The F-110 Frigate is the Spanish Navy’s next generation, multi-mission surface vessel due to see operation in the next decade. While Navantia will build the frigates, Lockheed Martin and Indra are among the industry team members supporting the programme’s combat system. Mönch's US correspondent Marty Kauchak gained insights on Lockheed Martin’s role in the F-110 programme from Mike Koch, the company’s Business Development Manager for International Programmes. Highlights of their discussion are provided.
The Spanish Navy operates five AEGIS-equipped ÁLVARO DE BAZÁN-class (F-100) frigates, which are equipped with the Lockheed Martin-developed AEGIS Combat System and SPY-1 radar. The F-110 frigates are expected to augment the five heritage F-100 vessels. While the F-110’s primary mission is anti-submarine warfare, the Spanish Navy, “wanted to augment that capability, with not as extensive of an AAW [anti-air warfare] capability as the F-100, but a similar Aegis capability they could use,” Koch noted.
Asked what AEGIS baseline nomenclature the F-110s would be assigned, Koch initially responded: “The F-110 will be unique and the first of its kind because of the relationship we have had with Spanish industry for the last 20 years on the F-100 programme. They have a very strong domestic defence industry, with specifically Navantia not only as the builder but as combat system engineer in Spain. Navantia had a small role in the F-100 program that grew in the F-105. They are now designing and building their own combat management systems for other classes of ships in the Spanish Navy.”
The F-110 is in essence, gaining a best-of-breed solution – capitalising on the domestic defence industry investment in combat systems undertaken by Navantia and retaining an AEGIS capability – categorised as International AEGIS Fire Control Loop (IAFCL). And because of a common source library on fielded AEGIS ships, the industry team will be able to extract critical AAW components of the fire control loop, compartmentalize them and allow them to interface with the displays and other elements of the national combat management system. Koch continued: “The F-110 will be unique, first-of-its kind, in that way – the first AEGIS baseline that is really a national ‘front end’ with Aegis serving as a fire control loop capability for AAW.”
Lockheed Martin’s long-standing collaboration with Indra on AEGIS has evolved to see the Spanish company designated to supply a new, solid-state S-band radar for F-110. Koch emphasised: “This will be a first-of-its kind solid state radar on the F-110.”
As part of that workshare Indra is building a fully Digital Antenna, including the Digital Transmit-Receive modules, with state-of-the-art Solid State Gallium Nitride (GaN) high power amplifiers. GaN is the “secret sauce” in many new weapons systems, permitting high power output and other capabilities.
The approximate 50/50% workshare agreement between Lockheed Martin and Indra on F-110 is seeing AEGIS related work being completed in both nations. This work will eventually culminate in a land-based test site near Navantia’s headquarters. In about 2020, the F-110 work will bring together the combat system, radar and other sensors for integration, testing and evaluation at the site.
Using the Lockheed Martin AEGIS template of build a little, test a little and learn a lot, the F-110 AEGIS team has iterative milestones and objectives through the remainder of this decade. Indeed, while Lockheed Martin has several decades of solid-state radar expertise, Indra is fairly new to this defence space. “So that’s the plan through the next several years,” Koch revealed. “Obviously incrementally building in capability and doing tests and those sorts of things. So by the time we are ready to go to that land-based test site in 2020, we will be very comfortable that we have taken the radar through its paces of integration and tests.”
As part of a dual strategy to attract new customers and support upgrades on legacy ships, AEGIS is constructed around the IAFCL and solid-state radar in an open architecture way. Further, while Lockheed Martin remains open to conversations with nations about cooperating in these high technology endeavours, Koch reported: “There was nothing new to be announced now or nothing immediate down the pike, but we’re active with our current AEGIScustomer countries, and future, potential Aegis customers’ countries, working with their industries to complement what their military customer wants.”