The Ministry of Defence have signed a £183 million contract for a five inch gun system the Royal Navy’s new Type 26 Frigate fleet.
The Maritime Indirect Fire System (MIFS) will be integrated onto the Type 26 Global Combat Ships, currently being designed by BAE Systems. MIFS includes the 5-inch, 62-calibre Mark 45 Naval Gun System, which is already in service with other NATO nations, including the US and Spanish navies.
The gun mount features an automatic loader with a capacity of 20 rounds. These can be fired under full automatic control, taking a little over a minute to exhaust those rounds at maximum fire rate. For sustained use, the gun mount would be occupied by a six-man crew (gun captain, panel operator, and four ammunition loaders) below deck to keep the gun continuously supplied with ammunition.
Minister for Defence Procurement Harriett Baldwin said:
“Our growing defence budget means we can invest in a cutting edge weapon system for the Royal Navy’s next generation Global Combat Ship at the best value for taxpayers. Along with sustaining highly skilled jobs across the country, this new contract underlines our commitment and demonstrates continued momentum in the programme.”
The new contract covers the design and manufacture of the first three guns for the first three ships in the class, as well as a training system and ammunition, and will sustain 43 skilled UK jobs.
BAE Systems, Weapon Systems and Munitions, based in the US, will lead on the work to bring the weapons system into service, with subcontractor work being undertaken by:
- BAE Maritime Services Frimley & Broad Oak to develop, supply and integrate MIFS gunfire control;
- BAE Munitions Glascoed, which is carrying out the UK ammunition qualification and;
- BAE Weapons Systems Barrow, which is supporting the UK equipment safety cases.
Deliveries of the gun to the UK are expected to begin in 2020.
Joe Senftle, Vice President and General Manager of Weapon Systems at BAE Systems, said:
“Our teams in the US and UK will bring unrivalled skills and expertise to the MIFS development and production. The world-leading Mk 45 will provide the Royal Navy with a proven, reliable, and highly-effective system that is adaptable to firing a wide range of today’s ammunition, as well as future, precision-guided munitions currently in development.”
The Mk 45 is in service with the US Navy and 10 other allied nations. More than 240 Mk 45 guns have been delivered into service globally.
Despite alarming headlines, the Type 26 frigates have not been cancelled or “indefinitely postponed”, work is continuing at all levels of the programme.
Manufacturing of the Type 26s was initially expected to start in 2016, confirmation of when the work will begin has still to be announced but we’re told that it’s anticipated that the steel will be cut for the first Type 26 in Q4 of 2017.
Unions have also insisted that there will be no redundancies as a result of uncertainty over the Type 26 build timetable on the Clyde.
Duncan McPhee from Unite said the contract was still guaranteed.
“There is guarantees. The main issue is the timetable, which is causing us the real problems and that has to be sorted out as soon as possible.”
Mr McPhee also added that BAE bosses were in negotiations with officials at the MoD to resolve the timetable issues:
“It means for jobs that we have the workforce geared up for this programme and that workforce will remain. It means that we are going to have to do a lot of things between the company and moving different work packages about, keeping people at Rosyth maybe for longer working on the aircraft carriers, maybe having to transfer people down to Barrow for the submarine programme so we will keep the jobs.”
A MoD spokesperson said:
“The Government is committed to building ships on the Clyde and to the Type 26 programme. over the next decade, we will spend around £8 billion on Royal Navy warship.
As set out in the Strategic Defence and Security Review, we will build two new offshore patrol vessels on the Clyde, maintaining Scottish shipbuilding capability ahead of the start of the Type 26 build.
We will also consult with industry and trade unions as part of the national shipbuilding strategy, which will set the UK shipbuilding industry on a sustainable footing for the future.”
The SNP and others had said that any reduction in the number of Type 26 frigates being built on the Clyde would be a “betrayal” of the workforce.
The original plan for the class had been 8 anti-submarine warfare variants and five general purpose variants, this remains largely unchanged except for the specification of the later five vessels, which has been reduced to make them more affordable.
The later five are now designated the Type 31 frigate.
The Prime Minister has confirmed that all new frigates and additional vessels mentioned in the defence review will be built in Scotland.