September 25, 2018 · Esquire FFG(X)-m Micronaval Affairs

Introducing the Esquire-Class

In July, 2017, the U.S. Navy released an RFI seeking conceptual designs for a small surface combatant, the future Guided Missile Frigate, FFG(X). The ship's primary role would be to provide support/relief to larger combatants during conflict and operations other than war, and to augment battlespace awareness ("extend the tactical grid") by establishing independent sensor networks in high threat areas utilizing both onboard and unmanned systems. In February, 2018, the Navy narrowed the design field to five contenders - Austal, Fincanteri, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, and Huntington Ingalls - with an RFP expected sometime in 2019 and contract award in 2020.

While the need for a new surface combatant is open to debate, we can be certain that threats to our naval forces will continue to evolve and proliferate. We can also be certain that these threats will be increasingly unmanned and autonomous, requiring innovative and potentially disruptive countermeasures in order to defeat them. The U.S. Navy must remain well ahead of the curve as potential adversaries acquire ever-smaller and potent weapons and weaponized unmanned systems.

Thus, as the Navy moves forward with plans for a new guided missile frigate, we believe there is also a need for a first generation unmanned, autonomous microfrigate whose role it is to augment sea control and maritime security operations by enhancing battlespace awareness and, when necessary, joining the fight, with a particular emphasis on engaging and defeating the growing array of unmanned, autonomous micro-threats clouding the battlespace.

Microfrigates could be produced in far greater numbers, at a faster rate, and at a markedly lower cost than FFG(X).

A networked flotilla of autonomous microfrigates would greatly reduce the demands upon, and the threat to, high end manned combatants.

In addition to providing sensor augmentation, the microfrigate is also a fighting ship, fully capable of conducting air defense, undersea warfare, surface warfare, and strike warfare against current and emerging micro threats.

A Vessel Whose Time Has Come

With the prospect of great power conflict returning to the fore, along with a renewed emphasis on sea control, and with this occuring at a time of increasingly strained defense budgets, the U.S. Navy should strongly consider procuring an unmanned microfrigate as an effective, low-cost force multiplier to offset the growing naval power of our adversaries.

We therefore submit for the Navy's consideration, the Esquire-class Microfrigate.

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Stats:

Length: 15.5 meters (51 ft)
Beam: 5 meters (16.5 ft)
Height: 3.5 meters (Above the water line)
Displacement: 30 - 35 tons (Load dependent)
Draft: 1.5 - 2 meters (5 - 6.5 ft)
Speed: 40+ kts
Range: 1000 nm

Power and Propulsion

A 600-hp turbo microdiesel engine powers dual axial-flow micro waterjets providing precision maneuvering and efficient, high-powered thrust, propelling the Esquire-class at speeds in excess of 40 kts. (The Block II Esquire is slated to feature a Low Energy Nuclear Reactor (LENR) similar to the microreactor found in the Atom-class microsubmarine, which will provide higher energy output, as well as unlimited range and endurance.)

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The microdiesel also powers a cutting edge 175 kW microturbine to provide power to shipboard systems.

Sensors & Communications

The Esquire-class is equipped with a wide range of cutting-edge electomagnetic and acoustic sensors, providing unmatched battlespace awareness above, on, and below the sea.

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Weapons & Countermeasures

Atom-class Integration
The Esquire features a fully integrated microsubmarine bay providing launch/recovery of twelve Atom-class microsubmarines for Strikepod deployment.

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Microsubmarines are launched and recovered via a hatch located in the stern.

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Recovery is aided by an innovative undersea navigation system that utilizes four pods broadcasting at different frequencies to guide returning microsubmarines into the hangar bay.

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Fight Deck and UAV Hangar
At 2.8 square meters (30 sq ft), the flight deck of the Esquire-class can accommodate a range of small or medium rotary wing UAVs, but is primarily optimized for the RQ-80 Sibyl VTOL UAV.

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The Esquire-class can accommodate two Sibyls on its flight deck, and two within the permanent hangar bay, or can be configured with SIBMOD, a hangar module providing stowage of up to four additional Sibyls.

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The Sibyl's innovative ground propulsion system consists of a set of four trackballs which enable omnidirectional maneuvering when entering or exiting the UAV hangar.

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Specifications
Length: 1 meter (3.3 ft)
Width: .75 meters (2.5 ft)
Weight: 100 lbs
Max Speed: 50 kph
Cruising Speed: 33 kph
Range: 100 nm
Endurance: 4.5 hours
Ceiling: 4600 m

The Sibyl is equipped with a range of sophisticated sensors and avionics, including a multi-spectral targeting system and an AN/APY-m Lynx II radar, and is powered by a revolutionary hybrid fuel-electric system providing high energy density for over four hours of operational flight.

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Strikepod Command

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