Horizon-class frigate

The Horizon class is a class of air-defence destroyers in service with the French Navy[7] and the Italian Navy, locally known as "frigates" though they are classified as destroyers using NATO classification. The programme started as the Common New Generation Frigate (CNGF), a multi-national collaboration to produce a new generation of air-defence frigates. In Italy the class is known as the Orizzonte class, which translates to "horizon" in French and English. The UK then joined France and Italy in the Horizon-class frigate programme;[8] however, differing national requirements, workshare arguments and delays led to the UK withdrawing on 26 April 1999 and starting its own national project, the Type 45 destroyer.[9]

French destroyer Forbin, lead ship of the Horizon class
Class overview
Name: Horizon class
Builders: Horizon Sas (DCN, Thales, Fincantieri, Finmeccanica – Leonardo-Finmeccanica since 2016), Leonardo since 2017
Preceded by:
  • - France: €1.08 billion[1]FY 2009 (~US$1.5b)
  • - Italy: € 1.5 billion FY2016
Built: 2002–2007
In service: 2008
In commission: 2007
Planned: 8
Completed: 4
Cancelled: 4
Active: 4
General characteristics
Type: Guided missile destroyer
  • - 7,050 t (6,940 long tons; 7,770 short tons), full load[2]
  • - 5.290 t (5.206 long tons; 5.831 short tons), light displacement
  • - 152.87 m (501 ft 7 in) LOA
  • - 141.7 m (465 ft) LPP
Beam: 20.3 m (67 ft)
  • - 5.4 m (18 ft)
  • - depth 11.8 m (39 ft)
Speed: In excess of 29 knots (54 km/h; 33 mph)[3]
  • 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)
Complement: Italia: 255 in 1, 2 or 4 beds for cabin
Crew: Italia: 236, of which: 195 based-crew + 13 flight staff + 18 others
Sensors and
processing systems:
Electronic warfare
& decoys:
  • - Elettronica Spa 4100 Nettuno
  • - SIGEN EW
  • - 2 x OTO Melara ODLS-H decoy launching system
  • - 2× SLAT anti torpedo system
Aircraft carried: 1 x 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 FREMM multipurpose frigate are currently under construction 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. The resulting CNGF programme consisted of the Horizon frigate and its Principal Anti Air Missile System (PAAMS).

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 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. The compromise which 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.[10]

An international joint venture company (IJVC) was established in 1995 comprising the national prime contractors, DCN (France), GEC-Marconi (UK) and Orizzonte (Italy). In the period 1995–1996 significant arguments, changing requirements and technological problems led to the slippage of the in-service-date of the frigates to around 2006.

In early 1997 a disagreement emerged as to the choice of vertical launching system (VLS) for the PAAMS Aster missile. France and Italy favoured their own Sylver Vertical Launching System, while the UK was leaning toward the American Mk 41 – capable of firing the Tomahawk land attack missile. This issue was eventually resolved when the SYLVER launcher was selected by the PAAMS development team.

UK withdrawal

On 26 April 1999 the UK announced that it was withdrawing from the CNGF project to pursue its own national design. The Financial Times summarised the main disagreements between the partner countries; the UK wanted a large destroyer which could patrol large areas such as the Atlantic, compared to France's desire for smaller aircraft carrier escorts and Italy's intention to use them in the Mediterranean; secondly the UK wanted the ships with a wide-area defence capability, able to protect large numbers of ships rather than just protection from missiles targeted in the frigate's general direction; finally 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 BAE-led consortium given this role, would not accept this.[11]

Summing up the changes from the original specification the UK's Chief of Defence Procurement is reported to have said "it's not common and it's not a frigate!". The resulting Type 45 destroyer is armed with the PAAMS missile system and has benefited from investment in the Horizon project.

Franco-Italian project

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.[12] The Italian Navy ordered two units, Andrea Doria and Caio Duilio, to replace the Audace-class destroyers. 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. However these plans were put in doubt by the 2013 French White Paper on Defence and National Security. France has bought forty Aster 15s and eighty Aster 30s for their ships.[1] On the Italian units the three cannon will be upgraded to the 76/62mm Super Rapid Multi Feeding David/Strales version with the capacity to use the DART guided projectile in the anti-missile role.[13]


Laid downLaunchedCommissionedMotto
 French Navy
Forbin D620 DCNS
4 April 2002 10 March 2005 December 2008 Opra Sac Di Sou Kraam
Chevalier Paul D621 23 October 2003 12 July 2006 June 2009 Oser et Vaincre
 Marina Militare
Andrea Doria D 553 Fincantieri
Riva Trigoso
and Muggiano
(La Spezia)
6108 19 July 2002 15 October 2005 22 December 2007 Altius Tendam
Caio Duilio D 554 6109 19 September 2003 23 October 2007 3 April 2009 Nomen numen

See also


  1. "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. "Forbin (D620)" (in French). Marine Nationale. Archived from the original on 31 May 2015. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  4. "Frégate Forbin" (in French). Alabordache.fr. Archived from the original on 13 January 2015. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  5. "Frégate Chevalier Paul" (in French). Alabordache.fr. Archived from the original on 14 October 2014. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  6. https://www.meretmarine.com/fr/content/narwhal-deux-nouveaux-batiments-francais-equipes
  7. "La frégate Chevalier Paul, " bête de guerre " de la Marine nationale". Meretmarine (in French). 30 November 2012. Archived from the original on 28 April 2015. Retrieved 1 June 2015.
  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. 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.
  11. Nicoll, Alexander (27 April 1999). "National differences scupper frigate project". Financial Times.
  12. "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 via HighBeam Research.
  13. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 August 2016. Retrieved 29 July 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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