Plans to acquire a new class of “more affordable” Type 31 Frigate were announced as part of the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review.

It is understood that the Type 26 Frigate will primarily support carrier task group operations while the Type 31 is to be deployed for a range of less high-tempo operations.

The original planning assumption for the Royal Navy was for thirteen Type 26 Frigates (eight ASW and five GP), replacing the Type 23 frigate fleet like-for-like. However, it was later announced during the November 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review by then Prime minister David Cameron that only the eight anti-submarine warfare Type 26 frigates would be ordered.

The funding for the remaining five general purpose Type 26 frigates is instead to be spent on developing a new class of lighter and more affordable general purpose frigates. Due to an expected lower cost, the government suggested it may (but probably not) allow an eventual increase in the total number of frigates in the Royal Navy.

This general purpose frigate will be designated as the Type 31 frigate.

The Cutlass design from BAE offered for the General Purpose Future Frigate (Type 31) is pictured above and is a significantly stretched and enhanced derivation of the Al Shamikh-class corvette design and sits at the high end of the cost/capability spectrum.

In Omani service, the vessels this design is based on carry one 76mm Oto Melara cannon, two 30mm MSI DS30M cannons, eight MM-40 Block III Exocet SSMs and twelve MBDA VL Mica SAMs.

The vessels, despite being smaller than the proposed UK variant, also house an enclosed hangar and are capable of hosting Wildcat sized aircraft.

During a July 2016 Defence Select Committee hearing, First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Jones described the GPFF 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.”

It remains to be seen how this vessel meets those needs with very little UK specific details having been released.

52 COMMENTS

  1. Very likely yes! As the article says, there isn’t a published account of the requirements for the Type 31 but this seems appropriate as long as it comes in around £333m per ship and so allows us to build 6 for the estimated £2bn budget.

    Doesn’t look as nice as the Venator mind.

  2. Does anyone know when we might expect an announcement on the National Ship Building Strategy? I assume Type 31 will be announced at the same time.

  3. Rather have a lower scope T26 hull without the high end ASW capability but capable of modernisation and standardisation of the class in time of need. Perhaps with more than one builder to speed their introduction into service.

  4. Perhaps we need give someone else the contract rather than BAE. We need to diversify our production and get some competition between the U.K. shipbuilders. I like the look of Venator.

  5. I’m sorry but whenever I read that Bae is involved with a defence contract my heart sinks. Maybe I’ll be proved wrong this time. Hey just because they’ve been overcharging us for rubbish for decades doesn’t mean they will this time.

      • It would have been much better with cats and traps had BAE built it to be easily convertible as they where required to. That didnt fit with BAE’s agenda for the F35B which has significant short comings in range and payload so the UK government is now stuck with it.

    • Astute Class is fantastic and envied even by the USN.
      Daring Class (US-made intercooler problems aside) is fantastic and envied even by the USN.
      Queen Elizabeth Class is exceeding expectations in initial testing and already warmly praised as a platform by the USN.

      BAES build good ships. The only criticism is cost overruns – and I’d rather pay more than get less.

    • I suspect not ASW but with limited AAW. Mostly patrol, counter piracy, flag showing etc but with some bite i.e. a few ASM (when we get some) and Wildcat.

      Basically like the MEKO design for South Africa.

      • Agreed. The South African Valour Class are nice ships although also an example of how assessing a navy is more than just counting ships, missiles etc. I spend about 5 months each year in South Africa and a report from about 6 months ago in the local press claimed that only one of the 4 South African Valour class frigates is fully seaworthy, another hadn’t put to sea for 3 years, and the other 2 were slowly being cannibalised for parts. Not a pretty picture.

          • Lack of management and misappropriation of funds Rob. Unfortunately the current administration don’t do maintenance and this applies across the spectrum of government

        • So I’m not hearing anything that OPV, T26 or T45 aren’t offering and more importantly (for me) that I wouldn’t rather be done by one of the other three for any of those roles.

          I’m hearing ‘a bit more menace than an OPV but less than a T26’ Under what sustained circumstances would that work?

          • Menacing presence? But you are right, we are building Type 31 because the GP Type 26 would be almost as expensive as the ASW Type 26.

  6. Could this be the T31? Very probably. Should it be the T31 is the more interesting question. I certainly hope not. I know that Venator 110 is mostly paper planning with a bit of tank testing on the hull form but Cutlass still needs some design to do the stretch which is probably non-trivial and based on what’s been released so far Cutlass looks less capable than Venator 110 and, being BAE, probably more expensive. I hope they go with Venator 110.

      • Well, with the huge caveat that pretty much all we have to go on for Cutlass are renders and the base Khareef-class spec you could very reasonably criticise my making any comparative observations at this time even though I did caveat it with “looks less capable” but, on the basis of the absurdly tenuous source material (and I’ll phrase my comparisons as questions rather than assertions because your polite challenge is justified)…

        Venator appears to have flexible mission spaces under the flight deck, behind the hangar, and twin container storage between the radar mast and funnel. Will Cutlass have that much? At this point in time I see no mention of it but maybe that’s because BAE haven’t spoken about it yet.

        The front weapons area of Venator is fairly respectable, e.g. 48 Sea Ceptor with space behind for 2 x 4 box launchers is a BMT reference configuration. The unstretched Khareef has 8 Exocet and 12 VL-Mica. Clearly the stretch could give more weapons space in Cutlass but will it give as much as Venator? I’m not convinced from the renders of Cutlass that the two forward VLS boxes are very big. Maybe Cutlass has a T26-like extra silo amidships (which does seem to be where the box launchers are).

        On reflection I withdraw my observation, deprecate it to a nagging concern that Cutlass might be less capable than Venator 110, and am left longing to see more detail of Cutlass (and Avenger) specs from BAE rather than simply renders. I know that ultimately specs come from RN but a designer should be able to give some reference fitouts as BMT have done so as to at least give some idea of the possible capabilities.

  7. This is a priority. My on serves aboard a Type 23 and he cannot see them lasting. They will need shoring he reckons a bit like the Type 42s. The talk is of a 12 ship escort fleet as the QE carriers are absorbing resources. The talk is that the 31s will be sold off. In the RFA, the big question is the future of Argus.

  8. If the MoD goes down this route I can not see the RN version coming with the missiles as per the Omani example. It would be just like the MoD to take an off the shelf package and make it less capable. Can you image a senario where the RN lighter frigate has anti-ship missiles when the T26 does not (at least to start with). It is worth noting at this point that to MoD view on the various capability gaps is that one of our allies are likely to have something to help. Not help in terms of providing the RN with the capability but by being on hand to use their capability on our behalf. Naval outsourcing effectively, administered via some very expensive contracts and weak response time targets.

  9. What does the type 31 bring to the table?

    If it’s to be light platform with plenty of weapons and sensors then great, if on the other hand we end up a ship with a very limited weapon and sensor fit then it will probably we a waste of money.

    Given the UK’s procurement record it will probably be the latter.

  10. There’s a lot being written about the designs and capabilities of these proposed T31 ships that’s purely based on assumptions. Personally I’ll wait for the detailed government requirements before getting too carried away. There’s a lot of engagement with MOD and ship builders that needs to take place for a clearer view on what these ships will do and what they will look like. These proposed designs will change over the next couple of years as this process takes place.

  11. Save the Royal Navy seem to think an announcement on the Type 31s will be made later this week at DSEI. Doesn’t say if it will be a design decision.

    • It won’t be. It will be an announcement of the National Shipbuilding strategy and a timetable for a Type 31 design competition. Expect that to be kicked off next year and a winner announced early 2019.

  12. T31( in whatever guise) needs to have the same Anti Ship , gunfire support and Surface to Air punch as the T26, just leave out the high end Anti Submarine (eye wateringley expensive) aspects.

    • Does it need a medium caliber gun? I was thinking the OTO Melara Strales would be more flexible especially for tackling smaller ships.

      • Absolutely, it has to have full general purpose capability, including the same 5″ gun as the T26.

        An enormous amount of money has been spent on state of the art mission specific ASW ship design and systems on the T26. These features can be left out to reduce cost by a considerable margin.

        A T31 design at approx 4000 tons needs to be low observable with good endurance, capable of the full range of blue water, high end war fighting scenarios, with ASM’s, at least the same Sea Ceptor load as a Type 23 (with some secondary Helicopter borne ASW ability) first rate sensors and defensive systems, as well as be capable of the pedestrian missions the Batch 2 Rivers can’t undertake.

        Nice to have list

        Some embarked RM force capability, some mission specific container based loads, mine hunting Systems etc

  13. I think these are a good idea for the Navy. You dont need something as expensive and capable as a T45 to case drug barrons or Somalian pirates or assist with humanitarian issues. Alot of the Navys day to day operations dont require high end warfighting capability , and maybe will free up our precious T45 and future T26 to look after the carriers and head up Naval task groups both for the RN and NATO.

    • I can’t completely make my mind up on the T31. One criticism of the T31 that I’ve heard is that it’s in danger of falling into a middle ground where it’s not capable enough for full peer-level conflict but is also overkill for the sort of missions you suggest. Would a River Batch 2, especially if it had a decent onboard drone capability (e.g. Schiebel S-100) be more than enough capability to chase drug barons or tackle Somalian pirates?

      The other thing about T31 is that a possible argument against River B2 in those roles might be that you really do need a manned helicopter (I don’t know, just posing the question) in which case there is a real danger that T31 does become just an OPV with a Wildcat hangar and we essentially go from 13 frigates + 5 OPVs to 8 frigates + 10 or 11 OPVs i.e. T31 simply becomes a stealth cut and using the T31 budget to add back 1 or 2 of the cut T26s plus another 1 or 2 River B2 would be a better use of the budget.

      As I said, I can’t make my mind up but can see both sides of the argument.

  14. I reckon Cutlass is looking the front runner for Type 31. BAe morphed Amazonas into the River 2 by including features like latest RN combat management and comms systems, magazine armour, independent machinery walkways, improved fire detection and firefighting, improved watertight integrity, fuel monitoring sysfem. I’ll bet that in addition to stretching the hull, these are the sort of structural changes you need to make to Khareef to transform it from a local area corvette into a global RN frigate. Khareef was a stretched Amazonas; too much of a family co-incidence?

  15. Hands up who will be surprised if this design is used and BAE get everything! Even less excuse for Fleet Solid Support ships being built in the Country they should be built, the UK!

  16. The Khareef class was designed by a Vosper Thorneycroft (VT group) team over ten years ago. I wonder if any of the team are left at BAE or if they all went when shipbuilding in Portsmouth was closed down. The design will need a lot of updating to replace obolescent equipment as well as to meet RN requirements. Will that be lower risk than a clean sheet design?

  17. I really hope we either go with a proven platform (Meko, Belharra etc) or that we go with the Spartan or venator design.

    I think BMT have done a great job with the Tides and QEC and the venator seems to be a mid capability platform with good manning levels.

    Let’s hope this is the way we go – but dont count on it.

  18. What I think that the RN needs to reintroduce to the sailors is the ability of the personnel to maintain their own vessels and reintroduce lost skills. The initial cost of the training will be high but over the long term it will be much cheaper. Maintenance costs by contractors is always high and never on time with poor quality work (personal experience).

  19. Not sure cutlass is capable enough.
    The MOD is in the process of inviting tender for a specific capability and has held numerous open meetings with multiple ship building contractors and yards. What I hope for is a decent patrol frigate able to defend itself in all but the most menacing environments and able to contribute to area air defence via seaceptor, surface strike via NSM or a small strike length mk41 VL system and gunfire support+ ASW with sonar and helo +torpedo tubes/ magazine akin to type 23s.
    something in the region of 4500 tons.
    anything less will be a liability and probable death trap for the crew in a war situation.
    the type 31 cannot be allowed to become the navy equivalent to the snatch land rover.

    • Bit worried that Steller Systems seems to be run by a few mates out of one of their houses. Do they have any experience of build build programmes?

  20. If that idiot Fallon stopped sticking his noise into Home Office affairs as he did today talking about immigration to the UK and concentrated on his own job sortng out the Armed forces. We would be better of. We should go with Stellar Systems believe the Spartan is particularly well-suited for the export market. Sir John Parker (author of the report to inform the National Shipbuilding Strategy) was very clear in his belief that the Type 31 design should have export potential as the major design driver.It is a much better looking ship more possiblilty to upgrade as money is tight And the Usa are looking to replace The Littoral Combat Ship and the countries they have shortlisted are a number of foreign designs could end up being dark horse candidates in the FFG(X) competition as well. The Danish Iver Huitfeldt-class frigates are well-rounded, well-regarded ships, as well as the Danish Absalon-class support ships (really, frigate-class ships). Likewise, the Dutch De Zeven Provinciën-class frigates are held in high esteem. Norway’s Fritjof Nansen-class frigates manage to pack in the Aegis Combat System, complete with a version of the same phased array radar that equips the U.S. Navy’s existing Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. Why are we not on this list because we always relay on BAE which are always over priced rubbish that no other country wants to buy and is unreliable. we should give Spartan a go. During the Falklands the Type 21 off the shelf frigate the bulkheads where so thin that Fire fighting on board the water pressure was going striaght through they where only aluminum on the Upper deck thought we had learned are lession after 1982 with buying off the shelf ships

  21. Would be really interested to see what Appledore offer based on a much enlarged and improved version of capable Irish patrol “corvette”

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