The La Fayette class units are light multi-mission frigates built by DCN and operated by France (Marine Nationale). Derivative of the type are in service in Saudi Arabia, Singapore (Republic of Singapore Navy) and Republic of China (Taiwan) (Republic of China Navy).
These frigates were referred to as “stealth” frigates. Their reduced radar cross section is achieved by a very clean superstructure compared to conventional designs, angled sides and radar absorbent material, a composite material of wood and glass fiber as hard as steel, light, and resistant to fire. Most modern fighting ships built around the world since the introduction of the La Fayette have followed the same principles of stealth.
The shape of the hull and the superstructures is devised for the optimal reduction of the radar signature, which has been reduced by 60%: a 3000-tonne La Fayette unit has the typical radar signature of a 1200 tonne ship. Stealth is achieved with inclined flanks, as few vertical lines as possible, and very clean lines and superstructures: stairs and mooring equipment are internal, and prominent structures are covered by planes. The superstructures are built using radar-absorbent synthetic materials.
All information gathered by the onboard sensors is managed by the Information Processing System, the electronic brain of the operation centre of the ship. It is completed by an electronic command aid system.
The La Fayette has space available for the future installation of the Aster 15 missile, the state-of-the-art anti-air European weapon, and currently carries the Crotale short-range defence system, and Exocet missile, mounted in two quad launchers.
The ships are designed to accommodate a 10 tonne helicopter in the Panther or NH90 range (though they are also capable of operating the Super Frelon and similar heavy helicopters). These helicopters can carry anti-ship AM39 or AS15 missiles, and can be launched during sea state 5 or 6 due to the Samahé helicopter handling system.