July 18, 2017 · FFG(X)-m US Navy Micronaval Affairs

The Need for FFG(X)-m

Last week, the U.S. Navy released an RFI regarding the "next evolution of small surface combatant," the future Guided Missile Frigate FFG(X). Largely seen as a tacit admission that the proposed LCS frigate upgrade will not be adequate for more complex, blue water operations, the RFI calls for a new ship that will 1) provide support/relief to larger combatants during conflict and operations other than war, and 2) augment battlespace awareness by establishing independent sensor networks in high threat areas utilizing both onboard and unmanned systems ("extending the tactical grid").

While there is clearly a demonstrated need for FFG(X), given recent trends in weapons platform miniaturization, and the advent of micronaval warfare, we believe that in addition to FFG(X), the U.S. Navy should consider the development of FF(X) - m, a first generation unmanned microfrigate to be designed and constructed under a parallel program that enables technical and material synergies with FFG(X).

The idea of a microfrigate may seem farfetched, yet the technologies and skills necessary for the development of robust micro air and sea combatants are readily available, enabling not only near-peer competitors, but smaller players, rogue states, and even nonstate actors to fashion their own potent micronavy. As this trend toward miniaturization accelerates, the U.S. Navy must remain ahead of the curve as potential adversaries acquire ever-smaller weapons and weaponized unmanned vehicles.

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