Three original variants of the FREMM were proposed; an anti-submarine variant (ASW) and a general-purpose variant (GP) and a land-attack variant (AVT) to replace the existing classes of frigates within the French and Italian navies. A total of 27 FREMM were to be constructed - 17 for France and 10 for Italy - with additional aims to seek exports, however budget cuts and changing requirements has seen this number drop significantly for France, while the order for Italy remained invaried. The land-attack variant (AVT) was subsequently cancelled.
A third anti-air warfare variant of FREMM was proposed by DCNS in response to French requirements for a new air-defence frigate, the new variant became known as FREDA ("FREgates de Défense Aériennes", "Air defence frigate"). This new French requirement was due to the third and fourth Horizon-class frigates being cancelled after the first two cost €1.35M each, but this decision left French Navy still in-need of replacements for its ageing Cassard-class air-defence frigates.
As of 2009, the FREDA design features a more powerful version of the Herakles (radar) passive electronically scanned array radar and 32 cells of SYLVER A50 in place of the 16 cells of A43 and 16 cells of A70. The SYLVER A50 would allow it to fire the 120 kilometres (75 mi)-range Aster 30 missile; the towed array sonar would not be fitted.
At Euronaval 2012 DCNS showed a new concept called FREMM-ER for the FREDA requirement, again based on the FREMM, but specifically mentioning the ballistic missile defence mission as well as anti-air. FREMM-ER has a modified superstructure replacing Héraklès with the new Thales Sea Fire 500 radar, whose four fixed plates resemble those of the US Navy's AN/SPY-1. However unlike the Héraklès and the SPY-1 (both using passive electronically scanned array technology), the Sea Fire 500 has active electronically scanned array antennas.
Original plans were for 17 FREMM to replace the nine D'Estienne d'Orves-class avisos and nine anti-submarine frigates of the Tourville and Georges Leygues classes. In November 2005 France announced a contract of €3.5 billion for development and the first eight hulls, with options for nine more costing €2.95 billion split over two tranches (totaling 17).
Following the cancellation of the third and fourth of the Horizon-class frigates in 2005 on budget grounds, requirements for an air-defence derivative of the FREMM called FREDA were placed – with DCNS coming up with several proposals. Expectations were that the last two ships of the 17 FREMM planned would be built to FREDA specifications; however, by 2008 the plan was revised down to just 11 FREMM (9 ASW variants and 2 FREDA variants) at a cost of €8.75 billion (FY13, ~US$12 billion). The 11 ships would cost €670 million (~US$760m) each in FY2014, or €860m (~US$980m) including development costs.
The 2013 White Paper on Defence and National Security committed France to 15 front-line frigates, which was initially interpreted as 2 Horizons, 5 La Fayettes and a reduction in the FREMM fleet down to 8 ships. The 2014/2019 defence plan restated a target of 11 frigates; the current[when?] plan is to deliver six ASW FREMM variants to replace the Georges Leygues-class frigates by 2019, followed by two anti-air variants to replace the ageing Cassard-class frigates and a decision will be taken in 2016 on what version the remaining three will be. In 2014, the French Navy's Chief of Staff, Adm. Bernard Rogel, confirmed that 11 FREMM frigates had been ordered but in 2015 the order was cut to 8 in order to allow the purchase of five FTI Mid-Size frigates from 2023. The FTI will replace the La Fayette-class class, which will be fitted with a sonar as an interim measure.