extend the service life of the remaining Maestrale-class frigates until the delivery of the two new FREMMs.
Since 20 years from the initial agreement between the French and Italian Ministers of Defence and Navies, the joint programme managed by the OCCAR (Organisation Conjointe de Coopération en matière d’Armement / Organisation for Joint Armament Co-operation) agency, has entered in a new production phase and will see the number of FREMM frigates built under the programme umbrella growing to 22 including the platforms sold to foreign customers.
The Italian Ministry of Defence has given the mandate to OCCAR to proceed with the contract modifications to replace the last two frigates with additional two scheduled to be delivered respectively in February and August 2025. These will feature configuration modifications and enhancements to cope in advance with obsolescence issues, while maintaining a minimum operational lifespan of 25 years, OCCAR confirmed to EDR On-Line.
A configuration review is being conducted to identify obsolescence, the completion of the Critical Design Review (CDR) being planned for the middle of this year. EDR On-Line understood that among major combat systems the ones under review and subjected to enhancements are the MBDA SAAM ESD missile air defence system based on the Aster 15/30 family of missiles operating alongside the Leonardo Kronos Grand Naval active phased array multifunction radar and the communications suite. Moreover, the integrated platform management system and its subsystems, alongside the electrical power generation suite will be also considered for enhancements or replacement and reviewed. No further details have been released but EDR On-Line understood that technological developments and enhancements introduced with the Legge Navale programme on the new platforms, including the Pattugliatori Polivalenti d’Altura (PPA), the Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD) and the Logistic Support Ship (LSS), are expected to be applied to the new FREMMs in order to ensure commonality and reduce costs while providing state-of-the-art systems.
Almost 20 years after being launched the Italian-French FREMM program represents a success not only for the cooperation between the two countries, under the OCCAR umbrella, but also on the worldwide scenario of naval programmes and shipbuilding. In addition to the export market, which could expand further, the Italian platform was chosen by the US Navy for the Constellation-class FFG programme, demonstrating the soundness of the platform and propulsion system solutions. A first example of that consolidation of the European shipbuilding industry that today continues to develop and impress a further turning point in the military sector, again thanks to Italy and France and respectively to the shipbuilding industries represented by Fincantieri and Naval Group, which gave birth to the Naviris joint venture, and to the security and defense industries headed by Thales, Leonardo and MBDA.
Photo courtesy Italian Navy