The US Navy has outlined plans for the upgrade of two of the oldest surface combatants still serving in the Middle East region.
Acting on behalf of the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) International Fleet Support Program (PMS 326), the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division (NUWC) Keyport has canvassed industry interest in the modernisation of two former US Navy FFG-7 Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates transferred to the Royal Bahrain Naval Forces. The upgrade would be delivered under a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) case.
A total of 51 FFG-7 ships were commissioned into the US Navy between 1977 and 1989. This Cold War era frigate was designed primarily as an anti-aircraft and anti-submarine warfare escort for carrier battle groups, amphibious landing groups, underway replenishment groups, and merchant ship convoys. In later years, they were employed for lower intensity maritime security and regional engagement tasks.
The last FFG-7 frigate serving with the US Navy, USS Simpson (FFG-56), was retired from active service in September 2015. However, a number of units transferred as excess defence articles continue to serve in allied/partner navies.
The Royal Bahrain Naval Forces commissioned the FFG-7 class frigate RBNS Sabha FFG-90 (ex-USS Jack Williams [FFG-24]) in February 1997 following transfer from the US Navy. The ship is homeported at Mina Salman in Manama, Bahrain.
A second FFG-7 frigate, given the name RBNS Khalid Bin Ali FFG-91 (ex-USS Robert G Bradley [FFG-49]), is currently completing regeneration for the Royal Bahrain Naval Force. VSE Corporation is responsible for the frigate transfer under the FMS programme – the company awarded the Detyens Shipyard in Charleston, South Carolina, a contract for the ship’s repair and refit August 2021, with ex-Robert G Bradley arriving in the yard in March 2022. Handover was still pending as of June 2023.
The combat system equipping both Sabha and Khalid Bin Ali is essentially unchanged from their legacy US Navy configuration, being based around the legacy Naval Tactical Data System (NTDS) and Mk 92 weapon control system. Reflecting the fact that existing command, sensor and fire control equipment is less relevant to current operations and is increasingly encountering obsolescence with regard to systems and support, is now planning to modernise both frigates.
To support market research for the Bahrain FFG Modernization opportunity, NAVSEA held an industry day in late April 2023. As well as supporting market research on potential sources of systems engineering and integration, this event advised the scope of the potential requirement to candidate suppliers able to perform the engineering, integration, testing, logistics sustainment and training for numerous system improvements.
A follow-on sources sought notice/request for information was released on behalf of PMS 326 in mid-May. This confirmed that NAVSEA is preparing a response to Bahrain’s request for price and availability through FMS and identified a series of programme of record systems as GFE (without foreclosing alternatives).
It is expected that the Bahrain FFG Modernization will entail work will in both contractor facilities and in Bahrain. According to NAVSEA, work on the frigates is currently planned to start in Fiscal Year (FY) 2026 and complete in FY 2030.