The European Organisation for Joint Armament Production (OCCAR) agency has said that a contract for a further two FREMM frigates in the “enhanced configuration” will be signed in July 2024, as the first of the Italian enhanced configuration vessels began its initial sea trials this month.

In a 16 May release by European OCCAR agency it was revealed that the Italian FREMM frigate Spartaco Schergat passed an inaugural voyage in early May before subsequently getting underway in the Gulf of La Spezia as it proceeds through the first stages in a series of trials to test key systems.

According to current plans, the ITS Spartaco Schergat will complete its sea trials by January 2025 and be delivered to the Italian Navy in April the same year. The vessel is the ninth Italian FREMM frigate and the first of the enhanced configuration, which sees additional capabilities added to the platform to provide increased multirole functions.

Italian Navy Bergamini-class guided-missile FREMM frigate ITS Alpino in the Mediterranean Sea in 2022. Credit: US Navy

OCCAR stated that the Italian FREMM programme is currently planning the launch of the tenth ship, the ITS Bianchi, on 25 May 2024, which is also in the enhanced configuration.

It is not known who the customer for two additional enhanced configuration FREMM frigates will be, with France and Italy both operating the type, as well as Egypt.

Italian Navy FREMM frigate programme

The FREMM frigates are a central element of the Italian Navy’s surface warfare capability, with eight vessels currently in service. The additional of two enhanced configuration warships will see the retirement of the two Maestrale-class ASW frigates in 2025.

According to GlobalData’s FREMM frigate project entry, in May 2006 OCCAR awarded the contract for the first two Italian FREMM frigates, the first of which was launched in July 2011 and delivered nearly two years later in May 2013. The second vessel of the class, Virginio Fasan, was launched in March 2012 and delivered in December 2013.

The Italian frigates are armed with the SAAM Aster 15 missile system for air-defence capability and also Teseo Mk2 (export version – Otomat Mk2) sea-skimming anti-ship missiles, both supplied by MBDA.

The French Navy Aquitaine-class anti-submarine FREMM frigate Langudoc operating in 2019, indicating the different styles the FREMM frigates can be finished with, dependent on national requirements. Credit: US Navy

Teseo Mk2 uses command-updated inertial guidance and has a range of up to 55km. Two DCNS Sylver A43 vertical-launch systems are also fitted to each ship.

Anti-submarine warfare capabilities include MBDA’s Milas all-weather ASW weapon system. A derivative of Otomat Mk2, Milas carries and releases a lightweight torpedo such as an MU-90 close to the designated hostile submarine.

Italian FREMM’s are equipped with the Thales Type 4110 hull-mounted sonar, while the dedicated ASW configured frigates are also equipped with Thales Type 4929 active very-low-frequency towed array sonars.

Fire control is provided by the EMPAR G-band multifunction phased-array radar from Selex Sistemi Integrati, while the vessel’s infra-red search-and-track (IRST) system is the Galileo Avionica silent acquisition surveillance system.