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The government intends to launch a concept study and then design and build a new class of future light frigates to complement the Type 26, according to the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR).

While it was previously expected that the “five lighter frigates” mentioned in November would be heavily stripped down general purpose variants of the Type 26 Frigate (and of course still might be), other contenders seem to be emerging.

One of the most obvious contenders for the UK’s future light frigate is an offering from BMT, the Venator-110 which is “designed to cover a multitude of general purpose and specialist roles”. Recent changes to the vessels marketing fact sheets and computer generated imagery show more or less what the Royal Navy want with a light frigate and the vessel quite clearly is now being pitched as a solution to meet the light frigate requirement. The full specification guide for the vessel can be found here.

BMT Defence Services is a leading independent centre of engineering design, support and technical services for defence customers in the UK. The company is based in Bath, Fareham and Weymouth in the United Kingdom. It employs over 300 specialists and support staff. Its people include systems engineers, combat systems engineers, naval architects, marine engineers and software developers.

BMT describe the vessel as 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 leanmanned 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.

The platform has been comprehensively configured to carry out Maritime Security and International Engagement tasks, whilst remaining flexible to expand to dedicated Warfighting roles, with both offensive and defensive capabilities, accomplished through both integrated systems and the intelligent use of modularity.”

A possible configuration of the Venator-110 design. Copyright BMT.
A possible configuration of the Venator-110 design. Copyright BMT.

The available documentation from BMT also describes the vessels complement, much lower than that of the Type 26 Frigate:

“By specifying highly capable yet proven equipment and systems within Venator-110 the demands of space, weight and power on the host platform are known, and are incorporated into the design from the start. This serves to reduce the risk, delay and cost of integration to the entire procurement programme. Not withstanding this, when future technologies mature the Venator-110 design stands ready to adapt to the new capabilities that they can offer.

The level of manpower required to crew Venator-110 is intended to be as lean as possible whilst maintaining an appropriate level of operational capability. Even in the full war-fighting configuration the core crew consists of 85 personnel, capable of maintaining 24 hour operations. With overall accommodation for up to 106+18 personnel there remains the ability to significantly augment this crew with additional flight, boarding, intelligence, cyber or unmanned systems operators and personnel.”

The initial Type 26 frigate order has been cut back from 13 to 8 in order to fund more of the immediate spending, a move that has been widely expected since 2013.

The Prime Minister confirmed that the five future light frigates mentioned in the defence review will be built in Scotland. This is in addition to the eight anti-submarine warfare frigates and two extra patrol vessels on top of the three already being constructed at the Glasgow yards.

David Cameron told the House of Commons:

“There will be eight of the Type 26’s and at least another five of the new type of frigate, probably more, and they can be built in Scotland if the conditions are right. The only way these ships wouldn’t be built in Scotland is if Scotland was independent and didn’t have the national resources of the Royal Navy.”

The original plan for the frigate fleet had been 8 anti-submarine warfare variants and 5 general purpose variants, this remains largely unchanged except for the specification and class of the later five vessels, which has been reduced to make them more affordable.

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Mr Cameron also told the Commons that the new class of frigates would be “more affordable than the Type 26 which will allow us to buy more of them for the Royal Navy so that by the 2030’s we can further increase the total number of Royal Navy frigates and destroyers.” 

It would seem that the Venator 110 design by BMT represents perhaps the most practical solution 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.

52 COMMENTS

  1. Just make it happen! It looks a bit like a modern type 21. We need more hulls full stop. 15 of these would be an admirable amount I think. Then we can stop the RFA having to plug the gaps in our shortcomings.

  2. it looks quite good but will we see them as no mor surface ships are going to be built until both qe carriers are completed…and a lot could change by then,especially if labour with corbyn get in..

  3. You have just confirmed my thoughts exactly when I looked up BMT’s website the day SDSR 15 was made public. They also designed the forthcoming MARS tankers for the RFA by the way and I wouldn’t be surprised if they also get the contract for the solid oil tanker as well, as MARS is one of the few projects that is running on time and budget. The only thing I think could be inadequate is the fact that it might be too small at 3,200 tons. Perhaps a stretched version at around 4,500 may be better? Naval types please correct me if I am wrong.

    • I agree with the only main worry with this design is the size, I would look to do a enlarged version of this around the size of the current T23 at 135m and 5000 tons, witch would give it much greater endurance for long hull missions

      But the main question is what will be the main use of these ship. The RN intends to use them in the escort fleet for the new QE carries. For me the best way to do this would be an 8 by 8 by 8 of the T class ship.
      Since then the T45s will give the air denfence and the T26s the ain’t sub defence, then I’d see it that the T31s should be kitted out for true ship to ship and ship the land fighting
      Doing this would give the carrier fleet an all round defence and attack ability, each escort fleet comprising of 2x each T class.

  4. Ships seem to grow. WWII corvettes grew to become frigates which have now grown as big as cruisers. The Navy never seems to have enough small, cheap, simple ships to do the mundane duties, so every so often they produce a new, smaller class of ships. Why not call them Corvettes?

  5. Looks very modern… But I can’t help but feel that this class will just be a bigger OPV type of class, just like a beefed up River class for example, packing less firepower and giving of less “deterrent”.

    • The Yank LCS Class ships have from what I have read been a failure, quick change systems are anything but quick and the mission module hasnt really worked. They are also meant for littoral work so rough seas are an issue (you wouldnt want to be in the north see in one) They are also under armed, really expensive and the latest one broke down and had to be towed back to port. Might be wrong though as all that is just what I have gleaned from the Press.

  6. People are touting this as a light frigate. This design is only fractionally smaller in size to the current Type 23 frigate. The funding for the remaining 5 type 26 frigates is still there, the navy has the possibility to decide the capability/numbers ratio it’s happy with and that will decide how many we get. Could be the case they say “nope we will take the option for 5 more type 26’s”. That seems unlikely however.

  7. Looks like BMT have updated their literature since SDSR 15. A stanflex system behind the bridge would be useful. Could do with CIWS.

  8. I’ve been a fan of the Venator 110 concept for ages, forms a decent chunk of my fantasy fleet! If we start building V-110 hulls I think they have good export potential to small navies and coastal forces around the world

  9. Small short term gain for a massive long term expense and reduction in capability? That’s my government – there are many like it but this one is mine.

  10. Whatever design is chosen, I just hope the ‘powers that be’ get on with it – we need more ships and we need them ASAP.

  11. No strike length VLS worries me. It’s explicitly mentioned in BMT’s material and why they aren’t there so I understand the design issues but from a capability point of view it worries me. As far as launching TLAM is concerned it pretty much leaves us where we are with subs as the only launch mechanism. Yes, the 8 ASW Type 26s should have a very respectable strike length VLS silo but they will be primarily tasked with ASW role for carrier and other protection. The originally planned extra 5 general purpose T26 would have added another 120 MK41 VLS to the fleet which would have been significant and looks like something we’re going to lose with this new plan, or at least if it goes Venator 110.

  12. Leander with a hanger. We should really look at the Distributed Lethality concepts being developed by the United States Navy. If we are not going to give our frigates a stand off land attack capability, then we should look at a containerised solution that can be deployed on auxiliaries.

  13. “If we are not going to give our frigates a stand off land attack capability, then we should look at a containerised solution that can be deployed on auxiliaries.”

    Good point. With the three MARS solid support ships there’s even still the opportunity to explicitly design-in the space for such a containerised system to be installed when required. In the case of strike-length VLS containerised isn’t going to mean ISO standard containers of course, more like modularised, since MK41 is about 10m tall I think.

    Another option to partially make up for the potential loss of 120 MK41 that dropping the 5 GP T26s creates might be to finally address the fitted-for-but-not-with strike length VLS on the T45s. Yes, there’s the same issue that they will mostly be tied up in a specific AAW role but whereas with ASW I suspect that firing off a salvo of TLAM is not the thing to do when trying to be quiet to maximise sonar effectiveness but an AAW platform’s role is probably not compromised by firing off TLAM provided that it doesn’t have to go off station to do it.

  14. For those of us old enough to remember the Leanders, these vessels look good. At 3,200 tons they displace roughly the same tonnage as the latter broad beamed Leanders. And nobody can say that they were bad ships. Able to deploy around the world at various tasks, on their own, with a small flotilla, or with the fleet as escorts they gave the RN and the country great service.In my opinion these ships are just what the RN needs. Build the hulls, at least 10 and retrofit any advanced equipment as required.

  15. The big question is how do these new hulls fit into a model of operation that will in the future consist of a future carrier task force, distributed assets needing to work independently, and maintaining protection of SSBN / CASD?
    The carriers will require at least 1x Astute, 1xT45 and up to three other escorts as a basic group, probably supported by surface assets from other nations. If T26 is the primary asw asset, this means all 8 T26 will likely need to be priortised to service carrier deployment.
    Would it not be far better to design the light frigate / corvettes with a primary role as carrier fleet escorts, and free up the T26 to be a genuinely independent full spectrum capability? Fit T45 with VLS to provide land attack capability in the carrier group; talk Gov back up to a 9 ship T26 order to enable deployment of 3 T26 at any one time; and design the light frigates with a focus on asw and secondary air defence capability (CAAM). Assuming 9 hulls, these could work either in UK waters to help sanitise the SSBN environment, or to provide the main bulk of the carrier escort. The Vanator design would seem about right, providing that it can be made sufficiently quiet to undertake effective asw operations, deploy a towed array and replace harpoon with ASCOD and additional asw torpedo launchers.
    As an aside, the last three River class OPV’s indicated in SDSR2015 should be 100mm hulls with a lynx size hangar (and 76mm super rapid gun) so that they can properly take over West Indies and East Africa patrol duties from more valuable assets. For added self protection add 4 x quad packed rail launched CAAM (and yes, they can be launched using a 2D surveillance radar system).

  16. This is a good solid design and we should look to build 27 of them over the next 30 years.
    If we look at this strategically we only need 13 T45/T26 that would provide the SAMSON radar and Strike capability.

    These ships which should cost no more than £300m would then become the fleets main escort and take us to a 13 squadron fleet (2 x T26 + 4 of these). This would then allow for 2 carrier groups plus 9 Squadrons for other duties.

    The reduction of 6 T26/T45 over time will fund at least 12 of these and the removal of the hunt/sandown class and all those silly OPV’s would fund the remainder.

    These would be great ASW and AAW assets whilst having the basics in place for general duties.

    As for the MHVC capability – a Karel Doorman type ship with 16 Atlas ARCIMS would seem to be a game changer for me.

    The C-Sword 90 is another capable ship in this class that with further work could actually be even better. The key for me is to increase capacity and capability and move back to a squadron approach of 1 GCS and 2 V110’s.

    We can build 1 per year for the next 25 years with 2 per year in the first 5 to get some hulls into the water. This will maintain our shipbuilding capability – get the costs right and reduce the need to “make work up” which is very wasteful.

  17. I agree with ‘Grumpy Stoker’, the Leanders did a great job; as a former ‘Dog Star’ (F40) can testify to. What we need though is hulls in the water. So lets get on with it!

  18. The delayed and slow pace at which the escort fleet is being replaced is a serious concern, more so when it is likely the GP frigates are likely to enter service post 2030.

    The build of an additional 2 OPVs appears to be a consequence of further delays in the Type 26 design rather than a specific requirement. I agree with Rich that 2 possibly 3 of the 5 new OPVs should be fitted with a lynx capable hanger and 76 mm main gun (down armed Khareef class corvette). Improved capability and forward basing would certainly help the overstretched fleet.

    The Venator-110 looks good as a light GP frigate/corvette. It could be argued that this type of ship should form the back bone of the RN; built in sufficient numbers – 10+. This would provide a solution to escalating costs, size and reduced escort numbers. Sufficient numbers of Type 45/26 would be available to support the carriers and a maritime task force.

    That said its the pace that remains worrying. I believe the time has come to consider building the light GP frigates overseas, like the MARS tankers. Speed of delivery would be fast and at considerably reduced costs; fitting out should still be completed in the UK. Maintaining the ability to build high end escorts in the UK should still remain, however supporting UK industry at the expense of the RN is both troubling and disturbing – a compromise is needed for the benefit of both.

  19. We need more frigates now!- not in 2030’s. Can we as a developed nation not get on and start building some of these vessels now? Appledore Yard in Devon should be available to do this, with some support from Portsmouth- leaving Scotland to get on with the QE’s and the type 26’s.
    If the price was no excessive I would think the Royal Navy would be hugely grateful for 10-15 hulls.
    Come on UK government- we do not want a navy unable to defend our nation! Give us back our Navies ability to defend the UK properly.

  20. Speed definitely is essential we need hulls in the water the sooner the better, with the float out of the third Irish opv the building dock at appledore is currently empty.If the politicians can make up their minds on an off the shelf design then the hull of the first type 31 could be in the water within 18 months.We dont have to build all our ships in Scotland.

  21. No the light frigates don’t need to be built in Scotland at all. The Babcock yard in Appledore, North Devon is ideally suited to building light frigates and corvettes in the only fully covered yard in the UK, which incidentally means that they can work around the clock. They have just built the last of the corvettes for the Irish Naval Service at £50m each, far cheaper that BAE Systems could possibly achieve. With Torridge in North Devon being the poorest district in the whole UK the order for the light frigates would be a huge boost to the area or perhaps Devon should vote for independence!

  22. can we have 30 please, 15 for the RN and 15 for coast guard/border force.

    it would make sense to buy something off the shelf as there’s no design cost, Damen also have some nice ships and even though they are a Dutch company the ships can be built in the uk using their design, i saw a Holland class patrol boat lurking off of the coast at Portsmouth the other week and it looks pretty good.

    bottom line we need ships and always going the BAE route costs a lot of money!

  23. The last frigates we had were probably the Leander class at 2,600 t or thereabouts, so the type 31 is still larger. But ones the RN mods and e add d like the River Class they will end up quite expensive, so don’t expect to see more than the 5 planned.

  24. BMT have also updated the technical brief:

    http://www.bmtdsl.co.uk/media/6098065/VENATOR-110%20Technical%20Brief.pdf

    it outlines a number of configurations, with the VENATOR-110 Light Frigate configuration “tailored to incorporate a precision deep strike capability, or embody the latest generation of variable depth towed-array sonar to augment the existing hull mounted sonar”

    Could also have a Merlin capable hangar – “design of the aviation spaces allows these facilities to be adapted to suit the customer’s range of existing and future aviation assets, such as NH90, AW159 Wildcat, SH-60 Seahawk, AW101 Merlin or future replacement”

    Also interesting…..“blending of Close-In Weapon Systems (CIWS), softkill decoys, surface effectors such as 30mm or 40mm cannon and lightweight missiles on any of the Adaptive Weapon Positions provides layered defence in the air, surface and sub-surface domains.”

    As reported by TD in another article, confirms 3 VLS options – 1] 24 sea captor, 2] 48 sea captor, or 3] 25 sea ceptor and 8 Mk41

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