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General Purpose (GP) duties. The ship is less than
two years old, having been commissioned in April
2015, and is the fourth navy vessel named after Italy’s
The FREMM is the result of a joint program by
DCNS/Armaris and Fincantieri for the navies of France
and Italy. In service the French ships are known as the
Aquitaine class, while in Italy they are known as the
Bergamini class, with the navies planning to operate
eight and ten ships respectively. Morocco and Egypt
have also bought a single ship each, based on the
French ASW design.
The Italian FREMMs are relatively large ships
for frigates, measuring 144 metres (474 feet) in
length with a 19.7m (65 ft) beam. The Italian ASW
ships have a draught of 8.4m (29 ft) due to their
bow-mounted sonar, and displace 6,900 tons. By
comparison the RAN’s ANZACs, which they are
replacing, measure 118m (387 ft) and displace
3,600 tons at full load.
While in Australia the Carabiniere has conducted
exercises and training activities with the Royal
Australian Navy and visited several ports. APDR was
privileged to sail with the ship and crew as it made
its way from Sydney to Melbourne in late February at
the invitation of Fincantieri Australia and the Marina
Militare, along with personnel from the Navy and DST
Group tasked with looking at various aspects of the
The Italian ASW FREMMs have a number of features
unique to the sub-class tailored for its mission,
with the key difference being a Thales UMS 4110
CL bow-mounted sonar and a Thales UMS 4249
CAPTASS towed array at the stern. An L-3 ELAC
Nautik SeaBeam 3050, Multi-beam panoramic echo
sounder is also fitted.
For kinetic ASW the Carabiniere carries four
MILAS missiles, which are an ASW version of the
Otomat anti-ship missile fitted with a light torpedo in
the nose. Two triple WASS B-515/3 torpedo tubes
for Eurotorp MU 90 lightweight torpedoes are also
fitted; the same torpedo is used by the onboard NH
Industries SH-90 helicopter.
The Thales SLAT (Systeme de Lutte Anti-Torpille)
anti-torpedo system is carried for torpedo defence with
a pair of launchers mounted amidships. However the
less talked-about aspect of how the ship is tailored for
ASW is the significantly reduced acoustic signature of
the ship, with CDR Pagnotta telling APDR that in all the
key areas, the FREMMs have been less noisy than was
initially called for in the specifications.
As an example, CDR Pagnotta said that the
machinery spaces, typically the noisiest part of a ship,
were required to register no more than 110 decibels as
designed. In service, this was found to be consistently
less than 90 dB. This was indeed the case during
APDR’s visit to the machinery spaces while the ship
was making power for 24 knots during the run from
Sydney to Melbourne, and it was possible to carry on
normal conversations without needing to raise one’s
voice too much.
A POWERFUL SHIP
The Carabiniere is powered by a hybrid CODLAG
(Combined Diesel, eLectric And Gas turbine) system,
with the primary engine being a General Electric/Avio
LM2500+G4 marine gas turbine developing 32 MW.
This was put through its paces during its run from
Sydney to Melbourne, driving the ship at 24 knots
almost the entire distance from the moment it sailed
clear of Sydney Heads all the way to the entrance to
Melbourne’s Port Philip Bay.
In addition the ship has a pair of 2.15 MW Diesel
Electric engines. Together with the gas turbine these
drive two shafts that have a pair of variable pitch
propellers. In addition a 2 MW retractable multi-
directional bow thruster can be used to power the
ship forward at 6 knots in an emergency, although
it is more often used to assist the ship in berthing
or casting off, a feature which was demonstrated by
the ship during departure from Fleet Base East when
it rapidly left its berth without needing one of the
harbour tugs sent to assist.
On board power is provided by 4 diesel generators
each generating 2.1 MW. The transit to Australia
proved a test of the ship’s ability to operate in
the warmer climates of the Middle East, with Chief
Engineer Lieutenant-Commander Ugo Nieri modestly,
if wryly noting “we survived” despite needing all three
chiller units on board to keep the ship’s systems cool.
Another feature of the Fincantieri FREMM that would
have helped in its selection for the CEP is the provision
for two stowed helicopters on the ship. A smaller
hangar can hold helicopters up to a NH Industries
NH-90 while the hangar to starboard can be used to
stow a larger helicopter such as the Leonardo AW101.
Lieutenant Gennaro Liotti, a pilot with the SH-90
helicopter detachment on board the Carabiniere, told
APDR a RAN Seahawk (or MH-60R) had conducted
a series of landing and take-offs from the ship during
Passage Exercises off the South Australian coast
earlier in February, to verify the ability of the Seahawk
to operate on board.
The RAN will operate the Lockheed-Martin
MH-60R Romeo ASW helicopter and eventually
Unmanned Aircraft Systems from on board the
frigates, and there is little doubt spacious hangars
on the Fincantieri class will easily accommodate
both the UAS along with associated ground control
equipment to support operations.
A COMFORTABLE RIDE
It must be said that the journey from Sydney to
Melbourne was a very smooth one in what would
be considered moderate conditions in the Tasman
Sea and Bass Straits. The ship displayed excellent
seakeeping characteristics, with minimal rolling and
pitching despite travelling between 24 and 27 knots for
most of the journey in open waters. This is due in part to
a pair of canted rudders designed to improve stability.
At this juncture, this writer would like to point out that
this was his first cruise on a warship in open waters,
and he is happy to report that he managed to last the
entire journey without being sick!
Crew accommodation was also comfortable, with
CMDTE Pagnotta telling APDR “the comfort and
sustainability of the ship is much higher than what
I have experienced in the past”. Current and former
members of the RAN on board the ship also noted
that conditions onboard compared favourably with their
The ship can accommodate up to 203 crew and
visitors, with the Carabiniere having 182 personnel
on board for this cruise. This comprised of 143 crew
and 39 additional personnel that included aircrew, a
boarding team from the Brigata marina "San Marco", an
Explosive Ordnance Disposal Team (EOD), additional
medical personnel and a Public Affairs team.
CUSTOMISATION IS KEY
Defence has selected three very capable, modern
designs for the SEA 5000 CEP, and in the case of
the Fincantieri’s FREMM, it is obvious that a lot of
thought has been put into designing for capability and
endurance for the kind of long, open water missions
that SEA 5000 requires, as well as the potential for
future growth in a design that will be expected to
serve for decades.
Fincantieri Australia’s Vice President of Sales Paolo
Campi told APDR that the FREMM “has been designed
on an export concept base, which could be adapted to
receive different combat systems based on end user
preference” adding that “it won't be any problem to
integrate the required Australian Combat System into
the FREMM design”.
The available power and space on board the
Fincantieri’s FREMM will mean it will have no
problems accommodating or powering the systems.
The challenge now is to prove that the risk of
integrating these systems into the design is less than
that of its competitors.
24/02/2017 2:43 PM
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