The Royal Moroccan Navy’s FREMM frigate yesterday began sea trials off the coast of Brittany in preparation for delivery to the North African country later this year.
Its builder DCNS said that after putting to sea for the first time yesterday, the frigate will begin several weeks of sea trials. During this first period at sea, the crew ( made up of French Navy personnel, Moroccan Navy representatives and DCNS employees) will focus primarily on the performance of the ship’s propulsion system and navigation system.
“This milestone is the culmination of a remarkable team effort by DCNS, our partners and suppliers, the trials crew and customer representatives,” said Anne Bianchi, director of FREMM frigate programmes at DCNS.
“The FREMM frigates are designed and built by DCNS to meet the needs of many navies around the world, as demonstrated by this first export sale to Morocco. They are among the most technologically advanced and competitively priced vessels on the world market, and are inherently versatile to provide a response to all types of threats. They offer a range of innovative features and unparalleled levels of interoperability and operational readiness.”
The teams on board the Royal Moroccan Navy’s vessel will work day and night to conduct a series of tests. The first three days of the campaign, known as the ‘familiarisation’ phase, will be used to test the vessel’s safety systems and equipment, including fire-fighting, flood control and emergency response systems and evacuation procedures as well as manoeuvrability and mooring performance.
The second phase will focus on the propulsion system. The FREMM’s hybrid CODLOG (COmbined Diesel eLectric Or Gas) power package combines electric motors for low-speed silent-mode propulsion and a gas turbine for high-speed mechanical propulsion, with a maximum speed in excess of 27 knots. This gives a range of 6 000 nm at 15 knots.
In addition, the DCNS teams will also test the ship’s navigation systems (log, position, heading) and its inertial platforms for precise positioning anywhere in the world.
In the next few weeks, over 150 people, including 60 French Navy personnel, will spend time on this second FREMM frigate. To save the ship returning to port, people will be ferried out and back on a daily basis.
On completing these preliminary trials, the frigate will return to DCNS’s Lorient shipyard for several days of quayside work. A few weeks later, it will put to sea for a second campaign of trials focusing on the combat system.
While these first sea trials are taking place, some of the Royal Moroccan Navy personnel who will crew the new vessel are beginning simulator-based training at DCNS’s Lorient facility to familiarise themselves with the vessel and its systems. This training programme will be ramped up over the next few months as further members of the future crew arrive, DCNS said.
“The exceptional seakeeping qualities of the FREMM frigates have already been demonstrated by the first-of-class Aquitaine, delivered to the French Navy in November 2012,” DCNS said. Aquitaine, the lead ship of the FREMM class, is undergoing an extended deployment to further test its capabilities.
The FREMM programme includes 12 ships, 11 for the French Navy and one for the Royal Moroccan Navy.
Morocco’s US$676 million contract for the frigate was finalised with DCNS in April 2008 and construction began at Lorient in December 2008. It will be delivered to the Royal Moroccan Navy before the end of 2013 and will be named Mohammed VI.
The current Moroccan fleet includes two Floréal-class frigates and a Descubierta-class corvette in addition to some 21 patrol craft and a number of other ships and vessels. Four more patrol craft are also on order.
Four other FREMM multimission frigates are at various stages of completion at DCNS’s Lorient shipyard: Normandie, the third in the series, will begin sea trials at the end of the year and will be delivered to the French Navy in 2014; Provence is now fully built and will be floated out of the building dock in the fourth quarter of 2013, while the fifth and sixth of the series are under construction.
The multirole FREMM frigates have been designed for several roles, including anti-air, anti-ship and anti-submarine warfare. They feature Herakles multifunction radar, Aster anti-air missiles, MdCN cruise missiles, Exocet MM40 anti-ship missiles, MU90 torpedoes and an Otobreda 76 mm gun. Each vessel is 142 metres long, has a beam of 20 metres and displaces 6 000 tonnes.
Although there is accommodation for 145 personnel, the standard complement is 108 including the helicopter crew. The frigate has an aft helicopter hangar and deck able to accommodate medium helicopters like the NH90, EH101 and Cougar.