Italian FFG(X) contender arrives in Norfolk

The Italian Navy’s FREMM frigate ITS Alpino (F594) has arrived in Norfolk, Virginia, for the first stop of her North American tour.

The tour will help Fincantieri, and the Italian industry, showcase the FREMM frigate design Fincantieri is offering for the US Navy’s next frigate, dubbed FFG(X).

Alpino arrived at Norfolk Station Norfolk on May 17 and will stay until May 24.

Prior to making the first port call of her North America tour, the frigate met at sea with guided-missile destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) to carry out combined operations May 16-17.

“The crew exchange was highly beneficial to both Gonzalez’s crew and Alpino’s, giving rare insight into each other’s daily routine, said Cmdr. Les Sobol, the commanding officer of USS Gonzalez. “The [passing exercise] was an invaluable opportunity to flex multiple skillsets with our NATO partners at sea.”

In addition to the passing exercise, Gonzalez and Alpino conducted visit, board, search, and seizure exercises and flashing light communication drills off the coast of Virginia, allowing both crews to gain familiarity and proficiency in tactical maneuvering and communications.

“ITS Alpino’s high-end technology and air asset, the SH-90, was stunning to view and discuss,” said operations specialist 1st class Caitlin N. Cannon. “I truly enjoyed our collaboration and I feel training events like this should be encouraged more often; building relationships with our allies, training alongside each other, and most importantly coming together as a war fighting team, is vital to NATO operations.”

Following her stay in Norfolk, Alpino will visit Baltimore, New York City, and Boston. The trip is designed to both improve upon cooperation between the US and Italian navies and underscore the potential benefits of frigates modelled off the ITS Alpino for the US Navy.

The ITS Alpino has 16 Vertical Launch System (VLS) cells that can be upgraded to 32 according to Fincantieri, can host two helicopters, and can combat undersea, surface, and airborne threats.

Commenting the frigate’s arrival to Norfolk, retired Vice Admiral Richard Hunt and Fincantieri Marinette Marine’s chief strategy officer said: “The ITS Alpino demonstrates the proven versatility and capability of the FREMM class frigate. It provides a superior platform for the U.S. Navy FFG(X) competition and can provide great combat capability for our Navy in the near term and beyond. It will contribute to the defense of America and our allies.”

“The ITS Alpino’s cutting-edge technology provides the capabilities needed for FFG(X) to be highly lethal while still being dependable and comfortable for the sailors who operate it,” Charles Goddard, formerly the US Navy’s PEO Ships and current Fincantieri Marine Group senior vice president added. “The FREMM’s design will enable it to grow over its service life with the U.S. Navy with limited upgrade costs. This ship is a technical marvel.”

Fincantieri is one of five companies shortlisted by the US Navy to develop conceptual designs for the FFG(X) frigate.

Photo: US destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG 66) and Italian frigate ITS Alpino (F 594) sail together during a passing exercise on May 17. Photo: Italian Navy