US Naval Forces Plan to Design a New Cruiser

According to the draft of the US defense budget for the fiscal year 2021 (starting on October 1, 2020) sent by the US Department of Defense to legislative institutions, a five-year program for designing a "Next generation heavy surface combat cruiser"  is planned to be launched. That was reported by the American web resource Military Watch.

What Is a Project?

According to the budget documents, the design of the new cruiser will be based on “older proven technologies” that will be integrated “into a new hull design”. The new design has to implement the concept of platform flexibility and growth opportunities to correspond to possible future fleet system requirements. The US Naval Forces are requesting $ 46.45 million for a new ship design program in fiscal 2021 and about $ 150 million for fiscal 2022.

In the past 30 years, the US Naval Forces have repeatedly launched design programs for large surface ships of a cruising class, but none of them has reached practical implementation. However, at present, the American fleet is faced with the need to find a replacement for the Ticonderoga-class cruisers that were launched from the Navy, built in the 1980s and early 1990s, as well as with the requirements to create a promising ship instead of the Zumwalt-class destroyers, the construction program of which was limited to three units.

New Switch: What is the New Role of the Zumwalt?

Experts from the US Naval Institute have decided to change the destiny of the new Zumwalt class destroyers ⏤ now they can be used as command ships. Initially, the Zumwalt destroyers had to become the main player in the American fleet, but due to the financial problems, now such a mission could not be completed. It was planned to order 32 ships for a fleet, but now this number fell to three.

As it was mentioned above, Zumwalt had to become the main destroyer which had to perform many functions. The list of tasks included supporting ground operations with missile strikes to hunting enemy ships and submarines, destroying enemy aircraft, etc.

Thanks to the unusual design of the hull, high rates of radar stealth have to be provided by the use of composite materials. Besides, the US Department of Defense expected that the destroyer would become a platform for installing a new generation of weapons. So increased firepower has to be installed on Zumwalt ships.

But the fact that the price for construction had been constantly increasing, made the Pentagon change its mind. Therefore, it was decided that it was impossible to implement the project in the form in which it was originally presented.

A radical revision of the plan for their production influenced  the modest number of serial ships. Initially, the Pentagon expected to receive 32 Zumwalt-class ships. It was concluded when the project was approved in the early 1990s. However, the next order comprised 24 units, while the US Department of Defense reduced the production plan to seven units in the mid-2000s. And the final reduction brought a new number which is equal only to three units of the Zumwalt program.

Obviously, such actions were done only because of the extremely high cost of the project. According to USNI, the cost of building one ship increased from $ 1.4 billion to $ 4 billion. If we look at the numbers of 2017, we will see that the estimated cost of three destroyers was equal to $ 12.73 billion (in 2009 ⏤ $ 8.9 billion). As a result, the total investment in the Zumwalt program totaled $ 22.5 billion.

Project FFG (X): New Frigate in the US Navy

On April 30, 2020, it was announced that a group of Italian naval design firm Fincantieri Marinette Marine had won a contract to design and build a new-generation US Navy frigate, now called Project FFG (X). By the way, this Italian group hires all kinds of engineers around the world. They can be in charge of coming up with the main stages of design of an aircraft wing , developing software, designing engines, etc.

The project of the new frigate FFG (X) is about finding the right balance between the requirement to achieve certain numerical values ​​for the US Navy and the restrictions imposed on the budget allocated to the fleet. Moreover, the US Naval Forces fall back to global engineering services to come up with the most professional team for a project. By the way, global engineering design services at Engre platform could be considered to be the highest quality. Thus, a new generation frigate as part of the US Navy can become the basis for maintaining a reliable forward presence of the US Navy at the sea ends of Eurasia.

The FFG (X) project is a clear acknowledgment of the failure of the program to create a class of the latest so-called "Coastal"  ships (LCS). FFG (X) is intended to replace the unsuccessful littoral ships, the construction program of which, due to the high cost and criticism for insufficient survivability and firepower, was reduced from the planned 52 ships to 35.

The Franco-Italian multi-purpose frigate FREMM was proposed as a prototype for the FFG (X). To meet the US Navy's survivability and growth potential requirements, the FFG (X) at a full displacement of 7,400 tons will be several hundred tons heavier and about seven meters longer than the Franco-Italian FREMM prototype. The FFG (X) hull will be 496 feet (151.18 m) long, 65 feet (19.81 m) wide, and have a draft of 26 feet (7.92 m). Speed ​​- 26+ knots.

For the US Navy, the FFG (X) is a "small" surface warship. However, given the design requirements, the FFG (X) will become one of the largest modern frigates in the world. According to the accepted classifications, FFG (X) should rather be attributed not to frigates, but destroyers. In practice, FFG (X) will become a smaller Arleigh Burke (DDG-51). For comparison, the total displacement of an Arleigh Burke-class URO destroyer is 8,448, 9,073, and 9,648 tons for series I, II, and IIa, respectively. The displacement of the littoral ship LCS is from 3,000 to 3,500 tons.