LONDON ― BAE Systems is officially gunning for the U.S. Navy’s new frigate program with its new Type 26 frigate now in production in the U.K.
Company officials confirmed Thursday it had responded to the U.S. Navy’s request for information and were in talks with unspecified companies in the states about how it would build the ship for the FFG(X) program, according to a BAE official who spoke on background to discuss early developments.
“In terms of the technical requirements, its a good fit. ... We responded to the RFI and we’re confident its a pretty good fit,” the official said.
The Type 26, designed primarily as an anti-submarine ship, is competing hard for both the Canadian and Australian frigate programs. Anti-submarine warfare is a key requirement for FFG(X), which BAE thinks gives its frigate an edge. The design also incorporates a large mission bay that can be used as flex space for mission modules.
“The Type 26 is at the start of life, it‘s a new design and meets the new standards, and it‘s got adaptability built in,” the official said.
The ship’s mast could be reconfigured to support Raytheon’s Enterprise Air Surveillance Radar and will have enough power, space and cooling to support other requirements the Navy is looking to incorporate.
While the Type 26 incorporates or can adapt to virtually all the capabilities outlined in July’s RFI, including 36 vertical launching system cells and Mark 41 VLS launchers, the ship might be too rich for the Navy’s blood, according to Bryan Clark, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and a former aid to former Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert.
“I think they‘re leaning to something with a little less capability that will be a bit more economical,” Clark said.
The British Royal Navy recently inked a deal for the first three Type 26 frigates worth £3.7 billion (U.S. $4.9 billion). That cost averages to just a little less than an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, though that’s not a perfect metric because the costs would be different for a U.S. version.
Still, the Navy isn’t looking to buy a ship that compete’s for missions with the destroyer, said Rear Adm. Ron Boxall in an exclusive interview with Defense News in July.
“We don’t want the ship to be so big that it competes with the destroyer. We want this to be part of the high-low mix,” Boxall said. “So ensuring we get those capabilities at the best value is important.”
But the ship faces other headwinds as well, Clark said, because some of the competing designs already have ships they can show the Navy, whereas BAE Systems just cut steel for the first Type 26 this summer.
“The problem they‘re facing is the rest of [their competitors] have ships that actually exist,” Clark said. “You look at Fincantieri‘s FREMM, there are already hulls in the water you can point to. [Huntington Ingalls] can point to the National Security Cutter and say: ‘We could offer a modified version of this for the frigate.’
“The Navy made a big deal in the rollout of the RFI that it was looking for ‘proven designs,’ which likely means they‘re looking for ships that already exist.”
David B. Larter was the naval warfare reporter for Defense News.