With the news that BAE don’t intend to assemble the Type 31 Frigate on the Clyde, we ask if the yards have really been betrayed or is this a result of a shifting shipbuilding strategy?

The Clyde is working on 5 Offshore Patrol Vessels and is planning to build 8 Type 26 Frigates, compared to an original plan to build 13 Type 26 Frigates at the yards in Glasgow.

As we reported this morning, BAE Systems has announced a partnership with Cammell Laird, who would ‘Prime, build and assemble’ the vessels at their Merseyside facility while the Clyde will focus on the Type 26 Frigates.

If the bid is successful, Cammell Laird would be main contractor with BAE providing design and combat systems.

BAE themselves say that shipbuilding capacity on the Clyde will be full until the mid 2030s while the Ministry of Defence want the first of the new Type 31 Frigates in service by 2023.

BAE say the move will allow them to ‘appropriately support the National Shipbuilding Strategy’ whilst ensuring the delivery of the five Offshore Patrol Vessels and the first three City class Type 26 frigates currently on contract, ‘to time, budget and to the highest quality standards.’

Shipbuilders union GMB earlier accused the Government of reneging on guarantees to build the Type 31 Frigates on the Clyde. While the Clyde will still be working on 13 vessels, 5 of them are Offshore Patrol vessels and 8 are Type 26 Frigates.

Mr Cook of the union GMB told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme:

“These five frigates which Fallon is talking about today were promised to the Clyde as part of the massive cuts. In return, we would have had a state-of-the-art frigate factory to be able to produce the ships at the price that the MoD wished to pay, and we could attract foreign orders.”

Cook also said that there was “no frigate factory, and now no five ships” and that “there has definitely been a reneging – there has been a betrayal on the 13 frigates on the Upper Clyde”.

“Let’s be clear that the Type 31 contracts were originally promised to the Upper Clyde, so while shipbuilding communities across the UK would benefit from a work-share programme of the Type 31 work, this will be at the expense of the Upper Clyde despite its own future already being secured until the 2030s.”

We spoke to a source intimately involved with shipbuilding in Glasgow regarding the practicality of building the Type 31 on the Clyde and he told us:

“I think it’s the obvious answer from an industrial point of view but the question is capacity.

There isn’t any at Govan while T26 is in build.”

Sir Michael Fallon said the first of the new ships are due to be in service by 2023 and shipyards would be encouraged to ensure the vessel was competitive on the global market by working with “global partners”. He 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.”

Nia Griffith MP, Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary, responding to the publication of the National Shipbuilding Strategy, said:

“I welcome the publication of the National Shipbuilding Strategy and the commitment to the long-term future of our shipbuilding industry. But as well as investing in our naval fleet, we must also invest in the men and women who serve in our Royal Navy.

Despite warnings over many years, our Navy is facing a crisis in recruitment and retention. The Government is on course to miss its own target for the size of the Navy and we simply do not have enough sailors to crew our naval fleet. Experienced personnel are leaving the Navy because of dissatisfaction with pay and conditions. If the Government was serious about properly resourcing our Royal Navy it would lift the public sector pay cap and pay our servicemen and women properly.”

Why has the plan changed?

The MoD is hoping to reduce its reliance on BAE and cut the costs of procurement by spreading shipbuilding across civil and naval yards.

To this end, the government are implementing the results of an independent report into the National Shipbuilding Strategy by Sir John Parker which recommended that the Type 31 Frigate build be spread across the UK, with blocks and components being constructed in yards in both Scotland and England.

The National Shipbuilding Strategy is intended to be a “radical, fundamental re-appraisal of how we undertake the shipbuilding enterprise in the UK, intending to place UK naval shipbuilding on a sustainable long term footing”.

BAE themselves signalled their own reluctance to bid for the Type 31 Frigate as prime contractor due to concerns of a “race to the bottom” on price.

Speaking to The Herald here, BAE managing director Iain Stevenson said:

“We do want to be involved in Type 31. But we have questions. Does it have a budget? What are the timescales. We have not got solid facts. Type 31 could be a race to the bottom.

If it is a front price contract people might bid for it to win and it and it might put them out of business. We would not, because we are BAE Systems.”

In a press release BAE say:

“In response to the Ministry of Defence’s (MOD) evolving requirements as outlined in the National Shipbuilding Strategy, BAE Systems will bring together its warship design and engineering capability and combat systems expertise with Cammell Laird, the commercial shipbuilder, in a Teaming Agreement to bid for the manufacture of the Type 31e, an adaptable general purpose frigate.

BAE Systems is focused on the manufacture and delivery of the two QE Class carriers, the five River Class Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV) and the first three City class Type 26 warships, as well as continuing to develop and upgrade combat management systems on all Royal Navy ships. Taking account our current and future workload, including Type 26, our shipbuilding capacity on the Clyde will be full until the mid 2030s.”

What does the order book on the Clyde look like?

BAE Systems was recently awarded a contract by the Ministry of Defence worth £3.7bn to manufacture the first three of the eight Type 26 Frigate fleet.

Eight Type 26 Frigates are to be built in total, the contract for the second batch will be negotiated in the early 2020s. Ordering in batches is common for projects of this size around the world and was last seen with the Royal Navy for the Type 45 Destroyers and recent Offshore Patrol Vessels. The Type 45s first batch order was for three vessels for example.

This work will begin after the five Offshore Patrol Vessel order is finished and will last until the mid 2030’s.

Conclusion

Sir John’s aforementioned independent report to inform the recent National Shipbuilding Strategy recommended:

“There is no precedent for building two ‘first of class’ RN frigates in one location in the UK. Type 26 is a critical project for the RN and the Nation. Type 31e is urgently required to maintain RN frigate fleet numbers and to establish a UK exportable light frigate. Against this background risks need to be assessed and evaluated in a responsible way by all stakeholders.

A separate lead shipyard or alliance appears to be the best way forward for Type 31e to minimise overall risk. Regardless of choice, BAES would remain in a position to compete for Type 31e work on combat systems, design support and in block build if capacity is available.”

This recommendation has been met.

In summary, BAE have decided not to bid as prime contractor for the Type 31 and instead have decided to partner with Cammell Laird for reasons outlined above.

The defence giant had already signalled their reluctance to build the vessel and it’s now clear that building them on the Clyde isn’t feasible if they’re to enter service when required, there’s no capacity.

While this has reduced opportunities for the Clyde to build more frigates after the Type 26 production run in 2035, it is good news for UK shipbuilding in general if it goes ahead.

 

 

41 COMMENTS

    • the origional plan for them to be assembled on the clyde, was a slap in face to all other ship builders across the u.k. it was a political sap to theS.N.P and the unions

      • The original plan recognized the reality that only the Clyde had the necessary skills.

        This is a diversion into the wilderness in the vain hope warship building skills can be found in shipyards that build ferries.

        • The bag of bolts T45’s and screwing up something as simple as bulkhead doors on the carrier calls the existence of these “necessary skills” into question

        • Warship skills? What exactly are they, the ‘complexities’? keep hearing this ‘complex warship’ claim banded about. They are no more complex than deepwater drillships, FPSO’s, or how about the worlds most ‘complex’ research ship for NERC. In BAEs own statement they stated that they are already teamed up with Lairds building the Astute Class SSN’s, so how complex do you want? Save the empty rhetoric unless you can back it up with facts and figures!

  1. Why is it good news?

    The next destroyer/frigate contract will be the T45 replacement. Do you really think Cammel Laird will get that? If they do, Bae shipbuilding will fold. If they don’t, Cammel Laird warship building will end.

    The Type 31 program is just a short term piece of political nonsense that will do nothing to strengthen UK warship building in the long term.

    Far better to fund a leading edge, super efficient, “frigate factory” as promised, and build a continuous stream of frigates & destroyers at that location.

    There’s just not enough Royal Navy work to sustain two competing shipyards. Hasn’t been for decades.

    • Hence the export ambition for Type 31, so there will be enough work for 2 yards.
      My guess is that Clyde Type 26 will continue to be Type 45 replacement.

    • Indeed, the priority shouldn’t be poliitics, it should be creating a sustainable shipbuilding capacity in the UK for generations to come.

      The problem the MOD faces apart from budgets is indeed Independence for Scotland (I’m a YES), which means if it puts all its eggs in the one basket – Clyde or Rosyth, it has a problem after Independence, and polls show that while there’s currently about 46% in favour now, 60% or more in Scotland think we’ll be Independent over the next 10-15 years.

      Personally I think in any case the UK might look to get warships build cheaper abroad, which wouldn’t then exclude an Independent Scotland, but nor would it give us any privileged status.

  2. Its good news, as the Clyde can’t cope with more than the expensive type 26’s and OPV which it has been given, Cammell Laird are idealy placed to build the neccesary new type 31’s.
    I am not sure where this idea came from that the Clyde has to have this position as the privileged ship building aera of the UK.

    • HMS Forth has already been launched, and all the other 4 OPVs are expected to join the fleet in 2021. Sadly I tend to agree with your second sentence, it’s politics not defence.

  3. The NSS stipulates that the type 31e although needs to have first batch of 5 in service around 2024-2025, then needs to be built at continuous low rate production… forever really. One ship a year for 20+ years. If export orders come maybe more than 1 a year could be built at Cammel laird.
    The type 31e was supposed to be modular and an adaptable design able to be upgraded. So why not a 20+ year construction schedule to provide polyvalent unit capability back to RN and much needed hull numbers.
    The Clyde can build type 26s, replacement for type 45s ultimately, with perhaps Oceans replacement LPH or another type of ASW carrier between type 26s and type 45s replacements.
    Simple and all in accordance with NSS. The Scots have not been lied too or treated in anyway badly. Although it is massively funny to hear the SNP and Sturgeon, the poisoned witch, going on about it all. Wake up woman…you know you are talking BS!

    • With you again Mr Bell. Why do people think it’as problem to have two designs building at the same. Similarly, if the 31’s were built on the Clyde and an export order came in would we have to postpone OUR 26’s to cope? As for Mrs Sturgeon….well, how sad! I have absolutely nothing against the Scots but what a pain in the a… she is.

  4. The RN/RFA has a fleet of circa 75 large (over 30m) vessels and a larger number of smaller vessels.

    Roughly speaking we have 11 Subs and 64 major surface ships that would give us a high level drumbeat of 3 ships p.a. Over the 25 year lifespan of the vessels (2 life cycles would include the carriers).

    This breaks down as 0.5 subs p.a. and 2.5 surface vessels p.a which could be 1x T31, 0.75 RFA and 0.75 major surface asset.

    In addition to this there is also the requirement for smaller vessels and unmanned systems that could generate a small vessel build plan of circa 12-18 vessels p.a.

    All of these ships have a lifespan of 25 (carriers 50) so essentially the NSS has a 15 ship 5 year requirement on current fleet size, so there should be plenty of work all round if scheduled properly.

  5. A serious question to you. If the Scots up and leave the union, would the
    RN object to using the Clyde for building fighting vessels , support vessels
    can be built anywhere. Scotland would be a foreign country then and we
    would have no security or control of the ships being built .
    What would you do ?

    • Me? I would immediately stop all work on all Type 26 ships and engage in a trade off deal that would release launched ships for completion elsewhere and allow Scotland to keep the rest as part of the separation settlement. I would also move Faslane / Coalport to somewhere suitable that would appreciate their local economy being supported by thousands of new jobs.

      No fighting ship should ever be built outside the UK. And personally I think no ship paid for with UK taxpayers money should either….

  6. Is anyone else getting rather bored with the Scottish Unions and SNP peddling the ‘betrayal’ story? The GMB weren’t too worried when their members in Portsmouth were royally betrayed and sacrificed on the alter of devolution. And please don’t let anyone say it was BAE and not the Government.

    There has been an unjustified sense of entitlement getting around in Scotland like they are special or deserve more than anyone else. Or is this the SNP Socialist ideal that ‘We are all equal just the Scots are more equal than anyone else’?

    Well done Cammell Laird. Hope it goes well for you guys.

  7. “While the Clyde will still be working on 13 vessels, 5 of them are Offshore Patrol vessels and 8 are Type 26 Frigates.”

    This is such a dud line to use, in all seriousness.
    OPV: 2,000 tonmes, LOA 90 metres, beam 13 metres, draught 3.8 metres, cost £116 million.
    T26: 6,900 tonnes, LOA 150 metres, beam 21 metres, draught ~7 metres, cost £1,000 million.
    T31: 4,000 tonnes+, LOA 120 metres. beam 18 metres, draught 7 metres, cost £250 million.

    There’s no comparison, AND there were already 3 OPV planned while waiting for the T26 design and/or budget.

    A bit of genuine comparison please.

    • Dadsarmy – OK here is a genuine comparison for you. No other river / shipbuilding site has been looked after like the Clyde. Portsmouth was shut to save Clyde jobs. The Clyde has been given full time work well into the ’30s. Other yards proved they can build on time and on budget with the two carriers (that Scotland was gifted thanks to a Scottish PM) so now its time for THEM to have a slice of the shipbuilding business.

      You sound like you are upset that the Clyde isn’t getting everything? Well sorry but that sounds like the typically SNP victim status again. ‘Oh look at us poor Scots’….. … Tough!

      • I am sure there are people on the Tyne, the Mersey and Belfast not to mention the south coast who would have loved the previous Type 45’s and biggest chunks of the carriers which were handed to them.
        The Clyde is no longer the be all and end all of UK shipbuilding.
        Time for them to stop being so arrogant.

      • Your posting has absolutely nothing to do with my posting, which was comparing the build of 5 OPVs compared to the build of 5 T26 or 5 T31(e).

        You might as well compare the build of 5 OPVs with the build of 5 FPVs.

        • I’m sure Babcock’s would have loved the chance to build the 5 OPV’s you are dismissing.
          After all they WON the contract to build similar ships for the Irish navy.
          The ONLY shipbuilding areas which have been betrayed in this country are the Tyne and Portsmouth, both had work stolen from them to support the Clyde.

          • I’m not dismissing the OPVs, I like the OPVs. I repeat – my posting was about trying to compare an OPV with a GPFF, it doesn’t wash.

          • Are there the skills and facilities on the Tyne to build the Mars solid support ships? If so I think the govt should look again at the policy of not building RFA vessels in the UK.

      • Utter rubbish to believe that the Clyde is the only UK shipyard with the necessary skills. And as far as costs £116 million for a 90 metre opv, The Appledore yard down in Devon is building 90 metre opv’s on time and to budget for less than half that, typical of the BAE monopoly ripping off our MOD

    • Remember that this is BAEs idea not the governments. The Type 31e could be built on the Clyde, if BAE decided to build them there or if they had built the frigate factory. The government can hardly be expected to magic up a new shipyard on the Clyde if the BAE design wins and they choose to build in Newcastle. There is no betrayal here. Should the RN wait for new ships just so they can be built on the clyde? There was never a specific timeframe given for completion of the 13 ships so if the Type 45 replacment is built after Type 26 (which the NSS indicates) then hulls 9 through 13 and more will arrive after 2036 and since that’s when the clyde yards could build those hulls, what’s the problem?

      • I know, it’s too early to be talking about “betrayal” until the Government decides. On the other hand, if BAE aren’t planning to build them there, it does affect the long-term prospects on the Clyde, so it’s more BAE that deserves the anger at the moment, than the MOD. BAE could have gone ahead and built its £200 million frigate factory in any case. It decided not to, after tearing down sheds.

        • Exactly. BAEs short sightedness is about to bite. If they had any sense they would build the frigate factory now helping to lower their overheads and might get another batch of Type 26 as a reward in the mid 2030s, we do after all have 11 TAS 2087 and 16 Artisan radars available. It would also pretty much guarantee they get the Type 45 replacment contract and properly secure the future of the clyde shipyards. The government can only do so much, BAE have to pitch in as well.

          • The problem with short sighted policies though is that when it comes time to replace the T45, who and where? I think BAE have lost interest, the T26 delays were probably a bit of a sickener for them. They have other fish to fry.

        • I believe the so called Frigate factory wasn’t progressed further as Bae
          wanted the government to fully fund it, the OPVs were given to the Clyde to
          fill the production gap between T45 and T26, the OPV price is according to reports well overpriced these companies building ships for the navy and RFA
          are supposed to offer innovation, after 20 years plus of working on these ships
          I have never witnessed anything other than a cash cow, very poor specifications and a reliance on the customer constantly altering the specification therefore allowing the builder to charge considerably more through deviation of contract

  8. Clyde Unions are great enthusiasts of Queen songs ,in Particular ” I want it all. I want it all etc etc
    They have had the Lions share of Naval build to date at the expense of English yards, now its time for fair shares foe all

  9. Makes me sad reading some of these comments.

    The betrayal if there is any has been our governments unwillingness to take a strategic position on naval shipbuilding for decades.

    T-31 process is just another case of ****, we’ve got no money again, no matter the long term damage how do we frig something to keep hull numbers from falling off a cliff.

    The NSS was an attempt to do that but it was grossly underfunded, under hulled and won’t be enough to sustain and build warship fighting capability in the UK.

    As Pacman27 repeatedly points out there is enough requirement to sustain a healthy industry if the will was there – all over the UK.

    Too much stop – start, feast – famine to allow business to plan for. The smaller the numbers the more consolidation, the more consolidation the greater the frustration, the more frustration the more the blame game.

    English blame Scots for Portsmouth closing, Scots then blame the English for reducing promised workload in Clyde.

    It’s the inevitable consequence of a smaller and smaller budget from politicians of both parties.

    Divide and rule, find a way to blame each other rather than the Govt is what Govt wants. Same with other cuts to armed forces. Chiefs make those calls so they’re to blame not 10/11 DS.

    Political leadership in the UK for last 20 years has been like a Russian doll farce, ever smaller and less capable leaders with no change in sight.

    I am thoroughly depressed buy the state of all.

  10. NSS says clearly modular build. Lets get dozens and dozens of these hills built, some could be adapted specifically for ASW, some optimised for air defence, some optimised for general patrol, some for mine warfare/ clearance using drones etc etc.
    There is no reason why type 31 hull cannot be the leander class of the future and built at multiple yards across the uk.
    To regain hull numbers and provide a polyvalent escort into 2030s. The RN needs 5 of the class in service by 2024-2025 and another 5 by 2030.
    Interesting thing about the type 31e is that the US is looking for a similar vessel the proposed 20+ hulls of the FFGX type. Type 31e ticks all that classes design specification.
    medium gun, vl air defence, option for a small 8-16 cell mk41vl system. Hangar and flight deck for decent sized helicopter + mission bay for drones. Complement 80-95 personnel.
    Dreaming here but if type 31e design is selected then we might se the type take off as a NATO standard frigate for Atlantic patrol duties.

  11. Given the current state of Scottish politics, it would be irresponsible if the UK government weren’t to ensure that England retained an independent warship building capability. Nuff said.

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