Here’s some interesting news about the Navy’s proposed new frigate. As regular readers know well, ComNavOps is dead set against a traditional frigate. However, I’m going to set that aside for the duration of this post and simply address the new frigate information that the Navy has provided.
From USNI News website we get the following bits (1):
- The Navy has set a maximum average cost of $950M per ship for ships 2 through 20. The first in class is, apparently, exempt from imposed cost limits.
- The Mk41 VLS will consist of a minimum of 16 cells and a desired target of 32 cells of the full length strike variety.
- The vessel will mount a minimum of 8 deck launched over-the-horizon anti-ship missiles and a desired target of 16.
Depending on what you believe the Burke Flt IIa cost, this gives us a price comparison. Let’s go with the Navy’s value for the Burke of $1.8B. This isn’t real but neither will be the frigate cost so at least we’re comparing fake apples to fake apples. Thus, we see that the frigate, at $950M will be 53% of the cost of the Burke.
Of course, no one believes that the frigates will actually come in at the target price. A more likely cost will be about $1.3B, I would guesstimate, which puts the cost around 72% of the Burke.
One might reasonably expect, then, that the weapons load of the frigate would be half that of the Burke. As a reminder, the Burke carries 96 VLS cells and 8 deck mounted anti-ship missiles (though rarely actually carried). Thus, the frigate’s 16-32 cells is well under half the Burke’s weapon load. On the other hand, the anti-ship missiles will equal or surpass the Burke.
On the plus side, this is a significant upgrade in weapons load over the LCS and the LCS versions may have difficulty achieving the higher target levels. This might, then, favor a foreign design. On the minus side, this is still a somewhat light weapon load for a vessel that is likely to be around 70% of the cost of a full Burke. This is the fear I’ve had from the beginning on this – that we would get a vessel costing 80% of a Burke with 25% of the weapon load – not a good value and one of the reasons I don’t want a frigate.
Now, the weapons load could be excused and might even be considered quite acceptable if the ASW capability was emphasized. In other words, if the main emphasis of the frigate were ASW rather than AAW/ASuW then the cost and light weapon load might be fine. However, I’ve not yet seen any specifications that lead me to believe that ASW will be particularly emphasized. We’ll have to wait and see.
(1)USNI News website, “NAVSEA: New Navy Frigate Will Cost $950M Per Hull, More Than Double LCS Cost”, Sam LaGrone,