France has officially launched the FTI medium-size frigate programme, planning to buy five ships, also serving as the basis for a new export design that DCNS will market for export as the BELHARRA digital frigate.
During the official opening of Euronaval 2016 in Paris-Le Bourget, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian unveiled a scale model of the future mid-size frigates (Frégate de Taille Intermédiaire - FTI) exhibited on the French Ministry of Defence (MoD) stand.
The launch of the FTI programme was decided in mid-2015, when the current military planning law was updated at mid-point. The programme’s schedule is ambitious, as the delivery of the lead ship is set for 2023.
Five new FTIs will join the eight FREMM multi-mission frigates and two HORIZON-class air defence frigates in the 2030s. The French Navy will thus be able to deliver its required operational capabilities in a context of evolving threats, according to the DefMin. An FTI will be capable of being deployed alone or as part of a joint or combined force, such as the navy’s carrier battle group.
To design this new class of ship within the tight schedule, the Directorate General of Armaments (DGA) has set up a collaborative platform. Provided with the latest engineering tools, this platform brings together experts from the DGA, the Navy and industry, mainly DCNS and Thales.
Displacing approximately 4,200t, and manned by 125 officers and ratings, including its naval aviation detachment, the FTI frigates will have capabilities in all fields of naval combat; anti-submarine, anti-air and anti-ship warfare, and the projection of Special Forces. It can accommodate a helicopter and/or an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Its new-generation, electronically-scanned and fully-digital radar will have fixed panels integrated on a single mast. The FTI design is also characterised by a slightly inverted bow.
Working alongside DCNS, Thales is proposing a number of latest-generation systems for the FTI. Thales is to supply the compact version of its CAPTAS-4 towed-array sonar (for more information, please see here), the SEA FIRE multi-function radar, the AQUILON integrated naval communication system, and an ESM system for electronic warfare.