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.