by DAVID AXE
BAE Systems has released the first artist’s impressions of the planned Future Surface Combatant for the Royal Navy. The British government has awarded the U.K. defense contractor a 3.4-million-pound contract for initial design work on the vessel, which is intended to replace the existing Type 22 and Type 23 frigates beginning in around a decade.
The FSC will have a lot in common with the U.S. Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ship. BAE’s concept art depicts a vessel with the “stealth lines and … other capabilities inherent in USS Freedom,” according to Iain Ballantyne, writing in Warships International Fleet Review. Like the American LCS, FSC will have a huge flight deck, with room for a large helicopter plus vertical-takeoff robots. The two designs both feature stern ramps for quickly launching small boats.
Where FSC and LCS differ is in hull form and “modularity.” The U.S. Navy is experimenting with the mono-hull Freedom as well as the trimaran USS Independence and will pick one for the full production run of more than 50 Littoral Combat Ships. The Royal Navy built a trimaran demonstrator, RV Triton, in the 1990s and found it “clearly not persuasive,” Ballantyne wrote. FSC will be mono-hull.
Also, LCS is built to accomodate different mission modules, in theory allowing a single ship to rapidly switch between anti-sub, anti-mine and surface patrol missions. FSC will probably be hard-wired for its missions, reflecting the European preference.
The Royal Navy wants at least 17 FSCs for anti-sub and patrol missions. The class could also gain air-defence missiles to help protect the two large aircraft carriers under construction. To keep the RN’s current frigates in service until the FSC is ready, several frigates are getting life extensions out to 30 years or more.