Babcock and BMT signed the cooperation agreement yesterday, the agreement will focus on the recently announced Type 31e Frigate to offer a design partnership to the MoD.

Babcock were originally offering the ‘Arrowhead 120 while BMT were offering the Venator 110, the companies now say that they will be exploring both available designs to determine the best possible option.

The companies say that new arrangement draws on the combined strengths of Babcock and BMT and will deliver ‘innovative, capable, affordable and flexible customer solutions, within a fast changing and increasingly demanding environment’.

Craig Lockhart, Managing Director – Naval Marine at Babcock said:

“Babcock and BMT will work closely together to create a strong design alliance at what is an exciting time within UK and International ship design and build.”

Jeremy Berwick, Managing Director for Defence at BMT said:

“This is the beginning of a deeper strategic relationship with Babcock founded on many years of working together successfully both with the Royal Navy and navies around the globe.

The T31e programme is the catalyst where excellence of design, innovation and certainty of delivery combine to offer a highly credible contender for the Royal Navy’s next warship. The agreement will provide a strong basis for understanding and serving the different needs of many other navies.”

Both organisations will jointly explore their available designs to determine the best possible option that meets the cost, capability, and delivery requirements of the Royal Navy but we’ve outlined them both below.

Babcock’s Arrowhead 120.

Arrowhead 120, say the company features an ‘adaptable configuration’ which acknowledges operational roles will change through the life of the ship with multiple mission bays incorporated into the design allowing for rapid reconfiguration and re-role to meet changing operational needs.

Babcock said they have been advancing operational and data analysis technologies at a rapid pace.

“Arrowhead is cleverly designed to reduce through life costs by embedding key innovations such as real time equipment health monitoring during the build enabling information to be collected during deployment on the fitness of its systems to inform future service and maintenance arrangements.”

With the vessel able to accommodate a variety of equipment choices and with flexibility at the centre of the design philosophy Arrowhead can be deployed for a broad range of roles from low threat security operations to task force deployments.

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.

BMT’s design proposal for the Type 31.

There are three variants of the Venator-110, each designed to suit specific roles and levels of affordability. The three variants are the ‘General Purpose Light Frigate’, the ‘Patrol Frigate’ and the much lighter ‘Patrol Ship’.

The General Purpose Light Frigate variant is designed to meet the expected requirements of the Type 31 Frigate programme.

The design is billed by BMT as the “optimum balance between capability, survivability and cost“.

With an estimated displacement of 4,000 tonnes, a top speed in excess of 25 knots and accommodation for over 115 personnel in addition to a crew size of 85 personnel the craft is “designed to cover a multitude of general purpose and specialist roles”.

BMT also describe the vessel as being intended to counter the recent problems the Royal Navy have had with regards to ships becoming ever more expensive and complicated.

The Venator-110 design adopts a Combined Diesel And Diesel (CODAD) configuration and features two shafts combined with four prime movers.

The design uses off the shelf equipment, which BMT say ensures simple maintenance procedures and leaves room for future capability growth while requiring minimum levels of personnel to operate.


  1. I think this is a great decision by both companies to take the best of both designs and hopefully forge a game changer for UK shipbuilding.

    I strongly believe we can do something great for £250m here vessel and am happy with a 76mm OTTO and a SeaRAM for ships defence and a 16 missile silo for offensive actions. I would also like to see a compact captan 4 on these ships (but accept that is wishful thinking).

    Key for me is that this vessel is capable of meeting the RN’s war fighting standards and can take damage and survive.

    Sadly, my favourite design Spartan now seems to be on the periphery of this work and I think that is a pity as it does stand out to me as being British (whatever that means – I just feel it is a British design).

    Good luck to BMT and Babcock I hope they win the contract and do us all proud.

    • Agree, between them I reckon they will turn out something pretty special which not only holds its place on the open seas, but will provide the VFM that the MoD claims is so important.

      Might give BAE something to think about too…

    • Pacman27
      Sorry but im seem to be missing something here
      Could you tell me what “compact captan 4”
      Cant say iv ever heard of that before

    • My favourite from what I have seen so far is the Spartan. However I do know there have been 20 expressions of interest or was it designs. So if the Spartan is one, Arrowhead one, BAE/CL one, Venator 110 has 3 versions, plus the 120 version. That is still only 7 designs, I am intrigued to see the other 13 options.

  2. I’d rather this was the winning consortium by a long way. Love both of their designs, if they can provide the offensive capabilities and survivability needed for £250M then fantastic. 👍🏼

  3. 8 of these for the RN please.

    I believe last 2 of T26’s will be dropped, allowing for more of these. Costs are too high.

    Can the RN do with 6 T26 or must there be 8 as stated for CBW and Deterrent?

    • If the “Rule of 3” means 1/3 are immediately available and 1/3 are available in short-term, 6x T26 may be enough for Carrier escort, even if both carriers are surged, IF all 6 have the ASW equipment AND (this is a big IF..) 2xT45 are immediately available, 2x T45 are also short-term available and we have something like 5-6x T31 immediately availbale to deal with other duties..

      So I reckon we need 10+ T31s if we lose T26 7 and 8….

      • Ok, cheers for that.
        If history of type 45 is anything to go by, when mod vowed 8 and we ended up with 6, I can only see a similar outcome.

          • Indeed. 2004 new chapter reduced RN from 32 to 25 escorts. The loss of the two T45 then made 23. Then SDSR 2010. I sadly know the timeline of cuts all too well.

      • My understanding is that the MOD wants a ‘British’ design, however you interpret that. Venator with the patrol ship/ patrol frigate/ light frigate trio of designs and a 120m version in the works looks better thought through from the exportability point of view. And probably from the modular build aspect too I suspect. But Arrowhead is probably cheaper – more use of commercial standards – Babcock live in a cost conscious real world. Will be imteresting to see what they propose.

  4. In THEORY we should be able to have 8 T26 and build at least 8 T31 and still be well under the figure of £13 to £14 billion talked about for 13 T26.

  5. I think we will end up Building 13 T26 and replacing the T45 fleet eventually – this will then be our destroyer class.

    The T31 on the other hand I predict will be built in large volumes – 25 or so, as a replacement for multiple other hull/ship types.

    For me I would like to see the T31 become our main ASW asset as it is small and nimble – but either way once we find a sub – how do we disable it?

    All the above over the next 25 years – not in the next week or so, so dont hold your breaths

  6. Venator is still my favourite design by a long way, these two companies will hopefully shake up uk defence as well, hope they get the contract.

  7. I think this can only be viewed as a good move and makes for a very competitive option.
    Personally I like the Arrowhead 120 design

  8. What is all the talk of reducing type 26 order to 6 hulls? Has no one been listening to our ex defence minister? We have a growing Royal Navy. So 8 type 26s and at least 8-10 of the type 31s are needed and I am going to be positive they are going to get built.

    • Please tell me the growing royal navy comment was sarcasm…

      Anyone with any knowledge of the UK defence budget is well aware that we do not have a growing royal navy depaite what the politicians would have you believe.

  9. We should work out what we want to do first before trying to forecast numbers of platforms and there expected weapons fit.
    Rushing to solutions before we have identified the requirement always leaves people disappointed when they perceive they don’t get what they want.
    What do we need 12 AAW destroyers for? Are we getting value for money on the platforms we have already got? (One constantly along side, others fulfilling frigate escort roles).
    What does HMG want its Navy to do, once that has been clarified we can then work out the correct mix of people, what processes (policy) they need to follow and then get them the technology to be able to do that.
    If we don’t, we will waste more money buying shiny new toys that can be pointed at but never fully utilised (CVF for example).
    If you are going to build things you have to be able to afford to run them and use them – using them for what they were designed for, that is the only way UKHMG can fully realise the benefit of the platform.
    HMS Ocean, not the best designed and built platform, but, from a value for money and utilisation point of view what sterling service she has given. So what are we doing with her? Selling her off because the Navy cannot man all the platforms she has in the ORBAT. Who builds ships and then can’t man them? That will be UKHMG. Who builds ships and then can’t sufficiently afford to arm them? That will be UKHMG? Who has a nuclear deterrent but then removes one of its layers of defence? That will be UKHMG.
    Stop chasing platform numbers and start to work out what HMG are trying to do because I don’t think they have a clue – apart from sustaining the allusion that as long as we are building and buying stuff all is good.

    • Hi Lee

      I believe many of the other threads on this site attempt to work out what is required and subsequently end up with what is know as fantasy fleets.

      For the majority of people and the government I think there is a clear requirement for more escorts (NAO, parliamentary defence committee etc.) I agree that we need to fund this force better and have made a proposal on another thread to move the RM into the Army ORBAT in return for the Army giving the Navy the 4k FTE it is currently short in its ORBAT. This would alleviate the medium term manpower issue for both forces and rebalance our force in line with Peers.

      I also believe many of us choose our compromises on the basis of commonality of hulls, engines, spare parts and potential usage. Again on several threads you will see good discussions on whether to have a Karel Doorman Style Solid Support Ship or dedicated Amphibious ships, clearly much is personal preference but we do have a plan for the whole force and its budget.

      Its simple what HMG want to do – over commit what is becoming a very very small force and try not to pay the going rate for it, whilst trying to be a mini version of the US military. This strategy is clearly not working.

      • Hi Pacman87
        Moving the RM in to the Army would ultimately dissolve the identity and history of a Corps who like most military units protect their heritage like mothers who protect their young. Royal Marines by definition are intrinsic into the physiological make up of the Royal Navy – something that will never be changed.
        Platforms should be built to satisfy the requirements of those that use them, hybrids (Karen Doormen etc) only increase the risk because they are trying to do too much with too little.
        Money is available for manpower though, however it is currently the wrong “colour” (CDEL and not RDEL) and is being used to purchase things we can neither man nor arm properly.
        By significantly increasing the manpower liability requirements of all three services HMG have to admit they were wrong to reduce it in the first place. You have to be a very brave politician to do that.
        Mini SDSR’s if done properly should do that but they are not there to deliver what is needed they are there to cut funding and capability whilst smoke screening it with a couple of new toys.

          • CDEL – capital expenditure (Capital Deparment expenditure limit)
            RDEL – resource expenditure (Resource department expenditure limit)
            CDEL – purchase of large items (ships, planes, tanks etc)
            RDEL – manpower, running costs etc.
            TCO – Total cost of ownership – mixture of both. Hence the strategic deterrent when the talk about it costing £40bn upwards they are talking about its TCO.
            I would estimate that SSBN CDEL will have a limit of about £16bn (£4bn each) and the rest is RDEL.
            Type 31e cost per asset will be £250 million but that TCO isn’t talked about.
            HMG will present financial data in the way that shows them in the best light.

        • Hi Lee

          Fair comments all and I agree totally with your comments. However I do think the UK has to look at things differently and I would rather compromise on assets that are not used that often (like amphibious assets that are tied up when we could have more use out of a KD style SSS) and in maintaining a full (actually enlarged) RM force that can maintain its ethos but will come under a different command structure as I am sure it was in Afghan.

          I do think we need a single force command now with the force split into defence and expeditionary Divisions, but this is a personal preference

          I clearly would like more of everything but have come round to my current way of thinking in order to maintain what is critical (Frigates and elite forces) over what can be multi platform – especially with the onset of the age of unmanned military systems.

          • Hi Pacman27
            Many thanks for response.
            3 cod Bde RM when operating in Afghanistan came under operational control of which ever task force was running the joint operation (US/UK). Sometimes it was US Army, sometime U.K. Army. Sometimes the operation was run by an RN ATG deployed onboard Albion operating at sea off the coast or in the majority of cases it just plugged in to the USMC.
            I agree with the Tip of the Spear model (SF/assault force/mechanised/armoured) etc. And agree that both the RM and 16 AAB should be sufficiently increased in size to sustain lead battle groups at 24hrs notice.
            This would mean (and I promised my self I wouldn’t do this but…..)
            4 Cdo units (700 men)
            1 Army Cdo manoeuvre battalion (700 men)
            1 Cdo Eng Regt (1000 men)
            1 Cdo Logs Regt (1000 men)
            1 Cdo Arty Regt (24 guns)
            1 CHF (32 Merlin, 16 Lynx, 8 Cobra)

            This could equally apply to 16 AAB
            This allows full rotation of lead Cdo units on spearhead, allows for one off deployments.
            To support that and to make the amphibious force plausible to lift and shift a battle group you need:
            HMS Ocean (LPH)
            2 x LPD
            4 x LSD(A)
            4 x (A)LSL
            This would sustain the battle group for 30 days.
            The amphibious force is highly adaptable, you just to look at what it is currently doing at the moment to realise that.

            Unmanned military Systems
            The man will always be in the loop, it just depends how close you want them to the executive decision when in the face of the enemy

  10. Quick question on gun calibres, is there a navel version of the 105mm gun? As I understand it, this is the calibre used by the Royal Artillery unit that supports the Royal Marines. Wouldn’t it be better to use this on ships expected to support any Royal Marine landing? In my opinion it would make logistics simpler. I realise the move to the 5 inch gun on the T26 was to fall in line with US warships, but did anyone consider the 6.1 inch (155mm Nato standard calibre). Also using the above standards would make specialist ammunition available should the operation require it. Am I missing something about Naval gun calibres?

    • It’s not the barrel size but the type of round used. Naval weapons normally have the whole weapon (explosive and charge) in a single case where as land artillery have the weapon (explosive head) and charge seperate

    • You wont be able to reach out and touch people with a 105.
      The 4.5 Mk 8 currently in service with a base bleed round has short legs ( but excellent accuracy.) The next step up is a 5 inch which is going on the T26. A Split cartridge and shell which gives you a lot of options for shells.
      155 was looked at . The program was in place to fit an AS90 155mm gun in the Mk 8 turret. It was abandoned as the physical problems of moving 155mm bricks and cartridges around was very difficult.
      Unlike a AS90 which has a small distance from the magazine to the breech you need to move shells up and down 3 decks on a ship and despite mechanical handling and automation in the turret, the deep magazine its going to be down to Jack and Jenny humping shells and cartridges around.

  11. Normal nonsense. The T26 design is frozen. Make 8 on the Clyde and more elsewhere., in blocks if necessary. No other design is.frozen so more cost will be inevitable.

  12. Venator – Arrowhead merger seems like a winner to me, for design and cost – and if the strategy is to get away from a BAE monopoly, that’s the way to go. For me both of those designs had the best flexibility in mission space, which would mean one overall design, but a lot of varieties. That was of course supposed to happen with the T26 GCS …

    • I’ll admit to a bit of bias there by the way, nearly got to work at Babcock and Wilcox at Renfrew for a time years ago, knew people who worked there, and have kept a bit of an eye on them ever since. Hope they remain as committed to Scotland as any company can these days of reduced overall domestic demand, but international potential.

    • Sorry for multiple posts, wish I could get my head together. Meant to say that for me Arrowhead was the weaker design but from the stongest enabling company! So taking Venator and some bits from Arrowhead which had good points sounds great to me.

  13. Not sure which design it is, but the one with SAMs, ASMs, & main gun grouped tightly together seems leaving most of the weaponry vulnerable to one good hit. With ASMs now able to target specific areas of the ship targeted, it doesn’t seem wise.

    • Firstly the idea is to not get hit…
      If you get hit by a modern day ASM it doesn’t really matter where you get hit the shock blast and fire damage means you will lose systems….SAM’s, Guns and ASMs need lots of services to make them go whoosh or bang.
      1. 440v Power
      2. 115v Power
      3. Chilled water
      4. Nav system ( GPS or Gyro Compass ) Input
      5. Radar
      6. Command system.
      7. Hydraulics

      Loose any of those services or supplies and your system gets degraded or stops working. It doesn’t matter where you put stuff on a ship if you take an ASM inboard you will lose everything for a time.
      The clever bit is having a trained up crew and secondary modes of operation on equipment that you can use to get the capability back to the Command as quick as possible so that they can fight the ship.
      I can say that the RN is really, really good at that stuff…The maintainers and system engineers know the systems inside out and how to configure them to get them back on line ASAP.

      • Thanks for the information. Still concerned about hits from other weapons & no manner of re-routing power etc can make destroyed missile launchers or main gun work again without shipyard help. I agree best not get hit, but in war these things happen very inconveniently & things go wrong. Remembering those pictures of WW2 destroyers with whole bows or sterns blown off.

        • Many of the lessons of WW2 damage control are still taught today as are the lessons learned from the Falklands and the other Peacetime Collisions the RN was involved in. ( Southampton, Nottingham, Brazen)
          The post Falklands lessons learned was a watershed …the improvements in damage control equipment and training changed the way we did things from bottom to top.
          An example would be HMS Sheffield… hit midships by an Exocet (which nowadays is a pretty tame ASM) …fighting capability completely lost due to fire , floods , blast damage and at the time lack of experience and training on what to expect post hit.
          Most of the RN current and Ex( Me!!) know that if you take a missile nowadays you are in a world of hurt. You are not going to get Radars back or guns or all of your missiles, engines or generators. The priority is to get what you can back and to carry on fighting as best you can.
          And don’t forget torpedoes… If one goes off under you it doesn’t matter what you do. If you survive the blast, shock and the ships back breaking its Once Only Survival Suit time and time to put all the training learned in Horsea Lake to work (surviving in the sea and getting into life rafts).

  14. Whatever design is chosen for type 31e either a mash up of Arrowhead or Venator. What is certain is construction has to start in Jan 2019 so the first of class has been built, launched, fitted out, gone on sea trials and commissioned into service by 2023 ready for withdrawal of first type 23.
    The type 31 has to be built within budget and on time otherwise big problems for RN surface fleet coming up.
    The ship has to be a credible frigate from launch….no more fitted for but not with.
    so either 114mm guns handed down from type 23 or the 5inch BAE gun.
    Sea ceptor + Anti ship missiles in cannister or vl system.
    + sonar + ship launched torpedoes + Ciws.
    This should be achievable for a £250 million budget (just)
    I would give the entirety of the type 31 contract to Babcock appledore yard. They deliver on time and on budget for the Irish Navy Samuel Beckett class, which the Arrowhead design is based upon (enlarged SB class hull) Samuel Becketts cost Irish Navy £130 million so a type 31 with specification outlined above for £250 million is achievable if we put the ship builder and MODs feet to the fire.


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