Frigates Will Dominate In The Navy's New War Strategy
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Here are a few things to keep in mind: reducing the number of large warships and adding frigates can reduce the cost of a larger fleet. An Arleigh Burke-class destroyer with a displacement of 9,000 tons costs more than $ 2 billion. A frigate that displaces just 5,000 tons should cost around $ 1 billion, according to the Navy.
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The U.S. Navy could optimize its military structure goals to increase the number of frigates.
Vice Adm said. Bill Merz, the deputy chief of naval operations, told a House subcommittee on March 27, 2019. "We expect a fairly close look at the ship mix this year," Merz told USNI News.
By revising the Troop Structure Plan to include more small surface fighters, the Navy could signal its intention to purchase a larger number of smaller ships at the expense of larger ships.
The idea would be to distribute the US naval power over a larger number of cheaper ships, thereby reversing the decades-long trend towards larger and fewer US warships.
"We know that we have a hard time dealing with large-scale fighters, and we want to adjust this to a more appropriate mix, especially given the lethality that comes with the frigate," said Merz.
The Navy published its last force structure plan in late 2016. This plan envisaged a fleet of 355 large warships, of the 289 ships the Navy owned in early 2019. The new, larger fleet would include 104 large surface combatants such as destroyers and cruisers and 52 small surface combatants, including coastal battleships and frigates.
But the Navy is fighting to be able to afford the fleet with 355 ships. The 2020 edition of the Navy's 30-year shipbuilding plan provides that the fleet could grow to 355 ships by 2034. However, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the purchase of all new ships would cost $ 27 billion a year, roughly double the Navy's previous spending.
Reducing the number of large warships and adding frigates could help lower the cost of a larger fleet. An Arleigh Burke-class destroyer with a displacement of 9,000 tons costs more than $ 2 billion. A frigate that displaces just 5,000 tons should cost around $ 1 billion, according to the Navy.
But the frigate could still carry many of the same weapons and sensors as a destroyer, albeit a little less.
According to a Navy document received by the Congressional Research Service, the frigate will use a 57-millimeter cannon, a 32-cell vertical rocket launcher for SM-2 Block IIIC, and Evolved Sea Sparrow missiles, a 21-round point weapon to be armed. Defense Rolling Airframe Missile Launcher and eight launchers for anti-ship missiles over the horizon.
The radar and combat system will be a smaller version of the Aegis system that the Navy's destroyers and cruisers are equipped with. The frigate will embark an MH-60R helicopter and an MQ-8C drone. This weapon and sensor suite was designed to give the frigate the ability to attack enemy aircraft, ships, and submarines 100 miles or more away.
Over time, the ship could get additional weapons. The Navy document refers to possible improvements for the frigate, including a 150-kilowatt laser and a submarine defense missile, which could be a missile-reinforced torpedo that is conceptually similar to the defunct ASROC missile .
But the SM-2 Block IIIC, from which the frigate 32 could carry, could be the new ship's most powerful weapon. Block IIIC replaces the semi-active radar homing finder of older SM-2 with the active radar homing finder of the SM-6 missile. The viewfinder of the SM-6 itself is a derivative of the Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile.
With a semi-active missile, the launch ship must use its own radar to guide the missile during most of its flight. An active missile has its own tiny radar that allows the ship to launch and exit to protect it from retaliation.
The SM-2 Block IIIC can do much more than just shoot down planes. With minor changes to the viewfinder, the Navy has already given the SM-6 and SM-2 Block IIIC missiles anti-ship capabilities. Additional improvements could allow the SM-6 - and hence the SM-2 Block IIIC - to hit targets on land.
The new frigate could also act as a command ship for robotic ships, using Link 11 and Link 16 data links, satellite communications and Network Tactical Common Data Link to make navigation easier for unmanned ships and authorize them to fire weapons.
The Navy could soon choose a shipyard to build the new frigate class from 2020. "All shipyards have agreed that they can give us the lethality we need," said Merz.
The old fleet plan provided for 20 ships. A new plan could increase this number.
David Ax is the defense editor of National Interest. He is the author of the graphic novels War Fix, War Is Boring and Machete Squad. This article was first published last year.
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