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BMT’s Venator-110, one of the most popular contenders for the Type 31 Frigate programme, will take centre stage at DSEI in London next week, following the launch of the National Shipbuilding Strategy.

Muir Macdonald, Managing Director at BMT Defence Services comments:

“The government’s advisor, Sir John Parker, identified the challenge of coming up with a world-leading design that can satisfy the needs of the Royal Navy and the export market.  This is just the challenge BMT likes and we have been anticipating the T31e for some time. 

Our experience of winning many design competitions gives us a depth of knowledge, from the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carrier and TIDE Class tankers for the UK, to the Logistics Support Vessel for the Royal Norwegian Navy. 

We believe we can achieve a world-leading, credible design that delivers an optimum balance of warfighting capability and survivability with cost.”

Muir continues: “We have considered a spectrum of military specifications, needs and budgets, core design principles, through-life spiral development and, importantly, construction strategies, to make VENATOR-110 one of the most credible Type 31e platforms in the market.

Promoting an enterprise approach to ship design and shipbuilding is something we welcome, and is already fundamental to our approach here at BMT. 

We have been actively investing in building strong relationships across the entire industry; from shipbuilders to lead integrators, systems suppliers and other designers, we’ve been adapting to deliver the best possible solutions for our customers.”

Describing the design, the company say:

“A flexible and tailorable modern warship, able to provide a breadth of credible capability from maritime security to warfighting, worldwide, at an affordable procurement cost, the VENATOR-110 Frigate design is also gaining traction through several overseas opportunities such as the US FFG(X) and Colombian PES programmes.”

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”.

ven110
IMAGE: BMT Defence Services (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

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, resulting in fewer of them ever being built:

“The overriding design intent behind Venator-110 is to blend a lean manned and adaptable capability with an affordable procurement cost, within the dimensions of a Light Frigate.

This intent, facilitated by a ‘Middle Out’ design philosophy, is essential to avoid the spiral of escalating platform requirements that can result in ever larger and more expensive warships.”

With a range in excess of 7,000nm augmented by replenishment at sea, the ship can reach and maintain a presence in an area of operations anywhere around the globe.

In April this year, BMT’s Venator-110 hullform started hydrodynamic testing at QinetiQ’s Haslar facility.

The Vertical Launch Silos on the vessel will cater for a range of missiles and decoys, including the quad-packed Sea Ceptor missile that will arm the Type 26 frigates.

In addition, the vessel can also be fitted with automated 30mm cannons, heavy machine guns, soft-kill systems, anti surface and anti-submarine weaponry.

The design of the vessel presents a tailorable choice of Vertical Launch Silo (VLS) configurations, ranging from 24 missiles in two 3-cell silos to 48 missiles in four 3-cell silos or even 24 missiles in two 3-cell silos in addition to an 8 cell strike length silo.

Images below via BMT show a few examples of how the vessel could be configured.

With regards to the gun system, the design can support a medium calibre gun system including 57mm, 76mm, 114mm and 127mm calibres in addition to various general purpose machine guns and soft-kill defences.

There is currently little information on the sensors the vessel may carry.

With the perceived manpower shortage in the fleet, the manning levels of any solution to the Type 31 requirement will be a key factor.

In what BMT describe as its ‘lean manned’ form the vessel is capable of maintaining a routine operational capability found on most warships.

Figures suggest that even in the full combat configuration, the core crew would consist of 85 personnel, capable of maintaining 24 hour operations.

BMT has conducted a series of simulations with this core crew. This reportedly included warfighting scenarios such as Naval Gunfire Support operations in addition to simultaneous internal firefighting, the simulations validated the figure.

Interestingly, the option to forward position the ship, allowing the crew to rotate while the ship stays deployed (much like what’s currently done with the MCM fleet) is made more practical by the lean nature of the core crew.

BMT's Venator-110 future frigate offering breaking away from a Tide class tanker and Queen Elizabeth class carrier.
BMT’s Venator-110 future frigate offering breaking away from a Tide class tanker and Queen Elizabeth class carrier.

Forward basing in this manner may be considered for the class.

The information regarding plans for the Type 31 being based abroad came to light in a speech by Admiral Sir Philip Jones, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, delivered the Lord Mayor of London’s annual Defence and Security lecture in Mansion House.

“Given our long standing defence relationships in the Middle East, it is certain that a Royal Navy task group – centred on a Queen Elizabeth-class carrier – will regularly deploy East of Suez.

And it will be perfectly possible, should we wish, for Type 31 frigates to permanently operate from the Gulf region or from Asia-Pacific in the decades ahead.

These are examples of what we COULD do and not yet policy, and I am never complacent about the challenges we continue to face in recruiting and retaining the very best men and women in a competitive employment market.”

Survivability is a key factor throughout the design of the vessel, especially when it comes to propulsion.

Separated main engine spaces each containing two independent prime movers and two independent shafts feature in order to increase the chance the vessel can maintain propulsion even following major damage from hostile action.

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.

 

The Venator-110 design by BMT represents perhaps the most popular solution along advocates to the future light frigate needs of the Royal Navy, the product emphasises a few of the most used buzzwords on frigate design, namely affordability, modularity and survivability while still seemingly being able to fulfil a war-fighting role.

The robust and flexible baseline design of the vessel would appear to allow a range of roles and capabilities to be developed over the service life of the vessel, what’s called ‘future proofing’. This capability allows the ship to be adapted to a role with much less effort than some other designs.

We can only hope for “at least” five of them.

36 COMMENTS

  1. “The comprehensive aviation capability includes a flight deck and hangar
    with maintenance and support facilities for up to a medium-sized
    helicopter. … such as NH90, AW159 Wildcat, SH-60 Seahawk, AW101 Merlin
    or future replacements”

    Fair enough. The choice between Venator, Cutlass, perhaps Spartan and any other, shouldn’t be purely based on cost, and even then overall cost should be considered. Is it cheaper long-term for instance to use one supplier (BaE), and should they even go back to a lesser T26 based design? What about any commonality of spares, supplies, to be carried on say a base ship? There was supposed to be a strategy on that, ummm, somewhere.

    But it will definitely be based on initial cost, rather than lifetime cost, which seems to make the Venator the most likely. The question is – is the Venator a streched corvette – or a stretched OPV?

    • At 4000tons it’s most defiantly a frigate and not a cut down anything. Let’s be honest calling a type 26 a frigate was always pushing the limits of what was traditionally an RN Frigate. That’s probably why they keep calling it a global combat ship, while secretly rubbing their hands together and wispering that they had put one over on the treasury and got themselves a cruiser.

      • Exactly, in no way is T26 a frigate, it’s a destroyer or light cruiser. Even BAEs Cutlass, at 2200-2600t, compares with the T21s which were clearly frigates. I favour that design simply because it’s already in service so the technology is proven.

      • I like the idea of getting one over the Treasury. Yes, the T26 is arguably a destroyer, and the T45 a missile cruier, maybe a light cruiser.

  2. @Jonathan – totally agree T26 is the RN’s Burke class and will eventually replace the T45 I believe. As for the Venator/Spartan designs both are very good and I think we should build one of each based on a shorter hull of the T26 (as presumably this is the most cost effective way of doing it – but I dont know tbh).

    I think we will end up with 15 T26 (inc T45 replacement) and 25 T31 which is actually what is required in my opinion. We will only get the costs of both down if we get the volumes right. The French sell off the production line – so should we at least then other countries dont have to wait and we can be opportunistic / flexible with our exporting of vessels.

    Either way BMT / spartanare doing a great job and as long as it is not BAE I am fine

    • Hi pacman27

      I think a jump from 5 type 31e to 25 is definitely unrealistic, although I’m not arguing that’s not what we require and it’s a small possibility. A more reasonable assumption would be 8 new destroyers announced in 2024 (possible type 26) and a further 7 type 31 in batch 2. So that’s 8 ASW 8 AAW and 12 light frigates, a jump from 19 to 28 escort vessels is highly realistic and doable within the budget.

      Everything needs to grow at the same pace, economy, tech, manpower and then the number of ships increase.

      • The issue of growing everything together is a very valid one.

        Its why the small commitments to begin with is such an issue for me, it will mean the yards aren’t prepared to invest whats necessary early enough.

        If trouble comes and I fear it will, we’re just not far enough ahead.

      • You could realistically see the type 26 replacing the type 45 in the 2030s after all BAE did push the idea of an AAW version ( and I have heard thoughts on this before).

        The only issue is what will all the warship designers be doing to keep their skills in if we have a simple type 26 AAW version.

        I also think we are likely to see a small increase in type 31s over the five, but only very small number, rember the key issue is manning and ongoing costs not capital costs, maybe 6 as this works for the rule of three for deploying 2 if these at any one time.

        • Your point is well made about ongoing rather than build costs once again underlines why I think we are far too shy on the T-26s

      • I think there is a chance the the type 45s will be replaced with a modified type 26, after all BAE have always said it would be easy to configure to AAW. So it may be the most cost effective solution. But you can’t get away with manning issues and on costs so I would imaging 6 will be the magic number for high end AAW ships what ever.

        Re th type 31s you may get a modest increase, say up to seven making 21 escorts, or 7 deployments using the magic rule of 3 but I could not ever see any more than that.

      • Hi Kieran – I agree my assumption is that we need to build 1 every year or 25 over 25 years I think this is entirely realistic.

        We have a 75-90 ship fleet so we really need to be building 3 p.a.

        We also need to put in place a small vessels strategy as well as 12-16 smaller vessels p.a. can help with shipyard development as well.

        I am looking at the strategy (25 years) and not 10 years

  3. My son, currently serving on a Type 23 can retire in five years. He looks likely to do so. He is certain, as are many of his colleagues, that the RN will end up with 12 active escorts and with the rest being sold off as they are built. The Type 23s are overworked and falling apart and he says the government are telling blatant lies when they assure of them lasting into the 2030s. As for the Type 31s? They’ll probably be built and sold off to keep the shipyards working. There is a precedent for this. The Upholder Class ‘dodgy’ subs dumped on Canada. The RN cannot keep its manpower yet alone its ships (and subs)

  4. I agree as per comments above. I think it’s likely that the Type 45 replacement will be a Type 26 AAW variant and will be built in shipyards across the country but will be assembled in BAE yards.

    In my opinion, BMT’s Venator design is most likely to fit the bill for the Type 31 and it’s going to be interesting to see if the design will change over time to meet the needs of the Royal Navy and future export markets.

    • Furthermore, I hope the Government also sounds out the U.S to see if the Type 31e will be suitable for their proposed frigate.

  5. Are you people living in some form of alternative universe? You do know the country is broke don’t you? You do know there is at least a £20 billion hole in the defence budget don’t you?

    • TH – you post the same response on multiple threads – even your abuse. – please refer to my response on the other thread – the UK is not broke. it really is that simple.

    • I am not sure what you are hoping to achieve TH. This is a defence site with defence minded people contributing to discussion, you really aren’t going to change people’s minds on here with this type of comment.

      We are not broke, the economy is remarkably resilient, but we do have a deficit problem that needs to be addressed. If you look at where the Govt spends tax receipts defence is way down the list, with the majority spent on welfare, pensions, NHS and education. The welfare state is still way too large, that could be worked on, but the reality is that we need to increase productivity in this country and probably raise tax rates. These two things can plug the hole if the will is there to see it through.

      The defence budget isn’t all that large and is below the 2% of GDP agreed with our NATO allies (despite what the Govt says). We could get so much more for the same money if there wasn’t so much waste.

      • Rob, a good response to TH, but he does have a point, in that there is often a lot of wishful thinking along the lines of ‘we need more of X, Y and Z’ which is understandable but does sometimes seem detached from reality.

        I am sure we could build more hulls. but apropos of Alan Jarvis’s comment above – we’d just sell them off as we simply don’t have the manpower and we’re not likely any time soon to increase RN pay rates enough to address the retention crisis facing the RN. I would love to be wrong on this latter point.

    • The legendary £178bn is a 10 year sum that seems to stay pretty static irrelevant of which year we are in. It is also predominantly made up of support costs. Hence why the T26 are costed at £1.25bn each – they have 10 years of support costs built in.

      I personally feel this is disingenuous of the Govt who are not being transparent on the equipment budget. Surely we can spend £3bn p.a. on actual equipment for the RN?

      As our forces become smaller the equipment they use needs to be better and more lethal and they need to be more skilled. Put bluntly the UKAF need circa £45bn p.a. to be what it needs to be. A top tier fighting force and employer of choice.

      • From the Venator specs and your link, the RN spec doesn’t seem to include this from the Venator GPLF spec “support to forces deploying to shore including suppression of coastal targets” or “precision deep strike capability”, so I think you may be right. Though the RN spec does say this “Open Architecture Combat System”. But it looks like a spec fro maritime operations, not a GP spec.

        The possibility is the RN might get a T31 that’s under-specced, but capable for future enhancement, which would be OK I guess, getting it past initial budgets. Similar to giving the T45 Mark 41 VLS. Mmmm.

  6. I’d prefer Spartan personally. But if we can get this for £250m we should bite their hand off. The best thing is that it can be adapted for different tasks and roles over it’s lifetime. The future is rarely predictable now especially.

    • I’d be happy with either Venator or Spartan if they live up to specs and don’t get crippled by too much FFBNW in order to meet the price point. Out of interest though, what makes you favour Spartan over Venator 110? Curious to know if there are things that I’ve missed. To me they seem almost identical and for some of the differences I wonder if they’re just differences in how things are being emphasised and promoted in the marketing info.

      • Hi Julian

        I also prefer Spartan as I think it has a better design/scoping of the multi mission spaces and hanger. This is clearly not covered in detail in the venator design but for spartan, both the stern bay and helicopter hangers seem to be more impressive.

        Need to caveat this by stating that both are designs more than reality, but for me Spartan is more complete and a smaller T26 in everything but name

        • A stern bay is a good idea, but probably precludes any chance of a towed array, so any ASW variant, wether indigenous or export, will be extremely limited. Surely an extended hanger gives the desired flexibility with enhanced help stowage as needed. Have just seen in another thread that the Babcock design is apparently similar to the latest US ‘Legend’ class Coastguard cutter, which is about the right size and is proven, in service, and a stretched variant has been proposed for the new US frigate competition. Obviously more detail is needed but ‘World Naval Review 2013’ has an excellent chapter on the ship, which looks easily adaptable to RN requirements.

        • Thanks for the reply Pacman. Interesting, but I do wonder if this is a case of us (and that includes me) trying to compare specs based on nothing but marketing blurb and artists’ impressions and hence being influenced by what the various designers have chosen to emphasise in their blurb. In this case the Spartan info has quite a few pictures of its internal hangar and mission space whereas the Venator info (that I’ve seen) does not which doesn’t necessarily mean that Venator provisions there are bad, maybe just that BMT didn’t commission any CGI artists’ impressions of them.

          From reading the Venator specs my hunch is that the mission space in Venator 110 is either as good as or not far off that of Spartan. BMT certainly talk about a stern flexible mission bay under the flight deck with RIB and ramp to launch it plus the ability to house a TAS (those might be mutually exclusive, not sure). It also talks about a second flexible mission bay behind the hangar to house an extra (4th) RIB or UAV or USV (again not sure what combinations of those would be possible or if they are all mutually exclusive). The RIB/USV are possible because that mission bay has side access out of the ship. I’m not sure if the mention of UAV also means that it has direct access to the main hangar but I assume so. To top it all off I think, from some earlier versions of the spec sheet and looking at artists’ impressions, that there might also be topside provision between the funnel and the mast for 2 ISO containers although that might just be top access for the behind-the-hangar bay (or it might be both). All in all Venator 110 does seem to be pretty well endowed with flexible mission space.

          The other thing that leads me to favour Venator slightly more might again be a false lead from the differing marketing emphasis but BMT talks A LOT about cost considerations in the design which gives me a hunch that it might be cheaper on a like-for-like capability basis, e.g. they talk about the effects on cost of single big mission bays (HVAC requirements for hot climates and corresponding power issues, structural and buoyancy issues that they can create, etc). There is also a paper (given at a conference) where they agonise over the most cost effective way to create dual redundant separated machinery spaces in a vessel and why they chose what they did for Venator. And then there is CODAD which will be cheaper but maybe that would be a tradeoff too far and lose key capability (does it make quiet running more difficult hence a serious hit on ASW capability? I’m not an expert on any of this, just a civvie devouring all available information, so I’m not sure.).

          Anyway, I’m sure we can all agree that it’s good that the discussion between the MoD/RN and design houses is now at least starting to be seen in public and hope that we might start seeing some of the blanks filled in regarding the competing designs.

  7. It is a shame we spent money on the River 2s when we could have had the patrol ship version of the Venator along with the Light Frigate version as the T31. I would have thought operating one type of ship for lower end needs would be a lot more efficient.

  8. I see Britain’s national shipbuilding strategy is finally out. It wasn’t worth waiting for. After the Type 26 and the Type 31, which we knew we would get in any case, the fleet solid support, and all R.F.A. will be open to international competition. So, Britain’s national shipbuilding strategy is that many, many Royal Navy ships will be open to foreign competition, is it? What a joke.
    Canada also recently released a national shipbuilding strategy, a proper one, where ALL of the Navy’s ships will be built in Canada (including support, including everything).
    We want ALL the Royal Navy’s ships to be built in Britain. We do not want the Royal Navy’s ships being used to keep foreign shipbuilding going and foreign engineers in jobs.

    • I agree. If the UK was serious about industrial strategy, developing infrastructure etc it would be doing all that it could to keep Goliath in place even if it meant subsidising it itself in some way. It’s a farce that part of the backdrop to the announcement of the NSS is the planned disposal of a critical tool needed to do large-scale ship assembly.

  9. I think the Venator-110 option gives us the most flexibility on a standard hull even if we start with the most basic Patrol Ship option. What we need is the 21st Century equivalent of the Type 12 / Leander hull which was extremely flexible in terms of the upgrades / conversions they received and were successfully adopted by other Navies.
    So in my mind if we can’t have more T26 hulls even on a simplified weapons and sensor fit then the Venator looks right for the role and hopefully can come in on the meagre budget allocated. (fingers crossed)

  10. If I was a senior BAE manager I’d be pushing for a teaming agreement with BMT rather than having Cutlass (or Avnger) as the BAE solution. The BAE priorities will be (a) win (b) make a profit (c) keep the Scotstoun yard busy.

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