Supriya Ghosh (Editor)

Horizon class frigate

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Name  Horizon class
In service  2008
Horizon-class frigate
Builders  Horizon Sas (DCN, Thales, Fincantieri, Finmeccanica - Leonardo-Finmeccanica since 2016), Leonardo since 2017
Operators  French Navy  Marina Militare
Preceded by  Suffren class (France) Audace class (Italy)
Cost  - France €1.08 billions FY 2009 (~US$1.5b) - Italy € 1.5 billions FY2016

The Horizon class is a class of air-defence destroyers in service with the French Navy and Marina Militare.

Contents

The programme started as the Common New Generation Frigate (CNGF), a multi-national collaboration to produce a new generation of air-defence destroyers. In Italy the class is known as the Orizzonte class, which translates to "horizon" in French and English. The UK then joined France and Italy in the Horizon-class frigate programme; however, differing national requirements, workshare arguments and delays led to the UK withdrawing on 26 April 1999 and starting its own national project, the Type 45 destroyer.

The FREMM multipurpose frigate are currently under construction using the same company structure as the Horizon project.

Development

France, Italy and the UK issued a joint requirement in 1992 after the failure of the NATO Frigate Replacement for the 90s (NFR-90) project. The resulting CNGF programme consisted of the Horizon frigate and its Principal Anti Air Missile System (PAAMS).

Problems emerged almost immediately: the primary problem was that of differing requirements: France wanted anti-aircraft warfare (AAW) escorts for its aircraft carriers, but only a limited range was necessary due to the self-defence capability of Charles de Gaulle. Italy too required only close-range capabilities, as in its home waters of the Mediterranean Sea the ships would operate under Italian Air Force cover or escorts for its aircraft carrier Cavour. The Royal Navy, however, required more capable ships which could throw a large defensive "bubble" over a fleet operating in hostile areas. The compromise which largely solved this problem was the adoption of a standard radar interface which allowed France and Italy to install the EMPAR multi-function active electronically scanned array radar and the UK to install the more capable SAMPSON active electronically scanned array radar – the SAMPSON radar has a higher data rate and an adaptive beam that allows a greater ability to track multiple targets, long-range detection of low-RCS targets, a lower false-alarm rate, and overall higher tracking accuracy.

An international joint venture company (IJVC) was established in 1995 comprising the national prime contractors, DCN (France), GEC-Marconi (UK) and Orizzonte (Italy). In the period 1995–1996 significant arguments, changing requirements and technological problems led to the slippage of the in-service-date of the frigates to around 2006.

In early 1997 a disagreement emerged as to the choice of vertical launching system (VLS) for the PAAMS Aster missile. France and Italy favoured their own Sylver Vertical Launching System, while the UK was leaning toward the American Mk 41 – capable of firing the Tomahawk land attack missile. This issue was eventually resolved when the SYLVER launcher was selected by the PAAMS development team.

UK withdrawal

On 26 April 1999 the UK announced that it was withdrawing from the CNGF project to pursue its own national design. The Financial Times summarised the main disagreements between the partner countries; the UK wanted a large destroyer which could patrol large areas such as the Atlantic, compared to France's desire for smaller aircraft carrier escorts and Italy's intention to use them in the Mediterranean; secondly the UK wanted the ships with a wide-area defence capability, able to protect large numbers of ships rather than just protection from missiles targeted in the frigate's general direction; finally the UK's desire to see Marconi appointed as prime contractor was accepted by France, but only in return for DCN being given the role as prime contractor for the combat management system. The UK, which wished to see a BAE-led consortium given this role, would not accept this.

Summing up the changes from the original specification the UK's Chief of Defence Procurement is reported to have said "it's not common and it's not a frigate!". The resulting Type 45 destroyer is armed with the PAAMS missile system and has benefited from investment in the Horizon project.

Franco-Italian project

France and Italy continued their collaboration under the Horizon project. In September 2000, the two countries signed a contract to jointly produce four ships, ordering two ships each which would deploy the PAAMS missile system. The Italian Navy ordered two units, Andrea Doria and Caio Duilio, to replace the Audace-class destroyers. Andrea Doria was accepted on 22 December 2007 and received the flag of the Italian Navy. Full operation capability was achieved in the summer of 2008. The French Navy ordered two units, Forbin and Chevalier Paul to replace the Suffren-class carrier escorts. The project cost France €2.16bn (~US$3bn) at 2009 prices. A further two Horizons were cancelled; instead the two Cassard-class frigates were to be replaced by the FREDA air-defence variant of the Franco-Italian FREMM multipurpose frigate. However these plans were put in doubt by the 2013 French White Paper on Defence and National Security. France has bought forty Aster 15s and eighty Aster 30s for their ships. On the Italian units the three cannons will be upgraded to version 76/62mm Super Rapid Multi Feeding David/Strales with capacity to use the DART guided projectile in anti-missile role.

References

Horizon-class frigate Wikipedia


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