Surface Forces: French Frigate Fracas


October 9, 2005: France has decided to not build a second pair of Forbin-class destroyers. These are the French variant of the Franco-Italian Horizon class. This is the second time the two destroyers have been cancelled (the first time was in 1996). This leaves France without
replacements for the Cassard and Jean Bart, a pair of destroyers first commissioned in 1988 and 1991.

The two Forbin-class destroyers that will be purchased, are replacing the Suffren-class destroyers. The Suffren-class destroyers displaced 5,335 tons, had a top speed of 63 kilometers per hour. They were equipped with the Masurca surface-to-air missile, which is a Mach 3 missile with a range of 55.5 kilometers. The Suffrens also carried six Exocet anti-ship missiles, two 100-millimeter guns, and a launcher for the Malafon anti-submarine missile.

The Jean Bart and Cassard displace 3900 tons and have a top speed of 55 kilometers. These ships have a single launcher for the SM-1 surface-to-air missile, eight Exocet anti-ship missiles, one 100-millimeter gun, and two Sadral launchers for the Mistral surface-to-air missile. These ships are anywhere from 14 to 17 years old at present, and replacements are not an urgent matter as they are for the Suffren-class destroyers.

The Forbin-class destroyers will displace 5600 tons, will have a vertical-launch system carrying 48 ASTER-15 or ASTER-30 missiles. The ASTER-15 has a range of 20 kilometers, while the ASTER-30 has a range of 70 kilometers. The Forbin-class destroyers will also carry two 76-millimeter guns, two six-round Sadral launchers, and eight Exocet anti-ship missiles. These ships have cost about $900 million each.

France is not going to stand pat with just two Forbin-class destroyers. One thing being looked into is a plan to purchase two additional European Multi-Mission Frigates (known as FREEM). These ships also displace 5600 tons, but will only cost $320 million each due to the fact that current plans call for the purchase of 17 ships (eight ASW variants and nine land-attack variants) to replace the Tourville and Georges Leyuges-class destroyers. French plans for this frigate already include the ASTER-15 missile and a 127-millimeter gun. France will have a modern force of destroyers, one of the best in the world. - Harold C. Hutchison (


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