During the Paris Air Show on 20 June, the representatives of France and Italy signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the Mid-Life Upgrade (MLU) of the four Horizon Antisubmarine Frigates of the French and Italian navies. Their modernisation will be awarded to Naviris, the consortium owned 50/50 by Fincantieri and Naval Group and Eurosam, a consortium formed by MBDA and Thales. A formal contract will be signed in a few weeks by Naviris, Eurosam and OCCAR, representing Italy and France.
This step follows a feasibility study phase, signed in 2020 by Naviris as prime contractor and OCCAR (Organisation for Joint Cooperation in Armaments). This study was the first stage of the project and focused mainly on the air defence system of the four vessels. Its objective was to identify and analyse the modifications that needed to be implemented on the French and Italian Horizon class frigates to increase their capabilities until the end of their life cycle.
This collaboration will cover the overall modernisation of the Frigates, focusing on the air defence system (including radar, weapons and related Control and Command), the platform and combat system and the electronic warfare system that will be common to both nations.
Naviris will work in close cooperation with its co-contractor Eurosam, its parent companies Fincantieri and Naval Group and other industrial partners including Leonardo, Thales, MBDA and Sigen. Naviris will be responsible for the work on the combat system modernisation (Anti Air Warfare integration, new electronic warfare, new communication, new combat management system, system upgrade, new optronic) and also platform modernisation (new ship management system), while Eurosam will be responsible for the upgrade of the Main Anti-Aircraft Missile System (PAAMS) and the Long Range Radar (LRR).
The Horizon frigates were originally built between 2000 and 2010 in a joint project between Fincantieri and Naval Group, providing the Italian and French navies with two first-class anti-aircraft frigates each. In this context, the coordinated work of seven industrial partners led by Naviris and eurosam will respond to the need to rationalise the performance, availability and maintenance of the frigates.
This contract marks the continuation of a long-standing industrial cooperation between France and Italy. The modernisation of the Horizon frigates, carried out jointly by the two countries through the Naviris subsidiary, is part of this continuity.
The vessel is designed for a range of missions, including high-intensity operations, all with a reduced crew. Horizon frigates are front-line fighters with a highly specialized mission: anti-air warfare, also known as air defense. As such, the ships' main capabilities are airspace control in areas of operations, air defence command and control, and anti-aircraft coverage for carrier groups and convoys. Horizon frigates provide protection against high-intensity threats and anti-ship missile attacks. They also contribute to air/sea control during military operations by providing air defence command and control of allied forces.
It is worth recalling that Fincantieri and Naval Group are competing for the naval corvettes programme. A program that may be written too much lately about choosing one or the other but the only certainty is that nothing will go ahead unless the new Minister of National Defense Nikos Dendias is first fully informed. Something that according to well-informed sources will take at least the whole summer if not more...