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NDAA requires shoreside testing of new frigate’s engineering plant

Written by Nick Blenkey
image description

An artist rendering of the new Constellation class formerly FFG (X) —guided-missile frigate . [U.S. Navy graphic]

The just-passed National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2021 includes a requirement for shoreside testing of the engineering plant of the new Constellation (FFG-2) class frigates, formerly designated as the FFG (X) class.

The frigates, on order at the Fincantieri Marinette Marine shipyard, use the Italian/French FREMM multipurpose frigate as the parent class design. However, that design has been substantially modified to meet U.S. Navy requirements.

According to a recently updated Congressional Research Service report, the House and Senate conferees who agreed the final version of NDAA recognize that an existing parent design can reduce design, technical, and integration risks, however they were concerned that significant risks remain in the frigate program, “including: cost realism; shifting to predominantly U.S. component suppliers instead of the mainly foreign suppliers used in the parent vessel design; and a complex Combined Diesel Electric and Gas Hull, Mechanical and Electrical (HM&E) drive train that has not previously been used on U.S. Navy ships.”

The conferees noted that since lead ship deliveries in 2008 and 2010, both Littoral Combat Ship classes have encountered significant, costly, and debilitating engineering failures. The conferees believe many of these LCS engineering failures would have been discovered, analyzed, and corrected faster with less negative operational impact had the Navy established a LCS land based engineering and test site (LBETS).

Accordingly, the NDAA requires the Secretary of the Navy to establish a Constellation class LBETS as soon as possible. The primary objectives of the LBETS will be to demonstrate across the full range of engineering plant operations: (1) Test of the full propulsion drive train; (2) Test and facilitation of machinery control systems integration; and (3) Simulation of the full range of electrical demands to enable the investigation of load dynamics between the Hull, Mechanical and Electrical (HM&E) equipment, combat system, and auxiliary equipment.

The provision directs the Secretary to commence full-scale LBETS testing prior to delivery of the first Constellation class frigate (FFG-62) and complete the test program not later than the date FFG-62 is scheduled to be available for tasking by operational military commanders.

In addition, the Secretary is directed to submit to the congressional defense committees a plan to implement this section with the budget materials that accompany the President’s Budget request for fiscal year 2022. This plan is to include the costs, activities, and test plan necessary to meet the requirements under this section.

  • Download the NDAA Conference Report HERE.
  • Download the Congressional Research Service report HERE.
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