VESSEL REVIEW | Alsace – French Navy frigate boasts improved air warfare weapon systems

Alsace (Photo: Naval Group)

The first in a new series of guided missile frigates with enhanced air defence capabilities was recently commissioned into service with the French Navy.

Named after the north-eastern French region that borders the Rhine River, Alsace belongs to the series of warships designated as European Multi-Mission Frigates (Fregate Europeenne Multimissions; FREMM). These frigates were designed and built jointly by French defence shipbuilder the Naval Group and Italian counterpart Fincantieri for their respective countries’ navies as well as export customers including Morocco, Egypt, and the United States (where the ships will be known as the Constellation-class in US Navy service).

Alsace and sister ship Lorraine are the final two frigates of the eight-strong Aquitaine-class, which are the FREMM variants that were designed to suit the specific requirements of the French Navy. However, unlike their six earlier sisters in French service, Alsace and Lorraine were built primarily as anti-air warfare (AAW) ships while still retaining some anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and anti-surface warfare (ASuW) capability. These two frigates have thus been given the additional designation “DA”, which stands for “Defense Aerienne” (“Air Defence”), to indicate their primary function.

Alsace has an LOA of 142 metres, a beam of 20 metres, a draught of 7.6 metres, a displacement of approximately 6,000 tonnes, and space for 119 crewmembers including 14 flight crews who will operate the ship’s embarked NH90 mult-role helicopter. An additional 46 personnel can also be accommodated onboard.

Photo: French Ministry of Armed Forces

A combined diesel-electric or gas turbine (CODLOG) propulsion arrangement that also includes MTU 4000 diesel engines propel the ship to a maximum speed of 27 knots, or enable it to sail 6,000 nautical miles at a cruising speed of 15 knots.

For the AAW role, the new frigate is equipped with a Thales Herakles multi-function radar that can detect airborne targets up to 300 kilometres away, reinforced communication tools, a Thales electro-optical fire control system, and three additional consoles for the Naval Group’s SETIS proprietary combat management system in the combat information center (CIC).

The ship’s main air defence armament consists of a battery of 32 MBDA Aster 15 or Aster 30 surface-to-air missiles housed in vertical launch cells. Other weapons include eight Exocet anti-ship missiles, MU90 torpedoes, a 76-millimetre naval gun, and three 20-millimetre autocannon on remote weapon stations.

The two FREMM-DA frigates’ main role will be to provide an added air defence capability for the French Navy’s aircraft carrier strike groups and amphibious warfare groups during operational deployments. It is in this capacity that Alsace and sister ship Lorraine, which is nearing completion, will replace the French Navy’s two Cassard-class AAW frigates that have been in service since the late 1980s.

Type of vessel: Air defence frigate
Flag: France
Owner: French Navy
Designers: Naval Group, France; Fincantieri, Italy
Builder: Naval Group, France
Length overall: 142 metres
Beam: 20 metres
Draught: 7.6 metres
Displacement: 6,000 tonnes
Main engines: 2 x MTU 4000
Maximum speed: 27 knots
Cruising speed: 15 knots
Range: 6,000 nautical miles
Radar: Thales Herakles
Other electronics: Thales electro-optical fire control system; Naval Group SETIS combat management system
Armaments: 32 x Aster surface-to-air missiles; 8 x Exocet anti-ship missiles; MU90 torpedoes; 76mm naval gun; 3 x 20mm autocannon
Type of fuel: Diesel
Crew: 119

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