Electronic warfare: Where have the R-ECM jammers of the multi-mission frigate Normandie gone?

Normally, multi-mission frigates [FREMM] of the French Navy are each equipped with two powerful R-ECM type jammers [Radar Electronic Counter Measure] which, supplied by electronics engineers Thales and Electronica, are located on either side of their main central mast. These devices blind enemy surveillance radars and neutralize missile seekers.

Admitted to active service in June 2020, the FREMM Normandie was then distinguished from the five previous frigates by its ability to launch surface-to-air missiles Aster 15 and Aster 30 [les seconds ayant une portée plus grande que les premiers, ndlr]its improved cyber defense means, its new generation IFF interrogator/responder as well as NATO’s new L22 data link.

But the FREMM Normandie now presents another, notable difference, which has just been noticed by the Mer&Marine site on the occasion of its return to the naval base of Brest, after having spent three months in the Mediterranean, within the naval air group formed around of the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, as part of the Clemenceau 22 mission. Indeed, this building no longer has its two R-ECM jammers, their rectangular shape no longer being visible at the base of its main mast.

To tell the truth, few people had so far paid attention to this detail, while the French Navy released several photographs of this FREMM during its Mediterranean journey.

A priori, “Normandy” already no longer had its two jammers during the Dynamic Mariner and Joint Warrior exercises, organized under the aegis of NATO in the North Atlantic, from September 2021. In any case, c is what we see on a snapshot published at the time.

Given that the Mediterranean is an area particularly under stress [et qui l’est sans doute davantage depuis l’invasion de l’Ukraine par la Russie]the absence of these two R-CEM devices, which are essential elements for the protection of such a ship, raises questions…

According to Mer&Marine information, the FREMM Normandie R-ECM jammers have been dismantled to equip the future multi-mission frigate with enhanced air defense capability [FREDA] “Lorraine”, which made its first trip to sea last February [et, effectivement, elle était bien dotée des brouilleurs en question à ce moment là…].

This “transfer” from one frigate to another is explained by the fact that the French Navy has only been able to finance, to date, seven pairs of R-ECMs for its eight FREMMs. Hence this arbitration that it was forced to make, knowing that, writes Mer&Marine, “if these systems can be removed and reinstalled if necessary, it is a heavy operation that cannot be carried out regularly”. And for the moment, and except to obtain an additional envelope, it is not expected that Normandy will recover its two jammers in the near future.

This also applies to future defense and intervention frigates [FDI]… Lack of budget, explained Admiral Pierre Vandier, the Chief of Staff of the French Navy [CEMM]during a parliamentary hearing in June 2021, they will be devoid of anti-missile decoys and jamming devices. At least, this will be the case for the first units delivered.

“This is a budgetary choice: when the program was launched at the end of the previous LPM, the addition of these capacities was not included in the financial envelope. It was therefore decided to include them in the program aimed at upgrading the frigates, which leads to postponing until 2026 the opening of the budget line which will make it possible to finance them”, explained the CEMM at the time.

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