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France lays keel for first FDI frigate

French FDI frigate under construction
Photo: Naval Group

French shipbuilder Naval Group held a keel laying ceremony at its Lorient yard on December 16 to mark the start of assembly of the first “defense and intervention” (FDI) frigate for the French Navy.

This step marks the beginning of the assembly of the ship in the construction hall. The frigate will be delivered in 2024. It is the first of a series of five ships to be delivered between 2024 and 2030.

On the same day, the Panoramic Sensors and Intelligence Module (PSIM), the integrated mast of the FDI, was also powered up. This milestone symbolizes the start of the testing of the frigate’s complete combat system, several months before its final integration on the ship.

France is building five FDI frigates in accordance with the commitments of its 2019-2025 military programming law, which will see the navy operate 15 first-rank frigates. The FDIs will join eight FREMM- and two Horizon-class frigates already in service.

Naval Group touts the 4,500-ton FDI as a “digitized” frigate that will feature a cybersecurity management systems and benefit from digital production processes. The FDI will be the first French frigate natively protected against cyber threats, with a data center accommodating a great part of the ship applications. The FDI introduces the concept of a dedicated system for asymmetric threats warfare, distinct from the operation room. Located behind the bridge, it will lead asymmetrical warfare against air and surface threats such as mini-UAVs or tricked boats.

“We are proud to be here today to mark this major milestone in the industrial production of the first FDI frigate for the French Navy. These multi-role, cyber-secure and scalable ships will ensure the superiority of information and engagement as well as the ability to last at sea of the naval forces that will operate them,” Pierre Eric Pommellet, CEO of Naval Group, said.

In addition to France, the FDI frigate is being acquired by Greece under an agreement from September this year. The Hellenic Navy is expected to receive three FDI frigates, with options for the purchase of additional ships.

Photo: Naval Group

The first of the five frigates for the French Navy will be named Amiral Ronarc’h, after an admiral who served as Chief of Staff of the French Navy between 1919 and 1920. He distinguished himself during the First World War as the head of marines and sailors.

According to shipbuilder specifications, FDI will displace 4,500 tons, measure 122 meters in length and have a maximum speed of 27 knots. It will be crewed by 125 sailors, in addition to 28 passengers, and will have an autonomy of 45 days.

FDI frigates will carry Exocet MM40 B3C anti-surface missiles, Aster 15/30 anti-air missiles, MU90 antisubmarine torpedoes, in addition to artillery. They will also be capable of embarking a 10-ton class helicopter and an unmanned aerial vehicle simultaneously. They can also accommodate special forces detachments with two commando boats.