Recent controversy over foreign firms being given access to the tendering process for the solid support ship fleet has caused the Ministry of Defence to confirm they have no plans to modify the definition of ‘warship’.
Kevan Jones, Member of Parliament for North Durham, asked:
“To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, whether his Department plans to clarify its definitions of the terms (a) warship, (b) complex, (c) war material, and (d) warlike when they are used for shipbuilding procurement.”
Guto Bebb, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence, replied:
“The National Shipbuilding Strategy (paragraph 92) defined Royal Navy warships as destroyers, frigates and aircraft carriers. We do not plan to issue any further definitions for the purposes of the National Shipbuilding Strategy.”
According to the National Shipbuilding Strategy, there are three tenets regarding UK shipbuilding policy that impact on the build location of contracts:
- For reasons of national security, all Royal Navy warships (destroyers, frigates and aircraft carriers) will continue to have a UK-owned design, and, will be built and integrated in the UK. Warship build will be via competition between UK shipyards. But international partners will be encouraged to work with UK shipyards and other providers to produce the best possible commercial solution.
- All other naval ships should be subject to open competition (provided that there are no compelling national security reasons to constrain a particular procurement to national providers). Integration of sensitive UK-specific systems will be done in the UK, where possible after competition between UK providers.
- Defence will take account of wider factors (including the impact on UK prosperity) when making these procurement decisions.
The Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015 confirmed that three new large Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability (MARS) Solid Support Ships would be acquired for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, to replace the single-hulled RFA Fort Victoria, which entered service in 1994, and RFA Fort Rosalie and RFA Fort Austin (both dating from the late 1970s). The Solid Support Ship is designed to carry a wide range of stores to support other ships with ammunition, food and explosives to replenish naval ships at sea.
They will have extensive aviation facilities, with 2 flight decks, one at the stern and one spot on top of the hanger. They will have the ability to to replenish at sea via 6 replenishment stations, three on each side as well as using helicopters for vertical replenishment.