The Horizon class is a class of highly sophisticated air-defence frigates (The French Navy applies the term first-class frigate to guided missile destroyers) in service with the French Navy and Italian Navy. The program started off as the Common New Generation Frigate (CNGF), a multi-national collaboration to produce a new generation of air-defence frigates. In Italy the class is known as the Orizzonte-class, which translates to “horizon” in French and English. The UK then joined France and Italy in the Horizon-class frigate programme; however, differing national requirements, work-share arguments and delays led to the UK withdrawing on 26 April 1999 and starting its own national project Type 45 destroyer. On 23 November 1999 Marconi Electronic Systems or MES was confirmed as prime contractor for the Type 45 project. Seven days later MES and British Aerospace merged to form BAE Systems, making the latter the prime contractor.
The FREMM multipurpose frigate are currently under construction using the same company structure as the Horizon project.
The Horizon-class frigates have been designed to perform area air defense in severe countermeasure environments. Their PAAMS weapon system comprises the Empar multi-function radar, 48-cell Sylver Vertical Launch System (VLS) and ASTER 15/30 surface-to-air missiles. The weapon system will also include underwater and surface warfare. Improved survivability will be achieved through the combination of weapons system and stealth features.
The main difference between the French and Italian Horizon-class frigates will be the Exocet and Otomat anti-ship missiles employed by each country and the ASW helicopter. France will deploy the NH90, while Italy will deploy the EH101 Merlin onboard their frigates. Each ship will be provided with 3 OTO-Melara 76mm naval guns and a helicopter hangar as well as flight deck located at the stern. The SLAT anti-torpedo system and close-in weapon systems will be also provided to the Horizon-class ships improving their self-defense capability and survivability.
The French and Italian Navies have ordered 2 Horizon frigates each. These ships will enter service between 2006 and 2009. Future plans may include addition of 16-cell to the planned 48-cell Sylver VLS increasing the number of weapons carried by each ship as well as integration of the Scalp Naval cruise missile currently under development by MBDA.
The first French Horizon frigate, named Forbin, was officially launched at DCN’s site in Lorient on March 10, 2005. The second frigate, name Chevalier Paul, was officially launched on 12 July 2006 at DCN facilities in Lorient. These two ships are intended to replace Suffren and Duquesne frigates in the French Navy.
On 14 October 2005 Fincantieri’s shipyard at Riva Trigoso (Genoa) officially launched first Horizon/Orizzonte frigate named “Andrea Doria”. The ship was originally named “Carlo Bergamini”. Construction began in July 2002 and was expected to be commissioned by the Italian Navy during 2007. Her sister ship “Caio Duilio” was scheduled to enter service to years later. Construction of the second Orizzonte frigate started in September 2003. Italy’s Navy Orizzonte program was signed in October 2000 along with the Horizon program for the French Navy. Andrea Doria and Caio Duilio will replace Ardito and Audace frigates in the Italian Navy.