La Fayette class frigate

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Stealth frigate Surcouf

Career French Navy  Ensign
General Characteristics
Displacement: 3200 tonnes, 3600 tonnes fully loaded
Length: 125 m
Width: 15.4 m
Draught: 4,8 m
Propulsion: 4 diesel SEMT Pielstick 12PA6V280 STC2, 21000 HP (15 400 kW)
Speed: 25 knots
Range: 7000 nautical miles at 15 knots, 9000 at 12 knots
Complement: 12 officers

68 non-commissioned officers
61 men

Armament: 1 x 100 mm TR automatic gun

2 x 20mm modèle F2 guns
1 x Crotale CN2 launcher (8 missiles on the launcher, 18 missiles in magasine)
16 Aster 15 missiles in vertical launchers
8 x Exocet MM40 block II missiles

Shielding On sensitive areas (munition magasine and control centre)
Radars 1 x Air/Surface DRBV 15C sentry radar

1 x firing control radar for the 100mm gun
1 x DRBN34 navigation radar
1 x DRBN34 landing radar

Electronic Warfare 1 x Saïgon ARBG 1 radio interceptor

1 x ARBR 21 radar interceptor
2 x Dagaie Mk2 chaff launcher
1 x AN/SLQ-25 Nixie tugged noise maker
1 x Prairie-Masker noise reduction system

Satellite transmission 1 x Syracuse II

1 x Inmarsat

Planes 1 x 10-tonne helicopter (Panther or NH90)

The La Fayette class units are light multi-mission frigates built by DCN and operated by France (Marine Nationale), Saudi Arabia, Singapore (Republic of Singapore Navy) and Taiwan (Republic of China Navy).

These frigates are referred to as "stealth" frigates. Their reduced radar cross section is achieved by a very clean superstructure compared to conventional designs, angled sides and Radar Absorbent Material (RAM), a composite material of wood and glass fiber as hard as steel, light, and resistant to fire.

All informations gathered by the onboard sensors are managed by the Information Processing System, the electronic brain of the operation centre of the ship. It is completed by an electronic command aid system.

The La Fayette notably carries the Aster 15 missile, the state-of-the-art anti-air European weapon, the Crotale short-range defence system, and Exocet missile, mounted in two quad launchers.

The ships are designed to accommodate a 10 tonne-helicopter in the Panther or NH90 range (they are capable of harbouring the Super Frelon and such heavy helicopters). These helicopters can carry anti-ship AM39 or AS15 missiles, and can be launched by a 5 or 6 sea state, thanks to the Samahé helicopter manutention system.

France ordered five ships of the La Fayette class in 1988, the last of which entered service in 2002.

The ships are



Al Riyadh class: Saudi Arabia

The three Al Riyadh ships are an expanded version of the French La Fayette class, displacing about 4,700 tonnes. The ships combat systems are produced by Armaris (a DCN/Thales joint venture) and are armed with the MBDA Aster 15 missile. The Aster missiles use the DCN SYLVER launcher. As with the La Fayette class the primary offensive weapon is the anti-surface MBDA Exocet.

Maximum speed is 24.5 kts with a maximum range of 7,000 nm.

Formidable class: Singapore

The Republic of Singapore Navy's six Formidable class frigates are of comparable size to the La Fayette class but differs from that class and the Saudi Al Riyadh class in the armament carried. In place of the Exocet is the Boeing Harpoon. The Formidable class also uses the SYLVER launcher/Aster missile combination.

The first ship, RSS Formidable, was built by DCN, while the remaining ships were constructed by Singapore Technologies Marine.

Maximum speed is 27 kts with a maximum range of 7,200 nm.

Kang Ding class: Taiwan

As Taiwan's defensive stance is aimed towards the Taiwan strait the Taiwanese Navy is constantly seeking to upgrade its anti-submarine warfare capabilites. The agreement with France in the late 1980s is an example of this procurement strategy, the six ships are configured for both ASW and surface attack. The Exocet is replaced by a Taiwanese surface attack missile and the AAW weapon is the Chaparral. Some problems have been reported regarding integrating Taiwanese and French systems. In additional, the antiquated Chaparral SAM system is considered totally inadequate for even rudimentary self-defence. Coupled with various other issues, the Taiwanese La Fayettes are definitely the least capable variant of the class currently in operation.

The Taiwan frigate deal has produced a large political scandal, both in Taiwan and France. A former French foreign minister has claimed that up to $500,000 was paid by Thomson-CSF (now Thales), the prime contractor, as a "sweetener" as the ships did not strictly meet Taiwan's requirements. Eight deaths of people involved in the contract have also been questioned ( as suspicous. Six ROC naval officers have been indicted on corruption charges relating to the affair.

Maximum speed is 25 kts with a maximum range of 7,000 nm.


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