At the First Sea Lord’s Sea Power Conference 2024, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps confirmed that plans are now underway to equip the Royal Navy’s Type 26 and Type 31 frigates with land attack missiles.

Speaking at the conference, Shapps emphasised the importance of this upgrade.

“Ensuring our Royal Navy can protect our interests and get the job done wherever and whenever they are called upon to do so,” he stated. This new capability will enable the frigates to carry out precise strikes against land targets, significantly expanding their operational range and effectiveness.

Speaking to myself and other journalists after the speech, the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Ben Key, revealed that the Ministry of Defence is currently exploring three missile options for this upgrade: the Tomahawk, the Naval Strike Missile, and the Future Cruise/Anti-Ship Weapon.

The decision to arm these frigates with land strike capabilities is part of a broader effort to modernise the Royal Navy. Shapps highlighted the strategic importance of this upgrade, stating, “These steps will help deliver the technological edge we need in the years ahead.”

The Defence Secretary’s confirmation comes amidst a series of strategic investments and initiatives aimed at reinforcing the Royal Navy’s position as a leading maritime force. Shapps detailed significant investments in various naval capabilities, including up to £41 billion for the next-generation Dreadnought fleet and the ongoing production of Astute-class submarines. “Five [Astute-class submarines] are now complete and able to hit threats on land with Tomahawk cruise missiles and threats below the water with Spearfish torpedoes,” he added.

Shapps also announced the acquisition of up to six new Multi-Role Support Ships (MRSS) to replace the current amphibious fleet, further enhancing the Royal Navy’s versatility and operational readiness. “These ships will ensure our extraordinary Royal Marines have the versatility, the heavy-lift capability, that they need,” he stated.

Highlighting the importance of international alliances, Shapps cited various collaborative operations with global partners, reinforcing the UK’s commitment to maintaining a strong and integrated naval presence worldwide. “I believe we are more integrated with a wider range of global partners than ever before,” he said.

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George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
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Martin
Martin (@guest_818599)
6 days ago

finally, strange when the money is up, we are danger of getting good kit, better late than never

dc647
dc647 (@guest_818748)
5 days ago
Reply to  Martin

These are just pre-general election promises which not worth the paper they are printed on. Just wait till after if they win again

Martin
Martin (@guest_818750)
5 days ago
Reply to  dc647

i know i trying to be positive, we all know some thing crop up that means a change of plan or a review they very good for saving money and cutting manpower/womenpower

Expat
Expat (@guest_818871)
5 days ago
Reply to  dc647

Win again. Your joking, well never see another Tory government again.

xiufen gu
xiufen gu (@guest_818940)
5 days ago
Reply to  dc647

Not even printed on paper.

Gary
Gary (@guest_818965)
5 days ago
Reply to  dc647

Spot on

Che
Che (@guest_818938)
5 days ago
Reply to  Martin

Yeah great to see more offensive weapons being added.

Bulkhead
Bulkhead (@guest_818602)
6 days ago

I may be wrong, but I thought the 31’s were fitted for but not with a Mk 41 VLS 😎

Last edited 6 days ago by Bulkhead
Jon
Jon (@guest_818607)
6 days ago
Reply to  Bulkhead

Putting FCASW/Tomahawk on Type 26 and NSM on T31s would fulfil the requirement.

Ian
Ian (@guest_818614)
6 days ago
Reply to  Bulkhead

Type 31 is now slated to get MK41, not during build, but most likely during a later capability insertion phase.

Armchair Admiral
Armchair Admiral (@guest_818626)
6 days ago
Reply to  Ian

So let’s hope NSM is fitted first off then?
AA

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke (@guest_818627)
5 days ago

11 sets were ordered so it is very likely that those will go on T31 and T45 plus any F23 till they go OOS.

Quentin D63
Quentin D63 (@guest_818742)
5 days ago

Wasn’t there talk of getting a few more sets of NSM?

Quentin D63
Quentin D63 (@guest_818743)
5 days ago

Absolutely! If someone fires a missile at you you’d want a better missile to fire back for a 🎯!

Dern
Dern (@guest_818680)
5 days ago
Reply to  Bulkhead

Yes and no, the first few are FFBNW, since the Mk41’s won’t arrive in time, the last few will get Mk41’s in construction, and then at some point the early T31’s will get the Mk41 added on.

Jonathan
Jonathan (@guest_818760)
5 days ago
Reply to  Dern

Which to be honest is a fine way to do it, as they will have NSM anyway , 8 NSM, CAMM and the gun fit is a pretty respectable fit for a GP frigate….the MK41 strike length, will make them beyond respectable and essentially very formidable ASuW and strike platforms…( once the RN has the missiles to fit in the silos)…

Tommo
Tommo (@guest_818630)
5 days ago

And which Class gets Dragonfire as well or will that be a case of FFBNW

Jon
Jon (@guest_818633)
5 days ago
Reply to  Tommo

I think i would test it out first on the Patrick Blackett but where should it go operationally? It should be QEs and T45s. Def Sec says he wants it rolled out by 2027 or even sooner. That rules out T26 and T31, which won’t be operational until 2028. Putting it on an old T23 would be the hardest, whereas the IEP ships which have buckets of power in the case of the QEs and a power improvement programme underway in the case of T45s would be the easier option. They also have more modern designs, not to mention they… Read more »

Tommo
Tommo (@guest_818635)
5 days ago
Reply to  Jon

Odd that they’ve just put the Arglie through a refit and are now going too Moor her up the Clyde that was a gift horse whilst in refit

FormerUSAF
FormerUSAF (@guest_818702)
5 days ago
Reply to  Jon

😁

Jon
Jon (@guest_819218)
4 days ago
Reply to  Jon

They actually cancelled a project to put a laser weapon on a Type 23 (not Dragonfire), earlier this year. There was also a project called MIMAS looking to get a 150kW laser on a Type 26 around the start of next decade and I don’t know if it was also cancelled. If it’s a Dragonfire derivative, it might even be accelerated. The MIMAS laser was reportedly to test and adapt ready for FADS.

Steve R
Steve R (@guest_818804)
5 days ago
Reply to  Tommo

To be honest Dragonfire is going to be relatively cheap so I’d imagine in time all major surface vessels will be armed with them.

Starting off with, definitely the carriers and Type 45s, then the other frigates, then the rest.

Tommo
Tommo (@guest_818813)
5 days ago
Reply to  Steve R

Fingers crossed off piste here keep having a thought in my head has anyone in the MOD thought of a testbed for Dragonfire in a C130 chuckling too myself

Lonpfrb
Lonpfrb (@guest_818872)
5 days ago
Reply to  Tommo

Does UK have any AC130 gunships to refit with Dragonfire?

I thought the MoD wants C130 gone for the A400M fleet replacement…

It would seem logical for Dragonfire to provide missile and drone counter measures so long as the APU on A400M are up to it.

Tommo
Tommo (@guest_818961)
5 days ago
Reply to  Lonpfrb

A400 would do I just thought why not I’m sure planes like those can generate enough power somewhere in the Backroom theirs someone thinking what about a Laser gunship , and probably got a slap round the head ( Silly Boy)

Lonpfrb
Lonpfrb (@guest_819361)
4 days ago
Reply to  Tommo

In a contested environment with missile and drone threats, every A400M crew would want credible counter measures either Electonic Warfare or Active Defence. Dragonfire fitted on both sides for overlapping arc of fire sounds a great way to protect valuable crew and cargo.
Nothing silly about your idea.
I suppose the system will have to be proven on naval assets first with version two for use airside..

Tommo
Tommo (@guest_819527)
3 days ago
Reply to  Lonpfrb

As I’m ex Navy and it looks like the Navy gets first Dabs at this Buck Rogers weaponry I posted about the RAF as Dragonfire has been tested on Land and Sea didn’t want the Brilcream boys being left out

Lonpfrb
Lonpfrb (@guest_819566)
3 days ago
Reply to  Tommo

That’s very fair.
The senior service has the experience and assets with room for big experiments but once they are proven it’s only reasonable that everyone sees the benefits.
A pilot.

Tommo
Tommo (@guest_819572)
3 days ago
Reply to  Lonpfrb

👍

Richard
Richard (@guest_818638)
5 days ago

Its ok getting 6 MRSS ships probably manned by RFA personal but what happens when they decide to go on strike?

Umbra
Umbra (@guest_818695)
5 days ago

I suspect little that has been promised by the current government will see the light of day. It is a very old tactic used in politics by politicians who care more about politics than the actual populace and country they serve. Put simply, the outgoing government will make commitments fully in the knowledge that they are unrealistic and unaffordable. The incoming government inherits these projects, does a cost / benefit analysis and then kills them, at this point, the former governing party now condemns the sitting government for being inept/ short sighted / etcetera etcetera. I am sick and tired… Read more »

RB
RB (@guest_818717)
5 days ago
Reply to  Umbra

Unfortunately your assessment is probably correct. Labour has made so many spending commitments that spending more than 2% on defence seems highly improbable. Whilst Labour and Starmer have agreed to increasing defence spending to 2.5% “when affordable”, this is further caveated as being subject to the findings of a defence review deeming this necessary. They instead expect (i.e. hope) that the review will identify many opportunities to increase efficiency and reduce waste at the MOD, and that the MOD’s existing defence budget is actually sufficient if better spent. As the outcome of defence reviews is always dictated by the maximum… Read more »

Expat
Expat (@guest_818878)
5 days ago
Reply to  Umbra

Tories did it back in 2010, blamed Labour. You can see Labour are teeing it up nicely for them to do the same.

Frank62
Frank62 (@guest_818990)
4 days ago
Reply to  Umbra

Yes , evil cynicism from a travesty of a government. For all the damage pevious governements hav done to ULK defence, this one has driven it to an exceptionally low level. All the while claiming what a wondeful job it is doing & how great our forces are. We practically need war on our doorstep before HMG will have to rebuild our forces. With few exceptions we’re woefully weak even for benign peace.

Greg Smith
Greg Smith (@guest_818723)
5 days ago

Are there any dusty shithole countries left to invade, destroy and illegally murder their populace, all for the benefit of not our own tax payers???

Quentin D63
Quentin D63 (@guest_818730)
5 days ago

Why not have all three missile options in your inventory rather than one, two and not the other? NSM would be canister launch only(?) for up to medium range and the others for longer range VLS. Is there going to be FC/ASW for the subs?

Paul42
Paul42 (@guest_818745)
5 days ago

It’s all just words. FCASW won’t be around until 28/9 at the earliest, if then? NSM has supposedly been purchased, but only fitted to one Type 23 at present? Tomahawk can only be launched via subs at present because we don’t have a single vessel in service with Mk41 VLS….. So, we need to get Type 26 into service ASAP and ger Mk41 vls actually fitted to Type 31, the first of which has yet to be launched …

Iain
Iain (@guest_818749)
5 days ago

The Thomahawk missle is a heavy weight, is a no brainer, integrated into the Mk41 already, in stock for the astutes, and this stock is being upgraded.

The NSM is much shorter ranged canister (lightish weight) missiles, also being fitted already so in stock, so all the 19 Escort ships should get them.

The new FC/AS will include ship/land/air based versions and is sometime away, it will replace stormshadow for instance and likely be medium weight and ranged.

In theory they are all complimentary and offer different solutions, cost, hitting power and ranges.

Last edited 5 days ago by Iain
Jonathan
Jonathan (@guest_818751)
5 days ago

Sorry to be pedantic, but the RN has already armed a frigate with land attack missiles and paid for NSMs for the medium term and is already developing and committed to the future cruise missile…so what is new ?

Last edited 5 days ago by Jonathan
Paul42
Paul42 (@guest_818785)
5 days ago
Reply to  Jonathan

A Frigate being the operative word, which due to ongoing faults has yet to actually test fire one…..

Jonathan
Jonathan (@guest_818817)
5 days ago
Reply to  Paul42

Indeed..but they have already purchased the 11 systems as far as I’m aware..which sort of locks you into the decision really…..

Peter S
Peter S (@guest_818772)
5 days ago

Makes sense. Using refuelled Typhoons out of Cyprus to try hit Houthi weapon sites is expensive and risky. Far better to have a warship in the area that can do the job. Never understood why we didn’t follow France and add our version of Scalp Navale. Or just expand Tomahawk capability to the surface fleet.

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke (@guest_818776)
5 days ago
Reply to  Peter S

It is odd – particularly as it goes in the strike length SYLVER VLS. So would work with T45 – but would need CMS integration onto the BAE system.

T45 doesn’t have the 70 length but the 50 length but can fit the 70 length.

Jon
Jon (@guest_819176)
4 days ago

For a few decades and until very recently attacking has been frowned upon in the surface fleet. I’m surprised we didn’t follow Germany and start arming frigates with water cannon.

Hugo
Hugo (@guest_820260)
3 hours ago

70 length can’t launch Aster though, Slyver is really limited.

Gunbuster
Gunbuster (@guest_818789)
5 days ago
Reply to  Peter S

Having Tomahawk on subs was a massive justification for having SSNs in the RN budget. Nothing else was available for long range strike missions.

With AUKUS now in the mix any new subs for all 3 member nations will be built with VL modules in them anyway so fitting tomahawk or any other land attack to a frigate is no longer going to risk SSN builds.

Posse Comitatus
Posse Comitatus (@guest_818803)
5 days ago

Yet more old announcements by the MOD being repackaged as new. It was announced a long time ago that land attack capability was being added to the new frigates.

Bringer of facts
Bringer of facts (@guest_818857)
5 days ago

Well, no surprise there. The next generation (T26, and T31) will have Mk 41 VLS …so we should make the most of of having them.

Quentin D63
Quentin D63 (@guest_819192)
4 days ago

If on the T26 the UK goes for 2*4 NSMs above the hangar similar to the RAN and RCN ships this will free up the MK41s for whatever else. Might all be too heavy, i don’t know?

Katmandoo
Katmandoo (@guest_820269)
3 hours ago

When ‘hypersonic’ missiles eventually come along, would it not then be a case of one missile does it all, rather than 24 different types of missiles, for 37 different uses?

Spyinthesky
Spyinthesky (@guest_820274)
2 hours ago
Reply to  Katmandoo

Not sure it will be easier for hypersonic missiles to do it all than non hypersonic missiles, in fact I suspect it will be the reverse considering the complexities expected of the sensors, location/targeting determination and the propulsion system which would likely be very different for an air launched high altitude flight path and/or glide vehicle terminal stage to anything land or sea launched. A Reaction Engines type solution might be useful for a wide range of these but an expensive solution most like so a combination of boosters, rotation detonation scram/ram jets and pure rocket or hybrid systems will… Read more »

Last edited 1 hour ago by Spyinthesky