By Luca Peruzzi
The French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly, welcomed by Naval Group’s CEO Hervé Guillou, and accompanied by the head of the French Defence Procurement Agency DGA (Délégué Général pour l’Armement) Joël Barre, the French Navy’s Chief of Staff Amiral Christophe Prazuck and its Greek homologue Vice-Amiral Nikolaos Tsounis, attended on 24 October the steel cut ceremony of the first of class Frégate de Défense et d’Intervention (FDI) for the Marine Nationale at Naval Group’s Lorient shipyard.
Under the 2019-2025 LPM, the French Armed Forces will receive the first-of-class FDI at the end of 2023 and the remaining four frigates belonging to the same class within 2030, in order to maintain a frigate of first rank fleet of 15 units at the horizon of the third decade of the century. Under the contracts assigned respectively in April and October 2017 by DGA to Naval Group and Thales, and to the MBDA group, the French shipbuilder acting as prime contractor for both the Platform and the Combat System integrator, has developed and will deliver the first-of-class FDI, while MBDA will develop and provide the multi-weapon systems firing installation suite.
During the ceremony’s speech, the French Defence Minister of the Armed Forces unveiled the name of all the five frigates, naming them in honour of five eminent French admirals. The first-of-class (FoC) is entitled to Admiral Ronarc’h while the remaining respectively to Admiral Louzeau, Admiral Castex, Admiral Nomy and Admiral Cabanier. Admiral Ronarc’h has been Chief of General Staff of the French Navy between 1919 and 1920, who distinguished himself during World War I.
The 15 “first rank” frigates, including the two Forbin-class, the eight FREMM and the five future FDI, which will replace the current La Fayette-class platforms, will be the backbone of the French Navy by the beginning of the third decade of this century. “For the past four years, this pressure has been particularly accentuated in the Atlantic and now extends to the Mediterranean”, highlighted the French Minister. “For the past four years, there has been at least one frigate off the Syrian coast. When we had to react to Bashar-el-Assad’s chemical attacks, our frigates were there for Operation Hamilton. When escorting and protecting the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, our frigates are there. When we have to listen, observe patiently, for months, so that France has a strong and independent voice, guaranteed by its autonomy of strategic appreciation, our frigates are again there. Faced with more and more numerous potential opponents, always better armed, ever more determined to resort to force, we must, always and again, raise the guard”.
The French Minister of the Armed Forces also highlighted the programme’s innovations not only for the French Navy: the ship was conceived and designed with a collaborative work between the French Navy, the DGA and Naval Group, all working together in a single place since the programme definition phase, to deliver the most innovative platform for the Marine Nationale, and this is an example that should be replicated by the other services. “This collaborative method, where we solve the problems together rather than separately, ……., is I think a good method. And I hope it will extend to all of our weapons programmes”, said the French Minister. Thanks to these technological and design innovations, as remarked by French Minister, the FDI programme has already attracted the strong interest of different countries, among which Greece, which was represented at the ceremony by the Chief of Staff of the Hellenic Navy, the country having signed last Thursday (10 October) a Letter of Intent with the French MoD highlighting the will to procure two FDIs, as part of a strategic cooperation between Paris and Athens, allowing a close dialogue to best meet the needs of the Greek Navy. The other nation representatives attending the event were from Poland and New Zealand.
The Naval Group CEO put in evidence how the FDI is revolutionizing the way the French Shipbuilder is developing and building warships with a continuous injection of new technologies and industrial development processes innovations. The FDI will be the first all-digitalized since its definition phase naval platform, an innovation which is making the French Shipbuilder the first in Europe and among the firsts in the world, Naval Group CEO said. This has also reduced the programme timeline allowing the first-of-class to begin sea trials in October 2022, delivery at end of 2023 and subjected to operational validation and weapon system certification by French Navy in order to become operational in 2025.
For further information and data on the FDI, the FREMM DA and the new industrial processes, please click here for the full report
Photos courtesy of Naval Group and by Luca Peruzzi