The construction of more affordable and hopefully more exportable ‘budget frigates’ could help revitalise the British shipbuilding industry.

In September 2017, the Government announced the National Shipbuilding Strategy, solidifying the economic rationale for the earlier intention to build a new generation of frigates with the aim of increasing the number of ships the Royal Navy operates and also with the export market in mind.

It is both a rational attempt to steer British shipbuilding into the 21st century, and provide a niche to develop and broaden the mission profile of frigates as both necessary vessels for the Royal Navy and an exportable product for international markets.

The Industrialist Sir John Parker in his review of the shipbuilding sector has argued that we need to build more ‘budget vessels’ which may also prove attractive to foreign investors and buyers. Under the National Shipbuilding strategy, the Royal Navy will procure new frigates in the form of the so called ‘Type 31e’ – General Purpose Frigate design.

One of the key features of UK defence planning has been to craft an economically sound, and resourceful military to face current and future threats. It seems imperative that for our defence needs, and to project power far and wide, we need to have maritime capacity fit for future needs. For years the Royal Navy has consolidated its resources and the Ministry of Defence has cut surface and subsurface combat platforms, in favour of more sophisticated destroyers and other more specialist technologies.

However, with the launch of the HMS Queen Elizabeth and its sister ship the HMS Prince of Wales it brings us to the question as to the future of British shipbuilding and whether there could be a renaissance in our shipbuilding strategy. Thus, the real question is what type of ships should we build for the future?

I believe it is within our national interest to ensure that British shipbuilding remains a key national asset which produces future warships and is responsive and adaptive to changing market needs.

This means the UK shipbuilding strategy has to be tasked with the development of new technologies and methods of ship building, and also encourage new manufacturing bases across the country to meet the orders required. I for one am strong proponent of this initiative, and that these new warships should be built in this country as this will enable the emergence of a naval industrial base. The same shipbuilding techniques of ‘modular design’ which created the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers could be employed for the ‘General Purpose Frigate’.

The Ministry of Defence have said they want to spend £250m per ship. During the last Defence Review the government said it would purchase only eight of the more capable Type 26 frigates.  Therefore these ‘budget’ General Purpose Frigates would make up the numbers.

The MoD have said:

“This new approach will lead to more cutting-edge ships for the growing Royal Navy that will be designed to maximise exports and be attractive to navies around the world,” the Defence Secretary said, adding the strategy would “help boost jobs, skills, and growth in shipyards and the supply chain across the UK.”

Our national security needs also mean we need to attract buyers and develop defence co-operation with other countries, while at the same time ensuring we meet the requirements of the Royal Navy.

While there have been arguments as to whether these vessels on a ‘budget’ would match the requirements of modern day warfare, I would content that they could. Our Royal Navy has a variety of operational roles and one of those includes patrolling the seas in counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism. These ships would free up more expensive, and advanced ships to be deployed elsewhere. In essence, the Type 31 would allow the Royal Navy to more properly utilise its vast array of vessels and technologies.

As such the new UK shipbuilding strategy is a shift in naval shipbuilding strategy away from concentrating on our key competitive advantages already in place, and actually advancing an expansionist programme of ship building.

The then Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said:

“Backed up by a commitment to spend billions on new ships, our plan will help boost jobs, skills, and growth in shipyards and the supply chain across the UK.”

While it may be a challenge to get a Type 31e equipped with all the equipment necessary at the tonnage of 3,500 required for the cost of £250 million, we should not pour cold water and dismiss it.

As we enter into the third decade of the 21st century we need to be cost conscious and be aware that we cannot just consolidate our shipbuilding but expand it to fulfil different types of warship requirements. Therefore, I argue that ‘budget frigates’ are an exciting challenge for naval architects, the defence industry and are a nudge in the right direction for shipbuilding in the UK.


  1. Well budget frigates are all very well, but are they capable of doing the job. No good sending a boy to do a mans job

    • The spec is in the public domain.
      As I read it the entry level ship would have ‘global’ range and be a platform for an organic Wildcat. But would not be surprised if the first batch of 5 carried a 57mm and a Terms Scanter radar which is all they would need for RN standing tasks. This would keep the average price down below the £250m when a further batch of more capable ships is built. The clues are in the ‘evolution paths’ identified in the RFI document.

    • i’m always interested in the input regarding proposed frigates design, one thing that often vwxes me is that given the primary task of the royal navy is to secure the greenland gap against the russian fleet breaking out into the atlantic no mention is made of anti submarine weaponry. you can’t rely on one chopper with a solitary torpedo to deal with a target the fitting of anti submarine weapon systems is for me as worthwhile as the anti air weaponry.even some modern corvettes carry triple torpedo launchers.

  2. OK – perhaps instead of saying these are budget frigates how about stating that they are in fact the best value full spectrum capability on the planet.

    I think the price of a frigate should be £250-500m and for the life of me can’t understand how you can build something that cost £1bn and is so under armed.

    If we assume the basic ship costs £1m per metre length ( a good rule of thumb I believe) then it is clear the major costs are in the combat systems.

    An Arleigh Burke is armed to the teeth and clearly the costs of these ships are predicated not having the best of everything and twice as much as everyone else please….

    An appropriately scaled useful vessel (such as a Meko Valiant or SAAR) is well equiped to deal with the vast majority of tasks.

    This is not a budget Frigate – it is re-setting the balance for the industrial base to deliver taxpayer VFM. If we set an expectation so low then surely we will end up with River B3… (no thank you).

    The Spartan, Arrowhead and Venator designs are potential game changers for the RN and I am excited by the prospect and believe they will deliver more than any single vessel in the current fleet if this is correctly handled with the MOD and industry working together.

    Artisan Radars (or the Australian radars)
    Compact C4
    16 Mk41 Strike VLS
    1 Rolling Air Frame (Sea RAM)
    1 76mm Otto (full automated system) or Mk5
    1 CIWS
    (I will defer to Gunbusters on the above)

    Ability to deploy the following systems:
    Atlas Arcims (Mine Countermeasures suite)
    1 x Merlin Helicopter
    1x CB90 Combat Boat
    2/4 -Rhibs
    Compact Captas C4

    These do not have to be budget – they just have to be well specified for their intended roll.

    • Doubt they will take Merlin.

      We have too few to start with and they are rightly aligned with the Carrier ASW Squadron, Carrier ASCS Squadron and Ships Flights on tailed T23’s then T26.

      T31 will have Wildcat.

        • David! No, no, no. I do not agree.

          Selling on new helicopters after spending a fortune on them is madness.

          Losing Wildcat leaves ships flights with nothing.
          Losing Wildcat leaves the MCT Flight with nothing.
          Losing Wildcat leaves no light helicopter to use the LMM and FASGW missiles already ordered.

          Using just 30 Merlins in just 3 Squadrons plus the OCU to cover the ASW carrier squadron, ASCS Squadron, OCU and ships flights on tailed T23’s is a stretch too far already without expecting them to cover the rest of the escort fleet.

          I’d rather lose frigates than these helicopters.

          Removing Wildcat would show the MoD has really lost its marbles in my opinion.

      • I am ok with that Daniele, but as more knowledgeable people than myself keep telling me its easier to build this in and not use it than it is to design incorrectly.

        A wildcat will fit in a merlin enabled hanger – not the other way round. I also believe that UKAF will rationalise its helicopter force to 3 or 4 types and think Merlin will be the go to helicopter over time. No rush to do this – but I think prudent.

          • The spec says the hanger should be big enough to maintain a NH90. Which it needs to be if we are to export the design.

        • The Fleet Air Arm only operate the Merlin and Wildcat in bulk. The rest are in a very small number for specialized roles and training.

          The RAF operates only the Chinook and Puma in bulk. With the latter going out of service soon.

          Our helicopter force is already as condensed as it can get. They are now considering scrapping the new variants. Sad state the forces are in.

        • JHC helicopter rationalisation ongoing, hampered by single services.
          Gazelle will be gone – fulfils liaison and light utility role replaced by Wildcat
          Reduction in Apache
          Reduction in Chinook
          Puma should be replaced by MRH-90 but won’t be
          8 Merlin frames will be totally canabilised removing the option

      • the excellent sigma corvettes make an interesting comparison to the river opv’s yet it is just 10 meters longer, comes with a 76mm gun,twin triple tube anti submarine torpedo mounts, twin quad anti missile launchers, 4 exocets and a crew size of just 40 more

    • Sea RAM is not a cheap system. The launcher takes 11 missiles and the USA paid $897K each for the missiles in FY2015 (see Ref 1 in Wikipedia Sea RAM article), so they will be more than $1M each by the time we would be buying them for Type 31, plus the c $2M cost of the launcher . The range is about a third of that for Sea Ceptor. Is there a published Sea Ceptor unit production cost for comparison?

      • Wiki says asraam unit cost is over £200k if that is a guide. And FLAADS is supposed have a ‘low cost’ launcher. Given Type 31 is supposed to maximise UK content I would say Sea Ceptor is a no brainer. You can even direct it from Terma Scanter radar I think, so you could even put it on a River 2.

        • No problem with alternatives – especially if better and cheaper.

          I think you have both just demonstrated that there are options to get us some good kit at a good price point onto the T31’s. Its a matter of optimal configuration.

          I think this is what Britain is good at – being innovative against a challenging cost base and I am excited by the prospects for T31.

        • the u.s has selected the dual anti air/ciws system for fitting to their new carriers and several other types of its warship inventory used by 12 navys at just$998,000 each its worth a pop even for the q.e’s its mounting and initial activation mounts are the same as phalanx.

  3. I think horses for courses if more the thinking. To my mind a lot depends on how the new frigates network with the higher end assets. Will it carry an ASW helicopter? If it has Seaceptor, can that be linked to the T45 Anti Air control system and its AA weapons directed from there? It must not be a jumped up OPV. It should be able to bring some capability that increments the power of other ships and should not be a burden or liability to other ships.

    • CEC I believe adds £30m per ship to the cost (not too sure) – so unlikely to have this capability.

      Artisan is certainly a great radar – and whilst I think CEC is a must have for such a small navy I would think it unlikely especially if the choice is something like have more towed arrays..

  4. These Frigates should be a priority in my view.

    I do not believe you should use high end assets to chase pirates, drug smugglers and flag wave.

    Using a Type 45 for that is a total waste, except maybe the flag waving as they are impressive ships.

    I am all for these ships and RN needs a balance of quality and quantity, and quickly.

    • Absolutely, they represent a real opportunity to increase hull numbers and re-balance the fleet. I am really looking forward to seeing the matured designs, especially the BMT/Babcock ship. They both seemed to have good designs with Venator and Arrowhead.

    • “I do not believe you should use high end assets to chase pirates, drug smugglers and flag wave.”

      You’re right, but one danger in making that argument is, perhaps with a suitable drone embarked and hangared in a standard ISO container (or even a pair of them), how many of those roles could be done by a River B2?

      The counter-argument to the above is that something like a T31 might be able to step up to provide useful added capability in a higher end situation even if it is only as a Sea Ceptor carrier and/or picket ship. If that is genuinely possible depends on how much the RN’s T31 budget stretches to.

      If the T31e core spec already released is indicative of what the RN/MoD believes is a demanding target to set potential suppliers (and why set an overly-easy target for a bid process?) and the budget per RN ship really is only £250m then T31 won’t be up to many if any jobs in a higher end conflict. That core spec for the £250M is just too low.

      I still hold out some hope of a decent T31, either because RN is able to procure vessels above the core spec by some combination of extra budget per ship and/or getting some almost-freebies by dragging across stuff from T23 (Sea Ceptor, Artisan, etc) or one or more of the suppliers are able to over-deliver on the spec but, failing that, I think we would be better building more River B2s, 1 or 2 more T26, and investing in some containerised drone technology (and if we’re looking for export potential building a more modern, improved and more capable Schiebel Camcopter S-100 class of drone, able to take both a good sensor package and LMM, FLMM and the option to integrate some other foreign equivalents if required to win business could be a very interesting export opportunity).

      • Thanks for the reply Julian.

        All fair comments.

        I would go further and suggest a RFA type mother ship, with embarked helicopters and RM with FIC and RIB to be even more useful in anti piracy roles.

    • archers fitted with the 20 mm rorlekon cannons they were designed for operating in say 5 boat squadrons should be good enough against pirates. that way mainline assets from the t23, t45’s being pulled away to do the job is just silly the archers are r.n patrol ships not fanny boats for the hooray henries at the universities.

  5. The original frigates of Nelson’s navy grew up and became expensive cruisers. In the Second World War we had to introduce a class of corvettes, the original “budget frigates”. These have now grown nearly as big – and as expensive – as WWII cruisers. So we start again at the bottom, with new budget frigates – or perhaps we should call them corvettes.
    Neslon and his colleagues were adamant – we never had enough frigates.

  6. Given the MOD chronic funding problems, the mid to long term risk is that low end frigates like the Type 31e become the back bone of the RN, substituting for and final replacing high end ships like the Type 45/26. Much like the old Type 21’s, the new Type 31e frigates are going to have limited combat capabilities. A handful of them for constabulary duties makes some sense, but we need to avoid the penny pinching clerks in the Treasury replacing high end warships with budget frigates (at a quarter of the cost). Ultimately the RN needs to be configured to fight and win wars.

    • the leander class were jack of all trades ships built fairly quickly and mainly fitted in an anti submarine configuration, in the end it was the jack of all trades label that did for them. they were also well sought after retirement by other nations the u.k has an opportunity here to put together a package which can look forward even beyond the lifespan of the type 26. design stages are where valuable production time is mainly lost.

      • Yes the RNZN had 4 of the Leander class frigates. They were great sea going ships the modified type 12 built upon the success of the type 12 Whitby class which the RNZN had two. I served in RNZNVR and have sea going experience on most of these ships plus their ancestors, the Bay and Loch class ASW frigates. My belief is that the RN should build 3 batch 2 type 45 destroyers, plus 5 more type 26 and 8 tpe 31e frigates. Together with replacement helicopter landing platform replacing HMS Ocean, extra minesweepers, submarines of diesel-electrical type, plus either corvettes or more batch 2 patrol boats. This would need extra cash and our defence of our coastline and overseas interests especially after we leave EU next year means that British shipbuilding will have a full order book. Also think tax should go up to pay for it because of current worldwide defence and security issues especially in the maritime sector. It is necessary to read the causes of wars from early 20thcentury to present day to get an indication of why we need a strong navy..

        • Depends on country and definition.
          Basically FFG and DDG (guided missile frigates and destroyers) protect something. CG (criusers) can operate independently and control areas of the sea.

          • It should be noted that the RN wants to move away from these designations totally. The T26 was to be called the Global Combat Ship and I suggest the T31 is a multi mission ship.

            The T26 and T45 are very similar in size and capability and I would argue that with a Sampson Radar the T26 is probably a better ship as it is the Radar that makes the T45 special as its pretty lightly armed for a vessel of this size.

            So times are changing and the designations are old hat now and not accurate in my opinion.

  7. Why Britain needs to build a fleet of budget frigates
    1. Because we can’t afford 13 Type 26
    2. Because quantity has a quality all of its own. Global UK needs global presence – more hulls.
    3. Because we need to make the national shipbuilding strategy happen
    4. Because a budget patrol frigate is more than adequate for standing tasks.
    5. Because they can help screen a task force which more River 2s can’t.
    6. Because we only have sailors for 95 man crews not Type 23 185 man crews.

    Type 26 is the C1, Type 31 is the C2 and River 2 looks like the C3 MHPC of the original balanced fleet strategy. And in my opinion it is really Type 31 which ought to be referred to as the workhorse of the fleet.

    • Problem is, the current specs for the type 31 put in as a C3 ship with the rivers. If it cant do a C2 job then we might as well build more rivers, they will be doing the same role anyhow, just add a hanger to the new ones.

        • Yeah, that is a good point Paul. Even if the RN’s budget does get stuck at £250m per ship and for some reason T23 cross-decking doesn’t add anything hence the vessels are procured at basic core spec at least, if funding attitudes changed or global tensions started another arms race (although with the state of many Western economies I suspect for most of us European countries it would be more of a sack race) at least the RN T31s could be bought up to a useful higher end spec by adding the extras whereas that isn’t the case for River B2s. Actually, that’s such a good argument that I think you’ve convinced me.

          • I can’t remember where I read it but I think £250m is the ‘average price’ which suggests to me there is at the ourset the idea that we will have in the RN more than one variant of the ship.

    • 1. Yes, the UK can easily afford 13 Type 26. The extra 5 would cost about 3 billion. The current argument over the brexit bill is for 40 to 50 billion.

      2. Ineffective quantity has no value. The RN learned that in the Falklands war. Lots of warships that have little or zero capability jut become targets.

      3. The UK already has a warship building capability big enough for its needs. It doesn’t need more capacity that will be junked after the Type 31’s are built.

      4. Fishing boats will suffice for standing duties. Who cares? What matters is the ability to fight a war.

      5. The ability to keep up with a task force, let alone “screen it” are not part of the Type 31 requirements.

      6. The Type 23’s are being retired.

      • Ha!
        1. I concede if you get the money.
        2. Effectiveness is relative. Combat is attritional. There is value in numbers.
        3. Agree. Maybe a misundwrstanding here. I meant we need to get started building
        4. No they won’t. Pirates, drug smugglers, humanitarian relief ….
        5. Check the RFI ‘evolution paths’. I think you will find it is an expectation.
        6. Substitute Type 26 crew requirement for Type 23 and my point is valid I think

        • 2. No there is not value in numbers. If that were true you could equip the navy with 100,000 rowing boats and say they were equivalent to 10 frigates.
          4. Stick a pop gun on a fishing boat and it can do all those jobs. But the Navy is for fighting wars, not arresting pirates.
          5. I have and there’s no path that will enable a 24 knot OPV to do anything useful with a task force except provide a target for shooting practice.
          6. No it is not. The Type 26 is very efficient in its crew size. 13 Type 26 need a lot less crew than 13 Type 23.

          • 2. Now thats just an ignorant response. “Quantity has a quality all of its own” as the saying goes. Why do we build 8000 tonne destroyers instead of a 50,000 tonne battleship with the same combined armament? Because multiple platforms gives you versatility; you can disperse your ships to cover a wider area, you only lose a fraction of your firepower if something gets sunk, you can have ships in for refit and still maintain a presence, etc etc.
            4. You are aware that warfighting is only one of the navy’s tasks? Its other primary roles are, shockingly, counter-piracy operations and trade protection. Those are tasks that require a fast, high endurance vessel with enough firepower to act as a deterrent.

      • The low end Type 21 frigate HMS Ardent took 14 air attacks before she went down fighting in Falkland Sound. Those were air attacks that didn’t go somewhere else like Fearless or Canberra. The previous Ardent in 1940 took on two German battleships.

        The bigger air defence destroyers Sheffield and Coventry also lost out under air attacks. In fact lots of top end ships have been lost in wars and no one could claim that a T45 or even an AB will always come out on top.

        My point is that warships should be expendable because they can be lost no matter how good they are. In a big war our strike carriers and SSNs are our attack ships and our escorts are just that, escorts. Each one needs some ASW, ASuW, and AAW. It doesn’t matter if you only have 48 CAMMs because two ships have double and anyway they should always have air cover and CVA/RFA ASW helos on call.

        My T31 would have great damage control, a hull sonar, 76mm, CAMMs, NSM, 20mm, deck mounted MU90 and off board ASW and MCM kits for a CB90, Wildcat and Camcopter.

        • So what exactly is your point? Are you saying that warships get sunk so lets build cheap ones? because that is rather obtuse.

          Your Type 31 will cost a lot more than 250 million. So fail.

          • Warships get sunk so let’s not build 8 or maybe just 6 of them for £1.23bn each and not have any money left for a proper permanant production line of ships every year.

            My T31 is basically a modern T23 GP. Yes more than £250m at today’s prices but less than a T26. So 24 of them with sets of additional kit available in Pompy so any ship can do any job and we have enough of them.

            Perhaps I went a bit off topic, but for me the minimum for a warship today is 76mm, CAMM, deck MU90, multi mission helo and CB90 or equilivent, plus a bit of space for NSM and TAS. Any less than that and it’s low threat only so not a warship.

  8. If you stick a 57mm gun, a quad pack of naval strike missiles and a form of limited anti air on it and call it a frigate it will be a death trap in a shooting war.

    The rivers are patrol vessels not warships and have been designed for fishery protection, border patrol and anti drug smuggling duties. This is why they are lightly armed and should stay that way. The Navy needs proper warships not pretend warships.

    • So you don’t see a role for a ship of around 4000 tonnes midway between the 2000 tonne River and the 7000 tonne Type 26, what the French are calling an ‘intermediate’ frigate?

      • The river class are designed for patrol as I previously outlined. They are not purpose built warships and have not been designed that way. A few well placed 30mm shells would probably blow them out of the water and adding more weapons would make it even worse.

        The irish opvs look impressive with a 57mm but in a shooting war one small shell into that unprotected magazine would crack the ship in half.

      • The size of the type 31 is not the point is it?

        The point is that is cannot cost more than 250 million which means it will be under built, and under equipped for any warlike task.

  9. Agreed, they are not purpose built warships, but the River 2s do interestingly have an armored magazine and the mods made to the Amazonas design like mini guns, fire fighting, emergency lighting, independent machinery walkways were intended I think to harden them.
    Keith Campbell writing for Think Defence had some interesting thoughts on this.
    My own view is that BAE were using the River 2 to pilot the costs of hardening Khareef to evolve it from a corvette into an acceptable RN frigate.
    But that aside, in respect of the Type 31 spec
    there is a worrying? requirement stated for ‘pragmatic’ selection of civil or military construction standards.
    I’ll probably get shot down for this but I suspect the 2 best purpose designed survivable warships are the BAE Cutlass/Leander and the Spartan. The front runner Arrowhead is I believe a derivative of the proposed new USG Offshore Cutter. Nice looking ship but not a combat frigate.

  10. Yes they were. See my post below. I think a lot of the perceived high cost of the River 2 was in fact design investment by BAE to convert the Khareef ( basically the same hull as River 2) from a coastal corvette into a candidate global frigate – Cutlass/Leander.

    • Given the fact they have the additional survivability built in would it not make sense to up the weaponry in the batch2 and use them more effectively in areas where there is a threat from piracy and low level threats etc and keep the batch 1 in uk waters and then supplement them with the type 31 to increase the number of hulls?

      • Seductive argument. And makes a lot of sense, especially given RN manning issues.But if you go down that line of thought you are playing the Treasury’s game. By saying River 1 will be replaced by R2 the RN are positioning Type 31 as an entry level but upgradable frigates, suitable for RN and export. Notice in the RFI how the £250m price is for the ‘first batch’.
        Hence we see lots of concerns here regarding combat suitability of Type 31 if it is a so called ‘ up armed OPV’. I think the RN and govt know what they are doing. We are not going to sell an up armed River 2 in competition with Belharra. But a customer configured 4000 tonne Type 31e with the systems and weapons of your choice would be more attractive to a foreign navy that a ship with Gallic systems and weapons.

  11. RN has standing commitments
    Which do you see the T31 fulfilling?
    Which do you see the T26 fulfilling?
    Which do you see the T45 fulfilling?
    Which do you see the R1 fulfilling?
    Which do you see the R2 fulfilling?
    SSBN needs barrier patrol
    ATG deploys for 8 months a year
    CTG deploys for 8 months a year
    East of Suez deployment, who?
    Med deployment, who?
    Just a couple of questions to mull over 👍🏼

  12. If money wasn’t an issue (yes I know it is don’t need to remind me). The RN should have free types of frigates in my mind.
    13- type 26 for major war fighting duties and long standing patrols in hostile waters. All with high ASW capacity
    10- medium frigates around the size of the current type 23. To be permanently stationed in areas such as the middle east and Pacific, as well as to be deployed on foreign and NATO task force. With limited ASW capacity. So as to be able to escort merchant ships in a time of war.
    5/7- light type 31 type frigates to full fill surge roles. Along with home water defence, flag flying and limited combat in close water ways such as the Bultic sea. Could also fulfil a training role. With only self defence capacity.

    • About 30 surface combatants outside the DDG (T45) role.
      How many DDG?
      How do you justify war fighting role? All warships have to fight?
      Where would you have permenant stations? (HMS Juffair) and where else?

      • Hey I can dream. But for simplicity I’d just stick with the 6 T45. And when I say war fighting I mean being the spear head ships in a naval task such as the falklands, Gulf war, NK or God forbid (and unlikely) Russia. Also basing wise abroad I’d say Bahrain for middle east, and if feasible Brunei if not New Zealand if possible. I understand this would never happen. Its simple fantasy fleets.

  13. I REALLY don’t get this. The T26 is a frozen design and, by all accounts, a very capable hull – in reality only a percentage of overall cost. The real cost is weapons, radar and personnel. Any new concept has design up front costs with no tangible asset.

    I am not military (still trying to get my head around “naval” vs “commercial” hulls) but, as I have said before, I understand the dead financial weight in project initiation.

    A heavily weaponised T26 is nearly a T45. A lightly weaponised T26 an awesome frigate. River B3’s (with a little more firepower) make excellent fishery/piracy/gunboat tools.

    Anyone with more insight than me (that would be all of you) – what are we giving up with the T31 vs the T26?

    • What are we giving up with Type 31 versus Type 26? I’ll take a stab at that.
      A) At least 16 Mk41 vls and missile options that go with that
      B) ASW quiet hull
      C) ASW quiet propulsion
      D) 2087 sonar, the best
      E) A very large mission bay – lots of future remote vehicle options
      F) A Chinook sized heli deck
      G) A Merlin sized hanger
      H) Probably a lot of combat survivability; armour, duplicate systems etc
      I) 5 or 6 knots of top speed
      J) 48 Sea Ceptor missiles
      K) A more comfortable ride

    • Lee’s post is more constructive than my rather negative feature based list. It focusses on roles. Another way to think about Type 26 versus Type 31 is capabilties or scenarios. Type 26 is designed to go anywhere in the world and detect and kill a submarine before it knows you are there; acting in its own defence or to protect an aircraft carrier or to see off Russian submarine which is trying to shadow our nuclear deterrence submarines. In time of crisis it could for example position itself somewhere in the Gulf, see off all Iranian air, surface and submarine sea threats and attack an Iranian missile site with a deluge of Tomahawk missiles. It is a very high end and therefore expensive asset; but will probably be rarely needed.
      The thing is the RN is short of ships to do its ‘bread and butter’ work, for which the cheaper Type 31 is ideal.
      Like the Type 26 it will have a long range – the ability to be present and have effect at short notice. It will have sufficient menace to escort Russian ships through the channel, intercept Somali pirates or Carribbean drug runners, assert commerical shipping rights of passage in disputed waters, show the flag, use its helicopter and boats to evacuate beseiged UK embassy staff or UK nationals in danger, launch and support special forces missions into places like war torn Africa, provide naval gunfire support for expeditionary landings, disable and sink fast attack craft and corvettes in inshore waters, attack a submarine whose location is known, defend itself against a isolated terrorist shore launched Exocet type missile, assist in humanitarian missions.
      Type 31 is not an OPV. It is a medium weight general purpose frigate.

  14. Evening John
    Both the T26 and T31 are designed from the outset as warships. As such they are built with an enormous amount of redundancy that is not required in commercial vessels. This includes engines (separately housed), citadels (levels of protection afforded to different parts of the ship) and a variety of other redundancies built into the vessel that allow it to “survive”.
    The T26 is specifically designed to hunt submarines. The configuration of its propulsion is designed in such a way as to be as quiet as possible until it needs to sprint. It’s hull has been designed to allow the bow sonar to be as effective as possible at the same time allowing its towed sonar to operate as efficiently as possible.
    It needs to look after itself independently for long periods of time but, if required protect a capital ship.
    This costs money.
    The T31 doesn’t need to do this. It needs to provide enough deterrence to protect itself, control its AOA from
    low level threats and generate enough kinetic effect to be effective.
    One costs circa £1bn
    One doesn’t
    Different roles, different ships

    • Type 26 will end up costing abut 650 million each. Your 1 billion is pure fiction.

      As for the Type 31 needing enough deterrence to protect itself and effective kinetic effect. That’s just pure bulls*t.

  15. Thanks all for taking the time to put down constructive replies. My take away from this is that 13 T26’s would cost about £5 billion more than 13 T31 at target price, so a mixed fleet saves about 2.5 billion but has more potential for export.

    From a warfighting viewpoint, would anyone rather be on the t31 than the t26?

  16. From my perspective this is actually really simple – the size of a T31 is very similar to a T23 and the Size of a T26 is very similar to a T45.

    The T23 is old but it is actually a great platform and pretty tasty in the fight. A Few upgrades here and there weapons wise (Some Mk41 Strike tubes for instance – to provide options) and improved mission space and stern ramp and the T31 starts to look very good indeed. Even without strike tubes it will be the same or similar to the current T23’s – just far more flexible.

    Likewise – add a Sampson radar to a T26 and surely it is better than the T45 by design.

    I believe £250m is a good starting point to build these ships and as a ballpark I think the cost is doable

    Hull and Basic Fit – £120m (based upon cost of £1m per metre length)
    Gun – £30m
    VLS – £30m
    Radars £10m (Artisan is circa £6m – see article on this site)
    Combat System – £20m
    Defensive Aids Suite – £20m
    Other – £20m

    Now I know I am putting myself up for a rollicking here – but really are these not close enough figures to understand the cost profile. I think they are – what I really dislike about the MOD its insistence on costing in through life costs and then making out a T26 will cost £1bn to build – it will not and I think it will be closer to £600m to build.

    Lastly we currently have 13 ships slated and should be talking to industry about what the cost would be if it was 26 as realistically that should bring costs down and it will take us 20 years to build anyway. There seems to be no actual scheduling done that leverages our position as a major “reference” customer.

    I really do think we can build 26 for the same price as 18-20 – we just need to be ambitious and highly structured in our approach.

  17. @Lee

    Having put so much money into the Design of the T26 hull – can we not use this to create a shortened version for the T31 hull. T31 doesn’t need a chinook capable deck (I dont think T26 does either) and I guess the naval architects could use the same design for the shorter T31, accepting some loss in acoustics perhaps.

    It just seems strange to have invested so much into the T26 hullform not to use it for T31.


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