Babcock, Thales, BMT, Harland & Wolff and Ferguson Marine have teamed up to form ‘Team 31’ a consortium to bid for the Type 31 Frigate.

Babcock will act as the overall programme lead, whilst Thales will have overall responsibility for the development of the mission system solution.

Babcock CEO Archie Bethel said:

“Team 31 will allow Babcock and Thales to take forward the key lessons from the Aircraft Carrier Alliance and apply them in a new and highly capable team with Harland & Wolff, BMT and Ferguson Marine.”

Victor Chavez, CEO of Thales UK said:

“Thales UK is delighted to be working with Babcock and our partners as part of Team 31. We recognise the diversity of roles anticipated for Type31e and, together, we will create and exciting, innovative and flexible capability for the Royal Navy based on the best of UK and international technologies in an open-system architecture that will ensure long term value for money.”

The Type 31e frigate will replace five of the Royal Navy’s Type 23 frigates. The other eight Type 23s are already set to be replaced by the upcoming Type 26 ‘City’ class.

Geared towards maritime security and defence engagement, the Type 31e will fulfill roles such as the Fleet Ready Escort duties in home waters, fixed tasks in the South Atlantic, Caribbean and the Gulf, and the UK’s NATO commitments in the Mediterranean.

The vessel will be operated by between 80 and 100 men and women and ‘needs to be sufficiently flexible to incorporate future developments in technology, including unmanned systems and novel weaponry’ say the MoD.

The proposed Type 31e frigates will be built in a modular way, which could see the construction work shared between yards around the UK and assembled at a central hub, most likely in Scotland.

Admiral Sir Philip Jones, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, said:

“Through the Queen Elizabeth-class carrier project, we proved to the world – and to ourselves – that Britain still has what it takes to be a great maritime industrial nation. The National Shipbuilding Strategy seeks to build upon this achievement by charting a course towards a more sustainable and competitive industrial base that can support regional growth and prosperity as well as strengthen our national security.

With the Type 31e General Purpose Frigate Programme, the Royal Navy will bring our requirements into line with the demands of the export market to help support that ambition. Mostly excitingly of all, this offers a historic and vital opportunity to increase the size of the Royal Navy in the decades ahead.”

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.

 

Tony Douglas, the Chief Executive Officer of DE&S, said:

“The Type 31e programme will drive the change that is needed through the entire system, because we have set tough time and cost constraints.

The collective challenge for DE&S and industry is to deliver Type 31e in a different, more innovative way than has gone before. I want this to be a transformation in the way we do business – not just in ships and acquisition but across the entire defence equipment and support portfolio.”

42 COMMENTS

  1. Excellent news. Anyone but BAE as far as i am concerned. I have no faith in BAE to deliver the type 31 programme on budget, on time, with the right equipment and weaponry fit or in the tempo needed. X5 type 31s built before 2023 then subsequent batches as required. Hope this programme does return a polyvalent hull form to the RN to get us back to 26-30 escort warships needed by the Royal Navy.

  2. This is excellent news and a great response from industry.

    Now the government needs to do the same and order 12 over the next 10 years, with a further order of 1 pa thereafter.

    This will give these yards hope and allow them to invest to bring the price down further. At a cost of £250-400m each its hardly high risk in the scale of things is it.

    If the above doesn’t happen – not sure how this alliance can be efficient given its geographical spread.

    Big decision – but for me this is looking like the dream team for T31 (Sorry Spartan – great design, but wheres the builders).

    • Fergusons have invested / are investing £12 million in improving their facilities. previously the max length was a little over 100 metres, with the MV Sannox just fitting. Now they’ll be able to take 140-150 metres, and have been recruiting apprentices unlike (I think) BAE). I’m impressed they’ve decided to join this consortium, and think they’re a good addition.

  3. It’s an impressive consortium. I’m really looking forward to seeing more details of its design submission. Let’s hope this team can really surprise with an exceptional value for money proposal.

    • couldn’t have said it better Julian

      and lets hope the government responds with an order for 10.

      Interestingly I wonder if the consortium will give the government a price structure based upon overall fleet size to see if it can get the price point to the sweet spot.

      • Tying various price points to contractually binding volume and build rate (a bit like how the Carrier Alliance had crippling penalties for cancelling the PoW which as I understand it was the main thing that saved us from having the second carrier cancelled) would be a very smart idea. My concern about someone delivering a surprisingly good capability within the £250m per ship core spec limit by over-delivering on the core spec (which let’s face it is very basic) is that the MoD might say “well, you can deliver all that for £250m so let’s strip down the spec to what we specified as the core capabilities and only spend £200m per vessel” (or whatever it ended up being). If the pricing was presented as “for a 3 hull initial contract commitment you get capability for £250m per vessel, for 6 hulls you get and for 10 hulls you get ” that might encourage the MoD to spec-up rather than cost-down.

        • I agree. Economies of scale should allow the MOD to get a good deal if they have any negotiating nous plus there won’t be the usual BAE premium to pay.

  4. Assuming they get their BMT/Arrowhead design into a credible state this consortium looks favourite to beat the Cammell Laird/ BAE Cutlass/Leander.

    • I’ll be fascinated to see how the various design features, priorities, tradeoffs and capabilities of the Arrowhead and Venator designs end up getting blended into the final design – which bits of each get retained and what is discarded. With Babcock in the driving seat I would think it will be much more Arrowhead with BMT design staff participating in the work required to take the design to a construction-ready level of detail and maybe some specific ideas from the Venator design being incorporated but possibly not very visible from the brochure + glossy CGI video + physical model which is all that we tend to see of any design.

      • I’ll probably get shot down for saying this but I reckon the BAE Cutlass design is the more mature and I would prefer BAE for systems integrator rather than French Thales.

  5. A very smart move getting Thales onboard, they are mission system integrator for the very similar French FTI Frigate program. There is a chance to save some development cost pulling through what has been developed for that program.

  6. Building blocks hundreds of miles apart with the associated transport costs will not make British shipbuilding efficient and competitive.

    • Stephen – I think the QE programme proved how multiple sites can deliver hulls in the water faster and more effectively than the ‘build it in one place’ of yesteryear. It is a principle that has driven all major industries where sub assembly off line is now the norm.

      If you can create multiple ‘centres of excellence’ (say for example making Appledore the Bow specialists) working to a faster line pulse that has to produce a better end product, for a lower cost and has the added economic benefit of spreading the benefit around the UK.

      • I know what you are saying but it is inherently inefficient, it is adding transport costs at a time when we need to make British shipbuilding as efficient and competitive as possible. We need to invest money in at least 1 large shipyard capable of building large ships on 1 site.

        • I agree, which would make Cammell Laird the obvious choice were it not for the fact their bid is tainted by being a BAE design. Be politically interesting if the RN says they prefer Cutlass / Leander.

        • Stephen G. It would be interesting to see this modelled to see the pros and cons as there other shipyards around the world now do this or rather in a bigger way. Even Hyundai at Ulsan does this albeit from a yard closer to the south. Some may be due to getting these facilities up and running to invest for contracts we can be viable in which is a lot, then with smaller consortia (in numbers) and closer rather than from Pompey to Govan as an example and commercial. Towing a hull afloat in the water, towing a raft as with the bow sections of the Type 45, or lift ships carrying hulls and deck modules etc.

  7. It shouldn’t cost that much to ship small blocks up and down the Irish sea. Airbus ships wings from Wales to France and manages to compete with Boeing.
    I don’t see Ferguson or H&W getting huge chunks of the work share anyway but I don’t see any issues with spreading it over 3 ship yards.

  8. Isnt it time for the bid rationalisation / consolidation to stop, the design to be frozen and the building to begin ?
    I am also in the “anyone but BAE Systems” camp.

  9. Including Harland & Wolff is a very wise move as the DUP will push hard in government to ensure this is the successful bid. I don’t see the transportation of blocks from yards across the UK adding significantly to the overall cost, long term. In fact the competition from the various yards bidding for work should reduce costs over time as they become more efficient and cost effective. The alternative approach with BAE as the prime contractor has not delivered what the Royal Navy needs at a cost the taxpayer can afford, so this new approach of UK yards block building is well worth a try in my view.

  10. @Julian

    Your proposal is not unusual in these kinds of contracts and for me with this particular contract I think the cost point and specification will be heavily influenced by the volume.

    As such I really do think this consortium should take an approach of you get more – with the more you order and then heavily penalise should the order be reduced.

    Less face it the cost of the Rivers is a national disgrace. I don’t mind us having to build them – but what we got for the cost is just ridiculous.

    We are then reliant upon the MOD exercising some level of discipline in ensuring the core specification stand good for the next 20 years, which they should if Mk41 VLS and a 5″ or 76mm Otto are specified and then rely on remote systems to improve capability further.

    Lets hope everyone has their heads screwed on and try and do something groundbreaking here, as I really do think the carriers have re-invigorated the industrial base.

  11. If this Babcock lead group get the Type 31 contract I think Cammell Laird and A&P should get the FSS work. The National Shipbuilding Strategy policies should be changed to make sure this happens.

    • Either or with some involvement from both, as there is no reason cammel laird on the losing side could not end up from the Babcock, Harland, Fergerson… consortia. It would seem a little weird to see these ships finally assembled at Rosyth and the bigger FSSS ships assembled not fully utilising that crane unless we see investment from Cammell Laird which those FSSS should provide. All these contracts should stimulate shipbuilding other than warships/military ships. There are studies showing that this Country is viable in many billions of pounds of shipbuilding in which we are not even scratching the surface. Those future contracts may involve smaller more local consortia unless it makes economic sense and/or is quicker in certain cases.

      • Either or with some involvement from both, as there is no reason Cammell Laird on the losing side could not end up with contracts from the Babcock, Harland, Fergerson… consortia if this is quicker and cheaper. Missed some words out, must have run out of ink, really fast typer, or did not read back.

  12. We could see some interesting trade offs when the competing design propsals are known. Would you for example for the 5 batch 1 ‘patrol’ T31 frigates, trade off say a 5in gun and Sea Ceptor for a 57mm, and Artisan for Terma Scanter if it meant more could be spent on a more survivable hull which you could then up armour at refit or for a second batch? I would like all these ships to have a hull sonar from day 1 for example, but this is only a FTR ( fitted to receive) requirement in the RFI.

    • The 57mm gun is an interesting piece, but I think all RN escorts need both greater MCG hitting power & range, plus it’s essential all have naval gun support for land forces. That to me seems like 76mm minimum & most likely the 4.5 or 5″ guns. Stick a 57mm on our River OPVs(I’d prefer 76mm, but anything is better than25/30mm pea shooters), or as an AA weapon on larger ships, but leave our frigates with a decent medium caliber gun. If we fail to learn from our abysmal planning & procurement past(The ludicrous proposed scrapping of Harpoon ASMs with another long capability gap before we finsh developing & bringing into service a replacement), it may be the only credible anti-ship weapon our escorts have.

  13. BAE were going to build a £200 million frigate factory at Scotstoun. With the delay to the T26 build, they cancelled that, and instead were going to spend £100 million improving both facilities.

    That seems to have disappeared as well, and if I’d been writing the NSS I’d have wanted competition as BAE seemed to have lost interest, and in spite of the expensive OPV orders they were / are getting in lieu of payment under the still existing TOBA, unwilling to inves which was, of course, the whole point of the TOBA back in 2009. They cooked their own goose, but unfortunately it’s workers on the Clyde that pay the price by reduced jobs and longer-term prospects.

    This is a good constortium, enhanced by Thales, and I’d say a good chance of getting the bid. It’s curious for the overall politics as well, as with H&W there’s insurance against Scotland going Independent, while going some way to appease the Clyde with the inclusion of Fergusons. Plus for Scotland there’s also Babcock at Rosyth, a massive yard. I’m an Indy supporter and even vote SNP, but I suspect this will have the SNP not knowing whether to greet – or greet!

    Unlike them I think the blame is mostly with BAE, not the UK Government or MOD, for the reduction from 13 to 8 and currently, only 3, with “promises” of another 5 (which may become 3).

    I’d say if this does come off there’d be a better chance of international orders for the T31e, and with 3 shipbuilders all, I think, capable of assembling at least one and with Babcock, more than one, the capacity to handle multiple orders will be there in spades.

  14. True and both Thales and Babcock have business in many countries and every region currently either undergoing or contemplating a Naval build up. So they at least have a foot in the door with foreign arms procurements.

  15. Good job the voters in Scotland had more sense than you dadsarmy and did not vote for independence as the yards on the clyde would be looking forward to building trawlers now and this contract along with the type 26 would be being constructed in the rest of the UK.

    • Oh RH, why live in the past? It just causes long futile and meaningless assertion threads.

      I totally disagree anyway since you brought it up, basically speaking if the rUK wanted to keep its nukes on the Clyde for the 10 years it would take to relocate them in working and reloadable order to Devonport or Milford Haven, then the rUK would have kept building its T26 on the Clyde, perhaps more so than now.

      Otherwise it would have had till midnight on the day of Independence to ship out and shape up, which would have left the CASD with a 3 months life before expiring for a few years. Dat’s the Law, if there’s really any such thing as International Law. Statics stay like buildings, movables you move out fast, unless there’s an agreement such as Ukraine had with Russia / USSR (later exchanged for debt).

  16. Stop telling everyone that your an Indy Supporter then, this supposed to be about navel matters not your political views I for one do not care.

    • I believe in honesty RH, and when I disclose that I support Indy and vote for the SNP, it allows readers to see what my point of view might be, and what bias there might be in what I post, even though I try to be dispassionate and balanced in my postings. I don’t sail under a false flag.

    • The other point actually RH is precisely because of Naval matters, air and land – defence of the four corners of the UK, even if Scotland does become Independent. Saber-rattlers are a danger to defence co-operation, and there was a lot of saber-rattling from both sides during the first Independence Referendum. Well, perhaps after a YES vote that would all have reset and everyone gets on with working-co-operatively to make sure the UK as a whole = rUK + Scotland, continue to be defended with shared defence where neccessary.

      There’s probably a second referendum on the way soon, and the time to start keeping friendly relations is now, before all the saber-rattling starts again. Scotland has just 1/12th of the population, but a third of the landmass, half of the territorial waters, and half the airspace. Yet we are in your back yard.

      The classic now example of that is defence and security co-operation with France, with politicians and media stirring it between the UK and the rest of the EU including France, but in the background deals are being made in the defence sector to keep that co-operation going, and those in defence are quietly working away, probably shaking their heads at both politicians and media which potentially makes their jobs harder.

      • Dadsarmy it’s good to see your honesty about your political views.

        I don’t share them in fact I’m the total opposite. I grew up in Northumberland and there are signs of violence all along the border. This hasn’t happened in hundreds of years because of the Union.

        As a follower of military matters you will be aware of this history.

        However you bring up an interesting point about a possible trade off over nukes and shipbuilding. I’d not heard that mentioned before.

        Keel

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