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The information regarding plans for the Type 31 frigate comes to light in a speech by Admiral Sir Philip Jones, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, delivered at DSEI 2017.

The following is an excerpt of the speech.

“Meanwhile, the Type 26 frigate is a genuine contender for both the Australian and New Zealand future frigate programmes and the Type 31e could meet the requirements of other smaller regional navies.

So how do we position ourselves to capitalise on this?

As a comparison, for the modest outlay of a few forward deployed patrol vessels, light frigates and maritime aircraft based in the region, France has considerable influence in Asia-Pacific.

The recent establishment of a British defence staff in Singapore is a sign that UK defence is starting to consider our options in this area in a similar light

The new UK joint logistics support base at Duqm in Oman could serve as a springboard for more frequent Royal Navy deployments across the Indian Ocean.

The deployment of the UK Carrier Strike Group to this region in the 2020s would be welcomed by many of our partners, and would be a powerful sign of our ambition.

And we still have berthing rights in Singapore. With a growing navy, it would be perfectly possible to base Type 31e frigates in South East Asia, just as we do with smaller ships in Bahrain and the Falklands today.

Of course, all these things are not yet policy. They are examples of what we could do, and our long term aspirations must be tempered against near-term challenges; such as our manpower recovery programme, which is working, but will take time and we must be patient.

But the fact remains: if we are serious about our nation’s global economic ambitions, then we will need a global navy to match, and the opportunities are there, should we wish to use them.”

Due to an expected lower cost, the government suggested it may allow an eventual increase in the total number of frigates in the Royal Navy. This general purpose frigate will be designated as the Type 31 frigate.

It is understood that the Type 26 Frigate will primarily support carrier task group operations while the Type 31 is to be deployed for a range of less high-tempo operations.

62 COMMENTS

  1. Doesn’t seem like a bad idea, from what I understand, a carrier fleet of ours will be operating there on FON ops in the early 2020s. Seems to me that SE Asia and Eastern Asia is the flash point for future conflicts. Hopefully enough T31s are ordered to not have them spread them, we’d definitely need more than the proposed 5

  2. Unless we have at least 10 of these Type 31e frigates, we should not be forward deployed anywhere. We need to prioritise escorting (hopefully) two aircraft carriers.

    The empire collapsed over 50 years ago and unless you throw a fair few billion at the military with more manpower, a replacement for Ocean, more escorts than the pitiful 19 we have, and a fair few more F35B for our carriers. Add to that a couple more Eurofighter squadrons and we’re looking at increasing the defence budget by nearly 15Bn.

    This is just to be able to be credible on the world stage, nevermind permanently forward deploying frigates as if we have spares.

  3. The type 31 is getting a lot of bad press for being at the low end but personally I welcome it’s introduction. We don’t need to deploy the most advanced ASW frigate in the world to combat the likes of Somali pirates (unless they have gotten a major upgrade). It enables us to meet our global responsibilities in a more sane way

  4. If it’s a mostly FFBNW hull, as seems likely judging by the price cap and the list core requirements, I doubt it’ll make much of a positive impression. Indeed, it might have the opposite effect

  5. i cannot see these being a good investment at all…i think the government and MOD need to get there heads out from there backsides and just invest in good quality ships,or keep some type 23,s and scrap this daft idea (just my idea mind)

  6. So we need a destroyer or frigate in the Gulf, Singapore, Falklands, Gib (Mediterranean), West Indies, Fleet Ready Escort, Carrier task group, NATO Standing force, ARG and of course undertaking trials and training whilst two are tied up due to lack of crew. Now I am not the 1SL but I thought for every ship deployed you need another two. So either the 1SL is expecting the escort force (and associated manpower) to be expanded up to about 30 vessels or he is going to deliver a loafs and fish’s type of miracle.
    Otherwise this is very sadly just utter nonsense.

    • For what it’s worth I think the RN is serious and that HM Govt is on board. The spec issued for Type 31 says crew size 90-100. This is half the crew of a Type 23. If other costs of ownership like fuel and maintenance can also be halved and RN manpower at least held at current levels then the order for ‘the first batch of 5’ Type 31 might be just that – a first batch of a possible 10. Mind you I think the first 5 may be ‘patrol frigates’ rather than full fat frigates but to be honest that’s what the RN need in the Caribbean, Gulf, Home waters, South Atlantic and Med. Constabulary work could be defined to include bad guys with Chinese AShM on shore and FAC oin addition to pirates and drug runners so you need a Wildcat but maybe not Sea Ceptor or Harpoon or Mk41

        • The key thing is to make choices which are in the best interests of the UK and are affordable. We can’t afford 13 Type 26 light cruisers ( successor to Type 45) and you don’t need one to do constabulary work. Post Brexit especially the desperate need is for global (diplomatic) presence – hulls – and for safeguarding trade routes, especially our Gulf supplies of natural gas which are at risk from FAC and mines. Nothing wrong with the Mekos, Fremms and Belharras but they can’t be in two places at once. Good luck to the Moroccan Navy with their new Fremm, but what we need is twice as many patrol frigates patrolling the sea lanes between Singapore and the UK.

          • Why do we need to be patrolling the sea lanes between Singapore and the UK ? In the 70 years since the end of WW2 when have they ever been cut ? Can we not think of actual roles for them that are needed ?

    • If we’re going with the Avenger, which is a River class batch 3, then why wouldn’t River class manning and basing methods work? These ships spend 220 days/year at sea, with 2/3 the crew aboard any time and rotated – furthermore, CLYDE is permanently based in the Falklands, with the rotations flown out/back. Just returns to UK for major refit. The T31s could be based at Bahrain, Diego Garcia, Singapore, Gibraltar, Oman or perhaps a port in the Caribbean, with personnel rotated, obviating the need for 3 escorts to fill one tasking.

  7. I am really concerned that all this talk of potentially increasing the size of the RN is just bluster by HMG to keep the public at bay. Any increase we are told, will not happen until the 2030s – which means LATE 2030s. Even giving the benefit of the doubt that’s at least another 13yrs before hull number increases? Even then the number being touted around is 6 Type 31s instead of 5 – seriously? Hardly worth waiting 13yrs on now is it!

    I also echo the concerns of many here about what kind of frigate we can truly expect for 250m. As with all programs, there will be delays and cost overruns which means cuts in capability to keep them on budget. They will be fit for nothing more than a bath tub at the end and the RN will have been sold down the line.

    This nation needs to waken up and take defence seriously instead of the constant lip service we get, typified by Fallon spouting off about his 178Bn equipment budget – that isn’t funded – at every opportunity!

    • The actual phrase used was ” by the 2030s ” so it could equally apply to the kit arriving in 2029! and why is HMG keeping people at bay. Nobody gives a damn apart from us bloggers and if we keep slapping every idea down nobody is ever going to. THINK POSITIVE.

      • It’s hard to think positively when we are losing 5 high end GP frigates to be replaced by either pimped OPVs or empty FFBNW light frigates….its a decrease in capability, and even if there was an increase in orders beyond the first batch of 5 , and assuming (hoping) that the T26 numbers do stay at 8, what would be the point in additional order of more T31s? If they do come in as pimped OPVs/empty frigates, they won’t be able to do anything that a Batch 2 river can’t do more economically

  8. While this is a good idea, the type 31 is not suitable. What would be good is if we got three or four multi roles ships like the Absalon class, to be forward deployed personality to the modle East and Asia (specifically New Zealand). The vessel needs to be able to attack both surface and deep in land targets, plus of course the ability to defend itself in very hostile waters and should have the ability to deploy troops and aid. Something the type 31 cant do.

  9. I’m not convinced the T26 is in the running for the NZ frigate replacement program. Surely he meant the Canada frigate program.

      • From the article and quote by Admiral Sir Philip Jones:

        “Meanwhile, the Type 26 frigate is a genuine contender for both the Australian and New Zealand future frigate programmes…”

        • New Zealand have historically gone with the Australian decision on frigates. But 2x Type 31 at £250m each might be more their budget than 2x Type 26. And actually quite a valuable patrol contribution to the region.

          • There’s no question that T31 would be a better fit for NZ than T26 – which I was surprised to see the statement. I doubt NZ would have a budget for even one T26.

        • The future frigate programme (SEA 5000) is an initiative of the Aust Govt to build 9 frigates to replace the 8 RAN Anzac frigates. At present, the Italian FREMM, T26 and Navantia F5000 bids are being considered.

          The Chief of the NZ Navy in Naval Forces details the requirements for new frigates. It seems the Kiwis will utilise Sea Ceptor in any replacement which may boost the chances of a UK design being chosen? Timing is unclear but an early replacement similar to the RAN appears unlikely?

          WIth the RAN committed to ESSM and US systems and the RNZN preferring Sea Ceptor, each nation could chose different solutions to their needs.

          http://www.monch.com/mpg/ebooks/naval-forces/2017/01/mobile/index.html#p=12

  10. The government needs to show they r serious about this national shipbuilding strategy. Give the shipyard’s something to get there teeth into. Guarantee an order for 10 type 31 frigates, we certainly need them and the best way to get value is offer a decent build run. Foreign orders can take up some of these if necessary and then just extend the build until we get our 10, this way the shipyard’s can invest in skills and infrastructure.

    Also with guarantees of 10 we might actually get a proper frigate with phalanx, sea Cepter, ashm main gun multi mission bay etc. If we are not careful we will end up with a frigate less well armed than most Corvettes.

  11. If nearly all our most capable escorts are (quite properly) protecting our carriers, what in the event of a major war would be left to protect the merchant shipping this country depends upon to supply us with most necessities? Especially once we take any serious casualties in ship losses to the fleet, there’s far too few warships for the needs we have.

    We need most of our escort vessels to be capable & fitted with the equipment needed to face all threats, not bargain basement second rate ships for our navy crews to be slaughtered in.

    It is sickening to hear politicians pulling the wool over the public’s eyes when the reality is do precarious.

  12. With Brexit in mind it’s not a daft idea. The only way the UK can make Brexit work is with bold imaginative thinking, and indeed global aspirations.

    • Brexit is the reason HM Govt is onside with the NSS and Type 31; as means of realising the Brexit ‘global UK’ mantra. Brexit is project. A wise man once told me that for success a project needs commitment, a symbol and a plan. The only organisation not fully committed right now seems to me to be BAe. I would like to see them put their pride to one side, throw a modular design for Cutlass into the ring and allow other shipyards to construct their design. It may not win; it may not be the best but for the sake of their self respect they should play the game.

  13. Sometimes quantity has a quality all of its own. The more they build the cheaper per platform it becomes. It would be nice if they were able to upgrade capability quickly (fitted for but not with).

  14. Maybe base them in New Zealand or Australia. Same language, same cultural background makes integration into the local population far easier.

      • @David, exactly – I can see that we’ll carry on doing ‘showing the flag’ exercises far and wide, and but why we would need to base RN ships in the Asia-Pacific region is not yet clear. Nobody’s mentioned ‘China’ as an answer, but I presume this is the unspoken thought. Given the very low levels surface escorts the RN has there are going to be many demands on these ships – basing any of them permanently in Asia-Pacific seems pretty low down on our priorities.

        And I’d echo the point about trade routes you made earlier. No they haven’t been cut since the end of WW2. While piracy has interfered with some regional trade routes (off Africa) the response has been properly international – and adequate (although the international community was slow to react to Somali piracy). The RN will take part in policing the seas as part of a global response – not doing it by itself for the UK.

        Best Tim

  15. Here we go again. We’re commiting to this, we’re commiting to that, we’re ambitious. All well and good but when they then turn around and cut military funding, treating the defence budget like a reserve cash fund to raid when the fifth biggest employer on the planet, otherwise known as the NHS, comes calling saying they don’t have enough money or managers. If they want to move into asia, then they need to increase the size of the fleet, not cutting it to the bone and then demanding they do more and more.

  16. The issue is while the T26 is very capable. It is best retained for duties such as CSG escort, ASW, SUW against a peer threat. It is however to expensive to be deployed on long non specific patrols.

    The T31e program objective should be therefore to produce a ship that while it may not be the “best” FFG. But is the best for the money. In the UK service it should be tailored for deployment far from home, anti piracy, counterinsurgentsy ops, and lower end SUW naval warfare.

    The other goal should be easily tailored to export customers desires. Therefore it should make use of as many low tech simple easily repaired solutions as possible. Unless it is something specifically meant to kill the enemy or protect the ship cut costs where you can. An example of what not to do. Would be don’t use the WR-21 engine use something export countries actually use like the LM2500. Think the old Leander or Perry class ships. Relatively cheap and easily modernized so both classes were built and exported in high numbers.

    • The naval warship market of today is very different from the 1960s when Leander frigates and oberon submarines sold across the world.

      UK will have to be of a superior quality and price competitive than their many rivals to have any impact on global customers.

      The future for UK shipbuilding is bleak, grand words and adding an e to the T31 project is not going to address the problems we face.

  17. Our defence strategy should be based on what is achieveable given the financial constraints, personnel shortages and the threats we face.

    Not sure why an East of Suez presence by the RN given the effectiveness of local military powers within the region would have much of an effect.

    Is this just a case of wishful thinking to a return to good old days.

  18. The competition in the export markets for the t31 is very tough.

    The Incheon-class frigate batch 2 is very similar to the t31 project. You get an extensive range of weapons and sensors on a 3500 ton warship for around US $250m.

    What will the t31 offer for £250m that will match that capability? A made in Britain sticker is not going to be enough.

    • Good question. The French have almost been defining frigate market: Fremm at the high end, La Fayette and the low end and Belharra as the ‘intermediate’ offering i.e. Around 4000 tonnes. If Belharra has a new flat face French aesa radar and Aster 15 it will not be a cheap ship.
      Incheon is a coastal ship. Range 4500 miles, 3000 tonnes full load, beam 14m. By contrast Venator, probably still the front runner for Type 31 is a 4000 tonne ship with a beam of 18m and with a range of over 6000 miles it is the global ship the RN is looking for. So in fact I do think there is a market opportunity for a hull which can be configured or start life as a patrol ship/ light frigate and be upgraded at any point to a full fat frigate, offering a better concept of modular designs than either Meko or the Italian PPA. Also by all appearances the RN, HM Govt and Industry are all singing from the same hymn sheet so I am pretty optimistic thus far.

        • Ah well. Experience is on your side. But see my reply to dadsarmy. I think HM Govt genuinely sees the NSS and an larger RN as a Brexit get out of jail card. For their part the RN have been flexible enough to limit their aspirations so Type 31e is pretty much the Brexit marketing lead product. Milk it while you can I say.

          • Regards brexit, it’s going to be very painful in the short term mainly because the EU wishes it to be it that way. Can’t see the T31 haven’t the slightest impact on that pain.

          • I’d love to share your optimism, but if that were truly the case, a few simple things without breaking the bank, would provide (relatively) quick results in that regards. These would be based on a comprehensive recruitment and retention effort, to expand the RN head count by say 1500 people. This would allow for the retaining of the batch 1 rivers for UK EEZ. Allowing the forward basing of the batch 2s to Gib, FL, gulf etc. Retaining the 2 Hunts/Sandowns, reinstating the FF and DD in harbour training, the second Albion and, possibly, HMS Ocean. This would provide an additional ca.10 hulls to help with the global Brexit Britain footprint in the short to medium term (i.e. Next 10 years) until the T31 and T26 programmes start churning out hulls at a decent rate.
            At the very least, the batch 1 rivers should be retained…

          • I like Paul’s optimism and my starting position right now is to be glass-half-full and share it. It seems wrong to dismiss T31 as a failure before we’ve seen full costed details of any of the designs. My optimism might of course end up being hopelessly misplaced.

            Regarding the Brexit discussions, I don’t know exactly what Paul meant regarding the “get out of jail” reference but to Dan I wonder if, as far as Brexit is concerned, you are looking at the T31 the wrong way.

            You (Dan) are unsurprisingly, given the website we are on, looking at it from a security, military, asset-allocation, force-effectiveness, RN headcount etc perspective. For me the Brexit angle has nothing to do with any of that. Frankly T31 could just as well be a floating Marshmallow factory.

            I have some hope that Brexit will be good for T31 (and maybe even MARS SSS and some other assets as well) because the hit on GDP growth from Brexit, despite my hoping otherwise, is likely to be quite negative. If that does turn out to be the case then I think the government, to save face, will start looking at some projects to stimulate the economy and create employment (to offset rising unemployment elsewhere). Building ships in the UK is quite a good way to do that because a lot of the project cost stays in the UK via UK pay packets, yard fees, local suppliers etc. Essentially I’m thinking that, when viewed from the Brexit viewpoint, T31 is more of an economic/Treasury project than a military/MoD one.

      • Unfortunately Paul I do not share your confidence, what the UK is saying about the T31 now is what they were saying about the T26 seven years ago.

        Affordable, capable, flexibility, export driven with a long list of potential customer/partners. One bright spark even said the T26 was going to be frigate equivalent of the F35 project. Well it hasn’t worked out that way.

        There is potential for a light frigate project, but the UK has got to deliver on capability and affordability and I have seen nothing so far to achieve those aims.

        The UK has not exported a warship over 2000 tons since the 1970s, not for the lack of trying just that our warships are expensive and lack capability for the export market.

        The French, Italians and Germans designs are export driven and have track records in delivering great warships on time and on budget.

        Regards incheon class warships, certainly batch 1 were limited to coastal waters, but the much larger batch 2 is not and the new batch 3 will offer further increases in capability.

        The T31 will be delivered to the RN for around £250m, but the weapon and sensor fit will limited and an export version will cost substantially more if it has full weapon and sensor fit.

        Another dead end I am afraid.

        • Totally agree it is a ‘leap of faith’. IMO our problem in the UK has always been short thinking and the adversarial and mistrustful nature of the relationships between the key players; the RN, the MOD, the Treasury and BAe. France, Germany and Italy succeed because everyone who needs to be is onside and because they think long term. This leads to rapid, sensible decision making, quicker correction of mistakes and faster to market products. By contrast the UK has always been playing catch up. My grandmother used to say there’s no such thing as can’t, there’s only won’t. I guess we will both have to wait a while to find out if HM Govt actually want this to happen. Industry and the RN are ready to roll.

          • I hope you are correct, but given my experience of serving in HM forces, working directly for the MOD as a contractor and working in the private sector on UK defence contracts it’s more wishful thinking than reality.

            Anyway fingers crossed.

  19. I think that we can get a great product for £250m – if we look at the T26 it is 150m long and has a projected crew of 118 and a chinook capable deck.

    From everything the guys in the know say the hull is relatively cheap to manufacture so lets use a cut down version of the T26 hull and design (as it should be modular like most similar designs) and take it from there.

    If we assume that the hull and core fit out can be done for £125m then we have a further £125m for military fit out and armaments, which is doable. One thing I do think is that this ship does not require Strike length Mk41 VLS and would be far more useful with a compact C4 and some torpedo tubes for ASW work. I think these are perfect for ASW duties and the T26 is overkill, but guess that is just me.

    realistically the following fit out should be achievable for the £125m

    1 x Mod8 5″ Gun – £30m
    16 x Sea Ceptor VLS – £20m (Quad packed)
    1 Rolling Air Frame (21 missiles) – £2m
    8 Canisters with Harpoon replacement – £10m
    4 MTU tubes – £2m
    Radars – £10m
    Combat System – £10m
    Helicopter Systems – £5m
    CIWS – £5m
    Defensive aids package – £5m
    Captas C4 – £5m
    Other items – £20m

    This doesn’t take into account RHIBs, Helicopters and ancillary items, but does show that it can be done at a high level.

    Personally I would like to ensure these can deliver a CB90 out of the stern – but that is a pipe dream I guess (cost £2m for CB90).

  20. The Type 31 may not be what the fleet needs in terms of escort warship for a carrier battle group but it is ideal for “flying the flag” – albeit to a budget. To that end Britain needs to look at areas where the flag needs to be flown and to my mind there’s three; 1. South Atlantic 2. The Med 3. Far East. This means the Falkland Islands to offer a deterrent as well as be able to visit overseas territories, Gibraltar to assist with EU/UN/NATO operations against piracy and remind Spain we aren’t going anywhere and thirdly Singapore as a historic base of the Royal Navy to bolster our presence their.

    The problem of course with this strategy of “Global Britain” is that it will require “global seapower” and 5 T31’s won’t do the job. 3 Naval Squadron’s of 4 ships each however would be adequate for the task especially if two helicopter carriers as replacement for HMS Ocean can be found and deployed to the Med and Far East. This will in turn allow for the Type 45’s and 26’s to serve as our main force with the QE’s and protect home waters/the South Atlantic where, arguably, our only potential flashpoint exists.

  21. @Julian, what do I mean by a Brexit ‘get out of jail card’? Brexit right now is characterised by FUD, fear, uncertaintyl and doubt. It needs a deliverable. The NSS and Type 31e can be viewed as the model of a national industrial strategy and a growing RN as tangible evidence that ‘global UK’ is a reality.
    @Dan. Completely agree that HM Govt needs to signal it is serious by an immediate modest increase RN recruitment, retention of River Batch 1 and foreward basing of River 2’s as placeholders until the Type 31’s enter service. How did Winston Churchill put it, action this day.

    • Got it. Thanks Paul. I agree with those points but in addition would add my vague hope that the government will start looking seriously at economic stimulus measures and in-country ship building (as well as road, road, broadband, housing etc) are good concentrated ways to inject activity into the UK economy (as opposed to things like increasing P-8 orders for instance where almost all of that money ends up in the pockets of overseas companies and workers). As I said before, this isn’t looking at it from a military point of view but purely an economic one.

  22. Have to say it’s been a long time since I’ve been struck dumb by some of your comments. People this 2017 not 1917 or 1817. You should read what the response of the govt of Singapore was to our withdrawal from their in the 70’s. They increased their defence budget ! We cannot afford to subsidise other states most of whom have a higher standard of living than we do to begin with. If Spain makes a move on Gibraltar or Russia on the Baltics what flipping use will ships half a world away be ?

    • @David
      Russia and the Baltics, yes, I’d agree.
      But Spain and Gib? Respectfully that’s not a reason for basing RN ships at Gib as there is no way the any Spanish government of any democratic political stripe is going to do any more than cause aggravation as a way of getting London’s attention to address what Madrid sees as the sovereignty issue.

      Though I absolutely agree with you we should be basing these ships in Nato areas – like Gib – as that is where we’re likely to need to use them. And yes, this is not 1817, 1917 or even 1945 but 2017 (and post-Suez…. )
      Best Tim

    • Two points. Firstly I don’t see this as either/or. If we grow the RN then we can base ships in Singapore as well as Gib. Secondly, the argument for basing ships in Singapore in my opinion is less about defence and more about regional diplomatic influence. Easier to sell Malaysia or Indonesia a frigate or an OPV if you’ve held a couple of (non alcoholic) cocktail parties or ship tours.

      • Paul. I’d be very happy to grow the RN, but the manpower retention issue need to be sorted first. As for touring your ships to use as PR devices to sell kit – I am all for it –
        and it may be that regionally it works out that we do end up basing a ship in SE Asia/Pacific. I was just trying to counter some of the wilder theorising that goes on sometimes here!
        best Tim62

    • At last a sensible comment, some of the nostalgic nonsense of Empire 2.0 around Brexit is just embarrassing, can we send a T-26 or T-31 to show the flag occasionally and claim to have recommitted to the FPDA sure, and maybe we even sell a boat or two, but permanently basing something in Singapore, have you seen the size of the Singapore Navy of today, before you get to the Indian and Chinese fleets.

      By the time the T-31 arrives in the 2030’s we need to be assuming both Indian and Chinese fleets operating in the Med not the other way round,

  23. As forecast by my son in the RN:

    Royal Navy a ‘laughing stock’ with three quarters of its warships out of action and ‘struggling to protect British citizens’

    Currently 13 of the Navy’s 19-strong fleet of Type 23 frigates and Type 45 destroyers are unable to go to sea due to a lack of manpower, fuel and supplies, senior military sources have revealed.

    The cuts to defence spending have also severely hampered Britain’s response to Hurricane Irma.

    HMS Ocean, the amphibious assault ship that currently serves as the Royal Navy’s flagship, was sent to provide support to the British overseas territories in the Caribbean but suffered engine problems and has now been delayed by a week.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/09/14/royal-navy-laughing-stock-three-quarters-warships-action-struggling/

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