Naval Group Delivers FREMM Frigate Lorraine to France's Defence Procurement Agency
Naval Group Delivers FREMM Frigate Lorraine to France's Defence Procurement Agency

Naval Group Delivers FREMM Frigate Lorraine to France’s Defence Procurement Agency

Naval Group handed over Lorraine (D657) for the French Navy – to France’s defence procurement agency Direction générale de l’armement (DGA) during a ceremony at the French naval base in Toulon on 16 November. Lorraine (D657) is an Aquitaine-class frigate of the French Navy which were developed through the FREMM multipurpose frigate program. She is the second of two air-defence variants of the class known as FREMM DA (Frégate Européenne Multimissions de Défense Aérienne) in the program. Formally laid down in 2019, the frigate Lorraine was launched at the Lorient shipyard on 13 November 2020. She began sea trials in February 2022 and was delivered to the French Navy on 16 November 2022. In late 2022 she began a period of testing and exercises prior to being accepted into full operational service.

The FREMM (French: Frégate Européenne Multi-Mission; Italian: Fregata Europea Multi-Missione), which stands for “European multi-purpose frigate”, is a Franco-Italian family of multi-purpose frigates designed by Naval Group and Fincantieri. In France, this surface combatant is known as the “Aquitaine class”, while in Italy it is known as the “Bergamini class. The lead ship of the class, Aquitaine, was commissioned in November 2012 by the French Navy. Italy has ordered six general purpose and four anti-submarine variants. France, on the other hand, has ordered six anti-submarine variants and two air-defense ones. The FREMM has also been exported to various countries. Notably, the United States Navy selected a FREMM variant for their new Constellation class of 20 frigates, to be built by Fincantieri, starting with a $795 million contract for the lead ship.

France Navy Aquitaine-class FREMM frigate Lorraine (D657)

Original plans were for 17 FREMM to replace the nine D’Estienne d’Orves-class avisos and nine anti-submarine frigates of the Tourville and Georges Leygues classes. In November 2005 France announced a contract of €3.5 billion for development and the first eight hulls, with options for nine more costing €2.95 billion split over two tranches. Following the cancellation of the third and fourth of the Horizon-class frigates in 2005 on budget grounds, requirements for an air-defence derivative of the FREMM called FREDA were placed. Expectations were that the last two ships of the 17 FREMM planned would be built to FREDA specifications; however, by 2008 the plan was revised down to just 11 FREMM (9 ASW variants and 2 FREDA variants) at a cost of €8.75 billion. The 11 ships would cost €670 million each in FY2014, or €860m including development costs.

The 2014–2019 defence plan restated a target of 11 frigates; of which six ASW FREMM variants would be delivered to replace the Georges Leygues-class frigates by 2019, followed by two anti-air variants to replace the ageing Cassard-class frigates and a decision was to have been taken in 2016 on what version the remaining three would be. In 2014, the French Navy’s Chief of Staff, Admiral Bernard Rogel, confirmed that 11 FREMM frigates had been ordered but in 2015 the order was cut to 8 in order to allow for the introduction of five FTI mid-Size frigates from 2024. The FTI will replace the La Fayette class in “first-rank” roles, with three of the La Fayettes also being fitted with active sonar and other improvements so as to extend their service life into the early 2030s. On 16 April 2021 the French Navy received Alsace, the first of the two air defence FREMM frigates ordered.

The primary role of the naval vessel is planned to be conducting the anti-aircraft defense of critical units such as the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle and Mistral class landing helicopter docks. Alsace and Lorraine retain most of the armaments and sensors of their ASW sister ships within the FREMM class. However, the ships have enhancements related to air defence including a more powerful Thales Herakles multi-function radar with more transmitter modules and additional wave-forms and search modes for long range air defence. The ships also incorporate Sylver A50 vertical launch systems permitting them to carry both MBDA Aster 15 and/or 30 surface-to-air missiles. On the two AAW variants, the Sylver A70 launch systems (used for land-attack cruise missiles on the ASW variants) are removed to provide space for fitting double the number of A50 cells for Aster SAMs.