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La Fayette

La Fayette-class frigates are the world's first operational warship designed from the keel up for stealth and survivability. La Fayette-class frigates are designed to offer a decisive advantage when facing modern-day threats in hostile environments. Features include: a unique stealth design with reduced radar, acoustic, infrared and electromagnetic signatures, excellent endurance, full provision for heavy shipboard helicopter, enhanced survivability, modular construction, and a powerful combat system.

As of 2013, La Fayette-class frigates were in active service with four navies (France, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia and Singapore).

Designed primarily to protect and enforce the interests of the State of overseas maritime areas and to participate in the settlement of crises outside Europe, this first-rate combat vessel is also capable of being integrated into a aeronaval task force. In that role, it can be called to provide support to an intervention force or to the protection of commercial traffic and to conduct special operations or humanitarian missions.

La Fayette frigates are designed to be deployed in advance of a naval force intervention in order to collect intelligence. It can be easily integrated into a multinational peacekeeping force tasked with, for example, the enforcement of embargoes.

Survivability has been improved to allow the vessel to operate by itself while the ship's storage capacity of equipment and supplies have been specially designed to give a high degree of autonomy at sea.

State-of-the-art technologies help ensure the vessel remains combat-capable even after a direct hit or underwater explosion. All essential systems incorporate both redundant and distributed elements. Redundancy, high-quality materials and the judicious use of armour plate ensure the survivability of the propulsion systems. Reinforced side passageways serve as crew safe havens while protecting equipment against splinters and small-calibre shells.

La Fayette-class frigates can be safely operated by a reduced crew. All combat and platform systems are managed through integrated computer-based systems offering high-level automation. In automatic AAW mode, even the combat system requires only minimal supervision.

The computer-controlled fin-and-rudder stabilization system keeps the flight deck operational, for 10-ton class helicopters, up to a sea state condition of 6. Stabilization also greatly improves the effectiveness of all combat systems while the embarked Panther helicopter allows the vessel to significantly increase the effective range of its sensors.

La Fayette-class frigate systems include: 2D medium-range radar, 8 SSMs, medium-range SAMs, and 4-ton helicopter (subsequently a 10-ton NH 90). The ship's surface to surface missile is the Aerospatiale Exocet MM40. Two quadruple missile launchers are installed in a midship position between the two masts, one facing port and one facing starboard. The ship's surface-to-air missile system is the Crotale Naval CN2. The system employs the VT-1 missile with a range of 13 kilometres and speed of 1.19 kilometres per second (Mach 3.6). The guidance is by command line of sight with radar and infra-red homing. The 14 kilogram high explosive warhead is detonated by a proximity fuse. 24 missiles are carried. The frigates may be upgraded with the vertical launch system (VLS) and Aster 15 missile from Eurosam and the associated Thomson-CSF Arabel fire control radar. 16 missiles are carried.

The ship's main gun on the bow deck is the DCN 100 mm which fires a 13.5 kilogram shell to a maximum range of 16 kilometres. The gun is capable of a sustained firing rate of 80 rounds per minute. Two Giat 20 millimetre Model 20F2 guns are installed, one port and one on the starboard side about 5 metres aft of the bridge. The guns are capable of firing 720 rounds per minute to a maximum range of 10 kilometres. The frigate has a flight deck, approximately 430 square metres, at the stern with a single landing spot, designed for day and night use by 10 ton helicopters such as the AS 565 MA Panther, the SA 321G Super Frelon or NH 90. The flight deck can be used in high sea states up to sea-state 6. The La Fayette class frigates are of high tensile steel construction with a double skin hull from the waterline to the upper deck level. One centimetre armour plate is installed to protect the propulsion systems and reinforced side passageways protect the crew and equipment against splinters and small-calibre shells.

The La Fayette-class incorporates a number of stealth features to ensure low detectability by hostile radar, sonar, infrared and magnetic sensors. These low observables allow ships of that class to elude hostile units and to also enhance the effectiveness of on board jammers and decoys. The sides of the vessel are sloped at 10 degrees to minimise the radar cross section. Surfaces have been coated in radar absorbent paint and the profiles of external features including missile launching systems have been reduced as far as possible. The propulsion system for the French Navy La Fayette is configured as a combined diesel and diesel (CODAD) arrangement. The CODAD system is based on four SEMT Pielstick 12 PA6 V 280 STC diesel engines. The engines are rated at 21,000 sustained horsepower. Two shafts drive controllable pitch propellers. The ship is fitted with a bow thruster. The CODAD propulsion system provides a maximum speed of 25 and, at an economical speed of 12 knots, the range is 9,000 nautical miles.

These multimission vessels feature a modular design that can be readily adapted to the specific requirements of each client navy. To accelerate construction and integration while at the same time improving flexibility and maintainability, La Fayette-class frigates are assembled from pre-outfitted hull blocks. All items making up each major system are housed in a single block or module, facilitating both transportation and maintenance. In addition to simplifying upgrading, this level of modularity allowed customers to choose propulsion options (CODAD or CODOG) and combat systems suiting their precise needs. Other benefits include improved coordination of multiple industrial partners and higher productivity.

Fifteen units were ordered by France (five), Taiwan (six Kang Ding-class), Saudi Arabia (three Al Riyadh-class) and Singapore (one Formidable-class with an additional five frigates built in Singapore by Singapore Technology Marine (STM) at the Benoi shipyard, under a contract which included a technology transer program clause). Though all based on the French DCN La Fayette design, these frigates nonetheless differ from the one in use with the French Navy. Segments of Lafayette-class frigates intended for foreign military sales to Saudi Arabia and Taiwan were built at the DCN Brest shipyard, but assembled at DCN Lorient.

The Royal Saudi Naval Forces chose a multipurpose extended AAW version, approximately 25% larger in size, with a full load displacement of 4,500 tons and an enhanced anti-air warfare and anti-submarine capability. Sawari II (La Fayette-class) AAW frigate systems include: 32 Aster 15/30 missiles, Arabel 3D multifunction radar, and 2D long-range radar. HMS Al Riyadh (812), the first of that class, was commissioned on 26 July 2002, followed by HMS Makkah (814) on 3 April 2004, and the final third, HMS Al Damman (816) commissioned on 23 October 2004.

Taiwan opted for a multipurpose ASW version, purchasing six of these vessels from France, though a number of issues subsequently arose due to certain French weapons technologies not being transferred to Taiwan; resulting in compatibility issues with US-made weapons systems used as a consequence. The Kang Ding-class frigates deal also later led to a major corruption scandal with revelations of large bribes paid to Taiwanese individuals to help push forward the deal, in spite of earlier plans for lighter 2,000 tons frigates. Bravo (La Fayette-class) ASW frigate systems include: bow sonar, towed-array sonar, shipborne and airborne torpedoes, and Seahawk helicopter.

The fifth French Navy's La Fayette-class frigate, Guépratte (F714) differs from the other four in service in its greater focus on its living environment. This is evidenced by a larger number of female crewmembers and a consolidation of relevant living quarters; a move to six greywater tanks allowing for a 48 hours autonomy and the use of FM 200 neutral gas as a fire suppressant.

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Page last modified: 10-06-2013 16:48:21 ZULU