DSTA has completed the upgrade of all six RSN Formidable-class stealth frigates. The frigates’ communications, sensor and defence capabilities were bolstered. Two frigates were also upgraded with peace support operations capabilities which included a new Launch and Recovery System to launch and recover small boats and unmanned surface vessels.
The frigates have been equipped with an enhanced gunnery suite that includes the implementation of a fire control radar (FCR). This dual band radar increases the frigate’s gunnery operating envelope with higher track continuity even in scenarios of high clutter and jamming. To ensure that the FCR is able to perform during operational scenarios, the team collaborated with the RSAF to trial the radar in coordination with multiple RSAF assets.
As part of the upgrade, the team equipped the frigates with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) Link 16 datalink system, boosting its interoperability with forces from Australia, New Zealand, the United States of America, United Kingdom and NATO. This broadens the range of coalition, maritime security and peace support operations that the RSN can participate in. The team incorporated a data forwarding function that processes and routes information seamlessly between Link 16 and Link 11, an older NATO datalink. As such, the frigates can network multiple platforms communicating on different protocols during multinational exercises such as the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC). Similarly, the FCR was integrated into the missile suite as an additional track source and this capability was demonstrated during RIMPAC.
Link 16 was a subsequent add-on to the existing frigate’s combat suite. As the frigate had been packed with advanced weapons, sensors and communications suite, the team had to analyse various options of locating the system, consider trade-offs and conduct engineering assessments to evaluate the electromagnetic compatibility and mitigate interference with existing emitters before finalising the antenna location.
Additionally, as Link 16 supports a wide range of data, integrating it with the ship’s Combat Management System required iterative reviews, extensive testing and validation. Through detailed planning and coordination with the RSN, the team was able to maximise the limited availability of the frigates and conduct system tests on two frigates concurrently.