French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian officially inaugurated the 2016 edition of Euronaval on 18th October and, as expected, took advantage of the occasion to formally announce the launch of the FTI midsize frigate programme. Five frigates are being ordered, with first deliveries set for 2023. The formal contract award is expected next year.
The 4,200t FTI, operated by a crew of 125, will be positioned between the Gowind corvette (2,500t) and the FREMM multimission frigate (6,000t). Air defence capacities will reportedly be close to those of the FREMM, with two Aster 30 batteries (eight missiles each), compared with four on the FREMM. The FTI — christened “Belharra” for the export market — will also carry MBDA Exocet anti-ship missiles and a 76mm gun. However, there is no provision for cruise missiles.
The midsize frigate will also be equipped with the new Thales Sea Fire multifunction naval radar. According to Thales, the new radar will be effective in roles ranging from ship self-defence to extended air defence, providing protection from asymmetric threats such as UAVs as well as emerging threats such as anti-ship ballistic missiles, even in heavily jammed environments and the complex conditions of the littoral.