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The Frigate Follies Get Worse and Worse

by | Jun 4, 2024

constellation class frigate ffg 62 2022 update

Déjà vu, it’s happening again. The surface navy failures manifested in the Littoral Combat Ship, the Zumwalt and the USS Ford will soon have another ship to add to that gallery of maritime incompetence that showcases the modern US Navy.

I say again, construction started before all the design & modeling were complete, verified and validated.

And I suspect the Concept of Operations (CONOPS) for this ship is not rational or mature.

USNI News reported Navy officials said at one point the Constellation design shared about 85 percent commonality with the original Italian FREMM but that commonality is now down to under 15 percent, no doubt due to the Navy changing almost 70 percent of the requirements since the contract was signed back in April 2020 and the resultant unplanned weight growth leading to over 10 percent above the shipbuilder’s June 2020 weight estimate.

Any amateur navalist will tell you that weight increases require concomitant power-plant output increases to compensate for that design expansion. House lawmakers in the draft FY25 NDAA are proposing to force the Navy to complete its ships’ design “100 percent” prior to lead vessel construction, complete design was actually in the law back in 2020 but the Navy ignored it.

In a nutshell, the US Navy was asked to find a European vendor with an existing ship to reduce acquisition costs but now changes to the hull are occurring and they are constructing ships whose designs are not finished. Here is a chart to demonstrate that:

screenshot 2024 06 04 at 05 49 22 constellation frigate 'unplanned weight growth' could limit service life says gao usni news

The “unplanned weight growth” of ten percent or more from June 2020 to October of 2023 on the Constellation-class frigate may require the Navy to shed propulsion capability and in turn reduce the ship’s top speed to allow the warships to have the margin the service needs for future upgrades, according to the Government Accountability Office’s report on the program.

“GAO is making five recommendations, including that the Navy restructure its design stability metric to measure progress based more on the quality than quantity of design documents; use the improved metric to assess the design stability before beginning construction of the second frigate; incorporate additional land-based testing into the frigate test plan; and identify opportunities to further incorporate leading practices for product development into the frigate acquisition strategy,” the report reads.

“The Navy agreed with four recommendations and partially agreed with the recommendation related to updating the test plan. GAO maintains that all five recommendations should be fully implemented.”

“Navy officials have repeatedly cited workforce challenges at the yard in Marinette when discussing the frigate program’s delays, but the GAO report cites an “unstable” design as the reason for the delays.”

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Bill Buppert

Bill Buppert

Bill Buppert is the host of Chasing Ghosts: An Irregular Warfare Podcast and a contributor over time to various liberty endeavors. He served in the military for nearly a quarter century and contractor tours after retirement on occasion and was a combat tourist in a number of neo-imperialist shit-pits around the world.

He can be found on twitter at @wbuppert and reached via email at

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