Horizon-class frigate

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French destroyer Forbin, lead ship of the Horizon class
Class overview
NameHorizon class
BuildersHorizon Sas (DCNS, Thales, Fincantieri, Finmeccanica – Leonardo-Finmeccanica since 2016), Leonardo since 2017
Preceded by
In serviceSince 2008
In commissionSince 2007
General characteristics
  • 7,050 t (6,940 long tons; 7,770 short tons), full load[2]
  • 5,290 t (5,210 long tons; 5,830 short tons), light displacement
  • 152.87 m (501 ft 7 in) LOA
  • 141.7 m (465 ft) LPP
Beam20.3 m (67 ft)
  • 5.4 m (18 ft)
  • depth 11.8 m (39 ft)
SpeedIn excess of 29 knots (54 km/h; 33 mph)[6]
  • 6,100 nautical miles (11,000 km) at 18 kn (33 km/h)
  • 3,500 nmi (6,480 km) at 25 knots (46 km/h)
ComplementItalia: 255 in 1, 2 or 4 beds for cabin
CrewItalia: 236, of which: 195 based-crew + 13 flight staff + 18 others
Sensors and
processing systems
Electronic warfare
& decoys
  • Elettronica Spa 4100 Nettuno
  • 2 × OTO Melara ODLS-H decoy launching system
  • 2 × SLAT anti torpedo system
Aircraft carried1 × AW-101 or SH90A
Aviation facilities
  • Flight deck, 24.8 m × 16.0 m (81.4 ft × 52.5 ft)
  • Hangar for one AW-101 or NH90 Caïman

The Horizon class (French: Classe Horizon; Italian: Classe Orizzonte) is a class of air-defence destroyers in service with the French and Italian navies. They are designated as destroyers by the Italians[7] and using NATO classification but are referred to as "frigates" by the French. The programme started as the Common New Generation Frigate (CNGF), a three-nation collaboration between France, the United Kingdom, and Italy to develop a new generation of air-defence warships.[8] Differing national requirements, workshare disagreements and delays led to the UK withdrawing from the project in 1999 to develop the Type 45 destroyer.[9]

The FREMM multipurpose frigate were built using the same company structure as the Horizon project.


France, Italy, and the UK issued a joint requirement in 1992 after the failure of the NATO Frigate Replacement for the 90s (NFR-90) project. In July 1993, the three countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding for a Common New Generation Frigate (CNGF).[10] The ships were to be armed with the Principal Anti Air Missile System (PAAMS). The UK intended to purchase twelve ships to replace its Type 42 destroyers. France was to purchase four to replace its Suffren class, and Italy would purchase six to replace its Andrea Doria and Audace-class ships.[11]

Problems emerged almost immediately. The primary problem was that of differing requirements: France wanted anti-aircraft warfare (AAW) escorts for its aircraft carriers, but only a limited range was necessary due to the self-defence capability of the French Charles de Gaulle. Italy too required only close-range capabilities, as in its home waters of the Mediterranean Sea the ships would operate under Italian Air Force cover or escorts for its aircraft carrier Cavour. The Royal Navy, however, required more capable ships which could throw a large defensive "bubble" over a fleet operating in hostile areas.[12] The compromise that largely solved this problem was the adoption of a standard radar interface, which allowed France and Italy to install the EMPAR multi-function passive electronically scanned array radar and the UK to install the more capable SAMPSON active electronically scanned array radar—the SAMPSON radar has a higher data rate and an adaptive beam that allows a greater ability to track multiple targets, long-range detection of low-RCS targets, a lower false-alarm rate, and overall higher tracking accuracy.[13]

In March 1996, it was agreed that the PAAMS office would be based in Paris, and the Project Horizon project office would be based in London. The latter was to be responsible for the design of the ship, its command and control, and secondary weapons systems. Britain also agreed to contribute £100m in recognition of the development work already completed by Italy and France on PAAMS.[11] Construction would be carried out by DCN (France), GEC-Marconi (UK), and Orizzonte (Italy).[11]

UK withdrawal[edit]

On 26 April 1999, the UK announced that it was withdrawing from the CNGF project to pursue its own national design. At this point, the CNGF project was five years behind schedule.[14] The Financial Times summarised the main disagreements between the partner countries:[15]

  • Vessel size – As noted above, the UK's requirements were out of step with the those of France and Italy. An agreement was reached but the Financial Times reported that the issue "never entirely [went] away."
  • Capability – The UK wanted the ships with a wide-area defence capability due to its experience in the Falklands War.
  • Industrial structure – The UK tried to use its larger requirement to exert influence; the UK's desire to see Marconi appointed as prime contractor was accepted by France, but only in return for DCN being given the role as prime contractor for the combat management system. The UK, which wished to see a British Aerospace-led consortium given this role, would not accept this.

The resulting Type 45 destroyer is armed with the PAAMS missile system and has benefited from investment in the Horizon project.

Franco-Italian project[edit]

Italian Caio Duilio

France and Italy continued their collaboration under the Horizon project. In September 2000, the two countries signed a contract to jointly produce four ships, ordering two ships each which would deploy the PAAMS missile system.[16] The Italian Navy ordered two units, Andrea Doria and Caio Duilio, to replace the Audace class. Andrea Doria was accepted on 22 December 2007 and received the flag of the Italian Navy. Full operation capability was achieved in the summer of 2008. The French Navy ordered two units, Forbin and Chevalier Paul, to replace the Suffren-class carrier escorts. The project cost France €2.16bn (~US$3bn) at 2009 prices.[1] A further two Horizons were cancelled; instead, the two Cassard-class frigates were to be replaced by the FREDA air-defence variant of the Franco-Italian FREMM multipurpose frigate (later known as Alsace and Lorraine). France bought 40 Aster 15 and 80 Aster 30 missiles for their ships.[1] On the Italian units, the three cannons will be upgraded to the 76 mm/62 Super Rapid Multi Feeding David/Strales version with the capacity to use the DART guided projectile in the anti-missile role.[17]


Name Pennant
Builder Laid down Launched Commissioned Status Motto
 French Navy
Forbin D620 DCNS
4 April 2002 10 March 2005 December 2008 In service Opra Sac Di Sou Kraam
Chevalier Paul D621 23 October 2003 12 July 2006 June 2009 In service Oser et Vaincre
 Italian Navy
Andrea Doria D 553 Fincantieri
Riva Trigoso
and Muggiano
(La Spezia)
19 July 2002 15 October 2005 22 December 2007 In service Altius Tendam
Caio Duilio D 554 19 September 2003 23 October 2007 3 April 2009 In service Nomen numen

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Projet de loi de finances pour 2013 : Défense : équipement des forces" (in French). Senate of France. 22 November 2012. Archived from the original on 26 March 2013. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  2. ^ "Project Horizon". Globalsecurity.org. Archived from the original on 22 September 2015. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  3. ^ "Frégate Forbin" (in French). Alabordache.fr. Archived from the original on 13 January 2015. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  4. ^ "Frégate Chevalier Paul" (in French). Alabordache.fr. Archived from the original on 14 October 2014. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  5. ^ "Narwhal : Deux nouveaux bâtiments français équipés". June 2018.
  6. ^ "Forbin (D620)" (in French). Marine Nationale. Archived from the original on 31 May 2015. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  7. ^ "Destroyer – Marina Militare".
  8. ^ "Horizon Class". naval-technology.com. Archived from the original on 16 March 2015. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  9. ^ Nicoll, Alexander (27 April 1999). "National differences scupper frigate project". Financial Times.
  10. ^ "Project to build warship agreed". Financial Times. London. 17 July 1993.
  11. ^ a b c Gray, Bernard (23 March 1996). "Britain, France and Italy agree £7bn frigate deal". Financial Times. London.
  12. ^ Gray, Bernard (23 March 1996). "Eurofrigate planned for a new world of regional conflicts". Financial Times. London.
  13. ^ Dranidis, Dimitris V. (May 2003). "Backboards of the fleet: shipboard phased-array radars; a survey of requirements, technologies, and operational systems". Journal of Electronic Defense. 26 (5): 55.
  14. ^ Nicoll, Alexander; Owen, David (27 April 1999). "European warship project collapses as UK withdraws". Financial Times. London.
  15. ^ Nicoll, Alexander (27 April 1999). "National differences scupper frigate project". Financial Times.
  16. ^ "France, Italy Sign Agreement To Design, Build Four Horizon Frigates". Defense Daily. 26 September 2000. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 9 August 2015.
  17. ^ "Strales Guidance System for 76mm and DART Ammunition" (PDF). OTO Melara. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 August 2016. Retrieved 29 July 2016.

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