The U.S. Navy is moving ahead to acquire a new frigate or FFG(X). Last year, it awarded five contracts for conceptual designs to Austal USA, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics Bath Iron Works, Fincantieri Marine and Huntington Ingalls. The U.S. Navy has made it quite apparent that it is looking for a highly capable, multi-mission combatant but that it wants it “on the cheap.” The Navy may be unintentionally forgoing an option for a propulsion system that would provide benefits for the new frigate’s combat capabilities as well as long-term reductions in operating costs. I am referring to a hybrid electric drive (HED) engine. HED is an electric motor mounted on the propulsion shaft that is powered by the ship’s generators. HED provides a very quiet and efficient means of propulsion at lower speeds, up to 16 knots. HED provides advantages both in combat and long-term operating costs. I have written about the importance of HED for the FFG(X) here.
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