ROME — The Italian Navy is considering changing the design of some of its planned PPA multifunctional ships to make them smaller, and to possibly give them an anti-submarine capability, an Italian source has told Defense News.

The seven vessels were ordered as part of a €5.4 billion (U.S. $6.3 billion) package to replace a range of aging vessels in the Navy’s fleet. Three are already under construction by Italian shipyard Fincantieri, with preparations to build the fourth underway.

But planners may go back to the drawing board for the last three vessels, as mission priorities change, said the source, who has knowledge of the program’s developments.

Plans for the vessels were first drawn up when the Navy was run by Adm. Giuseppe de Giorgi, who opted to bring a sizable amount of design work in house, where service planners decided to build the PPA vessels large, reasoning that they would cover more missions.

Today, the vessels weigh in at about 6,000 tons. That is not as big as Italy’s 6,700-ton FREMM frigates, but far larger than the vessels they will replace, which displace about 2,000 tons and less.

PPA vessels are also the same length as the FREMMs, measuring about 146 meters long and 16.5 meters wide, just 3 meters narrower than the FREMMs.

That makes the PPAs too large to dock at certain ports in Sicily where they would be used in migrant-monitoring missions, the number of which have risen in recent years.

Now, with a new Navy chief, Valter Girardelli, at the helm, plans are under consideration to turn the last three PPAs into 3,000-ton patrol ships. Planners are also reevaluating the need for an anti-submarine capability, noting that eight ASW ships are now being retired, while there are only four FREMM frigates with an ASW configuration.

A second option is to turn the last three PPAs into 4,500-ton ASW ships. By making them smaller, four vessels would be purchased with the same funding as the three larger PPA vessels, the source said.

Tom Kington is the Italy correspondent for Defense News.

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