The intention to increase the number of Royal Navy warships has been expressed by a Minister of State for Defence this week.
Former First Sea Lord, Lord West of Spithead, asked during a debate in the House of Lords this week:
“To ask Her Majesty’s Government when the number of Royal Navy frigates in commission will rise above the present total of 13; and whether that number will drop below 13 at any stage in the next ten years.”
Baroness Goldie, Minister of State for Defence, replied: “The Government remains committed to a surface fleet of at least 19 Frigates and Destroyers, and the Royal Navy will have the ships required to fulfil their Defence and Policy commitments.
The intent remains to grow the Destroyer and Frigate force by the 2030s, and the Type 31 Frigates will provide the opportunity to do this.
It is not uncommon to have planned, temporary, small fluctuations in overall numbers during the transition from any class of ship or submarine to another.”
The National Shipbuilding Strategy made the recommendation that the MoD replace the Type 31 Frigates once they reach their first refit period, rather than extending their time in service thorough costly refits, meaning that Type 31es could be sold while still relatively new and replaced with more modern incrementally upgraded examples all while clawing back some of the money used to build them with overseas sales.
The idea behind this being that ships have a 15 year life span, rather than the 30 or so they usually would, meaning they are sold on at mid-life refit time. Doing this would maintain relatively constant production of the Type 31e, similar to the Arleigh Burke class in the United States which has now been in build for decades with each batch being superior to the last.
Could this lead to more operational and active vessels? Only time will tell.