The Government have again confirmed the numbers and entry into service date of the Type 31e Frigates.

Earl Howe, The Minister of State for the Ministry of Defence and Deputy Leader of the House of Lord said in response to a question:

“The National Shipbuilding Strategy envisages that the Type 31e will undertake a broad range of roles currently delivered by the Type 23 general purpose frigate, of which HMS Argyll is currently the first to leave service in 2023. We want the first Type 31e to enter service in 2023, with all five ships delivered by 2028.

The exact dates for the delivery of the Type 31e frigates are yet to be determined so it is too early to release the numbers of ships in service at any one time.”

This comes not long after the previously suspended Type 31e programme, which could see sections of the ships built in Scotland and England, was restarted.

An MoD spokesperson said that a prior information notice has been issued to industry and a new contract notice has been issued.

“We have issued a Prior Information Notice for our new Type 31e fleet and plan to start discussions with industry next week to ensure we do not lose any momentum. There have been no changes in our plans to procure a first batch of five new Type 31e frigates to grow our Royal Navy. We still want the first ship delivered by 2023 and are confident that industry will meet the challenge of providing them for the price tag we’ve set.”

Prior to this official confirmation, a Ministry of Defence spokesman insisted that the project would still be going ahead, hinting that industry will have to refine their bids to meet the price tag:

This is an early contract in a wider procurement process, and we will incorporate the lessons learned and begin again as soon as possible so the programme can continue at pace.”

According to USNI here, an article published recently by Jane’s stated that at least two of the potential bidders had earlier regarded the terms and conditions set by the MoD as unworkable, citing both commercial aspects and intellectual property rights.

“Even if the MoD achieves its stated intention of ‘delivering’ the Type 31e lead ship in 2023, the subsequent sea trials, crew training and work-up could see entry into operational service slipping a year or two.”

60 COMMENTS

  1. This wretched programme’s gestation is more painful than pulling teeth! When will someone actually give the go ahead? Why do some British projects get so protracted, take HS2 as an example, is it happening or not? All I do know is some bright spark suggested the route compensation had been widely underestimated by billions, you simply could not write this stuff as fiction!!!!!!!!!

    • (Chris H) Maurice10 – I think T31 procurement is exactly in line with the NSS and how we should do future builds. Set the price, see who gives the best bang for the bucks (in the UK) and give them a contract for all the units required straight off. Subject to the contractor delivering the first boat as agreed of course.

      Now as to HS2 that has taken a long time because it needs 3 Parliamentary Bills – one for each phase and the planning had to fit it in between a crowded set of places and railway and road infrastructure. Hardly the same as building a Frigate? But as of today there is a considerable amount of civil engineering being done between London and Birmingham. Half of the buildings round Euston are already being demolished!

      • Surely the idea is not to to say I have 50p which sweetie can I have.. Surely at this level the concept should be this is what I have already… This is the gap…. This is what I need to fill the gap… Make me your best offer to fill the gap…..

        • (Chris H) Pete – Not sure comparing Frigates to sweeties works as an analogy but lets take it forward. We are spending big money on delivering exactly the ‘gap’ you define – Its called the Type 26. lets call this the Black Magic box full of every flavour and shape you want.

          Now after spending so much of your pocket money you go back to the shopkeeper and say ‘Mister I have £x how many sweets can you sell me?’ Well the bags of liquorice you end up with are Type 31s …

  2. Having watched Mega Shippers on Quest TV, specifically the movement and launch of the B2 River HMS Trent. Begs the question how on earth are BAE going to move and launch a T26 from Govan. It was marginal with a 2000t vessel!

    • Well they managed it with the Type 45s (with something like 12 metres to spare) so I reckon they’ll be able to safely launch a T26.

      • T45s went down the slipway, current T26 plan is to trolley them onto a submersible barge, tow down to Greenock and lower them into the water there. Then tow back up the Clyde to Scotstoun to be fitted out. The program showed they couldn’t tow in winds above 24k, a very common event in Glasgow and struggled to keep the barge straight for the relatively short distance to the upper docks (not Greenock) despite good weather.

  3. I don’t really understand the objection to this programme or to the way it has been handled. Clearly we cannot afford a whole fleet of T26s given their hulls etc or indeed man them along with the carriers. We do however need constabulary ships able to navigate the globe with decent protection and some offensive capability.

    The MOD has tried to limit ever growing costs by introducing a price point. A good idea to stop designers coming up with gold plated everything again at huge cost. Yes the process has had to be restarted but so what? If we get 5 decent hulls out of this and the possibility of more then the approach has worked. If we don’t then I will join the protests, but not until then.

    • Rob this is very much how I see things too.

      I’m tired of seeing billion pound ships sent off singly chasing pirates and drug smugglers then people saying the QEC has no escorts.

      Is it not time for the RN to reorganize itself to ensure it’s T26 and T45 are there for what they are best at?

      Especially with so few hulls.

    • Sadly this is just the reality of defence issues, everybody has different ideas of how things should be done. With a bigger defence budget that wouldn’t be so much of an issue, but because funding is limited everyone is fighting tooth and nail to make sure their plans go ahead. Its been going on for decades, even centuries. Earliest example I can think of is Jackie Fisher, father of the dreadnought and battlecruiser concepts. At every opportunity he pushed through his concepts, and even when he was outright banned from ordering more battlecruisers he simply changed the name to “large light cruisers” and carried on. A better example is the in the 60’s when the RAF had the RN carrier programme scrapped to save their new bombers (which were still cancelled in the end anyway).

      My concern over the Type 31 is that, with less than 5 years till first delivery, nothing concrete is in place, because no one can agree on the best approach. My personal opinion is that it should go to the Babcock team because it fits with the shipbuilding plan I envision: continuous production of T31s at a steady pace keeps Babcock and co happy, we can grow the fleet and sell the ships relatively young (18 years roughly). Meanwhile BAE have the first rates to build (Type 26, then Type 4X, then Type 2X, rolling production for continuous workload), and Cammel Laird would get the RFA contracts and maybe the Albion class replacement.

      In my head, this is all perfectly logical, benefits everyone, and has few flaws. That doesn’t mean other people will agree, and if it challenges what they want, you can bet you’ll hear them shout it from the rooftops

  4. Maurice, if you think this is a long time I suggest that you look at the National Shipbuilding Strategy paper produced by Sir John Parker. There is a table of time lines in there and I draw your attention to what is now the Type 26. A replacement for the T22/23 was first looked at in the 1990’s, and assuming the programme stays on track the first ship, HMS Glasgow, will be operational in 2026, a gestation period of over 30 years! And that assumes that it all works to time, which as we all know is not a given. If they really can get the first T31 at sea by 2023 congratulations will be in order.
    Looking at HS2, if you really want to see how not to achieve your goals for an infrastructure project, have a look at the new Berlin airport. We always talk about German efficiency, and there they have a project that is now at least four times over budget and many years late, and still with no opening date. A bit like having a frigate with a permanent list…..

    • Nick – yes id agree with the frustrations of the gestation period of the T26 ,but a thought just occurred to me,as things stand Artisan and Sea Ceptor are key to the T26 design,they are recent capabilities,if the T26/Global Combat Ship had been built any earlier then would they have needed an interim sensor and weapons fit and an expensive upgrade later ? Perhaps there is indeed method amongst the madness.

  5. This was interesting.

    https://breakingdefense.com/2017/07/danes-tout-340m-stanflex-frigate-for-us-navy-but-whats-real-cost/

    Fully equipped, an Iver Huitfeldt frigate costs the equivalent of $340 million, Rear Adm. Olsen said. Most of that, about $207 million, goes to weapons, sensors, and other electronics, which drive the cost of modern warships worldwide. The hull, engines, and other mechanical systems (HME) only cost about $133 million

    So the government appears to be on the right track, nothing wrong with putting a bit of pressure on industry drive efficiency.

    • If you believe certain sources (http://www.deagel.com/Fighting-Ships/Project-22350_a002255001.aspx), the Russians are building their Admiral Gorshkov frigates for $260mn a pop, or £196mn. I don’t really trust the website, and I get the feeling that isn’t a current price. Working on the basis that that was its 2005 order cost, accounting for inflation, comes out at $336mn, or £253mn. At the very least that sounds more realistic, if still low for such a capable (looking) platform.

      That’s a 5″ gun, 16 strike VLS, 32 AA VLS (with an optional quad packable short ranged option), 2 CIWS, 8 torpedo tubes, helicopter facilities, a towed array, and an AESA radar. For slightly over the T31 budget. Now I appreciate that Russian labor costs are likely lower, and that the price for these ships probably isn’t accurate given how many issues they’ve had during construction, but if true you can see why India is partnering with Russia so much.

      A rapid fire 76mm, 16 Mk41 VLS, 32 Sea Ceptor cells (or another 8-cell Mk41), a Phalanx (or Dragonfire) CIWS, helicopter facilites, Artisan, and preferably a towed array. The only area it has to beat the Gorshkov in is automation, because the RN can’t afford a 210 man crew. That definitely shouldn’t break the bank

      • Although UK Labour will be more expensive I would hope that we are more efficient and productivity offsets the Labour costs to some degree.

        The polar research ship come in at 200m for an 11000 ton hull so around 110m for a 6000 ton hull sounds about right. So leaves 140m for weapons and systems.

      • The UK labour costs will be way more expensive; at an educated guess 8-10 times more expensive. Plus I doubt the quality of workmanship will be as high.

  6. Anyone considered the possibility that the MoD are waiting on word from HM Treasury about defence budget modification come November before confirming T31 order numbers, variant and dates?

  7. Paul T. I’m not sure that there is ever much method in the madness that is defence procurement, although I am probably being cynical! I think that it is arguable that the Artisan/ Sea Ceptor is the key to the design, I think that the 2087 is probably considered the heart of it. If the first T26 batch had been ordered to keep numbers above the paltry 19 escorts the RN has today the updates to 8 T23’s might not have happened. The first batch of T26’s might well have had the VL Seawolf and 996 fitted, together with 2087 as standard, and we might now be looking at batch 2 and a midlife upgrade to batch 1 with Artisan etc.
    However, I know we can all play fantasy fleets all day and look at our own favourite wish lists! I just wish that the politicians would realise that the Forces are trying to do more now with much less than they had even a decade ago. If you consider the Type 45, 6 ships are replacing the 14 Type 42’s. I know they are much more capable but they can still only be in one place at one time. And the original programme for the Type 23 was intended to be 20 ships. It was curtailed at 16 in part because the successor was being projected to be coming along relatively close behind. 3 ships were then sold to Chile at about 7 years old, and now we have the replacement for the frigate part of the equation set in stone at 13, even though that is an entirely arbitrary figure!

  8. Now that’s bad planning. We want the first to enter service in the year that the first current ship goes out of service. When has a large project like this ever gone to time, should the plan be “by at least” aiming for a year or two before.

  9. Our Congress on the other hand seems determined to force more overgrown PT boats down the USN’s throat. What’s worse is they are not being funded with the sensors needed to make them even halfway useful… This is ridiculous and a waste of badly needed funds.

    Only way I can think of to make these ships useful in combat is to actually use them as overgrown torpedo boats hiding out among the little bits and pieces of land we control scattered throughout the WestPac – darting out to engage the enemy using sensor data relayed from all sources (F35, satellite, Triton drone, SSNs etc). They would need to be heavily and uncompromisingly armed in the antiship role with numerous bolt on long range missile pods and RAMs for self defense. They could take advantage of their speed and shallow draft to allow them to hide among the islands and in remote parts of the ocean.

    This would require several dedicated ocean tenders and land based supply depots though. Like PT boats, the class has very little endurance and the Pacific is large and mighty…

    https://www.defensenews.com/naval/2018/09/18/congress-to-buy-3-more-lcs-than-the-navy-needs-but-gut-funding-for-sensors-that-makes-them-valuable/

    Cheers.

  10. My view is the long term intent is additional t31 orders that will see a high end 6t45/8t26 centred around carrier battle groups and a similar number of low end t31/OPVs providing presence. It can’t be stated as the budget isn’t yet there.

  11. UK mod in fantaSy land cannot deliver core programed on time or budget fragmented building is the core problem and it adds costs hence mod black he adding cut to defence spending that’s added to forces problems at a time of high stress resurgent Russia China we si.ply not the capacity to even mount a Falkland type operation we so degraded

  12. Evening all
    This competition is a cultural change for MoD so don’t be surprised if there are few stumbles on the way.
    However don’t let that deter from the process by which a price point is being built in as a key user requirement.
    The main reason why Defence projects run late and then over cost is because everyone underestimates the complexity of what is being asked for and are too ambitious in their delivery timelines. Risk however sits with the customer – MoD and the taxpayer.
    By moving the risk to the supplier by making it a key user requirement makes it a lot less apitising to the potential supplier base, margin is a lot tighter and the corporate governance model that is there to protect shareholders and investors starts to move the product into the high risk low return category.
    Investors and shareholders are being asked by their board to approve a bid submission where most of the inherent risk now sits with them.
    What you get from that are delays, where the supplier has been unable to get the ITT past their own governance boards and have requested changes or amendments. It looks like, for the first time the MoD are sticking to their guns and have resubmitted the ITT.
    For smaller companies like Babcock who would have to release up front capital to pay (hull design etc) and the supply chain it would use are not as mature in the ship building market as BAES, who after not wanting to bid have put together something credible and affordable, they amount of risk Babcock would have to expose themselves to may be to high.
    Unfortunately BAES, who have a credible platform utilising an already understood design have produced something no one really wants – people will always see it for what it is, a stretched patrol ship almost at the limit of its design envelope with no space for future growth.

    • Evening Lee H
      Could you expand on “no one really wants” .
      Who may this include etc.
      Because as you say they have a “credible platform” that appears to meet the requested specifications.
      Cheers D

      • Morning Don
        General consensus is that the Leander platform, whilst credible in its current form is taking an already designed and built platform and extending it, therefore making further growth (weapon systems and associated power) more difficult or more costly. When the MoD, specially the RN are looking at a platform they look at it over the whole life cycle of the system. So whilst credible in the short term it becomes challenging to fully justify it over its full life cycle.
        You only have to look at the T45 and T26 to see where platforms have been designed with growth in mind, gone are the days of the T42 and T21 where very little margin for growth was built in.
        The RN have learnt these lessons and will take it into account when it is looking 5 to 10 years into the future. So whilst it meets most of the requirements including CDEL costs it gives no more than the legacy T23 it replaces, is noisier and lacks that growth margin that gets you the whole life value for money the RN need. One thing that it does have on its side is the use of the CWS1 that is common with the RN fleet.
        BAES have reluctantly entered the process, which means the MoD are hesitant, especially with current build quality problems of the batch 2 OPV’s that have just been delivered to the RN and the RN (only speaking to those I know within the service) do not want to have an afterthought picked to satisfy their requirements.

        Cheers
        Lee

    • Lee H-san

      1: I think Leander is exactly what is needed/required as T31e. It perfectly matches T31e RFI.

      Yes it is a streched patrol ship, but it is built to NATO escort standard =not an OPV anymore.

      Yes it has not many growth margin, but it can be ADDED with CAPTAS2, hull sonar, canistered SSM, add guided rounds to their gun etc etc. I fear if there will be enough money to even fill these FTR equipments. If needed, using 2 of the 4 RHIB alcoves will give us plenty of margin.

      2: Fixed price contract puts risk to company, not MOD/HMG. This clearly means the company needs appropriate cost margin, not surprised reaching 20%. This means, 1.25B GBP is actually 1B GBP + “appropriate” margine. If not, they probably will bankrupt.

      In Leander case, it is Cammell Laird, not BAE. Babcock international itself is much larger company than CL, so may be they can accpet less risk margine, e.g. 15%?

      Only after they build 1 or 2 hulls, the actual “risk” will be evaluated, but the contract is for 5 at once, ignoreing this important milestone. So all risk must be included in the contract.

      We cannot blame for the less capability of those ships. It’s build scheme is exactly the opposite of Danish case, in which many of the fighting equipments and even mission integration itself was covered/done by navy = navy took the risk.

      • Hi Donald
        I will try and answer your points one by one
        All the weapon systems you have listed require power, power generation and its associated fuel burn have to be taken into account. Stability of platform has to be taken into account when you are adding more systems to the top of it. Those systems you discuss come with associated C2 systems. All of this adds weight, changes the profile of the ship and will result in redesign and test, basically taking a ship out of the fleet to test it all.
        I am worried the margin is not there within the design, I may be wrong but taking an already proven design and extending it means it has already been extended once, design margin significantly reduced and risk introduced.

        Cammel Laird are building the ship to a BAES design and with BAES support. They will be using the BAES supply chain (they would be silly not to) and BAES will be taking a lot of the risk. You only have to look back to the late 90’s when they had to take over building of the LSL(A)’s because the ship builders picked to build the platform couldn’t do it.
        Babcock as a service company, the provide services so most of there money is revenue based, they will need to borrow – either from themselves or from the market to make the investment in design and build.
        I am not blaming the platform, it is credible but it lacks growth margin to make it a whole life ship (without major costly modifications) and CL are just the front end, good at building ships but I would suggest all design and system integration will be done by BAES, why wouldn’t you?
        When BAES get it right, they produce world beating systems, when they get it wrong though it’s normally the tax payer that picks up the cost.
        NAO report that final Astutes will be £838m over budget – that doesn’t show a good track record of keeping within cost margin. BAES won’t be picking up that cost.
        With risk, potentially the company will have to invest, at a minimum £500m (min cost of 1 and 2) before they will know if they will get return on investment. That’s a lot of risk when you are building someone else’s design, integrating it with new systems and then farming out blocks of build to other yards, add into that supply chain risk – if I was an investor I would want a lot of reassurance from the board.
        All weapon systems are normally GFE (government furnished equipment) so that is no different, RN looking to reduce risk by reuse of in service equipment.

        Hope that explains a bit (currently on train so paragraphs may be a bit disjointed)

        Cheers
        Lee

        • Can I ask why we are so concerned about growth margins? I thought the idea of the T31 was to use it for 15 years then replace in accordance with the NSS.

          • Hi Rob

            Sorry for delay in reply.
            T31e will be a 25 yr platform, you cannot achieve full return on investment in a 15 year platform – that would also include one major refit, unless you were to sweat the asset to its extreme.
            Growth is built in for the advances in technology. HMG will want more out of T31e that it is currently designed for.

        • Thanks Lee-san
          – I totally agree growth margin needs weight, CoG, power, CMS analysis power, and of course, more crew. So, I have no objecion on your points.
          – Equipments I listed are, either Fit-To-Recieve or shown by default in those promition images. I think this means the “weight, CoG, power, CMS, and crew” is already taken into account. At least FTR equipments are safe.
          – 4 RHIB (not 2) is a very special requirement. If with more crews, more room for new data-link, or even additional diesel-gen, I think we can happily use those spaces, just leaving 2 RHIB alcoves. I regard this place as “the future growth margin”.
          – And, I shall stress that, T45 ant T26 is so large with many FFBNW. CVF is still just a huge box, and SSBN, F35B, AWACS replacements, all are very costy. RN needs huge investments there and UK will starve in resource in coming 2 deades. I think T31e will be the last asset to get resources, and hence, I see no big problem in “no large margin”.

          I agree this is guess, but this is my standpoint. Also, T45 and T26 with large margine resulted in less number. Very simple. I think T31e is its counter argument. In other words, from large T81 to compact T42/21, then from T42/21 to large T45/26, and now to a mixture of large T45/26 and compact T31e.

        • The average cost of 250M GBP per hull is far below any of a proper light frigate. Excluding modification design and initial set-up cost, it means 200-220M GBP unit cost. This is less than 1/3 or that of a T26 units cost (which I guess is 650-750M GBP).

          Unit cost of FTI is 66% of French-FREMM. That of Japanese FFM is 66% of Akizuki DD.

          Surely T31e is in reality not a (proper) frigate. Somewhere in between (proper) light frigate (as FTI) and Survailance Frigate (as Floreal-class).

          So don’t mind, T31e is not a (proper) light frigate. Therefore, its small size of 3700t is not an issue, I think.

      • Lee-H-san

        On the risk issue. When Swan hunter was not able to build the Bay, BAES took over the contract. But, this does not mean BAES payed for the over price. I understand HMG payed for it.

        In the case of T31, it is fixed price contract. As we see what happend to K46 (B767 AAR), Boeing is paying every additional cost, because it is a fixed price contract. Boeing is not bunkrapting, because it is a big company.

        In T31 case, the prime is Cammell Laired or Babcock, not BAE nor MOT/Thales.

        So, if something similar to K46 happens, CL or Babcock need to pay for it. If it is too much, they may simply bunkrapt. BAES will not pay for the overprice if Leander needs it, as much as Thales/OMT will not pay for it if Arrowhead 140 needs it. It is the same. all.

        CL and Babcock, as a small company to prime the project, they need substantial cost margin.

        If it is a simple fixed price contract, if everything goes well, all the “margin” becomes profit of the prime, and all the over-budget will hit the company. I’m afraid they will simply bunkrapt and the whole T31 hull will be even scrapped.

        If it is some option with HMG sharing a half the risk and reward, a half of the margine/short-fall will be the profit/damage to the company, and another half to HMG.

        I understand HMG wants to go former way, while I’m afraid the bunkrapt risk is clear and present danger. It will be very interesting how it will be handled.

        • Hi Donald
          I will try and answer in order:
          BAES took over final assembly and integration – cost was picked up by MoD. Taxpayer accepted cost overruns and got BAES to deliver capability (platform). Risk was therefore accepted by taxpayer and not company. In T31e, risk is with the company.
          Babcock shareholders will want to make sure that risk is as small as possible to get largest return on investment. K46 and US 767 tanker project in my view are total basket cases.
          CL and Babcock my be the primes but in CL case BAES have to take risk as well, they expect CL to build to their design much in the same way as BAES built to Thales design for CVF – a joint venture was formed to mitigate that.
          Both CL and Babcock are nervous about the risk exposure, MoD have to stick to their guns on this one – if the design and build are good – winner.

  13. Nice photo of the FSL at Newport Rhode Island Surface Warfare School:

    https://www.navy.mil/management/photodb/photos/180918-N-ZK021-0032.JPG

    180918-N-ZK021-0032 NEWPORT, R.I. (Sept. 18, 2018) Capt. Scott Robertson, commanding officer of Surface Warfare Officers School (SWOS), right, provides Royal Navy First Sea Lord Adm. Sir Philip Jones, center left, an overview of the command during a visit to SWOS. Headquartered in Newport, Rhode Island, SWOS readies seabound Sailors to serve on surface combatants as officers, enlisted engineers, and enlisted navigation professional and oversees nine learning sites worldwide, to fulfill the Navy’s mission in maintaining global maritime superiority. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Nardel Gervacio/Released)

  14. RAN HMAS Hobart at Pearl.

    https://www.navy.mil/management/photodb/photos/180918-N-SF508-0031.JPG

    180918-N-SF508-0031 PEARL HARBOR (Sept. 18, 2018) The Royal Australian Navy air warfare destroyer HMAS Hobart (DDG 39) arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam as part of the 100 Years of Mateship celebration between the United States and Australia. 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the first time U.S. and Australian troops fought side by side in an offensive action, at the Battle of Hamel on France’s Western Front during World War I. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Charles Oki/Released)

    • David – that was Mr Blairs government but yes as chancellor Mr Brown might have had a lot to do with it,selling is a generous term though,they were sold very cheaply.

  15. I live near Wearside , where hundreds of vessels of various types were built.Please, please can someone get a #’/;.,;[ grip and get the ships built.

    • If only Appledore was in Scotland.

      Rolls Royce have wonderful 70m 1000 tonne OPV design that would cost peanuts to build just right for Appledore…………but not Scottish, so no money…….

  16. The Leander design is too small and I can’t see how this design will replace the capabilities of the existing Type 23’s that will be decommissioned and the Type 26’s that will not be built. The Type 31e design will be the backbone of the Royal Navy and will need additional space for batteries, solid state weapons and fuel.

    BAE’s Leander design would need a considerable amount of automation to meet future needs within the size of their proposed hull and I can’t see them providing that for £250 million.

    I’d feel a lot happier if they swapped the 12 x Sea Ceptor at the bow for 12 x Mark 41 VLS and quad packed them.

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