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Horizon/Orizonte frigates near service: France and Italy launch a new class of capable air-defense ships.

On March 10 of this year, the first French Horizon-class frigate built by DCN International (Tulon, France) was launched, and in a few months the first Italian Orizonte-class frigate built by Fincantieri (Riva Trigoso. Italy) will follow. In total, four ships of the Horizon/Orizonte class are to be built: two for France (Forbin and Chevalier Paul) and two for Italy (Andrea Doria and Caio Duilio). The keels of all ships have been laid (Forbin: April 8, 2002; Chevalier Paul: December 1, 2003; Andrea Doria: July 19, 2002; and Caio Duilio: September 19, 2003), and the ships are to be commissioned between 2006 and 2009.


The multinational program dates back to 1993, when France and the UK started to study a new airdefense frigate for their respective carrier strike groups. The partners were joined by Italy in 1994, but in April 1999, the UK withdrew, launching its own "Type 45" destroyer program (see "UK's Type 45 Program Steams Ahead," JED, May 2001, p. 24). France and Italy decided to continue the program, now known as Horizon in France and Orizonte in Italy. The French Navy plans to replace its destroyers Suffren and Duquesne, while the Italian Navy plans to replace its destroyers Audace and Ardito with the new frigates. The Horizon/Orizonte frigates are relatively large (about 6,700 tons), have the range of 7,000 nm and an endurance of 45 days, which enable them to self-deploy to various parts of the world, as well to conduct sustained operations in the area.


The Horizon-class frigates were designed around post-Cold War requirements, with a wide range of possible conflict scenarios in mind. The main role of the ships is to accompany an aircraft carrier and provide the core of its escort, as well as provide a second layer of anti-aircraft defense and the main layer of missile defense for the group. Normally, each aircraft carrier is to be accompanied by a single Horizon/Orizonte vessel; some number of multirole frigates with air-defense, anti-surface warfare (ASuW), and antisubmarine warfare (ASW) capabilities on equal basis; and smaller specialist vessels. The multirole frigates are also being built under the framework of a common French-Italian program: the European Multi-Mission Frigate (FREMM) program.

For a given carrier battlegroup, anti-aircraft defense is primarily to be conducted by carrier-based fighters. The MBDA (Paris, France) Aster 15/30 missiles of the PAMS system on the Horizon/Orizonte frigates will constitute the second layer of defense, and finally, shorter-range systems on other ships--including the aircraft carrier itself--will provide close-in defense Against high-technology threats such as tactical ballistic missiles (TBMs), cruise missiles, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the Aster 30 will form the primary means of defense for the entire group. Although air defense is the main task for the Horizon class, the ships are also capable of conducting ASuW missions using Exocet Block 3 missiles and Oto Melara 76/62 76mm guns, as well as ASW missions with the use of guided MU-90 torpedoes. The frigates are built as command ships able to accommodate a small staff up to 35 onboard and so can lead noncarrier groups, usually tasked with less demanding missions.

The ship's command-and-control system is being developed by Eurosysnav, a joint venture company set up by Armaris (itself a joint venture between DCN and Thales) and Finmeccanica SpA (Rome, Italy). The system includes a combat-management and data subsystem, the ship's data buses and interfaces to numerous displays. Based on the Senit 8 |Systeme d'Exploitation Navale des Informations Tactiques| combat data system, it integrates all of the ship's sensors, communications, and electronicwarfare (EW) suites. The former Alenia Marconi Systems (AMS: the Italian part recently became a subsidiary of Finmeccanica) is supplying the datatransfer system (DTS). NICCO Communications SAS, a joint venture between Thales Communications (Paris, France) and Marconi Mobile SpA (Rome, Italy), is developing the fully integrated communications system. The communications suite will include one Link 16 and two Link 11 high-capacity digital information-distribution systems. Finmeccanica and Sagem (Paris, France) are supplying the integrated navigation system.

The main air-defense sensor onboard the ships is the large BAE Systems Integrated Systems Technology (Leanne House UK, formerly a part of AMS) S1850M air- and surface-search radar mounted atop the aft mast. The $1850M has a maximum range of 400 km and can conduct automatic detection and tracking of air and surface targets simultaneously. The long range, which enables detection of stealth targets at certain distances, is provided by its D-band (1-2 GHz) operation combined with a large antenna aperture, high-power transmitter, and full digital processing. The continuous, near-hemispherical 3-D surveillance envelope enables detection and track of ballistic targets. The maximum elevation is 70 degrees. Fourteen beams are used to provide elevation coverage, while two beams below the horizon are used to improve target-elevation measurement under multi-path conditions. The radar's electronic-counter-countermeasures (ECCM) capabilities include low antenna sidelobes both in azimuth and elevation, automatic least-jammed-frequency operation, and selectable transmit patterns, including a burn-through patternadapting coverage to missiondependent requirements for range and height. Advanced signal processing allows operator selection of specific waveforms to suit tasks and environments.

For air-defense fire control, the EMPAR-G multifunction radar is used The radar, which is also suitable for surveillance, has an antenna mounted under a radome five meters in diameter and operates in the G band (4-6 GHz). The rotating (60 rpm) phased-array antenna uses a single, pulsed pencil beam in transmission and multiple beams in reception. Each beam pulse can be steered within a wide angular sector along any bearing and elevation direction with respect to the antenna broadside, resulting in whole-hemisphere coverage. It can detect and track a wide range of targets including TBMs, cruise missiles, etc., as well as passively tracking active jammers. The EMPAR carries out multiples tasks simultaneously; volumetric search, environment mapping, track on jammer, and track of multiple targets, along with target designation for Aster 15/30 missiles, including mid-course update for missiles in flight. The range of the radar is believed to be up to 250 km against large bomber-sized aircraft and over 150 km against small fighter aircraft.

The Horizon/Orizonte will carry 48 DCN Sylver A50 vertical-launch cells for either Aster 15 or Aster 30 missiles. The Aster is a two-stage missile with common second-stage "kill vehicle." The Aster 15 is a smaller, short-range missile, while the Aster 30 is a medium-range missile. Against low-flying cruise-missile targets the range of the Aster 15/30 is approximately 15 and 35 km, respectively. Against fighter-type targets with small signatures, the range is about 20 and 50 km, respectively. Against a typical heavy fighter of the Su-24 or F-15 class, the range is 30 km and 70 km, respectively. In the case of large patrol and transporttype aircraft (stand-off jammers, etc.), the range of the Aster 30 could reach 100-110 km.


To achieve high maneuverability of the missile, MBDA developed a unique system called PIF-PAF |Pilotage en Force and Pilotage Aerodynamique Fort|. The second stage of the Aster missile is controlled aerodynamically during most of its flight, with the ability to reach 60-62 Gs on the way to target. The "PIF" part of the system is intended to achieve a hit-to-kill interception of ballistic targets. The system consists of small explosive devices that force lateral movement of the missile at up to 12 Gs when fired. This is used in the very final stage of an intercept, when it is too late for an aerodynamically generated turn. The missiles have a common active radar seeker (sometimes referred as "4A," also used in the MICA EM missile) that operates in the millimeter-wave band (25-35 GHz). The radar seeker has a range of up to 20 km against aircrafttype targets and up to 7-10 km against precision-guided-munition-type targets. The missile speed is 1,000 m/sec for the Aster 15 and 1,400 m/sec. for the Aster 30. The maximum engagement altitude is over 10,000 m for the Aster 15 and over 20,000 m for the Aster 30.


Local air defense is covered by 76mm and 25mm dual-purpose guns. Three Oto Melara 76mm/62 Super Rapid guns are installed side-by-side on the foredeck immediately forward of the bridge, and a single gun is installed on the helicopter hangar at the aft of the ship. Two Oto Melara Mod 503 25mm/80 guns are installed on both sides of the ship, one to port and one to starboard. To control the guns, the ships are equipped with two sets of Finmeccanica NA-25 fire-control systems. The NA-25 is based on the ORION RTN-25X X-band tracking radar. The radar has Casegrain type of antenna. In its standard configuration, the NA-25 is provided with its own operator console, the MAGICS 2-MFC dual-monitor display system. The radar is supplemented by two thermal cameras, one working in the 8-12[micro]m band and one working in the 3-5[micro]m band. Along with the thermal cameras, the optronics also include a TV camera and laser rangefinder (1.54 [micro]m).

The Horizon's ASuW capability is based on eight launchers for MBDA MM40 Exocet Block 3 (French version) or MBDA Teseo (Otomat) Mark 3 (Italian version) anti-ship missiles. These sea-skimming, high-subsonic weapons have ranges of up to 180 km and 150 km, respectively. Both are terminally guided by active radar seekers.

The ASW capability is provided by a combination of sonar, two triple 324 mm torpedo launchers for the MU 90 torpedo, and an onboard helicopter of the NH90 NFH or EH101 Merlin type. Thales Underwater Systems (Paris, France) delivered the UMS 4110CL sonar. The UMS 4110CL. with a hull-mounted array, is a long-range system for offensive ASW and self-protection. A conventional cylindrical array operating at a nominal 5 kHz is the basis of a system that exploits the range advantage of lower frequencies.

The Horizon/Orizonte frigates have a comprehensive electronic-support-measures/electronic-countermeasures (ESM/ECM) system. The EW suite is being developed by the Sigen Consortium, comprised of Thales Airborne Systems (Paris, France) and Elettronica SpA (Rome, Italy). The radar ESM component uses broadband digital receivers and will feature high-sensitivity, high-accuracy direction finding. The radar ECM component is based on phased-array solid-state technology and will feature high specific transmitted power, fast reaction, multi-threat engagement capability, and complete programmability of coherent and non-coherent jamming techniques. Among the warning systems is the Sagem Vampir MB infrared search and track (IRST) system. It has 360-degree coverage horizontally and five-degree coverage vertically. The system can detect subsonic missiles at a range of 9-16 km, supersonic missiles at a range of 14-27 km, fighter-bomber aircraft at a range of 10-18 km, and helicopters at a range of 7-10 km. It operates in both the short and long wavebands with 288X4-element cameras.

The French Horizon frigates will have the EADS Systems and Defense Electronics (Labege, France) Dagaie New Generation Decoy System (NGDS) The NGDS consists of a pair of two-axis launchers with 12 infrared, radar, or acoustic decoys--the latter for use against torpedoes. Italian Orizonte vessels will have four Oto Melara/Finmeccanica SCLAR-H decoy launchers for chaff and infrared flares. Each SCLAR-H launcher has 20 105mm barrels. Horizon/Orizonte frigates are also to be equipped with a SLAT torpedo-defense system, which is also installed on the French Charles de Gaulle and Italian Garibaldi aircraft carriers. The SLAT was developed by EUROSLAT, a consortium consisting of WASS |Whitehead Alenia Sistemi Subaqua|, DCN, and Thales Underwater Systems.
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Author:Fiszer, Michal
Publication:Journal of Electronic Defense
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Jul 1, 2005
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