Japan Is Looking For A New Class Of FFM Frigates


Japan Is Looking For A New Class Of FFM Frigates

May 17, 2023

By:Kosuke Takahashi

The JMSDF is seeking a new variant of multi-mission stealth frigates for fiscal year 2024 and beyond. The project is officially called “new-class FFM”.

According to information obtained by Naval News from the Japanese Ministry of Defense’s Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency (ATLA), the agency on March 31 signed separate contracts with Japan’s shipbuilding companies Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and Japan Marine United (JMU) to seek their formal proposals to design and build a “new-class FFM” that will succeed the Mogami-class FFM for the JMSDF. One of these two companies will be selected as the builder of the new-class FFM, which are set to be built from the next fiscal year onwards.

The ATLA said MHI and JMU are the only two companies capable of designing and building a new surface ship for the JMSDF in terms of the construction capabilities such as dock availability and man-hours, construction technology, and quality control.

In this context, under a limited tender contract, or a negotiated contract, MHI was awarded a 15.4 million yen contract and JMU landed a 14.96 million yen contract to conduct studies on the future frigates. The deadline for submitting proposals for the new-class FFM from these two companies to the ATLA is August 31.

The JMSDF had originally planned to build a total of 22 Mogami-class frigates at a pace of two ships per year, as Tokyo is pursuing more compact ships to counter China in the East China Sea and broader Indo-Pacific.

However, JMSDF officials said it has decided to now procure a total of only 12 Mogami-class frigates until fiscal year 2023, with plans to construct a new-class of multi-mission stealth frigates from fiscal year 2024. The new frigates will be derived from the 30FFM type, which the Mogami class is based on.

The JMSDF is expected to acquire a total of 10 frigates in the new class.

Plans for procurement have surfaced at the beginning of this year and the JMSDF held a briefing for potential shipbuilders on January 31, 2023. The deadline to submit their applications as possible contractors was set for end of February 2023. Then, only two companies, namely MHI and JMU, had participated in the briefing and application process, said JMSDF officials.

MHI showed new versions of the FFM design during Indo Pacific 2019 exhibition in Sydney Australia:

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, JMSDF officials told Naval News that the Mogami-class face several design issues, including with the layout of the equipment room and mooring capstans.

The new class of frigates will largely inherit the design of the Mogami-class, but with improvements to address these issues, said the JMSDF officials. Due to the significant increase in the defense budget over the next five years, it is possible that the new-class FFM will be equipped with new equipment.

One JMSDF official told Naval News:

“Continuing to build the same-class of ship for 11 years doesn’t match the current speed of technological evolution,”

The Mogami-class is a revolution for the JMSDF, as the service has a long standing history of procuring destroyers as its main combatants instead of frigates.

Like many developed countries in the Asia-Pacific region, Japan is facing the serious concerns of rapid aging and very low birthrate and having difficulties staffing its armed forces given this shrinking pool of available manpower. To overcome this challenge, the JMSDF is turning towards unmanned vehicles, lean manning concepts, and greater usage of automation on its newer equipment such as unmanned surface vehicles (USV) and unmanned undersea vehicles (UUV). These concepts are more easily inducted on smaller, missile-laden vessels such as frigates, as compared with the larger destroyer classes. According to the JMSDF, the Mogami-class only needs about 90 crew members, which is about half the crew complement of destroyers type vessels such as the Asahi-class.

Here is Naval News video tour and interview with the commanding officer of JS Kumano (FFM-2) during IMDEX Asia 2023 in Singapore: