On November 7, 2022, the official launching ceremony of the lead French multi-purpose frigate of the new generation D 660 Amiral Ronarc’h of the FDI type (Frégates de Défense et d’Intervention) took place at the arsenal of the French shipbuilding association Naval Group in Lorian.
The French Minister of the Armed Forces, Sebastien Lecornu and the Greek Minister of National Defense, Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos, were present for the occasion. As a matter of fact, because of the inclement weather, the hull of the frigate was not moved from the construction shed’s dock to the outfitting embankment after it had been placed there.
As a result, the operation had to be put on hold for many days.
The vessel was given its name in honour of Admiral Pierre-Alexis Ronarche (1865–1940), who, during the First World War, was the commander of the Naval Infantry Brigade, who gained a great deal of fame, and then the commander of the French naval forces on the Atlantic coast, and in 1919–1920 – the chief of staff (commander) of the French fleet. During the war, the Naval Infantry Brigade gained a great deal of fame.
The frigate Amiral Ronarc’h is planned to enter testing at the end of 2023 and will be commissioned into the French fleet in the middle or end of 2024. The General Directorate of Armaments (DGA) of the French Ministry of the Armed Forces awarded Naval Group contracts in 2017 and 2019 for the construction of five FDI-class frigates for the French Navy to replace five La Fayette class frigates in the fleet, with a planned commissioning date of 2024 to 2029. The steel cutting ceremony for the lead frigate of the new type D 660 Amiral Ronarc’h took place at the arsenal in Lorian on October 24, 2019; the official laying ceremony of the ship was held on December 16, 2021. The next four FDI-class frigates were also named after French admirals of the 20th century – D 661 Amiral Louzeau, D 662 Amiral Castex, D 663 Amiral Nomy and D 664 Amiral Cabanier. The construction of the second ship Amiral Louzeau was started in Lorian in the summer of 2022.
FDI-class frigates are smaller ships than the FREMM-class frigates currently under construction for the French Navy, and until the end of 2018, were officially designated as “intermediate size frigates” (Frégates de Taille Intermédiaire – FTI). A feature of the architecture of FDI-type frigates is the “water-cutting” shape of the bow of the ship. The total displacement of the FDI type frigate is 4500 tons, the maximum length is 122 m, and the width is 18 m. The power plant is diesel (four diesel engines with a total capacity of 42900 hp), the maximum speed is 27 knots, the cruising range is 5000 miles per 15 knots, autonomy is 45 days. The crew is 125 people, with the possibility of accommodating another 28 people.
The armament of FDI-type frigates should include eight MBDA Exocet MM40 Block 3C SCRC launchers, 16 Aster 15/30 vertical launchers, one 76-mm and two 20-mm artillery mounts, four 324-mm torpedo tubes, a helicopter based in the hangar NH90 Cayman, as well as UAVs. The electronic armament will include a new Thales Sea Fire 500 multifunctional radar system with an AFAR in an integrated mast, SETIS ASBU, a Kingklip Mk 11 underwing sonar and a towed CAPTAS 4 sonar, an Aquilon communications system, IXblue MARINS and iXblue NetANS navigation systems and a SENTINEL electronic warfare system.
The Naval Group is promoting the export variant of the FDI frigates as a modular project with the designation BELH@RRA. An agreement was signed in March 2022, for the purchase by Greece, in France, of three FDI-class frigates, and there is an option for one more FDI frigate. The variant for Greece is designated FDI HN, and the deal is estimated to be worth approximately 3 billion euros. The Greek Navy honoured three ancient Greek naval captains by naming three ordered frigates of this class after them: the F 601 Kimon (“Kimon”, N), the F 602 Nearchos (“Near”, ), and the F 603 Formion (“Formion”, ). The three frigates that Greece has ordered will all be constructed by the Naval Group in Lorian as part of a single production programme alongside ships of the same type that France has ordered. The first two Greek frigates are expected to be completed as early as 2025, and the third is expected to be completed in 2026. Because of this, the anticipated delivery dates for the second and third FDI-type frigates for the French fleet are scheduled to be pushed back by one year, to 2026 and 2027, respectively. The formal laying and installation of the first block of the hull of the F 601 Kimon type FDI HN frigate that is now being manufactured for the Greek Navy were conducted on October 21, 2022, in the city of Lorian.