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Upgrading the Classic FFG for Modern Combat

Mar. 27, 2014 - 03:45AM   |  
By CHRISTOPHER P. CAVAS   |   Comments
The Gelibolu is one of eight former US Navy frigates operated by the Turkish Navy.
The Gelibolu is one of eight former US Navy frigates operated by the Turkish Navy. (Christopher P. Cavas / Staff)
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DOHA, QATAR — The Oliver Hazard Perry guided missile frigates are one of the most numerous warships classes built since World War II. The first ships entered service in the 1980s, but many still serve under the flags of other nations, all of whom are intensely interested in keeping these vintage ships as effective as possible.

With the last of the ships scheduled to leave US service by the fall of 2015, even more Perrys — commonly known as FFGs, or “figs” — will become available for foreign transfer and hence, in need of upgrades.

At the forefront of the FFG modernization effort is Havelsan. The Turkish electronics and systems development firm is upgrading all eight of Turkey’s ex-US Navy FFGs, and is seeking to sell its combat system expertise to other countries operating similar ships.

Havelsan has a tentative agreement to upgrade Bahrain’s single FFG, said Serdar Müldür, the company’s vice president for command, control and combat systems, and is awaiting funding.

Havelsan, Müldür said, also has surveyed the Pakistani Alamgir, the country’s lone FFG, and the company has a contingency agreement with Pakistan to upgrade the ships should more frigates be transferred.

The company also has held talks with FFG operators Poland and Thailand, Müldür said March 27 at the Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition (DIMDEX) in Qatar.

Havelsan’s FFG upgrade program is marketed as the Genesis Combat Management System. The upgrades include not only sensors but also weapons, all integrated into a central command system.

“We integrate not only existing sensors, but also replace old systems, such as the SPS-49 air search radars that come with the former US ships,” Müldür said. The Thales Smart-S three-dimensional radar is replacing old SPS-49s on Turkish ships.

All eight of Turkey’s frigates were upgraded by 2012 with the Genesis systems, but replacement of the air search radars has not been completed.

Genesis can handle more upgrades, including installation of the Phalanx Block 1 close-in weapon system; integration of Rolling Airframe Missiles (RAM) or SeaRAM systems; the Swarmbuster initiative, which provides close-in weapon system or Genesis targeting information to the ship’s 76mm guns; sonar upgrades; and addition of an automatic torpedo launch capability.

Other systems that can be installed or integrated with the Genesis system, Müldür said, include Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, 40mm guns and new 76mm guns.

'A Better Ship'

Standing in the combat information center (CIC) of the Turkish frigate Gelibolu, the former USS Reid, Lt. J.G. Ihsan Asiler proudly showed off the Genesis upgrades to visitors aboard the ship March 27 at DIMDEX. For comparison, a large picture of the ship’s pre-Genesis CIC was up on the space’s largest display screen.

“All these consoles are new,” Asiler said, sweeping his hand around the room. “All new displays, with multichannel work stations replacing the old dedicated consoles.”

Gone are the old mono-chromatic display screens, replaced with high-resolution digital displays. The ship’s old UYK-7 computers, able to track up to 64 targets, have been replaced with modern, commercial off-the-shelf processors able to track thousands of targets.

“Genesis is a very user-friendly system,” said Asiler, electronic warfare officer of the Gelibolu. The system easily integrates weapons, sensors and electronic warfare systems, he said.

Lt. Cmdr. Mehmet Sumer, the ship’s principal warfare officer, agreed.

“Building a common operating picture with the old system could be confusing,” Sumer said. “That’s not true now.

“Because of Genesis, this is a much better ship.” ■

Email: ccavas@defensenews.com.

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