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The French Navy’s La Fayette Class multipurpose stealth frigates were developed by DCN International (now DCNS) and built at the DCN Lorient Naval Dockyard. The French Navy awarded DCN the contracts to construct the La Fayette (F710), Surcoef (F711) and Courbet (F712) frigates in 1988, and Aconit (F713) and Guepratte (F714) in 1992.
The lead ship, La Fayette, was commissioned in 1996 and the last, Guepratte, was commissioned in November 2001. DCN have also built an anti-submarine warfare version for Taiwan (Kang Ding) and an anti-air version for Saudi Arabia (F3000S) under the Sawari II programme. All three have been launched and the first, Al Riyadh, was commissioned in July 2002.
Singapore has ordered six Project Delta stealth frigates, also based on the La Fayette, called the Formidable Class, which entered into service by 2009. The first, RSS Formidable, built in France, was launched in January 2004 and commissioned in May 2007. RSS Intrepid was launched in July 2004, RSS Steadfast was launched in January 2005 and RSS Tenacious was launched in July 2005. All three were commissioned in February 2008. RSS Stalwart was launched in December 2005 and RSS Supreme in May 2006. Both were built by Singapore Technologies Marine and commissioned in January 2009.
The La Fayette Class incorporates a number of stealth features – the sides of the vessel are sloped at 10° to minimise radar cross section, surfaces have been coated in radar-absorbent paint and the profiles of external features have been reduced.
In January 2011, DCNS won a contract worth $80m to provide through-life support (TLS) services to five French frigates at Toulon naval base. The maintenance contract is for five years from 2011 to 2015.
Command and control
The combat data system is the Thales (formerly Thomson-CSF) TAVITAC 2000 system and the OPSMER command support system is also fitted.
The main gun fire control system is DCNS’s CTM system which is supported by the Castor radar, an infrared tracking system and laser rangefinder. Sagem’s TDS 90 optronic target designation sight is also fitted.
The ship’s surface-to-surface missile is the Exocet MM40 from MBDA (formerly EADS Aerospatiale). Two four-cell launchers are installed in a midship position between the two masts. The anti-ship missile has a range of 70km and approaches the target in sea skimming mode at high subsonic speed, approximately 0.95 Mach. The 165kg shaped charge warhead has time delayed impact proximity fuses.
The French Navy has awarded MBDA a contract for the Exocet MM40 Block 3 missile to be deployed on vessels from 2006. The Block 3 missile will have a new turbojet propulsion system which will give a range extended to 180km.
The ship’s surface-to-air missile system is the Thales Crotale Naval CN2. The system employs the VT-1 missile with a range of 13km and speed of Mach 3.6. The guidance is by command line of sight with radar and infra-red homing. 24 missiles are carried. The frigates may be upgraded with the vertical launch system (VLS) and Aster 15 missile from Eurosam and associated Thales Arabel fire control radar. Sixteen missiles will be carried.
The ship’s main gun on the bow deck is the DCNS 100mm which fires a 13.5kg shell to a range of 16km. The gun has a firing rate of 80 rounds a minute. Two 20mm model 20F2 guns from Giat are installed with a firing rate of 720 rounds a minute to a range of 10km.
The frigate has a flight deck at the stern with a single landing spot, for use by 10t helicopters such as AS 565 MA Panther, SA 321G Super Frelon or NH 90. The flight deck can be used up to Sea State 6.
The Thales ARBR 21 (DR 3000S) radar warning receiver, operating in D to K bands, is mounted at the top of the main mast. A Thales ARBB33 jammer operates at H, I and J bands.
Two Sagem Défense Sécurité (formerly EADS Defence & Electronics) Dagaie chaff and flare launching systems are installed on the gun deck aft of the bridge.
The Sea Tiger mk2 air- and surface-search radar from Thales is mounted on the top of the second platform mast. Sea Tiger operates at E and F bands and the range is over 100km. The Thales Castor 2J, operating at J band, is a fire control radar with a range of over 15km. The Crotale fire control radar operates at J band. Two model 1229 navigation and helicopter control radars from Thales Defence operate at I band.
The propulsion system is a Combined Diesel and Diesel (CODAD) arrangement. The system is based on four SEMT Pielstick 12 PA6 V 280 STC diesel engines, rated at 21,000hp. Two shafts drive controllable pitch propellers. The ship is fitted with a bow thruster. The propulsion system provides a maximum speed of 25kt and, at an economical speed of 12kt, the range is 9,000nm.
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