U.S. Navy’s Constellation-Class: New Frigate to Start Construction This Year

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Tayfun Ozberk story with additional reporting by Xavier Vavasseur

During his presentation at the symposium, Captain Smith emphasized that the Constellation-class is a frigate, not a destroyer, and that it should not be expected to carry the same weapon load as DDGs. However, he highlighted that the new frigates will relieve DDGs by performing escort missions to protect high-value assets.

“This is primarily an ASW platform. That’s why ASW is listed first among the missions [of the ship, followed by] surface warfare, electromagnetic maneuver warfare and air warfare. In a lot of ways, it is like a DDG, it just doesn’t have all the magazine capacity, it doesn’t have all the armament you would expect of a DDG.
This is a frigate.
Now it’s an agile multi-mission platform, just like a DDG, and it’s going to be dual purpose: For things like escort missions for high value units, it’s going to take a lot of the the work off of the DDGs and the cruisers out there today and really focus on, if anybody here is Old Navy, what did the frigates do ? They did a lot of escort missions, you know, high value unit protection, those kinds of things. They can also steam independently, they can steam integrated with a task force, it could be a SAG (surface action group) or they could go out and do things with respect to the high value and escort.”

CAPT Kevin Smith, program manager (PMS 515)

Captain Smith stated that the program, for which the contract was awarded to Fincantieri Marinette Marine back in April 2020, is currently in the detailed design phase. He emphasized that they are working not only on the ship’s primary components, such as the AEGIS combat system baseline 10, but also on the ship’s subsystems, such as electrical infrastructure, piping, firefighting systems, and so on.

The latest renderings of the Constellation-class frigates (Screenshot from the presentation slides)

Construction to begin later than initially planned

The Secretary of the Navy has already named the first three ships, Constellation (FFG-62), Congress (FFG-63) and Chesapeake (FFG-64). Fincantieri has been awarded two of those ships. In terms of the President’s budget focus areas, the third ship, the future USS Chesapeake, is an exercise option that they will consider this fiscal year (2022). Concerning the project’s timeframe, the current agenda on the slides is as follows:

FY22 Focus Areas:

– Completing Frigate Class Detail Design:

              • Critical Design Review (CDR) 2QFY22

– Start Lead Ship (FFG 62) Construction:

              • Production Readiness Review (PRR) 3QFY22

– Continue AEGIS Combat System Development and Integration efforts

– Complete Fincantieri Capital Improvement Projects at Marinette and Sturgeon Bay

– Continue Propulsion Land Based Engineering Site (LBES) Development at NSWC Philadelphia

Answering a media question, Captain Smith confirmed that he is targeting April 2022 for the start of construction of the lead ship. One year ago, Naval News and USNI News reported that the start of construction for FFG-62 was initially set to take place in 2021.

At SNA 2021 the expected milestones for first-in-class ship were listed as follows:

  • Start of Construction (SOC): Fall of 2021/Q1 FY2022
  • Keel laying: Q1 FY2023
  • Launch: Q1 FY2025
  • Delivery: Q3 FY2026

The second ship of the class was set to begin construction in Q3 FY2022, the third ship in Q3 FY2023, the fourth ship in Q1 FY2024…

Constellation-class Frigate: Latest details

An infographic showing the sensors and weapons of the Constellation-class frigates (Screenshot from the presentation slides)

During the symposium, Capt Smith revealed the most recent renderings of the frigate, as well as some specifics about its sensor and weapon systems. The specifications of the Constellation-class frigates, according to the presentation, are as follows.

Principal Characteristics

  • LOA – 496.1 ft (151.2 mt)
  • Overall Beam – 64.6 ft (19.69 mt)
  • Design Draft – 18 ft (5.48 mt)
  • Weight Estimate – Light Ship: 6,016 tonnes, Full Load: 7,291 tonnes
  • Installed Power 48,679 hp
  • Service Life 25 yrs

Sensors, Weapons and Machinery Systems

  • Combat System – AEGIS B/L 10
  • Radar  – AN/SPY-6(V)3
  • Underwater Suite – AN/SQQ-89(V)16
  • MK 48 GWS
  • 1x MK 110 57mm Gun
  • 32-cell MK41 VLS
  • 16xNSM Weapon System
  • 1x MK 49 RAM Block III Point Defence Missile System
  • MK 53 MOD 9 NULKA Decoy Launching System
  • AN-SLQ-32(V)6 CM (SEWIP) BLK II EW System
  • Variable Depth Sonar, Multi-function Towed Array
  • Machinery: Combined Diesel-Electric and Gas (CODLAG) Propulsion Plant (LM2500+G4)
  • Aviation: 1xMH-60 Romeo, 1xMQ-8C UAV
  • 2xRHIBs

Capt Smith gave information on the acquisition approach of the U.S. Navy in this project. He stressed that they didn’t change the design of the ship, and stayed stuck to the RFP:

“From a FREMM perspective discounting c4I, and discounting the combat system weapons that are all government-furnished equipment. The FREMM came along with hull accommodations that came along with the propulsion, plant layout, mechanical systems, electrical systems, and a physical integrated plant. They had to lengthen the hull a little bit. The architecture for the propulsion is very similar to FREMM, but we also have US systems, and we have different redundancy and different reliability.”

CAPT Kevin Smith, program manager (PMS 515)

Capt Smith also revealed some details about Land Based Engineering and Test Site (LBES) issues, which aids in the risk reduction of propulsion architecture, and operation and control. He stressed that they’re going to be pretty much in the same vicinity as the Flight-III LBES. FFG 62 LBES activities began in FY2021 in order to support planned initial operational capability (IOC) for the class in FY2029. The U.S. Navy is on target to begin procurement of long-lead time plant components and test equipment Q2 FY2022.

Naval News source|articles

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