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The five Offshore Patrol Vessels ordered to fill the gap created by the Type 26 delay have ‘taken up quite a bit of slack but not all of it’, according to Sir John Parker.

The Type 26 Frigate fleet had been repeatedly delayed over huge financial problems, with the MoD lacking the funds to start production and instead opting to build smaller and cheaper Offshore Patrol Vessels in the meantime in an attempt to retain some of the workforce.

Ruth Smeeth, Member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent North asked at a Defence Committee session on the National Shipbuilding Strategy:

“Now we will move on to skills. You stress the importance of the workforce to build capacity in the industry. What are the risks to the workforce of any further delay to the construction of the Type 26?”

Sir John Parker, author of an independent report on the National Shipbuilding Strategy answered:

“Workforces are secured only by workload. I mentioned earlier that BAE obviously have had to reduce the employment in Clyde yards.

The five OPVs have taken up quite a bit of slack but not all of it, so they have got to build back up again to the level of resource needed for the Type 26.

If it is contracted this year, clearly it will be another year before that probably builds up to a significant level.”

The report by Sir John ‘Restoring the Fleet: Naval Procurement and the National Shipbuilding Strategy’ states that:

“It is clear to us that the delays in the construction of the Type 26 have had a negative impact on the development of the workforce on the Clyde.

Apprenticeships are not being offered at the necessary rate, and those currently undertaking apprenticeships are having their skills training disrupted. Furthermore, workers are being required to move from Scotland to Barrow in order for them to undertake meaningful work.

We welcome the efforts made by the trades unions and BAE to retain the workforce during this period of uncertainty, but remain deeply concerned by warnings that further delay could be “catastrophic” for the skills base.”

The report also states:

“The decision to build the OPVs in advance of the Type 26 also has an impact on the workforce. Duncan McPhee, Manual Convenor (Scotstoun), Unite, told us that while he welcomed the work the additional orders would bring, it should not be seen as a replacement for the delays in the Type 26 programme.

Mr McPhee also highlighted the fact that the absence of work on the Type 26 was undermining the ability to provide apprenticeships. Following the start of the construction phase of the Carrier programme, BAE was recruiting 100 apprentices a year.”

SNP defence spokesperson Brendan O’Hara MP said regarding the delay:

“The MoD must now be clear about the level of uncertainty the Type 26 programme faces following comments at the Defence Select Committee today.

The new Defence procurement minister could give no assurances on the future of the contract – promised to the Clyde yards – and has once again placed in doubt the future of the programme.”

Michael Fallon told BBC Radio Scotland:

“Nobody is shortchanging the Clyde. This is a huge moment for the Clyde; we’re confirming we’re going ahead with the steel cut next summer, earlier than expected.

The first eight will be the Type 26 combat ships. After that, we will be building a lighter frigate and we will end up with a fleet that is larger than the fleet at the moment.”

Responding to earlier speculation that the work could go elsewhere:

“BAE will be in pole position [for that contract]. They’re the principal warship builder.”

16 COMMENTS

  1. Having the Type 31 frigate built in multiple ship yards across the country will create jobs, improve and create supply chains, allow shipyards to be more efficient with planning the availability or their workforce and resources, drive down costs, increase quality and increase ship numbers.

    The two designs that BAE have proposed (Cutlass & Avenger) for the Type 31 frigate are old designs of patrol vessels and are not fit for purpose. It would be a disaster if BAE are the sole builders of the Type 31 frigate and it will be the British tax payer and Royal Navy that will suffer.

  2. I think this can be put at the door of the SNP, without indyref1 I think T26 would have been on its way by now. May be a convenient excuse as the whole thing is a debacle of biblical proportions.

    • Ummm, you do know that the delays to the T26 were down to design problems, which were not the responsibility of the SNP? As in quiet, stealth and cost? Just google “type 26 design problems”.

      • @dadsarmy

        Sadly I do, its right up there with FRES and I do make reference to the whole thing being a 20 year debacle, however I do think Indyref did put it on hold, perhaps conveniently but clearly its just ridiculous how we do defence procurement.

      • Surely a design for a quiet propulsion system already exists and is installed and working well in the T23 Frigate, albeit this is too small for the T26 but it may be suitable for the T31. A larger variant is already in use in a class of submarine operated by a foreign navy. They are robust and very reliable and will still be able to be used, if someone wanted to install them elsewhere, for many years after the original vessels are no longer around. They would just require an upgraded controller to overcome obsolescence of the electronic components.

    • s.n.p think they'll get t26's and t23's how will they pay for them? tell them to build their own, and pay for it

      the entire type 26 programme should be a public enquiry, it has been an utter disaster and THE BAE INVOLVEMENT IS RIGHT AT THE CORE OF IT. THIS WHOLE EXPENSIVE SCREW UP IS A NATIONAL EMBARRASSMENT.

  3. Unfortunately and this is hard for me to say, I think Parker is right, at the pace they’re going it will need parallel build, or two a year T26 followed by the T31. Something that BAE would have been able to handle if the frigate factory had gone ahead.

    But what concerns me – and should concern anyone interested in keeping warship building in the UK or even the rUK if we get Independence in Scotland, is what George Osborne stated in 2014, but particularly in 2015 about the UK building a new complex warship every 2 years “renewing the fleet every 25 years”.

    That clearly was not enough, even without the delays on top. Plus it makes the fleet just 13 complex warships. I know his maths wasn’t very good, but he repeated it time after time.

    • @dadsarmy

      Couldn’t agree more and I also believed Sir John is correct and thank god he is starting to put the pressure on the govt.

      What I would say though is it is up to the joint chiefs of staff to sort this out as David Cameron has a point, they stay silent until they retire then criticise everything often including the period they were in charge.

      The RN does not seem to have a vision of what it will look like and how they aim to pursue this vision (poor leadership). Let’s hope the current head of the RN gets a grip on this and then comes up with a plan.

      I have published proposals for a 39 escort fleet and an 80 strong fleet on other posts, part of this plan is to rationalise the fleet onto 7 or 8 hull types (ie all RFA use Aegir base, Escorts are T26 or T31) .

      We do not need minehunters, OPV’s or even dedicated amphibious ships, we do need platforms that allow for multi tasking. So maybe a fleet of Mistrals or Karel Doorman class solid support ships with helicopter and /or amphibious capabilities that do not require a well dock (LCAC’s deployed from a stern steal beach???).

      Any manager or govt worth their salt will want to see a clear vision, realisable over a specific timeline that is costed and hopefully saves money in the long run. Sadly the military have very little credibility in this regard and George Osbourne was right to reign them in (£4bn for Nimrod and nothing to show for it is a national disgrace).

      The good news is that the UK is getting better at large programmes post Olympics and cross rail and with improved governance and a more demanding relationship of our suppliers significant changes could be made that provides the future RN with the capabilities it needs.

      Timescale is important for the RN as industry works on a 20yr + planning horizon. We need to understand this and commit, but the flip side is that industry have to be onboard and not treat it like a gravy train.

  4. What is a fact is that the RN needs a massive ammount of sorting out. Consecutive labour and then conservative governments have invested nothing for years and now is in a desperate state. Both type 26 and type 31 frigates need to be built at a drum beat of at least 1 hull a year if the surface fleet is not going to drop yo less than 19 hulls.
    The UK has huge export potential if we get the type 31 design and equipment fit right. Needs to be 4500-5000 tons and then Australia, Canada and potentially even Germany,, Holland and maybe even the US might buy the design. All these navies want a capable medium grade frigate capable of patrol duties with some anti submarine and surface strike capability, there is aNATO wide need for over 75 hulls of this type in the next 15 years.
    Australia 6-8 hulls
    UK (hopefully) 10-12 hulls as a minimum
    Canada 15 hulls to replace Halifax class frigates
    Germany 6-8 hulls
    Holland 4-6 hulls
    US Navy want 50+ frigates but will probably just make their LCS hulls into a frigate with increased sensors, armour and weapons.
    Time to get building.

  5. Michael Fallon says we’ll end up with a bigger Fleet. Clearly he can’t count! We currently have 19 Destroyers and Frigates, and he’s talking about 8 Type 26 and 5 Type 31s, to replace 13 T23s… I give up…

  6. If SNP go for another referendum vote and they win they will not be built in Scotland and so goodbye Glasgow and hello Barrow and Portsmouth

  7. Type 26 ten years in the design stage and they still haven’t gotten it finalized! Makes one wonder how long they can spin out the 31 development. I cannot understand the millions of pounds out laid by government on investigive/development contracts with so little to show for it.A classic example was the Crows nest project when from day one it was clear to a blindman that an updated Clearwater system offered the cheapest least risk option and with someone of intelligence making an executive decision could have saved years and millions but hay the government basically unaccountable for its wastage and it gave a few foreign companies something to do.
    And so with type 26 no checks and demanding time lines just give BAE the cash and hope they come to the party.

  8. Forgot to mention that the ten years plus development of the type 26 should be viewed as even more dire as it included the funding that was to have gone into the purchase of the remaining four type 45, whose cancelation was given as reason to expedite the type the type26 ,well that didn’t happen. Without that additional funding maybe one would have been looking at 20 plus years of development and an in service date in the 2030’s.!

  9. One of the issues we have is clear lack of a schedule and a track record of commitment – both from industry who seem happy to overshoot costs, and the RN themselves who seem incapable of controlling costs and are only too happy to reduce the volume when things over run.

    By contrast USN have a 30 year rolling shipbuilding plan, whilst the UK has seems to have no long term strategy. Surely we can commit to building 30 T26 (and its sucessor classes) over the 30 years and for me if a carrier has a 50 year lifespan – then that should set our planning horizon (ie: the forward plan). So what I would then say is 50 T26 (or equivalent) over 50 years – its still 1 per year but it gives everyone a target, demonstrates funding commitment and is just easier to budget.

    So 1 escort every year for 50 years = £800m per year. This will eventually give us a fleet of 25 which I think everyone would be happy with.

    This is simply logic and equates to less than 1/20th of the supposed £17bn pa equipment budget. Hardly a bank buster.

    We can obviously choose how we spend £800m pa on the escort fleet – the key for me is having the broad brush allocations to each asset class and then ensuring we build to cost. Never again can we have partially finished ships that cost £1bn each. It is just madness.

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