Contracts worth hundreds of millions of pounds for guns for Horizon frigates, being jointly developed between Italy, France and the UK, may never materialise, it emerged this week.
A spokesman for one of the bidding companies said at this week’s Euronaval exhibition in Paris that cost-reduction studies on Horizon could conclude that one way of cutting costs might be for the frigates ‘to be fitted for, but not with, a main gun’.
Two teams are chasing the project Royal Ordnance and US company United Defense, and Italy’s OtoBreda teamed with VSEL. Both are offering new 127mm (5 inch) guns to meet the common requirement for a new gun of this calibre.
A decision to scrap the guns would also help to solve disagreement over the frigate’s displacement. The British want a ship of 6,500 tonnes, while the French and Italians would be happy with a vessel that was 1,500 tonnes lighter.
Another threat to the 127mm gun contract is the fact that the armament requirement could be met with guns stockpiled by the three countries’ navies.
This would also help cut Horizon’s costs, but it would not allow the countries to meet the project’s stated requirement for a 127mm gun firing a heavier shell, contractors believe.