Julian Lewis urged the Government to begin the construction of the Type 26 Frigate fleet on the Clyde.
Julian Lewis, who chairs the Defence Select Committee, said:
“Isn’t it a fact that BAE Systems are ready to start cutting steel right now, and the only thing that’s holding things up is a lack of funds in the MoD’s budget? The reality is, if we don’t start building these ships on time, surely we will end up with the same old story, that we will drop below the already inadequate total of 19 frigates and destroyers.
Or, if we don’t, we’ll have to pay a lot more money to keep old ships in service longer than they should be kept in service.”
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said the timetable for the project would be set out “shortly”, adding that nearly £2 billion had been committed to the project so far.
Despite alarming headlines, the Type 26 frigates have not been cancelled or “indefinitely postponed”.
The claims come amid news that Type 26 Frigate contract will not be signed until it offers “value for money”.
MPs had heard claims the project to build eight Type 26 frigates on the Clyde had been delayed due to the Ministry of Defence’s attempts to save money. It is understood the five Type 31 frigates are unaffected by this.
Manufacturing of the Type 26s was initially expected to start in 2016, confirmation of when the work will begin has still to be announced but we’re told that it’s anticipated that the steel will be cut for the first Type 26 in Q4 of 2017.
Unions have also insisted that there will be no redundancies as a result of uncertainty over the Type 26 build timetable on the Clyde.
Duncan McPhee from Unite said the contract was still guaranteed.
“There is guarantees. The main issue is the timetable, which is causing us the real problems and that has to be sorted out as soon as possible.”
The Ministry of Defence recently signed a £183 million contract for a five inch gun system the Royal Navy’s new Type 26 Frigate fleet.
The Maritime Indirect Fire System (MIFS) will be integrated onto the Type 26 Global Combat Ships, currently being designed by BAE Systems. MIFS includes the 5-inch, 62-calibre Mark 45 Naval Gun System, which is already in service with other NATO nations, including the US and Spanish navies.
The gun mount features an automatic loader with a capacity of 20 rounds. These can be fired under full automatic control, taking a little over a minute to exhaust those rounds at maximum fire rate. For sustained use, the gun mount would be occupied by a six-man crew (gun captain, panel operator, and four ammunition loaders) below deck to keep the gun continuously supplied with ammunition.
Minister for Defence Procurement Harriett Baldwin said:
“Our growing defence budget means we can invest in a cutting edge weapon system for the Royal Navy’s next generation Global Combat Ship at the best value for taxpayers. Along with sustaining highly skilled jobs across the country, this new contract underlines our commitment and demonstrates continued momentum in the programme.”
The new contract covers the design and manufacture of the first three guns for the first three ships in the class, as well as a training system and ammunition, and will sustain 43 skilled UK jobs.
BAE Systems, Weapon Systems and Munitions, based in the US, will lead on the work to bring the weapons system into service, with subcontractor work being undertaken by:
- BAE Maritime Services Frimley & Broad Oak to develop, supply and integrate MIFS gunfire control;
- BAE Munitions Glascoed, which is carrying out the UK ammunition qualification and;
- BAE Weapons Systems Barrow, which is supporting the UK equipment safety cases.
Deliveries of the gun to the UK are expected to begin in 2020.
Joe Senftle, Vice President and General Manager of Weapon Systems at BAE Systems, said:
“Our teams in the US and UK will bring unrivalled skills and expertise to the MIFS development and production. The world-leading Mk 45 will provide the Royal Navy with a proven, reliable, and highly-effective system that is adaptable to firing a wide range of today’s ammunition, as well as future, precision-guided munitions currently in development.”
The Mk 45 is in service with the US Navy and 10 other allied nations. More than 240 Mk 45 guns have been delivered into service globally.
A MoD spokesperson said:
“The Government is committed to building ships on the Clyde and to the Type 26 programme. over the next decade, we will spend around £8 billion on Royal Navy warship.
As set out in the Strategic Defence and Security Review, we will build two new offshore patrol vessels on the Clyde, maintaining Scottish shipbuilding capability ahead of the start of the Type 26 build.
We will also consult with industry and trade unions as part of the national shipbuilding strategy, which will set the UK shipbuilding industry on a sustainable footing for the future.”
The SNP and others had said that any reduction in the number of Type 26 frigates being built on the Clyde would be a “betrayal” of the workforce.
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 of the later five vessels, which has been reduced to make them more affordable.
The later five are now designated the Type 31 frigate and all of the ships will be built on the Clyde.