Two strong contenders for the Type 31e Frigate programme have emerged, let’s take a closer look at the offerings.

During a 2016 Defence Select Committee hearing, First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Jones described the vessel that would become Type 31e as “to be a much less high-end ship. It is still a complex warship, and it is still able to protect and defend and to exert influence around the world, but it is deliberately shaped with lessons from wider industry and off-the-shelf technology to make it more appealing to operate at a slightly lower end of Royal Navy operations”.

The requirements any design must meet.

IHS Janes described it as a “credible frigate” that will cover “maritime security, maritime counter-terrorism and counter-piracy operations, escort duties, and naval fire support sitting between the high-end capability delivered by the Type 26 and Type 45, and the constabulary-oriented outputs to be delivered by the five planned River-class Batch 2 OPVs”.

A September 2017 graphic released by the Royal Navy (visible at the top of this article) stressed modular adaptability and flexible construction of the design for export opportunities. Core requirements of the Type 31e frigate include 76mm or larger calibre gun, point defence systems, hangar and a flight deck for Wildcat or ten tonne helicopter operated by a crew of around 100 with space for 40 more personnel. A price of £250 million per ship has been set for the first batch of five frigates, which are intended to enter RN service from 2023 to replace the five general purpose Type 23 frigates.

We will be comparing the Babcock/Team 31 offering, the Arrowhead with the BAE/Cammell Laird offering, the Leander. This is based on publicly available information.

The Basics


Arrowhead is expected to sit at 5,700 tonnes and 138.7 metres in length, the ships company is around 100 with space for an embarked military force of 60. Babcock’s Team 31 has selected the proven in-service Iver Huitfeldt frigate design as the baseline for their T31e product.


Leander is expected to be around 4,000 tonnes and 120 metres in length with a ship’s company of about 120 with space for an embarked military force of 30. The Leander design has evolved from the Khareef class corvettes built by BAE Systems.


The requirements here are pretty straightforward, the Ministry of Defence demand that “T31e shall operate globally with sustained forwward presence” and that it must have “the speed for interdiction of commercial vessels and maintaining station with adversary warships in UK waters”.

Both vessels have a broadly similar endurance, at around 30 days with the core crew embarked.


  • Speed of 28 plus knots
  • Range of 9000 nautical miles at 12 knots


  • Speed of 25 knots maximum
  • Range of 8100 nautical miles at 12 knots

Armament/Weapons Capabilities

Arrowhead features Medium Calibre Gun options up to 5” (127mm) for maritime interdiction, self-protection and engagement of surface and land targets. Small Calibre Guns up to 40mm calibre can be located in predesignated upper-deck weapon positions.

Additional capability options include:

  • Provision for up to 8 canister-launched SSGW
  • Up to 32 Vertical Launch cells, capable of hosting SAM/SSGW/Land Strike/ASW ordnance.
  • Installation of Close-In Weapons Systems, such as Phalanx.
  • Towed array sonar

Babcock say that the ability to fit the existing systems and equipment from the parent design, the Iver Huitfeldt class frigate, is retained to provide flexibility in the capability supplied at build and through the life of the platform. The company say that, for example, this retained capability means that (just like on the base design) a 32 cell Mk41 Strike Length silo can be fitted to incorporate a combination of a larger number of anti-air missiles, vertical launch anti-surface missiles, precision land attack missiles or ASW weapons such as ASROC. This particular adaptability feature they say, alongside the ability to install a 127mm medium calibre gun, host an organic helicopter such as Merlin, install sensors such as a towed array/variable depth sonar and re-introduce a magazine-launched torpedo system, amongst other proven features, will allow the platform to be tailored on build and through-life to suit operational requirements from low-threat maritime security to task group operations.

With Leander, things aren’t all too different. The design features a Main Gun – 57mm to 127mm, two Small Calibre Guns – 20mm to 40mm, Mini Guns, Heavy Machine Guns and General Purpose Machine Gun mounts. Additional options with this design however while similar, are fewer in overall numbers.

  • 12+ CAMM missile launchers
  • Installation of Close-In Weapons Systems, such as Phalanx.
  • A strike length Vertical Launch System can be fitted midships to fire a mixed load of AAW, ASuW, ASW and land attack missiles)
  • Hull mounted sonar and twin towed array sonar

Realistically, no one’s expecting a high end surface combatant and that’s largely the whole point of the Type 31e programme, however, the armament of both vessels really just depends on the money to pay for it as both designs aren’t short of the options to fit the systems. The builders can tout a huge array of offerings, the important point to consider is paying for those options. That being said, Arrowhead would appear to be the most capable warship as it has the larger amount of space to potentially fit systems.

Mission Bays and Boat Bays

Arrowhead features 4 large dedicated Boat Bays
with flexible launch & recovery arrangement to cater for varying
operational roles, including the deployment of RHIBs, USVs & UUVs. The Mission Space which is located under the flight deck, say Babcock, offers significant operational flexibility allows for numerous TEU (Twenty Foot Equivalent Unit) containers, extended stores, or personnel accommodation space.

Leander features a mission space capable of hosting a maximum of 8 ISO Containers with HADR and Special Forces options. BAE also say that the access hatch features an ISO capable crane rated at 4t. Combinations of the following are feasible:

  • 4 x Boats
  • 8 x ISO containers

The Type 31e requirement doesn’t mention a mission bay only ability to carry two TEUs, both vessels appear to more than meet this requirement however Leander appears to have edged ahead here.

Aviation Capabilities

Arrowhead’s flight deck can land a Merlin sized helicopter and the vessels hangar will be capable of storing one or if required, according to Babcock, two Wildcat helicopters together.

Leander’s flight deck appears to be able to land a Merlin sized helicopter but it appears that the hangar would not be able to host one, being stuck with a Wildcat up to Seahawk sized helicopter.

Build Programme

For Arrowhead, the distributed build and assembly approach would see work going to Appledore in North Devon, Ferguson Marine on the Clyde, Harland and Wolff in Belfast with integration in Rosyth. Babcock say that the Arrowhead design lends itself equally to either a single build strategy, or a cross–site build strategy bringing together modules – an approach used for aircraft carrier assembly at Rosyth.

For Leander, BAE Systems will partner with Cammell Laird, who would ‘Prime, build and assemble’ the vessels at their Merseyside facility while the Clyde will focus on the Type 26 Frigates. Cammell Laird would be main contractor with BAE providing design and combat systems.


Leander is smaller and may be less expensive, the platform will utilise systems already in use around the fleet lowering any extra costs associated with new and specialist technologies. However being the smallest of the two, the room for future growth and adaptability may be less than desired, potentially impact any future exports over the decades.

On paper, it would appear that the Arrowhead design is the most capable, but the downside of that could be the cost. Can this design be built in numbers for a maximum price of £250 million? The main downside as far as I can see with Arrowhead is the use of a new radar type and a new Combat Management System at a time when the Royal Navy is moving towards fleet standardisation. Going in another direction would add cost and complexity.

In summary I believe the Arrowhead 140 design to be the better option for the Type 31e Frigate, the option most inline with the requirements set out by the Ministry of Defence and the option most in line with the National Shipbuilding Strategy, but only if the costs are kept under control.

0 0 vote
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

[…] post Arrowhead 140 or Leander – Which would be the best Type 31e Frigate? appeared first on UK Defence […]

Paul Bestwick

I thought there was container storage under the flight deck on the Arrowhead 140?

Euan Crago

There is in the current design issued by Team 31.


ED….dont know whether you realise that the homepage doesnt display the most recent posts.
Thats just btw,… personal preference is the Arrowhead, as it helps break down BAE Systems monopoly and could stir up fresh shipbuilding around the UK.

Steve M

Looks to be a caching issue, Ctrl + F5 will get them showing.


You’re a star Steve M – I had the same problem and Ctrl + F5 fixed it for me (Google Chrome on Windows 10). Thanks.


There’s no reason why BAE can’t be contracted to fit the combat system to arrowhead if they don’t get the build, thats probably what will happen, the Tactios system will probably(hopefully) only be for export which makes sense as it’s a very common and capable system but I agree that seems to be the biggest downfall for A140, as for radar, the design is very much a pick and mix type, you can change so much so I don’t see a problem there either. As for price that is a problem for both designs the budget is very small but… Read more »

Danny steele

Bae systems dont want these crafts they never don works for them and their programmed builds meant they where never in an operational state to take on more builds as they would clash with the existing type 26 builds.


You’ve got it in one: it comes down to cost. Arrowhead is clearly the better platform, but that was never what this competition was about. The I’d say with Leander is a pretty safe bet to meet the price limit, and will feature an equipment setup that’s already in service.

Against that, Arrowhead offers far more capability, better future proofing, and most importantly, looks far cooler. However, it’s almost certainly going to be more expensive than Leander, and unless Artisan and CMS can be integrated, it’s also going to have higher through life costs.

Levi Goldsteingberg

That diagram says ‘in service by 2023’. I will eat my own fecal matter if that turns out to be the case. 2026 minimum

Mike Johnson

Enjoy your course of fecal matter. It has long been the case of the Type 23s going out of service one per year from 2023. That has been the target for replacement for more than a decade. The five older Type 23s are the GPs to be replaced by the Type 31e. The newer 8 ASW Type 23s are to be replaced by the Type 26 from 2028 to 2035. The Type 26 is pushing the limits of technology and while it appears to be long in the making, it was primarily about replacing the newer 8 of the Type… Read more »


I’ve posted this before but for me Arrowhaed will be able to fit more off the shelf non combat equipement such as waste diposal, water treatment, pumps, galley equipment etc. This will make the ship cheaper to build and fit out overall. Arrowhead may be cheaper to operate long term, if you have tight crammed hull you have little choice but to replace like with like, if you have space you have option to fit diiferent cheaper, newer and more efficient equipement as your not restricted by its geometry.

More details here.


We should only be going for a design that can be upgraded to become a proper mid range frigate. The Arrowhead wins hands down in almost all areas. The only unknown is battle hardening. If we can offer the Arrowhead with 32 strike cells, 5” gun, upgraded radar and some asw capability for around £400 million we are onto a winner for both us and export customers. We now know most of what they CAN be ordered with, but what will the baseline spec be for the £250 million? I think Bae will have to pull something amazing out of… Read more »


If BAe could get the 5in on Leander within the £250m I think that would clinch it for them what with the electric drive, mission bay and 2 diesel running costs. If you have Sea Ceptor Phalanx is £4-5m of nice to have I think. Would you save any more if you went with Terma Scanter radar instead of Artisan? You could still direct Sea Ceptor.


More on Iver Huitfeldt-Class Frigates. Struggling to see why we would choose Leander…


Arrowhead wees all over Leander.

And I dont like the cheesy re-use of that name by BAE to try to conjure up some sort of nostalgia.

M Heron

Arrowhead is the proven design. The advantage that the arrowhead is its based on the Iver Huitfeldt a sub class of the Absalon class support ship. This basing the Iver Huitfelt class on the Absalon helped cut down design and development costs in both construction and armament (stanflex modules). The withdrawn bid for the Canadian Single Surface Combatant showed the versatility and adaptability of the design. For example the “upper gun” deck can be modified to allow either additional MK41 VLS, Bofors 57mm, phalanx ciws or dragonfire. The advantage that we have is that we can reverse the design… Read more »


Why was the Iver Huitfeld bid withdrawn from the Canadian Single Surface Combatant competition?


Didn’t stand a chance of winning.

Andy Cee

Hi Ron
What’s the background to that? Why wouldn’t it have stood a chance? Was it a design thing or a political thing?


They left claiming the competition wasn’t fair. Don’t know why they said that.

M Heron

The Iver Huitfeldt class frigate was a contender in the Canadian Single Class Surface Combatant Project. However It was believed that due to concerns over the fairness of the bidding process against 4 other European shipbuilders both Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems and Denmark’s Odense Maritime Technology declined to submit bids.


Much better answer than mine.

M Heron

BAE: Type 26 Global combat Ship
Damen Group/Alion Canada: De Zeven Provinciën-class frigate
Navantia: F-105 Frigate
Naval Group/Fincanteiri: FREMM – ER (rejected)
OMT: Iver Huitfeldt Calss Frigate (Withdrawn Bid)
ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems Canada: F-125 Baden-Württemberg Class Frigate (Withdrawn Bid)


I’d favour a rubber dingy once it wasn’t BAE


A good and useful article George. Thanks. Arrowhead looks great. If they could address the big negatives and other uncertainties that I have then for me it is the winner. If they can’t though then I have distinctly mixed feelings and am on the fence. The items that I would like to see clarified or resolved are as follows, in no particular order… 1 – Cost. Can it be delivered within the budget? That is simply a matter of wait and see (assuming it is chosen). 2 – Battle-hardening is an unknown as T.S mentioned. I would like to know… Read more »

Martin Bandholm

“2 – Battle-hardening” I am not sure what you mean by that, the design has had shock tests, including close underwater explosions, and got top scores from the Flag Officer Sea Training program… And one of the ships has been part of (as the first danish ship in history) an US carrier fleet. “1 – Cost. Can it be delivered within the budget?” When the danish ships were being build, the constructors took a hit on the first ship, broke even on the second, and made a substantial profit on the third… British industry should be better off, given that… Read more »


Thanks Martin. 2 – You interpreted the meaning correctly (I actually borrowed the phrase from another commenter). It sounds as if there are no issues here. 1 – Interesting info about relative costs as the original IH builds progressed. That’s encouraging data. 5 – I was talking about export potential so your retort there is probably not valid since the trend with big export sales tends to be that the customer wants the builds to happen in their own country. If for instance the Australian Sea 5000 project was happening in 5 years time and we (the U.K.) had T31e… Read more »

Sceptical Richard

If you look at the Core requirements, you’re only looking at a 57mm gun, two 30mm (perhaps?), one Phalanx, some decoys and one Wildcat with Sea Venom, Martlet and Stingray. Everything else is fitted for but not with. If you then do an all diesel power plant and don’t quieten for ASW, you can easily get into the 250 million bracket. Doesn’t matter which design you chose.


Minimum main gun size laid out in the MOD tender document is 3″, so nothing less than an OTO76mm. Babcock has an agreement with OTO Melara to resale their product lineup, there are a fair few OTO76 out there and looking at the Arrowhead 140 sales pack it looks like a OTO76 Super Rapid on the fore-deck. I am wondering if Babcock will offer refurbished and upgraded OTO76 Super Rapid. If that is the case there is an argument to ditch the Phalanx as that gun system has an effective Anti ship missile round. I could see a fit out… Read more »


Arrowhead is easily the winner providing it’s fitted with Artisan for commonality. You can quad pack sea Ceptor in Mk41 giving you a bigger across the board option on missile types carried. A hangar that can house a Merlin wins hands down over Wildcat only.

Andy Cee

Presumably the Artisan comes from the GP Type 23s? Do they have sonar as well? Am thinking that all armament and technology from those five ships could equip the first five Type 31s? Even if they move the current VLS rather than fitting new, at least they would have Sea Ceptor, 4.5” fun, Artisan, harpoon, hull mounted sonar (maybe)…. wouldn’t be a badly equipped vessel for the Patrol Frigate tasks…

Evan P

Harpoon will be out of service by the time the T31s are in service. I doubt that the first batch will have any sonar, but possibly a future batch will.

Andy Cee

Thanks Evan
I was trying to find out if the T23 GP vessels have a hull mounted sonar they could donate? Any idea?


Doesn’t it state that the ship should be operated by a maximum of 80-100 personnel, and yet the Leander has a company of 120 wtf


The article says that but the Leander offered to the Navy will have manning less than 100.

By the way, the Danish design in Danish service despite being advertised as having less than 100 crew, in practice has a core crew >120.


I checked and in the materials at DIMDEX where the Leander was first revealed, crew size was stated at 98. Not sure where the 120 came from.

There’s this site and I have a still of the Bae booth video that also states 98.

David E Flandry

The manning numbers do not include an aircrew, 15-20 personnel.


Firstly, congratulations to George on an excellent article that’s fair and reaches reasonable conclusions. Much better than a similar article on a rival blog.


Secondly, as George points out, it’s all down to price. Or more precisely, at what price will each consortium sign a fixed price contract with fixed delivery dates. Yes, the Arrowhead 140 with Artisan Radar, 24 CAMM, Phalanx, 5 ” gun, sonar, Merlin deck and hangar with a crew less than 100, is a winning bid. But the Arrowhead is 2,000 tons bigger, faster because it has 4 diesels instead of 2, built in multiple yards and will be fitted out and commissioned at Rosyth by Babcock’s, a company which has never done that before in its corporate history. The… Read more »


As most of you know I am a massive advocate of the Absalon and Huitfeldt class of ships, so no surprise where my vote lies. There is a great mighty ships programme on the Peter Willmoes (huitfeldt sister ship) which really is a capable ship and equal of a FREMM or T45 in most respects. It can probably go 64 Mk41 Cells if the RN were so inclined (instead of the harpoon mounts), but clearly a 32 cells Mk41 would allow for quad packing of Sea Ceptor (48 say) and still leave 20 tubes for other stuff and the 8… Read more »


Should have said I think the missile space could accommodate a second bank of Mk41 VLS (instead of canisters) and retain the 4 boat bays or add back the ESSM’s (24) and lose 2 bays The bays allow us to use this to deploy CB90s or the Atlas Mine Countermeasures force and is just great. I also believe it comes with a bow sonar as standard, but we will need to wait and see on that. 2 wildcats in the hanger or UAV’s is also a mighty statement. As is the ability to operate a 5inch gun and a 76… Read more »


Thirdly, some more points: The Arrowhead design can carry 4 containers under the flight deck, not 8. They’re located such that they probably are for storage only, rather than to act as, say, command and control centers for an UUV. If the Arrowhead design moved the missile cells from midships to forward behind the gun where there is room to fit small CAMM tubes (a seemingly easy exercise) , a much bigger and more useful midships mission bay could be created. The very efficient shipbuilders in Denmark, 10 years ago, built the original Arrowhead 140 (Iver Huitfeldt) for a little… Read more »


Moving the VLS and crafting a more useful mission space means design work. My understanding is that Arrowhead achieves the price tag by essentially building an existing design.


You are perfectly correct. However there is a plug in Stanflex receptor in the forward position so I’m suggesting they “plug in” a CAMM VLS there instead of “plugging” in one midships. It’s essentially the same design effort but in a different part of the ship.


So a containerised Camm module then? Good idea. Nice if it be fitted to the Opvs and rfa ships perhaps. Needs to have a separate development budget outside T31 though.


Might also open export opportunities for Sea Ceptor to other navies already using Stanflex receptors. A Stanflex CAMM unit would be a great additional benefit if we go the Arrowhead route.

Bloke down the pub

There is also potential for fitting them to ships taken up from trade during emergencies. A dozen North Sea oil support vessels fitted with containerised SeaCeptor and containerised VDS would make a very useful contribution in times of need.

Sceptical Richard

Why is everyone already redesigning the ship, turning it into a Kirov class cruiser!!?? For f**k’s sakes! By the time we’ve fitted all these Mk-41 VLSs, UUVs, relocated missile silos (which aren’t even in the Core requirement!), and everything else, it’ll be 500m a pop, at least! Guess what? No programme. The Danes had the right idea. As civil as possible/as military as necessary. Recycle used equipment. All diesels. No ASW. Build to the lowest common denominator. Abroad preferably and only fitted out and commissioned in the U.K. These ships should have a medium gun, a CIWS, some decoys and… Read more »


The issue will be cost and international saleability, the point of the 31e. The Iver Huitfeldt were around £242M a unit back in 2008. Allowing for inflation that is around £309M to £312M today. So theoretically the Arrowhead 140 based upon the same design is presently £50M to £62M over the specification budget, before any extra toys required by the navy are added. So Arrowhead is a cut down Iver Huitfeldt to meet cost. The Khareef design was around £133M a unit in 2009. Allowing for inflation that is around £160 to £178M total, so £70M to £90M cheaper. So… Read more »

Barry Larking

Arrowhead by a country mile.


The issue will be unit cost. The Iver Huitfeldt was a unit cost of around £241M 2008 whilst Khareef class corvettes was £133M a unit in 2009. Allowing for inflation that is around £312M and £177M respectively today for Arrowhead and Leander. The key article statement for Arrowhead is but only if the costs are kept under control, Leander has much more economic space to mange costs. Also remember first ship 2025, so to maintain £250M you have to be below £200M now, with the opportunity to keep unit cost low through international sales. it is back to the questions… Read more »


Lone voice crying in the desert here ? I think the T31 saga has a ways to run. Reported in the Financial Times “Babcock International is in talks with BAE Systems and other potential partners about a joint UK bid to build Britain’s next big naval vessel, the fleet solid support ship, in a tender that could be worth up to £1bn” I don’t think it is beyond the bounds of possibility that BAe and Babcock could collaborate to bid a NSS deal which would see Babcock and CL as core constructors of modular Leander plus the BMT design for… Read more »


Not the worst idea in the world and one I could get behind. Be a good solution for UK industry.


57mm is below spec for anti-warship & shore bombarment. It’s a very capable system in its own right, just not up to being the main gun system on major surface vessels. 76mm is the minimum, though both these have some anti-misslile CIWS capability.

Arrowhead looks better, but what happened to the other designs?


What happened to the other designs indeed? Spartan was probably not much more than a cgi but I thought Venator was tank testing a year ago.
Agree with what you say remthe 57mm but it does meet the requirement stated in the RFI. To recomcile this you have to conclude that T31 is not intended to ne a ‘major surface vessel’: which is what the debate has largely been about.


OPV+/Light frigate etc -Calling it whatever won’t make a jot of difference in war. We’ll immedeately find all the 23/45/26s fully committed & the 31s will have to be employed where we hoped we woludn’t. So we must have a decent basic escort vessel from the start. We’re deluding ourselves & endangering our servicemen otherwise.
They need to be able to meet any threat as those threats won’t look at anything except, ” Is this an enemy warship?”

Thanks for the info on the other designs, I was surprised to find only the 2 designs in the article left.


So, so, true. Just like snatch landrovers.

Stephen G.

I also think the cheaper cost and British equipment might swing it for Leander.

John Clark

I would also say Arrowhead, it’s a very fine looking vessel and ticks all the boxes.

Plenty of space for future upgrades, build em I say and build 10!

I think I know what the RN would want to buy…


From RFI

• 1 x Medium Calibre Gun ≥ 57mm and interoperable munitions with Allies.
• ~ 2 x Small Calibre Guns 20mm/30mm
• ~ 6 x 50 cal Machine Guns
• ~ 2 x Miniguns

So a 57mm meets minimum spec


It is almost as if Leander vs Arrowhead reduces to a choice between 57mm and 76mm which is a choice of which allies does the RN want to be interoperable with. Unwarranted associations maybe….I’ll take another pill.

Nigel Collins

How to design a warship at a very respectable price!

John Clark

I would be quite happy to get Arrowhead into service with a basic fit of CAMM, 5″ main gun, plus 30mm and phalanx. Also Hull mounted sonar and Wildcat used for AGM AS etc I would say a minimum of 32 CAMM . It’s very important that the ships are fully networked and equipped with eccm systems from the start. This way, we get a capable stand alone ship and a useful fleet escort. I say a 5″ gun is absolutely necessary, because the T31 will be asset at the tip of the spear in an amphibious landing, needing to… Read more »


Agree with your focus on the gun. I don’t believe either bid can supply the 5in for the price and it would be really unacceptable to see the elimination of effective NGS from 5 RN frigates.
Am looking forward to seeing how this issue is resolved.


Well, with Arrowhead 140 the forward gun is a Stanflex module, a 76mm OTO being what is on Ivar Huitfeldt. I don’t know if the below-deck 5″ stuff would fit in a 3m long x 3.5m wide x 2.5m deep module but if it did then maybe a mix of gun sizes provisioned as appropriate might be a solution. Stanflex is quite shallow. I suppose that’s to minimise deck penetration to only one deck. If a CAMM Stanflex were to be created it would need to be boxed upwards to accommodate the required length, especially if it were to be… Read more »


The original Iver Huidfeldt was designed to have a 5″ gun but that later turned out to be unaffordable but they did leave space and structure for one to be fitted at a later date. The Bae corvette that is the basis for Leander was offered to Columbia with a 5″ gun so that design is also capable. It’s a tie. I think right now we can take the computer pictures on both candidates as being the configuration being offered to the Royal Navy: The Leander has a 76mmm gun with a Thales Nederland Sting electro-optic weapons director, Artisan radar,… Read more »


A neat summary; remarkable convergence. I had not picked up that Leander was also showing the 76mm. In marketing terms the USP for Leander is the mission bay and crane. Arrowhead is about value for money, the NSS, exports and future growth. Tricky decision.


Yes, I agree, not an easy decision at all. One I could not make.

It’s been pointed out to me that the Babcock’s Arrowhead 140 video doesn’t match their brochure. The video shows a different Thales radar (NS100) mounted inside a conical mast. That radar has not been qualified with CAMM but the radar shown in the brochure (SMART-S) has been.


I hope it’s OK to post a link to another blog here. Hopefully we all want as much info, analysis and sensible opinion as possible regarding defence matters regardless of whether it’s on a somewhat competing site. Anyway, I found this post by Gabriele on Arrowhead/Leander/T31e interesting. He also discusses possible tie-in with FSS as at least one person here mentioned and he has some very interesting wider thoughts on FSS. His post is here…


Quite a few inaccuracies in that article and guesses presented as fact.

M Heron

I think with the heavy emphasis on modularity. The ships will be built the cheapest way possible. Using foreign tech, propulsion, weapons, etc. Then some where down the line (pending budget approval & defence reviews) the ships will be refitted with UK designed/built (world beating) technology to match up fleet commonality/standards to match the type 26.

Bloke down the pub

As an observation, it is worth pointing out that either of these options are capable of carrying TEU iso containers. The fitting out of a few containers with VIP accommodation and possibly a conversion unit for the hangar, would provide a very reasonably priced replacement for HMY Britannia . In a (hopefully) post Brexit world, the benefits of having a vessel that can travel the world promoting this country’s industry should surely not explaining on this forum.


I take it you’ve never actually been inside a container?

Bloke down the pub

Many times and the only thing common to them all is the lock down points on the corners. What I was suggesting would be far removed from the sort of thing used by councils and amenities as temporary roadside accommodation for workmen.

Paul Hopkins

All very good comments. And, unless I’ve mis-read them, the majority in favour of the Arrowhead 140. You have all probably identified reasons why I think the Arrowhead 140 wont be chosen. It is just too good. The RN will be embarrassed by the fact that whilst cheaper than the Type 26 it could be progressively upgraded to be nearly as capable as the Type 26, e.g: VDS, less radiated noise. Also the BAE river OPV and its derivatives has a “proven” track record in the export market, even it was only 8 ships. What I don’t understand is why… Read more »


And, as I just posted above a minute or two ago, the main gun on Arrowhead is in a Stanflex module so grafting salvaged 4.5″ Mk8s into a Stanflex, if they would fit, would be an elegant way to do it and give a clean upgrade path if a 5″ Stanflex could be created in the future (could = funding and/or Stanflex space constraints notwithstanding).


Am not expert in Stanflex. But while I can see how a Stanflex ( which I interpret to mean plug and play for the mission) approach could work for the 57mm and the ‘compact’ 76mm I have difficulty seeing how it would work easily with either the Mk8 or the 5in, both of which I believe require significant ( and pricey) below deck structures and manning. I am guessing a Stanflex module for the 4.5in would with weight considerations be a substantial part of the foredeck. I think we will see 2 versions of this ship: a RN Type 31… Read more »


Agree on the Mk8 transfer. Why not use it if it is being kept for the T45s. Also agree that Arrowhead is ‘too good’ a T31. But it ticks the NSS box and has more to offer as T31e as it were; future growth and exports. Apparently we have ordered another 3 2087 sonar sets. I think there is a case for saying that only T26 and T 23 are capable of exploiting these to the full. TSA is not a requirement for T31. For both Leander and Arrowhead I’m thinking silk purse and sows ear… Is there an option… Read more »


The Mk 8 is being ditched mostly because the ammunition will never be developed to become long range and smart and even the standard shells have become very expensive to buy. In other words, the gun is obsolete.


Understood. But until it is removed from the T45’s it remains a valid choice for T31 if it means the ship can do NGS within the budget. Does the RN believe there is a role for a gun with a calibre between 5in and 30mm?

Bloke down the pub

A lot of effort has been put in to making the T26 a very quiet hull. Just because you put the same kit into the T31 doesn’t mean it would necessarily be as good an ASW vessel.

M Heron

Has the Arrowhead been confirmed to be using Stanflex modules?


No but heavily implied.


Leander/Cutlass and Arrowhead 140 both looks like meeting the requirement. Having to competitive proposal is very good for T31e program. I also think Arrowhead 140 is attractive, but I do have some concerns. 1: Cost will be tight. IH-class used Baltic ship yards (cheap labor), and Danish Navy contributed a lot in system integration (hidden cost). Can Babcock properly manage it? Because it is “fixed price contract”, Babcock shall be very careful on it. 2: Future growth margins is important only if RN future resource is “plenty”. T45, T26, CVF, P8A, F35B,… there are many “open, FFBNW, growth margins” to… Read more »


The RHIB bay if Arriwhead 140 is both small one. Is it doable to make two of them longer, may be 12 m long, as Leander design does?


Don’t put me in the Arrowhead camp. Or Leander for that matter. The choice is between the Arrowhead 140: a larger, less well equipped foreign design, with lots of foreign equipment, weapons and systems not common with those in service with the Royal Navy, higher manning and running costs, a very questionable adherence to the shipbuilding strategy, being built by a consortium with very little current experience of warship building. Fully Merlin capable though even though these ships are very unlikely to ever embark one. Noisy pure diesel propulsion. On the other hand, Leander: British radar and British combat system… Read more »


The fitting of the Artisan radar to T23 was a naval Architects nightmare. The mast head compared to its predecessor 996, is considerably more robust . Rotating 700kg at 30RPM gives you a lot of inertia and when moving a rotating mass in rough seas (Think of the forces you feel when moving a toy gyroscope) that means lots of strengthening and stiffening is required. Heavy and high on a warship is never good. To get the Radar on to the T23 and to not affect stability by staying within the old 996 weight parameters required a redesign of the… Read more »


I am guessing that the reason both cgis hint at the OTO 76mm, and that BAes stated preferred option is the 57mm, is that the 5in is too expensive for the £250m price tag and that both the 5in and the 4.5in would require significant below deck design and build work which would also put pressure on meeting the £250m number.

Sceptical Richard

Gunbuster, as usual you’ve got it about right. Only one word of caution: in my experience (admittedly with things that fly only), refurbished/upgraded equipment always looks very attractive on paper but always turns out to be more difficult and expensive. If you’re buying a new platform buy new kit for it as well. More pain at the start perhaps but much better down the line. Also, what are these ships going to be used for? If we envisage NGFS as a KUR, then by all means go to the expense and complexity of a 5 inch. But if one of… Read more »


You are absolutely right concerning reuse of equipment.The best way would be for the manufacturer (say Bae) to buy back the equipment from the Navy (say Artisan), refurbish and sell back to the Type 31 builders with appropriate guarantees.

That’s exactly how it works for both the Mk 45 5″ gun and Phalanx. They have been bought from the USN, refurbished and then sold by the original manufacturer. Bae for the 5″, Raytheon for Phalanx.


The 4.5 MK8 Mod 1 (Kryton) gun is a refurb’d rebuilt Mod 0 Mk8 gun. They where not new but the rebuild to MOD1 state gave you, in effect a new gun. Phalanx mounts are not new. They get overhauled and moved as required between ships. Following refits you almost never get new equipment …its almost always a refurb item that has been on a previous ship and overhauled and rebuilt. Same goes for DGs and GT engines. They are never new except when first installed …after that they are mostly rebuilds and work absolutely fine. The cost of the… Read more »


Thanks Gunbuster for the inside information. Both the Royal Navy (2nd Sea Lord) and the MoD head of procurement, have been crystal clear that equipment will NOT be reused from other ships or be furnished by the MoD. The RFI document lists as a requirement: minimal GFM. It’s a big deal and it’s a no-no. The reason was given in my comment above: “Comment is made that equipment can be transferred from retiring Type 23’s to these ships to save money. Both the Royal Navy and the MoD has clearly said this will not happen to any significant degree. The… Read more »


Depends what they mean by reused. If it leaves the T23 and goes directly onto a T31 then yes this would be a contractual nightmare but if it goes into the repair/refurb loop and comes out of the other end in an A1 condition then it is technically not a reuse from a T23…its an off the Naval Stores shelf piece of equipment in a Refurbished/Overhauled but not New condition. All kit once overhauled gets tested and certified the same as new equipment does. I have conducted many a Factory Acceptance Test on kit that has been overhauled. The test… Read more »

John Clark

I think post 2020, the writing will most definitely be on the wall for the T23. The NSS should definitely be moving towards a slow production line replacing ships at the 25 year point. Deep refit cost, coupled with the increasing maintenance and reduced availability that naturally comes with ageing hulls makes this a false economy. I still say a 5″ gun needs to be a staple of the T31. NGS is going to be a key role for this ship, going in with the amphibious task group while the main carrier task group stays well away from the shore… Read more »


Totally agree.


Gonna throw something out here. Arrowhead configured with a 76mm super rapido would actually be great in a carriers layered defence (either as secondary gun) or its primary gun. Given what its main role is I think this is a sound choice and not withstanding the issues around new class, logistics etc. It does offer something quite substantial. If a carrier group went with 2 T45, 2 T26 and 2 T31 as its escorts then the T31 can provide the outer ring and the super rapido does offer something we are missing. As for piracy etc, it is perfect and… Read more »


Not so crazy. The Italian Fremms carry both a 127mm and 2 76mm guns. But from a budget point of view and in the RFI, T31 has just one mcg. I can see the argument of those who say the Mk8 should be put out to pasture and it should be the Mk45 5in. I can also see the budget argument and the ships role argument for the Oto but then who picks up the cost of a new logistics chain and what about NGS? There is going to have to be a ‘credibilty’ compromise or some creative budgetting. Seems… Read more »

Mr Bell

Arrowhead design looks great. What is not to like. A beefy surface combatant with growth potential and the ability to easily upgrade weapon and sensors as money becomes available. If we can get the initial 5 ships built on-time and on budget for £1.25 billion as a fitted out basic design then subsequent ships can have the full capability upgrade. Minimum spec should be 4.5 inch or 5 inch gun for NGS 1-2 CIWS + dragonfire laser mounts Sea ceptor 48 cell or greater quad packed Mk41 vl silos with asroc, tomahawk and LRASM fitted. Couple of 30mm ds upgraded… Read more »


Whats not too like about the version being offered to the Navy?

No Phalanx
Smaller mission bay
Higher running costs
Larger crew
Noisy propulsion
Inferior Thales radar
Inferior Dutch combat system

Ring Bolt Kicker

Really strange that Atlas Elektronik UK’s Meko 200 offer has had zero comment anywhere in the media.


I am sure it was mentioned but what sub-surface, even for self defence, would come with the Arrowhead?

Sceptical Richard

I suspect the only thing that might get optionally fitted to the ship depending on operating environment and threat faced (theatre entry standards) would be the Surface Ship Torpedo Defence (SSTD) system, also known as Sea Sentor, supplied by Ultra. It combines a towed array for torpedo detection (although this can sometimes be achieved with a hull mounted sonar) and then automatically triggers the launch of expendable countermeasures to lure a homing torpedo away from the ship, while advising the command team what evasive actions to take. This is usually available for all RN ships, but only procured in small… Read more »



Same as Leander.

It’s not a core requirement.

Sceptical Richard

It is worth noting (or reminding ourselves) that the Danish achieved the incredible low prices for the IH class because the hulls were built in the Baltic states, they used many recycled weapon systems and the weapons and combat systems integration task and associated risk was undertaken entirely by the Danish MOD, not the shipyard. The systems were provided GFE and were not costed in the price of the ships. So that’s four distinct elements of a procurement strategy that would be totally anathema to the U.K. MOD. They would never have warships built abroad. They rarely recycle significant military… Read more »


Indeed it will come down to cost. If the graphics are to be believed both offerings say they can meet the core spec for £250m with a 76mm, 2x30mm, plus miniguns, gpmg and some Sea Ceptor cells. CL must be offering the BAe CMS so there is no reason except professional spite that BAe could not integrate this onto Arrowhead for the same cost. If refurbed Artisan is too expensive then I would go with Terma Scanter: good enough for a batch 1 patrol frigate and able to direct Sea Ceptor. And if Sea Ceptor itself is too costly then… Read more »


But surely Babcock’s is relying on the cheaper combat system to make the 250 million price? Adding Bae’s CMS would breach that limit.

I respect your opinion but really you are saying a Merlin hangar is worth more than Artisan, Phalanx, the RN standard combat system, the RR mission bay and lower running costs. Let alone the ability to RAS which is noticeably absent from Arrowhead.


Given in the RFi we demanding design ownership we take any Danish bid out of the low end future frigate market if the RN select it. Now BAe have a choice they could continue to market Leander, going up against Babcockteam 31 and other international players. Given the RN had rejected it this would be an uphill struggle. Or if they recognise the opportunity, can Leander, offer CMS and other systems on Arrowhead at reduced cost (loss leaders) to ensure they have upselling opportunities on future exports. Remember national ship building strategy suggests RN sell off these ships after 10… Read more »

Sceptical Richard

Pound is lower only if your budget is in dollars or euros. Can’t see BAES being cooperative on any initiative other than a JV with Babcock where they are joint lead on the programme. Only then can I see them accepting the Arrowhead design. But before then MOD will come under huge pressure to go for Leander. They are protecting their export market and their status as dominant (indeed only?) U.K. naval shipbuilders. They’ll fight to the death over that.


BAe already know they can’t compete from their own yards hence why Cammell Liard are priming their t31 bid. If the UK government are going to mandate BAe’s CMS or other equipment then this should be stated upfront and remove from the bid requirement, otherwise BAe have an unfair advantage. But this means the MoD have to assume some risk which is not the point of the T31 contract.


You got me there. I wasn’t aware Tacticos was that much cheaper than the BAe CMS. My conclusion rested on the belief that the Babcock brochure was describing Type 31e ( for export) but they would offer the RN a version with the RN standard cms for the same price. So what are you/we/Babcock saying; that the RN can have the ship they describe ( 76mm, Tacticos, NS100 radar, 30mm guns, 24 Seaceptor on a 140m hull with 4 rhibs and a Merlin hangar for £250m? But that standard RN radar and CMS are extras? This needs to be clarified.… Read more »


Good comment Skeptical one, may I also add a 4th to the original IH build: it entered “service” without any of its major weapon systems actually working. Like the AA system. That was fixed later by installing the missing pieces but at extra expense not included in the quoted price.

Basically on service entry, it was a very large patrol boat armed with just a 76mm.

Sceptical Richard

You’re right Ron5. But can you imagine the cries of derision and mockery in our wonderful press and even negative comments in this forum if MOD did something similar? The important thing in today’s climate is to get the hulls built. To make a tentative strategy irreversible (or as irreversible as possible). Ceptor launch tubes can be added easily. So can Phalanx. So can boxed SSMs. Wildcat capability or UAVs can be added at will. So can decoys. The important thing is to build the hull fitted for all these capabilities. That is structural and space provisions, power generating capability… Read more »

Ryan S

In terms of the Radar, when the type 23 comes out of service comes out of service can’t we take the artisan radar (Sorry if it’s wrong) and place it on the type 31e once in service, like what we do with the 30mm close in Defense system where we take it off and re use them.