Surface Forces: May 29, 2005


: Who has the best frigate class ships? This is a tough question, because frigates these days come in a number of different forms. Some of the most modern frigates today have become very capable multi-mission ships, a contrast with the original  frigates, which were  considered an evolved destroyer escort, a World War II design intended for escorting convoys and hunting submarines.

Many of the modern designs have come out of Europe. For instance, lets look at Germanys Sachsen-class frigates. These ships displace 5,690 tons, reach a top speed of 53 kilometers per hour, have a 32-cell vertical-launch system with a mix of SM-2 missiles and Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, eight Harpoon anti-ship missiles, a 76mm gun, two Lynx helicopters, and six 12.75-inch torpedo tubes. This ship is twice the size of World War II destroyers, and four times the size of World War II frigates. Some say that ships like this are called frigates in Europe because the label destroyer sounds too, well, warlike.

The Netherlands have their own design, the De Zeven Provincien-class frigates. Displacing 5,680 tons, with a top speed of 55 kilometers per hour, and armed with a 40-cell VLS with SM-2 and ESSM, a five-inch gun, eight Harpoons, four 12.75-inch torpedo tubes, a single Lynx helicopter, and two Goalkeeper close-in defense guns, four of these ships have been built to replace two Tromp-class destroyers.

Spain has the Bazan-class frigates. Displacing 4,555 tons, these frigates have a 48-cell VLS with SM-2 and ESSM, eight Harpoons, a Meroka close-in weapons system, and four 12.75-inch torpedo tubes. They operate one Seahawk helicopter. They can reach a top speed of 52.8 kilometers per hour.

India operates three Talwar-class frigates (built in Russia). These frigates displace 3,300 tons, and are equipped with eight Klub missiles (anti-ship, land-attack, or anti-submarine), a single launcher that can fire the SA-N-7 Gadfly, a 100mm gun, four 21-inch torpedo tubes, two CADS-N-1 systems (with two 30mm Gatling guns and eight SA-N-11 missiles), and a single Helix helicopter. These frigates can hit 59 kilometers per hour.

China operates two modern classes of frigates: The Jiangwei-class frigates displace 1,700 tons, with six or eight C-802 anti-ship missiles, an HQ-61 surface-to-air system (a six-round launcher in the Jiangwei I, an eight-round launcher with eight reloads in the Jiangwei II), a twin 100mm-gun, four twin 37mm guns, two ASW rocket-launchers, and a Z-9 helicopter. The Ma An Shan-class (or Jaingkai) is twice that size (3,500 tons), armed with sixteen C-803 missiles, an eight-round HQ-61 launcher, four 30mm Gatling guns (possibly along the lines of the Goalkeeper or AK-630), six 12.75-inch torpedo tubes, and the ability to carry a single Z-9 or Helix. The Jiangweis can reach 50.4 kilometers per hour, and the Ma An Shan can reach 50 kilometers per hour.

Finally there are two classes of frigates in Australian service. The Adelaide-class frigates were Perry-class frigates, but unlike the American Perry-class frigates, which have has their Mk 13 launchers removed, the Australians have upgraded these frigates to carry the SM-2 anti-aircraft missile, and eight VLS cells have been added, carrying 32 ESSM anti-ship missiles. The other Australian frigate is the Anzac class. This class, which displaces 3,300 tons, has an eight-round VLS for Sea Sparrow anti-aircraft missiles (eventually to carry the ESSM in quad-packs), a five-inch gun, and six 12.75-inch torpedo tubes. The Anzacs will eventually get eight Harpoons and a Phalanx close-in weapon system. The Adelaides can reach 53 kilometers per hour, the Anzacs can reach 50 kilometers per hour.

The best frigates are probably the Spanish Bazan-class frigates, although the upgraded Australian Adelaides are no slouch. The Bazans have the most powerful anti-air system, and carry a Seahawk helicopter (arguably one of the best in the world). The Adelaide-class frigates, however, are a poignant and haunting reminder of what the United States Navy could have made with their Perry class frigates. Harold C. Hutchison ([email protected])




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