Shipyard groundbreaking ceremonies are a rare occurrence in the COVID-19 era, and when they occur, they are grounds for celebration. On Tuesday, Fincantieri Marinette Marine broke ground on a new enclosed fabrication facility to accommodate production of the U.S. Navy's new FFG(X) frigate, the future Constellation class.
Although Fincantieri Marinette would have preferred to hold an all-hands groundbreaking ceremony with the entire shipyard staff and the local community, it opted for a scaled-down version due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The attendees had a lot to celebrate: the new Building 34 will be the largest in the yard's history, and it will support work on a 10-hull, $5.5 billion contract for the Navy (if all options are exercised).
The multi-million dollar building is just one component of Fincantieri's $200 million capital expansion in Wisconsin. In addition, the largest ship lift in the U.S. is being built along the waterfront, as well as improvements to other buildings to facilitate upcoming frigate production.
Across the bay at Fincantieri Bay Shipbuilding, construction is already under way on several new buildings where large blocks of the frigate’s hull will be constructed, then shipped to Marinette, where they will be joined together inside of Building 34.
“Building 34 is a key element to our Constellation-class frigate production,” said Dario Deste, president and CEO of Fincantieri Marine Group. “This will allow us to complete construction of two 500-foot ships at the same time inside of a massive climate-controlled facility. We are improving our facilities, but also adding to our workforce, with engineers, project managers, and nearly every skilled trade."
Fincantieri's FFG(X) design is based on its existing FREMM frigate, which is in use with French, Italian and Moroccan forces. The FREMM ("Fregata Europea Multi-Missione") has been in service since 2012, and the Italian Navy variant has a 30-knot top speed, a range of 6,800 miles and a 130-member crew.
The FFG(X) is a multi-role surface combatant with built-in capability to conduct air defense, anti-submarine warfare and surface warfare operations. Its systems will be derived from standard Navy gear, like an AN/SPY-6-based radar, a Baseline Ten (BL10) Aegis Combat System and a complement of Mk 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) cells for SM-series missiles. These systems are in use aboard multiple U.S. Navy vessel classes, making it easier to keep spare parts in stock and train sailors on a common platform. FFG(X) will replace the lightly-armed Littoral Combat Ship variants in future production.