MBDA Settles FREMM Frigate Missile Specifications



French industry has locked down the missile specifications of an air defense model of the FREMM multimission frigate in talks with Greece and is embarking on negotiations on industrial cooperation, industry executives said.

Despite the budgetary crisis assailing Athens, industry executives hope the Greek Navy will sign for the FREMM warship in 2012. Talks have centered on an order for four ships and options for two more.

Missile maker MBDA would supply a total 56 surface to air missiles on the air defense frigate proposed to the Greek authorities.

In the configuration proposed, the long range Aster 30 missiles would be housed in three Sylver A50 launchers and a Sylver A70 launcher in the front of the ship, Stéphane Bertuzzi, MBDA head of naval systems told journalists here. In addition, the vertical launch Mica missile would be housed in six Sylver A35 launchers at the rear.
"This is what we've proposed to the Greek Navy," Bertuzzi said.

In the French Navy anti-submarine warfare version of the FREMM, the A70 launcher would be used for the Scalp cruise missile, giving a deep strike capability of 1,000 kilometers.

MBDA builds the Aster and Mica missiles, while DCNS builds the Sylver launchers. Thales builds the seekers in the missiles as well as the Herakles 3D radar and Artemis infrared search and track sensor which are used to cue the weapons. 

The missile company has found it hard going to sell the Aster 30 missile in export markets, encountering price resistance. "Customers are asking for the Aster 30 but they can only afford the VL Mica," an executive said.

A French Navy officer on board the Chevalier Paul air defense destroyer said Greek Navy officers recently visited the Horizon class warship and were impressed by its capabilities. "They said they wanted this ship for the same price as the FREMM," the officer said. 

Discussions with the Greek authorities on the FREMM are held every two weeks and are led by the Direction Générale de l'Armement (DGA) procurement office. "Everything is on track," a DCNS official told journalists here ahead of the Euronaval trade show which opens Oct. 25.

French executives believe the budgetary and political situation in Greece may have calmed down in 2012, and the need to maintain employment in local shipyards will help the government to sign a contract for the warships. 

The talks on industrial cooperation are key as Greece expects to obtain a high level of local assembly of the FREMM frigate in domestic yards, an industry executive said.
Italy, which had been in the running to offer its version of the FREMM, is understood to have bowed out of the competition, ceding the ground to the French.

DCNS has 12 FREMM ships on the orderbooks, 11 for the French Navy, down from an initial planned 17-ship buy, while Morocco has bought one FREMM.

The company five years ago invested 15 million euros in adding to production facilities here in anticipation of the full build out of the 17 French ships. DCNS has slowed production to one ship per 10 months instead of seven months but can pick up the rate to one every seven months if export orders are won. 

Exports of the FREMM are needed to make up for the cancellations in the national program. France is also trying to sell the frigate to Brazil and Saudi Arabia.
The Moroccan FREMM is based on the French Navy's version, with little modification, but is widely seen as a consolation prize for Paris after Rabat bought the Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter instead of the Rafale from Dassault Aviation. 

DCNS launched April 29 the first of class Aquitaine and has started building the Normandie, the second in the series for the French Navy. 

President Nicolas Sarkozy visited the Aquitaine here in May and departed from a prepared speech to describe himself as a member of the DCNS sales team as he insisted on the importance of France maintaining an industrial manufacturing capability.

The focus on the industrial and commercial side discomfited the senior Navy officers present as they saw that as undercutting the president's status as commander in chief and the significance to the service of the Aquitaine as the first of class in a new generation of warships.

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