New Frigate Bidding Candidate: New Generation Floreal Frigate

Side view of the New Generation Floreal Frigate (NG2F). Photo courtesy of the STX brochure.
Side view of the New Generation Floreal Frigate (NG2F). Photo courtesy of the STX brochure.

I already made a couple of blogs about the candidates for the Philippine Navy’s New Frigate Acquisition Project, and I actually didn’t want to write another one. I figured that by this time the winner of the bidding would have been announced already and thus I would be writing about that instead. However, that has not happened, so here I am again writing about a “prospect” for our new Frigates.

In 2014, a Frigate of the French Navy, the Prarial, visited the country and its Commander Frederic Daumas confirmed that STX’s candidate for the bidding was an updated version of the Floreal Frigate.[1] I subsequently blogged about it,[2] but at that time I did not have clear information on the exact details of the upgraded ship that was being offered. However, in May of 2015 STX finally released an official brochure for the upgraded Floreal,[3] so using that as main reference it is now time to make a “reboot” of my previous blog.

’The NG2F’
The Floreal is a class of ships of the French Navy classified as “Light Surveillance Frigates”. These ships are relatively lightly armed compared to other ships of the same size and weight because they are optimized for long range, long duration patrols at sea. In my opinion, these ships could also be classified as “Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs)”. They were made by the Chantiers de l’Atlantique which is a business unit of STX France and first entered service with the French Navy in 1992. A total of eight ships were built for the class, six for France and two for Morocco.[4]

The upgraded version of the Floreal is called the New Generation Floreal Frigate, or NG2F for short. With a length of 101 m and a Breadth (or Width) of 15.5 m, it is longer by 8 m and wider by 1.5 m than the Floreal Frigate. Its displacement was not given, but its larger size means it will likely be heavier than the Floreal, probably above 3,000 tons as the Floreal only weighs between 2,600 to 3,000 tons. The NG2F has a Crew of 80 and a further allowance of 45 Special Personnel for a total of 125 people, which is an improvement to the total of 100 that the Floreal carries.

’Stealth Profile’
The biggest and most obvious difference between the Floreal and the NG2F is their appearance. While the Floreal had a rather plain and ordinary looking exterior (probably the reason for its limited success in the export market despite having a low price and excellent performance), the NG2F has a full “Stealth” profile which ironically was pioneered by another ship of the French Navy in the late 1990s, the La Fayette class Frigates.

This means that the NG2F has a very “clean” superstructure, it is enclosed as much as possible with the open spaces minimized and with lots of flat surfaces and angled sides. The number of protruding elements were also minimized, and a Wood and Glass Fiber composite material were also probably used wherever possible. All these features help reduce the ship’s Radar Cross Section (RCS) significantly, making it much harder to detect by radar compared to a conventional, non-stealthy ship of the same size and weight.

As a bonus these Stealth features also make the ship look sleeker and more modern, resulting in a much more aesthetically pleasing ship. This Stealth profile was actually not required by our Navy, but I think STX put it there in the hopes of attracting other buyers also for the ship.

The Stealth profile works only against Radar and not other sensors like ones that use Infra-Red (IR) for detection, for example, or against Sonar (Acoustic/Sound) sensors. Other countermeasures will have to be used against those, like cooling systems on the ship’s superstructures and funnel against IR sensors, or dampening systems for the ship’s engines and generators to reduce the vibration and sound that Sonar sensors could detect.

Not sure if those other countermeasure systems will be in place on the NG2F, no mention from STX about them, but I don’t think they will be as those will add complexity to the ship and thus will increase costs also, something that is not compatible with our limited budget. They are not part of the required specifications for the ship, anyway.

’Plumb Bow’
Another distinct feature of this ship is how its forward end, or “bow” is straight up or perpendicular to the waterline as opposed to the angled or “Raked” bow found on most of the ships in the world today. This vertical bow is called a “Plumb Bow”, and what it does is it reduces drag and improves the efficiency of the hull, maximizing its speed potential.

So for the same size and weight a ship with a Plumb Bow will be able to travel faster. Conversely, for a given speed, a ship with a Plumb Bow will require less effort and fuel to move and thus improving the ship’s range. This is why this feature is more commonly found in racing boats or ships.

But aside from speed, it seems that this Plumb Bow design also has benefits in reducing the RCS of a ship as STX and some other manufacturers are favoring it also for their latest stealth ship designs, like North Sea Boats with their Fast Attack Craft (FAC) Trimaran,[5] or CMN with their Ocean Eagle 43.[6] Some designs have even gone out to use not just a Plumb Bow, but Inverted Bows or bows that rake inwards towards the ship, like CMN’s C Sword 90,[7] for example, or Bath Iron Works with the USS Zumwalt Stealth Destroyer.[8]

The disadvantages of having a Plumb Bow is that it is a little less stable and it is a little less safe. In terms of safety, it doesn’t have a “Crumple Zone” before the submerged portion is hit during front-on collisions, unlike ships with the more conventional outwardly raked bows.[9] However, STX and the other manufacturers probably decided that these are acceptable compromises in favor of more speed and stealth.

’Weapon and Decoy Systems’
A striking aspect of the NG2F is just how close its specifications are in terms of equipment, weapons and performance to our Navy’s requirements. It’s almost as if STX copied and then pasted our Frigate specifications[10] into their brochure, strengthening the claim that this indeed is STX’s bet for our bidding. First let’s take a look at the NG2F’s listed Weapons and Decoy systems:
– Two twin Ship to Ship Missile (SSM) Launchers;
– Two twin Surface to Air Missile (SAM) Launchers;
– Two triple Lightweight Torpedo (LWT) Launchers;
– One 76 mm Main Gun;
– One 35 mm and one 25 mm Minor caliber Cannons;
– Four .50 caliber Machine Guns;
– Two twin ten round Decoy Launchers

Almost all of these are EXACTLY as per the requirements, except for first, the Decoy Launchers which the requirement is for only two twin triple launchers, but the illustration on the NG2F brochure shows one ten-round launcher on each side, exceeding the specs by a large margin.

Second, the SAM requirement is for a single quadruple launcher instead of two twin launchers, so it doesn’t meet the specifications, but I don’t think this is a serious issue and should be easily addressed by the manufacturer. Third, the requirement is only for one Stabilized minor caliber cannon as Close In Weapons System (CIWS), but they seem to be providing two and thus comfortably exceeding the specs.

Front view of the New Generation Floreal Frigate (NG2F) compared with the older Floreal vessel. Photo courtesy of the STX brochure.
Front view of the New Generation Floreal Frigate (NG2F) compared with the older Floreal vessel. Photo courtesy of the STX brochure.

A stealth ship needs a stealth gun, so the NG2F will likely be using the Oto Melara 76/62 Super Rapid (SR) which has a “Stealth Cupola” giving it a lower RCS than the older model Oto Melara 76/62 Compact cannons that our Jacinto and Del Pilar class ships are using. Other improvements that the SR has over the previous Compact model is a higher rate of fire (120 versus 80 rounds per minute) and a Muzzle Velocity Radar giving it better accuracy by inputting the actual velocity of the rounds as they leave the muzzle when computing for ballistic trajectory.

’Performance’
Next would be the NG2F’s performance:
– Maximum Speed is 25 knots;
– Maximum Range at 15 knots is 8,334 km

Again these specifications are exactly the same as per our requirement. But just a note on the ship’s range: The older Floreal Frigate actually had an exceptional range of 16,200 km at 15 knots, which is TWICE that of the NG2F. In this case, I think STX decided to just meet our minimum specs as a cost-saving measure rather than exceed it on their own, which is not a bad thing, of course. What we are looking for anyway is that it at least meets the specifications.

While the Floreal only had a maximum speed of 20 knots, the NG2F can run as fast as 25 knots, meeting the required specifications. This could be part of the reason for the NG2F’s larger size as the faster speed requirement needed the installation of bigger and more powerful engines.

‘Sensors’
As for the main Sensors of the NG2F:
– One 3D Air Search Radar (ASR) with Identity Friend or Foe (IFF) capability
– One X-band Surface Search Radar (SSR)
– One S-band SSR
– One Hull Mounted Sonar (HMS)
– One Towed Array Sonar (TAS)

Here STX seems to have been a bit more generous and decided to exceed the specifications for the Sensors. The specs called for just a 2D ASR (meaning can provide only Range and Bearing/Direction), but they decided to provide a 3D ASR (meaning can provide Range, Bearing/Direction AND Altitude) instead, which is more capable.

Aside from the Radar, the Sonar sensors also exceeds the requirement. The required is only for a HMS, but they decided to provide a TAS also, which is a big boost to the ship’s Submarine detection capabilities as a TAS is more effective than just an HMS, which is why it has now become a standard equipment for most of the new ships of the navies around the world today.

’Other Specifications’
The two other features of the NG2F that fits our specifications are for:
– One ten-ton Helicopter
– Two 7m long Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RHIB)

The RHIB requirement was for one that can hold ten passengers, and most RHIBs in the market now that are 7m long are able to hold at least that many passengers, so the NG2F meets this specification.

’Commercial Specifications’
The original Floreal vessel was made using Commercial specifications as opposed to Military specifications as a cost-cutting measure, and although it has not been stated by STX, this will likely be also the case for this ship as, after all, it is the New Generation Floreal Frigate. This will help STX meet our limited budget and also so it can compete with other shipbuilders with lower labor cost from countries like India or South Korea.

Ships made to Commercial specifications are made to conform to less standards, and the standards that they do need to conform to are less exacting that Military standards. As a result, they can be designed and made faster and easier, and that is how they are able to save on costs.[11]

One disadvantage of Commercial spec ships though is that they have less room for future growth since they are not designed to be as “dense” in terms of equipment and weapons as Miltary spec ships. For example, it may not be possible to add larger SAMs later should we decide to do so. But then again, space for future growth was not among the specifications for our new Frigates.

‘ASW Frigate’
I am particularly happy with the TAS, it will be a major leap in our Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) capability, I don’t think our Navy has ever had this kind of equipment before. Now match this with a good ASW Helicopter which is being bought along with these Frigates and you have a ship that has a pretty decent ASW capability, and thus it can be considered as an ASW Frigate.

Let’s face it, the requirement for Man Portable Air Defense System (MANPADS)-type SAMs means they will mainly be used for Self-Defence and will have very limited capability (if any) to defend other ships also, so no way it is an Anti-Air Warfare (AAW) ship; Its four SSMs are less than the standard load of eight for most Corvette and up sized vessels, and thus will be mainly used for defensive purposes only also rather than for offensive Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW). So ASW is this ship’s strongest suit, and because of that I would classify it mainly as an ASW Frigate.

’Parting Shot’
It’s a pity that STX did not specify exactly which models of equipment and weapons will be used and instead just gave general descriptions of them. Had they done so, this blog would have been a bit longer. But then again who knows, if they win and more details will be provided later then that means another blog for the Floreal, it will be the third for me.

In terms of looks alone, previously my favorite in this bidding was Navantia’s Avante 2200, but with this new revelation by STX then it definitely now is my personal favorite. It represents some of the latest trends in ship design, a step ahead of the original stealth profile pioneered by the La Fayette class Frigates a decade and a half ago.

If STX wins, we will have one of the most modern looking ships in all of the South East Asian navies. So good luck to them, I hope they can provide this ship at a low price and win the bidding. And I also hope that the Navy will finally announce the winner soon as the bidding is already two years and three months or 27 months old as of this writing …

Rear view of the New Generation Floreal Frigate (NG2F). Photo courtesy of the STX brochure.
Rear view of the New Generation Floreal Frigate (NG2F). Photo courtesy of the STX brochure.

SOURCES:

^[1] Try us, says visiting French Navy commander,
https://web.archive.org/web/20160607125946/http://globalnation.inquirer.net/103327/try-us-says-visiting-french-navy-commander

^[2] New Frigate Bidding Candidate: Upgraded Floreal-class,
https://web.archive.org/web/20160727012901/https://rhk111smilitaryandarmspage.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/new-frigate-bidding-candidate-upgraded-floreal-class/

^[3] New Generation Floreal Frigate brochure,
https://web.archive.org/web/20151223150530/http://www.stxfrance.com/references_fiches/46%20NEW%20GENERATION%20FLOREAL%20FRIGATE.pdf

^[4] Floréal Class Frigate, France,
https://web.archive.org/web/20160528062104/http://www.naval-technology.com/projects/florealclassfrigate/

^[5] DCNS XWind 4000 innovative concept ship unveiled at Euronaval 2014,
https://youtu.be/DqU2ib0iKOg

^[6] 63 m FAC Trimaran,
https://web.archive.org/save/_embed/http://www.northseaboats.com/en/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/63m-FAC-Trimaran.pdf

^[7] C Sword 90 – The Stealthy Corvette by CMN,
https://web.archive.org/web/20160427123935/https://cmn-group.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Corvette-C-Sword-901.pdf

^[8] DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class Page on Jeffhead,
https://web.archive.org/web/20150803092248/http://www.jeffhead.com/usn21/ddg1000.htm

^[9] Types of Bow Designs Used For Ships,
https://web.archive.org/save/_embed/http://www.marineinsight.com/naval-architecture/types-of-bow-designs-ships/

^[10] Philippine Navy Frigate Bidding Technical Requirements,
http://www.mediafire.com/view/cjw5782dz18176i/Bid(3)

^[11] Differences between Military and Commercial Shipbuilding – Rand Corp., https://web.archive.org/web/20160721031244/http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monographs/2005/RAND_MG236.pdf

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22 thoughts on “New Frigate Bidding Candidate: New Generation Floreal Frigate”

  1. thanks Sir RHK.. I enjoy reading with this new blog of your’s. Thank you for sharing. I hope and pray that bidding for this frigate will push through before Pnoy’s terms, otherwise we will knee on Chinese threat.

  2. If this ship will we built to commercial specs, then STX stands a chance against Hyundai, GRSE, and Navantia, but I still think that for 200M we should have asked for:

    2 quad SSM’s
    8 SAM’s

    I think you can fit that in a 200M budget, the 8 SAM’s, MANPADS to be exact are decent enough, the gun-CIWS can be upgraded in the future

  3. In my opinion, what the Philippines is looking for is something similar to what the Venezuelan Navy operates called the Guaiquerí-class patrol boat. It’s a light frigate and Navantia makes it. Here’s the link to the specs; Guaiquerí-class patrol boat

    Also, here’s the Youtube video on the Guaiquerí-class patrol boat that Navantia makes called the Navantia Avante 2400 Patrol boat/ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zUUFhTTkmsU

  4. Okay here’s an idea, it’s an Alternate Universe Philippine Navy,

    In the AUPN, we have

    Two Luzon-class Helicopter Carriers

    Philippine Navy version of the Dokdo-class carrying Sea Stallion helicopters, Chinooks, and AW-159’s with two RIM-116 RAM’s for self-defense both ships in active service, named BRP Luzon and BRP Visayas, a third ship BRP Mindanao is under construction

    Four Datu Lapu-Lapu-class AEGIS destroyers

    Based on the Flight 1 Arleigh Burke, the Datu Lapu-Lapu class is armed with 96-VLS cells carrying ESSM’s and Aster long-range missiles for air defense, it has a 127mm main gun, two 30mm secondary guns and eight MM-40 Exocet Missiles and Tomahawk missiles for surface warfare, the ship has AEGIS combat system and 3D search radar, the ship has Blue Shark torpedoes and has both TAS and HMS for ASW, unlike the Flight 1 Burke, the Datu Lapu-Lapu class do not carry a Phalanx CIWS and have a RIM-116 RAM instead, four ships are in active service namely BRP Datu Lapu-Lapu, BRP Andres Bonifacio, BRP Gregorio del Pilar, BRP Rajah Humabon and BRP Jose Rizal, the fifth ship, BRP Diego Silang is under construction

    Twelve Antonio Luna-class frigates

    The Antonio Luna-class is based on the Navantia LF-4000, the ships have a 16-cell VLS carrying 64 ESSM’s, eight Exocet MM-40’s, a 76mm main gun, a secondary 30mm gun and a RIM-116 RAM, the ship has a 3D radar, it has Blue Shark torpedoes and an HMS, with plans to install TAS in the future, twelve ships in service named BRP Antonio Luna, BRP Ramon Alcaraz, BRP Datu Kalantiaw, BRP Datu Sikatuna, BRP Francisco Dagphoy, BRP Emilio Jacinto, BRP Miguel Malvar, BRP Apolinario Mabini, BRP Artemio Ricarte, BRP Emilio Aguinaldo, BRP Datu Lakandula and BRP Sultan Kudarat

    Six Jose Andrada-class corvettes

    The Jose Andrada-class is based on the Navantia A2200C, it has an eight-cell VLS, 76mm main gun, two 30mm guns, eight Exocet MM-40’s and a Millenium Gun CIWs, six ships in service named, BRP Jose Andrada, BRP Conrado Yap, BRP Thomas Batillo, BRP Mariano Alvarez, BRP Liberto Picar and BRP Jesus Villamor

    Seven Tarlac-class LPD’s

    Tarlac-class LPD armed with 76mm main gun, two 30mm secondary guns, and RIM-116 RAM, seven ships in service named BRP Tarlac, BRP Malolos, BRP Bataan, BRP Corregidor, BRP Tacloban, BRP Cavitez and BRP Bulacan, one more ship under construction named BRP Manila

    SIx Bangus-class SSK’s

    Chang Bogo-class subs ordered by the PN

  5. Hi RHK,

    Since the procurement comes with it the design ownership and license, who do you think has the edge in it? I believe the French are not a fan of this type of deal. Am I right on this?

    1. Remember that the bidding will be for the LOWEST BIDDER that meets the specifications, so the edge will go to the supplier that can provide the lowest price, at least that’s how I understand it for now.

      As for the French, they will need to comply with the requirement even if they don’t like it if they want to stay in the bidding.

      However, the requirement is to either give the design to the Navy, or to allow License-building. Since they gave the suppliers an option, then most if not all will likely go for the license-build option. Also, the license-build option is pretty general, not much details. So the supplier can dictate the terms, they can make it more advantageous to them as much as possible …

  6. i enjoy reading your Blog sir RHK, but what if Navantia offer their LF 4000? I read from other blogs DND-PN will not includes ammo and others systems as fitted for but not with (future upgrades when budget comes) is 200m budget will take a chance to have a more capable ship? thanks

    1. I think the LF-4000 is too big, it’s even slightly bigger and heavier than our Del Pilar class of ships. Also because of the high cost of manufacturing by the European companies, I expect them to build smaller ships. I think that Navantia’s candidate will be somewhere between their Avante 2600 and the LF-4000 in size.

      As for the status of the weapons, frankly I have quite a hard time discerning them with this new revision because the weren’t very specific about it. But yes, it seems like only the Guns and the launchers for the missiles and torpedoes will be installed.

    2. Belay what I wrote earlier about the new Frigate’s weapons. I see two scenarios for them: First is that there will be NO WEAPONS with them, just like with our buy for the SSVs. The other scenario is that only the guns without ammo and missile launchers will be installed.

      The revised specifications is quite confusing when it comes to weapons, I wonder if they did that intentionally …

      1. sir RHK, I think the 76mm gun ammo is not a problem because we already have it maybe the missiles (surface and air) are those not included like buying our FA-50PH

      2. The thing is that in the previous specs, there was a phrase there that says, “… the guns shall be installed an integrated into the CMS …” but this was removed in the revised specs. So why did they remove it? It would have been clearer that the guns will really be installed if they retained that.

  7. RHK, The new specs for the Bidding says about awarding the PhN either will own the ships Design or have a license to manufacture and/or build using the design, Does this mean that either way we could continuously build the same specs/design or maybe upgrade it more without the PhN having trouble about the patent or anything that would prohibit us from doing so?

      1. But what happened to the armaments in the new bid? They left some blank in that department. And I’ve just red some of the articles that DND won’t include the missiles and what not, so maybe same thing would happen just like our FA-50 that only has canons on its arsenal, this is very disadvantageous to us.

        Thanks,

      2. It doesn’t look like they will include the armaments in the bidding for the Frigates. And it is not just them and the FA-50PH, but also the SSVs won’t have weapons. Hence it is important that we elect the right President this coming elections because if not, then all these new equipment that PNoy bought will continue to be weapon-less or will continue using outdated weapons …

      3. Why aren’t they (AFP-DND) include it on the bidding, is buying or installing armaments later after we have the ship much cheaper than the whole package? I don’t understand the whole scenario of these armament/weapon package. I’ll vote to the lesser evil person on the list of presidents thinking maybe Poe or Mar.

      4. I suspect it is because of cost, the budget may not be enough and they are hoping that the next President will increase it.

        But think positively. Who knows, with the US also electing a new President, maybe we are hoping that they will give us weapons instead. That is just speculation, of course.

        Yes, either Poe or Mar is okay.

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