Contracts have been awarded to four consortia, which the Ministry of Defence insist “include significant UK involvement”, to develop their bids to build three new Fleet Solid Support ships for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary.
The Ministry of Defence said in a news release:
“The award of the Competitive Procurement Phase (CPP) design contracts, each initially worth around £5 million, means the Fleet Solid Support competition has successfully moved to the next stage. The contracts, negotiated with industry by Defence Equipment and Support, the procurement organisation for the Ministry of Defence, deliver on the UK Government’s promise to progress the design and build of the FSS ships to support the Royal Navy’s Carrier Task Groups. The final manufacture contract will be awarded to a UK company acting either solely or as part of a consortium.”
Welcoming the news with industry leaders at a CPP kick-off event, Defence Secretary and Shipbuilding Tsar Ben Wallace said:
“I am proud to see UK companies stepping up to the challenge of the Fleet Solid Support competition as we begin the next chapter of this British shipbuilding success story. I wish all the competitors well as we work towards realising a programme which will deliver ships essential for the UK’s security as well as vital jobs and skills.”
The contracts will enable bidders to develop their design proposals and the next stage will seek details of how they would fulfil the wider delivery needs of the programme. Assessment of these proposals will lead to the selection of a preferred bidder and award of the manufacture contract.
The Ministry of Defence also said in the aforementioned news release:
“The FSS competition remains on track to deliver the ships the Royal Fleet Auxiliary need to support the Royal Navy, whilst maximising the social value contribution shipbuilding can make in the UK, including encouraging investment in domestic shipyards, whilst balancing the need to deliver value for money. The commitment to this vital capability was outlined in the Defence Command Paper published earlier this year and is supported by the £24 billion uplift to the defence budget over the next four years. The FSS ships will increase the capability and development of the Carrier Strike Group to operate globally by replenishing its stores and ammunition.”
The four consortia awarded contracts are (in alphabetical order):
- Larsen & Toubro, which includes UK company Leidos Innovations.
- Serco /Damen, which includes UK company Serco.
- Team Resolute, which includes UK companies Harland & Wolff and BMT.
- Team UK, which includes UK companies Babcock and BAE Systems.
Will they be built in the UK?
The vessels will be constructed by “British-led teams”, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has announced.
While international companies will be invited to work in collaboration with UK firms, “the successful manufacturing team must be led by a British company”.
“This will have a huge impact on the local economies across the UK where shipbuilding is a prominent feature. Hundreds of highly skilled jobs will be created as a direct result of today’s announcement, with many more in small and medium sized enterprises throughout the supply chain for the new builds to follow over the next few years.”
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said:
“Shipbuilding has historically been a British success story, and I am determined to revitalise this amazing industry as part of this Government’s commitment to build back better. The Fleet Solid Support warships competition will be the genesis of a great UK shipbuilding industry, and allow us to develop the skills and expertise for the shipyards of tomorrow.”
According to a statement from the Ministry of Defence:
“The Fleet Solid Support ship competition will build on the success of the Type 31 programme, which will be built primarily in Scotland and is expected to support 1250 highly skilled jobs and 150 apprenticeships across the country. The Fleet Solid Support warships competition will be designed to challenge the shipbuilding industry. The goal will be to build ships fit for the future, while boosting homegrown skills and leading to a highly competitive shipbuilding industry. The warships will incorporate next-generation technology with a purpose-built design and will eventually support HMS Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales as part of the Carrier Strike Group, which will undertake its first operational deployment next year.“
The build competition was initially offered internationally, meeting strong criticism from all sides of the political spectrum and even the UK Defence Journal. The tendering process for the ships was even suspended last year before beign restarted, with some suggesting the process was being restructured to better favour British bids.