(Photo: Ufficio Stampa – Marina Militare)
ROME — The Italian Navy has released fresh details about its seven new, multifunctional ships as it seeks to wrap up a system design review (SDR) of the innovative vessels by the end of June.
As planners mull the use of a Google Glass-type kit for navigators on the bridge, they have also opted for a so-called wave piercing bow, which is expected to add almost a knot in speed.
With industry contracts signed last year thanks to a €5.4 billion (US $6.1 billion) funding package, the Navy now hopes it is on course to have its seven, 4,500-ton, 133-meter-long vessels delivered between 2021 and 2026.
Conceived with a hefty input from the Navy’s own design office, the vessels will be given dual role capabilities to help assist in civilian disaster operations or the interception of migrants in the Mediterranean, as well as fight wars.
The SDR is set to be completed by the end of this month — with some fine tuning on genset options to be made — and a critical design review is planned for February, an Italian defense source said.
Before then, steel cutting on the first ship by state-controlled shipbuilding yard Fincantieri is expected in the autumn.
In the meantime, the Navy teamed with Italian defense magazine Rivista Italiana Difesa this month to produce a special issue unveiling details of the design of the ships, which are known by their Italian acronym PPA, starting with an unusual looking sharp protrusion out from the bow near the water level.
“This simply extends the length of the vessel at the waterline, improving wave resistance without increasing the dimensions of the ship,” the source said. “We think this technique is a first for a naval ship.”
The technique was developed by Fincantieri and first used on a Swedish ferry the firm built, according to Rivista Italiana Difesa.
Fincantieri will build two PPA vessels in “Light” configuration, three in “Light Plus” configuration and two in “Full” configuration, with prices including ten years of logistic support ranging from about €430 million for the Light versions to €530 million for the Full versions.
All vessels will feature Leonardo-Finmeccanica’s 127mm and 76mm naval guns as well as 25mm and 12.7mm guns. To house the rear-facing 76mm guns on top of a hangar, the Italian group has developed a lighter version of its standard model, known as the Sovraponte.
The Light Plus and Full versions will offer Aster 15 and 30 missiles.
The Light vessels will offer an X-band AESA radar, which uses four flat panels, giving a 360-degree view housed above the bridge. The Light Plus vessels will use a C-band radar, while the Full version will offer both C- and X-band radars, requiring eight panels to produce a single integrated radar image.
Much has been made of the unusual bridge on the PPA vessels, which was designed with help from naval aviators to resemble an aircraft’s cockpit. On the PPA bridge, two navigators will sit in a protruding section resembling a cockpit, doing the work that eight navigators do on Italy’s FREMM frigates, the source said.
Studies are underway to replicate the heads-up display of an aircraft in which data can be projected onto the windows of the bridge for the two navigators, indicating for example the depth of the water they can see through the windows.
The Light vessels, artists impression shown, will offer an X-band AESA radar, which uses four flat panels, giving a 360-degree view housed above the bridge. (Photo: Ufficio Stampa – Marina Militare)
Another plan is to develop Google Glass-type glasses linked to external cameras, which would allow navigators to have a 360-degree view of the outside of the ship.
“This type of study will likely continue beyond the critical design review next year,” the source said.
Much of the lobbying to secure the funding for the PPA vessels was undertaken by Navy Adm. Giuseppe De Giorgi, earning him kudos in the Navy but also attention from the media when he was placed under investigation earlier this year for corruption.
Magistrates suspected he had deliberately handed a contract to an entrepreneur who is the partner of the head of Italy’s industry ministry, who authorized the €5.4 billion in funds.
As news of the investigation broke, an anonymous dossier was sent to prosecutors accusing the admiral of spending funds on excessive entertaining.
De Gregori denied he had been seeking to win favors at the ministry and gave a blistering speech on June 22 in which he blasted his critics at a ceremony where he handed over control of the Navy to the service’s new chief, Vice Adm. Walter Girardelli.
“Our navigation has not always been calm — you know what I am talking about,” he said, describing his years in office. The admiral then claimed “dark forces” had sent the dossier “in a bid to shape the future of the Navy.”
According to Finmeccanica wibsite
The consortium (RTI) was established according to the cooperation agreement in the field of naval vessels construction signed in October 2014 between Fincantieri and Finmeccanica. Pursuant to the agreement, Fincantieri acts as a sole interface to the client, while enhancing Finmeccanica’s products range in the naval field. According to the agreement Finmeccanica is the design authority of the whole combat system.
In addition to building the vessels at its shipyards, Fincantieri will provide support over the lifecycle of the vessels in the first ten years, through the supply of logistic services (training courses, spare parts, technical documentation) during the construction of the vessels and of ISS or In Service Support (maintenance services), carried out during post-delivery operations, as well as components and naval machinery produced by the Marine Systems and Components Unit, such as shaft lines, wheelhouse, maneuvering propellers, fin stabilizers and other handling systems, the automation system and a part of the special supplies for PPAs delivered by the subsidiary Seastema S.p.A.
Finmeccanica will act as prime contractor for the combat systems through Selex ES that will develop and provide the new multi-functional radars (4 fixed arrays) dual-band X/C, last generation integrated communication systems, new electro-optical sensors, new fire control systems and innovative Open Architecture Combat Management System. Selex ES will also have the responsibility for all subsystems – included those newly developed by OTO Melara (76mm gun above deck), WASS (sonar array), MBDA (anti-ballistic missile system) and Elettronica (electronic warfare system) – and for the first 10-year logistic support (integrated and “in service” logistic support).
In addition, Selex ES and Fincantieri will develop together the innovative “Cockpit” system. This system will, for the first time ever, allow for the integrated management of sailing and combat system operations, using augmented reality to allow both functions to be effectively managed with fewer operators.
PPA – Multipurpose Offshore Patrol Ship
The multipurpose offshore patrol ship is a highly flexible ship with capacity to serve multiple functions ranging from patrol with sea rescue capacity to Civil Protection operations, and in its most highly equipped version, first line fighting vessel. There will be indeed different configurations of combat system: starting from a “soft” version for the patrol task, integrated for self-defence ability, to a “full” one, equipped for a complete defence ability. The vessel is also capable of operating high-speed vessels such as RHIB (Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat) up to 11 meters long through lateral cranes or a hauling ramp located at the far stern.
- 132.5 meters long
- Speed more than 33 knots according to vessel configuration and operational conditions
- 171 persons of the crew
- Equipped with a combined diesel and gas turbine plant (CODAG)
- Capacity to supply drinking water to land
- Capacity to provide electricity to land with 2000 kw of power
- 2 modular zones at the stern and at the center of the ship that allow the embarking of various types of containerized operating/logistic/residential/healthcare modules (in particular, the stern area may receive and handle within a covered area up to 5 modules in ISO 20” containers, while the central zone may receive and handle up to 8 ISO 20” containers)
The PPAs will be built at the Integrated Shipyard of Riva Trigoso and Muggiano, with delivery expected, for the first vessel of the class, in 2021, while the following deliveries of the vessels will take place in 2022, 2023, 2024 (two units), 2025 and 2026.