NFR90 Frigate

Eight nations were involved with the NFR90 project to build a common NATO frigate, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the United States. Greece, Turkey and Belgium had also expressed an interest in joining. Feasibility studies were completed at the end of 1985, which showed that it should be possible for such a collaborative project to be undertaken, and that certain national variations in equipment would have been possible to apply, and not risked the whole project. The biggest source of disharmony was the choice of anti-ship and anti-aircraft missile, and while the McDonnell Douglas Harpoon had become almost standard in NATO, the French were likely to stay with the Exocet and the Italians would keep Otomat. The British were also concerned over the lack of a close-in missile defence system, either gun-based, or missile-based.

Following on from this, an official NATO Staff Requirement was drawn up and presented to each member country by mid-1987, after which there was a period of consideration before a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) could be signed to then proceed to the Project Definition Stage. Although it seemed likely at this stage that the British Government would withdraw from the project (due to cost and incompatibility with Royal Navy Staff Requirements), a major argument against such an action was that British companies would then almost certainly be excluded from bidding for contracts to supply equipment. Therefore it was announced in early 1988, the UK would participate (at a cost of £100 million) in the Project Definition Stage and Admiral Geoffrey Marsh RN would be Project Manager. Unfortunately, late in 1989, the UK declared that it would no longer be continuing in the NFR90 project, and that it would pursue a national replacement for the Type 42 destroyers.

The NFR90 project offered a great opportunity for European defence collaboration and would have been a significant symbol of allied unity. Unfortunately, there was difficulty in reaching agreement on work sharing, which often conflicted with the goal of cost-effectiveness. Also, approval from each participating nation was for one stage only, and all work would have to stop while the following stage is negotiated. A British, nationally designed frigate could take up to ten years; the NFR project could have lasted fifteen or twenty. There was also the problem of designing a ship to accept weapons that do not as yet exist, especially when the participants do not want the same weapons fit.

How to cite this article: Antill, P. (17 January 2001), NFR90 Frigate,

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