MADRID — The Spanish government has given the green light to its new generation of frigates after authorizing a first R&D contract of €135.3 million (US $150.3 million) to develop the F-110 series from 2015 until 2020.

"The purpose of this R&D contract is the implementation of three programs: develop the integration of sensors on the mast, the incorporation of new capabilities in the Scomba combat system and actuation and control of missile systems to be installed in future frigates F -110," official sources reported.

It is expected F-110 frigates will replace the six Santa María-class frigates (F-80) of the Spanish Navy from 2022 until 2030. Military sources reported the plan is to build five new frigates. This will be the major Spanish Navy military program in the next decade together with the construction of the S-80 class submarine.

"The main novelty of F-110 will consist on the integrated mast, where the communications system, radar, electronic warfare and optronics will be located. All in one, avoiding rotating elements," explained the same military source.

Missions at Sea 

This new F-110 frigates will operate in high-threat scenarios forming battle groups at sea or may act alone in areas near the coast.

Anti-aircraft, asymmetric warfare, maritime safety, naval power projection, military-civilian cooperation, deployment flexibility, hybrid propulsion and space for unmanned vehicles are features and missions that will be carried out by the Spanish Navy with these new frigates.

It will have a 24-cell Mk 41 vertical launch system for Standard or Sea Sparrow missiles and a 5-inch/62 caliber Mark 45 gun.

This new generation of Spanish frigates will be equipped with the Scomba combat system, developed by Navantia after the technology transfer agreements with Lockheed Martin during the former Álvaro de Bazán-class frigates (F-100) program.

The Spanish Navy also has five F-100 frigates equipped with the Lockheed Martin-developed Aegis combat system.

Built by Navantia

The F-110 frigates will be built by state-owned Navantia. Other Spanish companies like the defense systems producer Indra will also be involved in the project. This contract is seen as vital for the future Spanish shipbuilder, according to defense industry sources.

After some military exports with the Australia, Norway and Venezuela navies in the past decade, Navantia is now building two BAM ("Buque de Acción Marítima") offshore patrol vessels and the first S-80-class submarine for Spanish Navy.

Navantia is also on a contract short list for the Australian Ministry of Defense to build two auxiliary oil and replenishment ships.

The Spanish government boosts this new military program five months before the general elections and after eight years of economic crisis. The F-110 program has the support of the two major political parties (PP and PSOE).

The F-110 program is also considered as the core for Spanish military exports in the future. "This type of frigate could be appropriate to replace about 65 frigates or corvettes in internacional military markets in the decade of 2025-2035," said an official Spanish government source. "And of course, potential clients of Navantia will want a proven product by the Spanish Navy."