A contract for the construction of five F-110 frigates for the Spanish Navy was signed between Navantia and the Spanish Ministry of Defense in April 2019. Navantia has begun the construction process of the same. These frigates will be built in Navantia’s shipyard in Ferrol (A Coruña, Spain), and the deliveries will occur yearly. The first F-110 is planned to be commissioned by 2027.
While the F-110s are to replace Spanish Navy’s Santa Maria-class frigates which have been in service for over 30 years, the new frigates must have an operational life of more than four decades, according to Navy officials.
All About F-110s
The F-110s will be operating in combination with other units while they can also perform functions related to supporting civilian authorities and maritime security. These multi-purpose escort ships are equipped with anti-submarine, anti-aircraft, and anti-surface capabilities.
The frigates would also have SCOMBA, a Spanish combat system developed by Navantia Sistemas. The design of this new ship includes advanced technological features, such as a more efficient and silent hybrid propulsion plant, a multi-mission space that expands the ship’s capabilities in all defence segments and an integrated mast with different sensor and antenna solutions.
Known as the Bonifaz-class, these frigates will also feature the Aegis combat system integrating a new solid-state S-band radar, Raytheon’s Evolved SeaSparrow Missile (ESSM) Block 2 missile for the ship to air protection, GMV’ SENDA navigation system, Leonardo 127mm 127/64 LW main gun, Propeller systems by Kongsberg Maritime, Rohde & Schwarz external communications systems and a sonar suite by Thales, which includes BlueMaster UMS 4110 and CAPTAS 4 Compact sonars, the TUUM-6 underwater communication system, and the BlueScan digital acoustic system.
Digital Twin As A Concept
The F-110 frigates will be the first Spanish naval programme to have Digital Twin.
In layman’s terms, a digital twin is a virtual model of any real-world object that replicates its performance and allows the creator of that model to determine where the asset (such as a vessel, computer system onboard a ship or a ship component) performs well and where an improvement/correction is needed.
Digital twins also allow agencies to understand how to build a particular product or process from an initial production standpoint and maintain it over its lifecycle.
Systems can also be tested without having to board a physical ship, and this comes as one of the largest benefits of this technology to the navy.
Better inspection, quicker repairs
According to a report by Defence Systems, the rationale for creating a digital twin was for the maintenance engineers who could identify corrosion, damage, and alignment issues much faster and be more proactive on maintenance when a ship comes to port.
Traditionally, ship inspections were conducted manually as it was possible only when the vessel was in port, but with a digital twin, the sensor data collected gets distributed to colleagues onshore and vice-versa for inspection. This also enables the navy to keep the required team of workers and tools ready, and once the ship comes into port, they are on hand to fix the issue.
In a report, the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer states that scans from drones and onboard photogrammetry were used to create geotagged, time-based, metadata-dense models, which for the maintenance engineers, are far more actionable datasets and this results in lower human errors and maintenance costs because experts onshore and on board can view the same reliable data and make necessary decisions before degradation hits the point of failure.
Apart from the above, an Integrated Services System (ISS) complements the Digital Twin, providing the ship with integrated sensors in its light points, substantially reducing its wiring. The F-110 will also be equipped with 3D printers for manufacturing spare parts.
Other reports claim the ships to be the first ones in the fleet to have an integrated cybersecurity system, enabling the vessel to have a reduced crew complement for operation, which will result in improved habitability.
Indra is supplying the frigates with electronic defence systems and an X-Band surface surveillance radar. Indra is building an antenna for the S-Band AESA multifunction radar, for which it has tied up with Lockheed Martin.
The S-band anti-air warfare radar, a variant of SPY-7 radar is a fully digitized system comprising hundreds of small independent blocks or tiles. The flat facets are laid out around the mast to minimize the ship’s radar profile. These digital tiles enable it to operate in a manner that the vessel is operating several radars simultaneously, enabling multitasking capability. For example, it can serve as a long-range radar and integrate missile control and set tracking on multiple targets.