PARIS — The Directon Générale de l’Armement took delivery July 18 of the fifth multimission frigate, marking a step toward an eight-strong fleet that will be the “backbone” of the French Navy, the defense procurement office said.

“The Directon Générale de l’Armement (DGA) received July 8, 2018, the Brétagne frigate, the fifth FREMM multimission frigate for the French Navy,” the ministry said in a July 25 statement.

This anti-submarine version of the Franco-Italian cooperative FREMM program will renew the French frigate fleet with “eight ships, which will make up the backbone of the surface fleet,” the ministry said.

The FREMM frigate — designed, developed and built by French shipbuilder Naval Group — is the only European warship armed with a naval cruise missile, the ministry said.

A French frigate fired naval cruise missiles for the first time in a campaign with the U.K. and the U.S. in a missile strike against Syria in April.

Under the 2019-2025 defense budget law, a sixth anti-submarine frigate, the Normandie, is due to be delivered in 2019, the ministry said. The last two warships in the FREMM program, the Alsace and the Lorraine, are to be handed over respectively in 2021 and 2022. The latter two will be air defense versions.

The French frigate program has been a cash drain, according to The French Institute for Research on Public Administration and Politics. A report from the think tank published last February estimated a unit price of €800 million to €1 billion (U.S. $936 million to U.S. $1.2 billion) for eight warships.

In 2008, the FREMM budget was €8.5 billion when the program then consisted of 17 frigates, with a unit price of €500 million. Successive governments cut the program to the present eight vessels, leading to a “cost explosion,” the report said.

Work on the FREMM assures a large volume of work out to 2022 for Naval Group at Lorient, western France, as well as many subcontractors, mainly small and medium enterprises, the ministry said. The first two FTI intermediate frigates are due to enter service by 2025 and three La Fayette frigates are to be upgraded, the ministry said.

Much of the work on the Lafayette will be to add an anti-submarine capability.