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After confirming that the Type 26 Frigate would be built on the Clyde, Michael Fallon has indicated that he expected the Type 31 to also be built there.

The yards are now expected to build 5 Offshore Patrol Vessels, 8 Type 26 Frigates and 6 Type 31 Frigates.

Michael Fallon told local radio in Scotland earlier in the year:

“Nobody is shortchanging the Clyde. This is a huge moment for the Clyde; we’re confirming we’re going ahead with the steel cut next summer, earlier than expected. The first eight will be the Type 26 combat ships.

After that, the Clyde will be building a lighter frigate and we will end up with a fleet that is larger than the fleet at the moment.”

The build plan for the “at least five” Type 31 Frigates is expected to follow a similar pattern to that of the Queen Elizabeth carriers and early Type 45 Destroyers in that blocks will be built in yards around the UK.

Modern shipbuilding makes considerable use of prefabricated sections. Entire multi-deck segments of the hull may be built elsewhere around the UK, transported to the building dock or slipway, then lifted into place. This is known as “block construction”.

Yards pre-install equipment, pipes, electrical cables and any other components within the blocks, to minimise the effort needed to assemble or install components deep within the hull once it is welded together.

We spoke to John Carmichael, who works at the Govan yard as a welder, during an open day at the yard in Govan:

“It’s no secret we’ll be getting the frigate work, we’re already gearing up for the Type 26 after the Rivers and Type 31s after the Type 26s.

We may end up building a design put together by another company but make no mistake, at the very least the blocks will be assembled on the Clyde and hopefully before Type 26 work ends.”

An independent report into the National Shipbuilding Strategy by Sir John Parker has also recommended that the Type 31 Frigate build be spread across the UK, with blocks 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 shipbuilding in the UK, intending to place UK naval shipbuilding on a sustainable long term footing.

The government say they will give Sir John’s work the full consideration that it deserves and will provide a full and detailed response in the spring 2017.

Additionally, it was announced recently that steel had been cut for the fourth of five new Offshore Patrol Vessels being built on the Clyde.

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Sir John Parker said:

“Should Government, Industry and the Trade Unions rise to the challenges I have set, I believe we can establish a new era of collaboration and success across the ‘Total Enterprise’.

It will create savings over the coming years for MOD, renew the Royal Navy fleet, position the UK for new export opportunities and create regional prosperity and highly skilled jobs across the UK in the Shipyards and supply chain.”

One of the opportunities that the report identifies is the way Scotland’s cutting edge technology can allow for Modular Construction, in which ship components are produced across the UK before being assembled at a central Hub, which is expected to be the Clyde.

According to a government press release:

“The build of the Royal Navy’s largest ever warships, the Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers, has already demonstrated the success of such an approach, with multiple shipyards and hundreds of companies across the UK working together and benefiting from the aircraft carrier build.”

Welcoming the report on behalf of the government, Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said:

“I would like to thank Sir John for providing an ambitious vision of naval shipbuilding in the UK based on a new era of cooperation as part of our modern industrial strategy.

This report will inform our National Shipbuilding Strategy to match the needs of the Royal Navy with the ability to design and build efficiently, maintain skills, and maximise export opportunities.

This will ensure a strong naval shipbuilding sector and help deliver an economy that works for everyone.”

The government will publish a full response, and implementation plan, in spring 2017.

Responding to earlier speculation that the work could go elsewhere, Fallon dismissed this by saying:

“BAE will be in pole position [for that contract]. They’re the principal warship builder.”

This isn’t a surprise to anyone in industry, it has long been expected that the Clyde will be building sections of the Type 31.

The two additional Offshore Patrol Vessels, hulls four and five, were announced as part of the last Strategic Defence & Security Review.

The first of the five new vessels, HMS Forth, is expected to be handed over to the Royal Navy in 2017.

The Offshore Patrol Vessels have been ordered to fill a gap in orders after the second carrier and before the Type 26 frigates begin construction.

The Prime Minister at the time of the Strategic Defence & Security Review had also confirmed that the five general purpose frigates mentioned in the defence review will be built in Scotland.

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

Ahead of the announcement, the SNP had said that any reduction in the number of Type 26 frigates being built on the Clyde would be a “betrayal” of the workforce, with some MP’s even going so far as to claim “promises were broken”. A significant amount of MP’s from the Conservative party also posted strange and now deleted tweets regarding the number of frigates to be ordered.

Then Prime Minister David Cameron told the House of Commons:

“There will be eight of the Type 26s 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.”

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 2030s we can further increase the total number of Royal Navy frigates and destroyers.”

The Type 26 frigate represents the future backbone of the Royal Navy and a massive leap forward in terms of flexibility of surface vessels enjoyed by the service. It will replace the 8 anti-submarine Type 23 frigates of the Royal Navy and export orders are being sought after by BAE. The programme has been underway since 1998, initially under the name “Future Surface Combatant”.

The programme was brought forward in the 2008 budget at the expense of Type 45 destroyers 7 and 8.

23 COMMENTS

  1. Can someone please explain to me how the type 31 is actually going to reduce costs? Surely having a single design where the 5 follow-on are “fitted for not with” is going to be cheaper (parts, training, spares, rotation etc.) than having to design and run 2 distinctly different types? I’m not trying to be provocative, I simply cannot see how this saves money over the lifetime of the project.

    • I agree John

      The cost of the T26 will also rise as the massive sunken costs will be allocated to 8 instead of 13 vessels.

      Realistically I see the T26 as a long term replacement for the T45 so the T31 is needed but not at the expense of the T26

      We should be build 1 major escort (T26) every 2 years and 1 light frigate (T31) every year. Then the costs of these will plummet and our forces will have great kit.

      Give the T26 the sampson radar and it is better than a T45 already and starts looking like a Arleigh Burke class destroyer (at 7-8k tonnes it isn’t really a frigate).

      The germans have shown with the Meko A200 and CLS what can be achieved with a smaller vessel – It think we should build a batch of these on licence and then use lessons learned to get back in the game with our own Venator design.

      As for costs – it seems there is a correlation between cost and size (take a look at the DCNS Belharra). The French seem to think the Belharra/ FTI will offer the same or similar capability as a FREMM for 25% less cost.

      If this is correct then realistically I think the RN should go and buy a load – as it seems to do everything a FREMM does and we can buy 25% more.

    • It could make money as an export model, offsetting not only its own development costs but handled correctly the cost of at least five ships, blocks and early payoffs guaranteeing the RN the latest and greatest etc. etc.

      However if they have to wait 8 years for production slots while all the potential orders are filled by the alternatives, the NSS is in the trash and the Type 31 will have been an utterly pointless endevour. Well except for the folks paid millions for the power points and the CS who got expenses to go to somewhere sunny to see if water is in fact still wet.

  2. Once again BAE System “BAE will be in pole position [for that contract]. They’re the principal warship builder. Everything BAE sytems touch turns to S*&T These ships will be under ARMED will not work we need to get Fallon sacked we need to build ships that can fight not look good And once again except for the specification and type of the later five vessels, which has been reduced to make them more affordable. More cuts to the Navy in Hulls or weapon systems Are all these ships fitted with VLS -41 And what happens when we leave the EU what happens to Scotland We should have bought the Freedom Hull and out fitted here in the UK

    • And minus the torpedoes and acoustically quietened hull……put another way, a river OPV plus sea ceptor, a hangar and a gun….

      • You may be right. The RN specced a lot of expensive mods to the River 2’s. Could indicate fhe way the wind is blowing. Looks like Type 31 is a shoot off between a stretched River and Venator, which looks like the much more adaptable and exportable design.

        • Agreed, but it was supposed to be an off the shelf solution to keep costs down, and the closest thing to that is a stretched river. The Venator 110 looks nice but it’s just a a design at present and is the riskier and more costly option, so it’s most likely to be the stretched river. I guess we just gave to hope that it gets as many hells and whistles as possible, we get more than 5 of them, and they come in along side the T26s (not after), and we don’t lose further T26 numbers….given recent form and rumoured further cuts, I’m not optimistic….

          • If you are hinting at the BAe ‘Avenger’ design I can see how this would sort of qualify as off the shelf so far as a stretch plus hanger plus Camm. But adding a 5 in gun would add quite a bit to the price and need design work I would think. But naval gunfire support apart the River 2 is quite a handy ship. With a crane to launch UUV and you can sweep mines and/or tow a sonar. There should be room for containerised camm so with the 30mm and mini guns and the helideck a River 2 could look after itself against fast attack craft and bad guy coastal asms as a ‘littoral’ lily pad and primary casualty evac platform.
            But I don’t know enough to say whether it could contribute to the outer screen of a carrier task force. Would it need to have a better radar and be faster? I quite like the Venator idea of putting in the plumbing for weapons and fitting the weapons as required to meet the mission.

          • The only point for ‘off the shelf’ was that it could be built quickly but Fallon says no Type 31s until the 2030’s. Plenty of time to design a brand new warship.

            Don’t forget the only reason for the Type 31 was that the Type 26 was too expensive. Building the two types at the same time makes the total yearly cost at last 50% more. In other words, the cheaper ship has to be built after building all the more expensive ones in order to save money.

      • I really hope we don’t got down the BAE cutlass route as these are OPV’s and even the venator looks as though it is not a modern design capable of lasting 10 years never mind 25.

        The RN really needs a MEKO A200 or Belharra/FTI light frigate or even the extended freedom class type asset and not more OPV’s.

        The MEKO is actually a very capable proposition – it even has 2 hangars, stealth features such as exhaust venting at sea level, great operational reach and good speed and excellent sensor and weapons fit It is proven in harsh sea environments as the South African Navy operate 4 and as far as I can ascertain costs around £400m each. The Belharra/FTI is costed at the £5-600m mark I believe and also looks a very good proposition.

        Given that UK/France have some sort of design and share agreement going on, if possible I would take a good look at the FTI, as a smaller version of the FREMM it should be good and if the RN can incorporate any lessons learned/improvements from the T26 then this could potentially create a class leading platform.

        Build 1 of these every year and retire our minesweepers in favour of the MCM suite.

    • Yes but hey we will have 2 Aircraft Carriers, never forget that.

      They can protect themselves with their aircraft and the marines keep saying they are tough, let them swim to trouble.

      • Hey Gerard – just a word on carrier protection. Some how, some way we ended up with the only carriers afloat that will NOT have their own self defence missile systems. Incredulous as it sounds our 6Bn pound investments must rely on 3 Phalanx CIWS each for self-protection. I wouldn’t be as alarmed as I am if they were ‘fitted for but not with’ Aster or CAMM but there seems to be no indication at all of a missile fit later. If we have as few F-35Bs as it seems we will, they will spend most of their time protecting the carrier vs conducting strike missions etc.,. Why does every other carrier operating nation (be that large carrier or small) feel it necessary to fit self defence missiles but not us?? Just mind boggling!! – we spend all that money building them and don’t have the money to properly arm them. Unfortunately, this is how we do defence – ref Type 45; 1Bn each with no ASM, no land attack and no torpedoes….. Uhhhhhh…

        • It’s funny that the type 45’s massively overrun in cost (mainly due to the cut in hulls) but it has ended up with the perfect number for everyone, both the people pros/cons use it constantly, the lovely round £1b number.

          However, i do agree fully that not at least fitting the carriers with the ability to add missiles cheaply and quickly, at a later date was unforgivably stupid. I really don’t understand it, surely it wouldn’t have even added almost anything to the cost to have some empty CAM slots and some wiring.

  3. Steve
    CAMM is designed like sea wolf before it to be a containerised weapon system thus the QE carriers can easily be fitted with the system without much additional wiring. CAMM would be a mandatory requirement for the QE carriers I would think. Especially due to our lack of surface warships to protect the QEs in adequate depth.
    If we are having to have type 31 frigates can the government at least commit to building 10 of them to give the RN critical mass back.

    • Seems to me 4 RAM systems for each carrier would do the job – total cost for the 21 missile launchers is less than £1m each. So for £8-10m we can have a last line missile defenece system.

      Surely these must go on all our new ships as they are just so cost efficient

  4. I don’t see many River Class patrol vessels flying off the shelves to other Navies so I don’t see how using an existing design and stretching them by 20/30 metres is going to suddenly make them attractive and in demand for exporting in future.

    We need to create a new ship (E.g. BMT’s Venator design) for the Type 31 from scratch which is attractive for export use, stealthy, will be built quickly under distributed ‘block construction’ methods in multiple shipyards and which will in turn create jobs throughout the country. We would then use this new Type 31 vessel as a marketing tool to showcase the ship and it’s weapons (E.g. CAMM, Brimstone Sea Spear, Spear 3 etc.) for export globally. Ideally we need to build 8 to 12 of these new Type 31 ships for the Royal Navy.

    We, as a nation, cannot afford to buy ships from one supplier who writes out blank cheques to themselves to the tune of £1 Billion a warship.

    Not many navies will buy the 150m long Type 26 from us nor will they have the cash to spend £1 Billion on it either.

    We need competition to drive down costs, increase innovation and create jobs throughout the country.

    We urgently need more ships.

    Building a new vessel is a fantastic opportunity to create jobs, increase exports, create new and support existing supply chains and help our industries.

    Buying ships only from BAE at £1 Billion each and having them made in only one ship yard is not the solution and this is clearly not working.

    We should also scrap our Type 23 ships in the UK and recycle the steel so it can be used in future ships. This would create further jobs, savings and help protect industries.

  5. If the Scottish people go for a second independance vote, then this whole programme will possibly be up for a rethink?

    • As close as the last vote was you’d assume the plan is constantly being updated for if/when.

      The reality will probably be a lessons learned report 6 months after the last RN Type 72 sails out the Clyde.

  6. None should be built in Scotland if it votes for independents. With immediate effect, Scotland would become a foreign country and it would not be wise to build Navy ships outside the UK.

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