The French-Italian joint-venture FREMM multi-purpose guided-missile frigate forms the basis for the upcoming Constellation-class set to serve the United States Navy (USN). This multi-mission warship design is already in service with the navies of France, Italy, Egypt, and Morocco and is on order from Indonesia as well. The Constellation-class is detailed as a sub-class of the FREMM project and fulfills the USN's FFG(X) program requirement.
Interest in a foreign design on the part of the USN arose in mid-2017. The Italian FREMM warship Alpino then served as a selling tool to USN authorities when it visited the eastern seaboard in mid-2018. In April of 2020, the USN formally announced Italy-based Fincantieri as the winning builder for the FFG(X) program, handing the concern a $795 million USD contract - the American ships to be built stateside at Fincantieri Marine in Marinette, Wisconsin. Three mark the first batch in the Constellation-class series with an option for nine more warships totaling $5.5 billion USD in the final investment.
Beyond lead-ship USS Constellation (FFG-62), the two other named ships in the series are USS Congress (FFG-63) and USS Chesapeake (FFG-64). All will have a focus on anti-submarine operations (as opposed to anti-aircraft / airspace deterrence) and be based in the Italian FREMM standard, known locally as the Bergamini-class (French ships make up the Aquitane-class).
The three ships carry over three of the names belonging to the first frigates ever built for the American navy - all three were 38-gun sailing types. The other frigates became USS Constitution, USS President, and USS United States.
USS Constellation is slated to operate through a CODLAG (COmbined Diesel-eLectric-Or-Gas) propulsion scheme involving a modified form of the standard (and proven) CODAG (COmbined Diesel-And-Gas) arrangement - the basic concept being maximizing fuel efficiency depending on action required (dashing, cruising). Hull dimensions include a running length of 496 feet, a beam of 65 feet, and a draught of 26 feet. Maximum speed is listed at 26 knots when dashing and 16 knots when cruising. Range is out to 6,000 nautical miles.
Aboard will be a crew of about 200 and 2 x Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boats (RHIBs) will be carried. Installed systems are set to be the COMBATSS-21 Combat Management System (CMS) based in the potent AEGIS series. There will also be AN/SPY-6(V)3 Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar (EASR), the AN/SPS-73(V)18 Next Generation Surface-Search Radar, the AN/SLQ-61 towed sonar array, and the AN/SQS-62 series variable-depth sonar unit.
Armament will include a 57mm Mk 110 turreted deck gun, 32-cell Mark 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS), 21-cell Mk 49 Guided-Missile Launching System (GMLS), and 2 x 4-cell or 4 x 4-cell anti-ship missile launchers. 7.62mm machine guns will be installed for extreme point defense work.
The profile lines of the warship will follow the established Italian design standard: the forecastle is largely unobstructed and seats the turreted deck gun while housing the VLS suite. The bridge superstructure sits over and aft of the forecastle and integrates its main mast. The structure plunges towards midships at which point the anti-ship missile launchers are seated ahead of the low-profile, enclosed smoke funnels. The funnels themselves are integrated into the helicopter hangar deck which leads out to the stern section of the ship. This aft section of the hull will support the launching and retrieval of a Sikorsky MH-60R "Seahawk" helicopter as well as the MQ-8C "Firescout" rotary-wing Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS).
The USN currently does not operate dedicated frigates from its inventory - relying on a combination of destroyers and, to an extent, the Freedom-class and Independence-class Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs). In the latter, the hulls are not dedicated guided-missile platforms, instead developed to operate in close-to-shore environments (the "littorals") with qualities more akin to corvettes.
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1 x 57mm Mk 110 turreted deck gun.
1 x 32-cell Mark 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) housing RIM-66, RIM-162, or RIM-174 Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAMs).
1 x 21-cell Mk 49 Guided-Missile Launching System (GMLS) housing the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM).
2 to 4 x 7.62mm M240 GPMGs or M2 HMGs.
1 OR 2 x Sikorsky MH-60R "Seahawk" Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) helicopter(s).
1 x Northrop Grumman MQ-8C "Firescout" helicopter UAS.
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Artist rendering of the proposed Constellation-class guided-missile frigate; USN Public Release.
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