Even just ten years ago shipbuilding in Scotland was described as a ‘feast and famine’ industry with effectively one or two shipyards hiring large numbers of new staff to work on a small number of new ships.

This would then be followed by the ‘famine’ stage, with layoffs and uncertainty over whether or not there will be any future orders and whether or not the yard would have to close. Now, I believe, the industry is facing a much-improved situation.


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Shipbuilding in Scotland is, primarily, structured to be able to meet the capability demands of the Royal Navy.

However, the National Shipbuilding Strategy aimed to encourage the shipbuilding side of the defence industry to reduce its dependence on the Ministry of Defence as a sole customer and concentrate effort in securing a wider potential share of the international market.

With the success of the Type 26 and Type 31 designs in the export market, this aim of reducing dependence on the Ministry of Defence is being achieved to a small degree.

Additionally, another aim of the National Shipbuilding Strategy was to reduce the reliance of the Ministry of Defence on one provider for the UK’s surface warships, namely BAE on the Clyde currently building the Type 26 Frigate and eventually, it is expected, the Type 83 Destroyer.

This shift in strategy has allowed Babcock at Rosyth to enter the business of complex warship construction in Scotland with the Type 31 Frigate and to sustain this down the line with the planned Type 32 Frigate.

Today there is a steady ‘drumbeat’ of orders at two shipyards and the plans for future classes are well known, allowing for certainty, the retention of skills and greater investment. All of this contributes to bring down the cost of the vessels in the longer term. In short, there’s now more work for more people at more yards.

The expected orderbook for Scottish military shipyards in the years ahead are as follows. In short, the shipyards have work or are planning for work up to the 2040s. This work is primarily focused in Glasgow and in Rosyth and is almost entirely Royal Navy warships. One Ukrainian warship was also planned for Rosyth.

Name

ClassLocation

Launch

HMS GlasgowType 26 (Batch 1)Glasgow 
HMS CardiffType 26 (Batch 1)Glasgow 
HMS BelfastType 26 (Batch 1)Glasgow 
HMS BirminghamType 26 (Batch 2)Glasgow 
HMS SheffieldType 26 (Batch 2)Glasgow 
HMS NewcastleType 26 (Batch 2)Glasgow 
HMS EdinburghType 26 (Batch 2)Glasgow 
HMS LondonType 26 (Batch 2)Glasgow 
HMS VenturerType 31Rosyth 
HMS BulldogType 31Rosyth 
HMS CampbeltownType 31Rosyth 
HMS FormidableType 31Rosyth 
HMS ActiveType 31Rosyth 
UNKNOWNUkrainian WarshipRosythUNCERTAIN*
UnknownType 32Rosyth 
UnknownType 32Rosyth 
UnknownType 32Rosyth 
UnknownType 32Rosyth 
UnknownType 32Rosyth 
UnknownType 83**Glasgow 
UnknownType 83Glasgow 
UnknownType 83Glasgow 
UnknownType 83Glasgow 
UnknownType 83Glasgow 
UnknownType 83Glasgow

*The status of the plan to order a warship for Ukrainian is unknown due to the ongoing invasion of the country. **Additionally, the listing of six Type 83 Destroyers presumes the Type 45 Destroyers are replaced on a one for one basis.

George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. He also works for the NHS. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
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Martin
Martin
2 months ago

Still scratching my head as to how we will build 2 FSS and 6 MRSS with Rosyth now building frigates for the next 20 years and BAE and the Clyde appearing full for 20 years as well. Another yard would seem to be the only option but only H&W seems to be in the offing and they have not built a ship for a long time much less something as complicated as the FSS. BAE and Babcock now seem to have teemed up so perhaps partial builds shared across Rosyth and Clyde. Could CL be in line with he joint… Read more »

Callum
Callum
2 months ago
Reply to  Martin

Cammel Laird would arguably be the better choice for the support ship build regardless of the capacity at Rosyth. They’ve got the facilities and staff to hand, and already do integration work on RFA vessels.

Jon
Jon
2 months ago
Reply to  Martin

I hope it’s still 3 FSS. There’s capacity on the Clyde for that if there’s the money in the budget, and if the Type 26 B2 contract allows for it. But I’d like to see CL do the Bay conversion, which seems to be back on the agenda, the replacement for HMS Protector, and integrating the MRSS blocks, which could subcontract H&W, Appledore, A&P, etc.

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
2 months ago
Reply to  Martin

Maybe or maybe just increase capacity at the yard as well as speeding things up a bit on the glacial T26 – trouble is the unit cost of T26 is soooooo high that it kind of warps the ship building budget. Compare that to T31 where in its native form it 3 and a bit T31 for the price of one T26….OK ignoring the bits salvaged off of T23 .

Jon
Jon
2 months ago

You bring up an interesting point. What is being salvaged from the Type 23 for the Type 31? Miniguns?

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
2 months ago
Reply to  Jon

Artisan
Ceptor and it’s control systems
Probably some other bits like EW that are not talked about.

T31 is very big so room for lots of systems.

Jon
Jon
2 months ago

Artisan is going to the T26. T31 gets NS100. Ceptor launch managers, maybe, although the silos will be the new 6 module. Not sure how many T23’s have CAMM and what the new extended OOS dates are for the T23s. Chaff and decoys perhaps.

A quick search suggests only Montrose and Argyll will be able to provide CAMM control elements before the final Type 31 fit out.

Last edited 2 months ago by Jon
Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
2 months ago
Reply to  Jon

Sorry I’d forgotten that T31 was NS100.

2 x T23 were never upgraded so there will be stuff in stores that was never unwarapped.

There will also be 5 x Artisan that are presumably going to be stripped for spares?

That said I could see Artisan on T31 if Mk41was fitted.

Jon
Jon
2 months ago

Is Artisan better than NS100? (Or is that a can of worms question?)

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
2 months ago
Reply to  Jon

Different!

I’m being a bit tongue in cheek

NS100 -> Tacticos -> Mk41 is skew dry in service so it would be unlikely that it would be changed as that flies in the face of the general T31 principle of keeping things simple.

Jon
Jon
2 months ago

So not the T32s either. Maybe land base the Artisans for the start of a UK missile defence. But probably spares as you say.

Makes me wonder with all the advances in radar, whether we should be fitting out the final T26 with a 25 year old one. I’d revisit the whole artisan on T26 for batch 2.

Last edited 2 months ago by Jon
Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
2 months ago
Reply to  Jon

I don’t think they would be the best radars to use for that anyway.

The air search radars on T45. & QEC are much better for long range and ballistic trajectories.

Jon
Jon
2 months ago

No. You are right. And there’s the new big radar dubbed “Lewis” coming next decade (not sure if that’s where it’s going). I was just thinking 10 Searchwaters and 10 Artisans going begging.

Maybe this for coastal erosion.

Last edited 2 months ago by Jon
andyreeves
andyreeves
2 months ago

very big?

Jon
Jon
2 months ago
Reply to  andyreeves

The BMD radar? I don’t know. It was mentioned in the defence equipment plan, 2018, then repeatedly postponed. Now due some time next decade.

andyreeves
andyreeves
2 months ago
Reply to  Jon

30mm’s should go to to the rivers artisan systems may be worth keeping until a new build frigate is available to bung it onto mini guns? stick them on the archers. stuff from the wardroom pantry

Pacman27
Pacman27
2 months ago

The real cost of a T26 is around £800m I believe and could be lowered further, possibly to as low as £600m if we pulled our fingers out and built them at the right tempo and efficiently. the £1.2bn cost is down to The incredibly slow rate of build (x2 or 3 times longer than it needs to be) and MOD accounting practices of using the first 10 years maintenance. they don’t seem to be doing that with T31, which seems to be just the purchase price ( I could be wrong here). it would be good to get an… Read more »

Ian Brown
Ian Brown
2 months ago
Reply to  Pacman27

You are right on the T26 build taste. It is getting beyond a joke that they are being drawn out so long. Look at the US Arleigh Burke. Their ship yards are putting one in the water between 12-14 months from start. Are they less complicated than the T26?

Pacman27
Pacman27
2 months ago
Reply to  Ian Brown

Its a real pity as I do think the T26 is a game changer for the RN in lots of ways and due to political reasons we are paying an unfair price for it. Look at Australia and Canada they are building new facilities to get their builds right. I am all for UK based jobs, but not when it is costing our front line troops the ability to fight and survive (and all the FFWNN is because of these inflated prices) I also think that people want to work hard and produce quality product and it is more motivating… Read more »

andyreeves
andyreeves
2 months ago
Reply to  Martin

but they need, to be built,fitted out and commissioed faster than the t23’s are scrapped or it will still look like the fleet is shrinking.

Jon
Jon
2 months ago

The steadiness of the drumbeat is foolish totem. Its value is misunderstood in comparison to a constant rather than consistent flow, ie at appropriate varying speeds. That is what’s needed. The catastrophic costs of the slow steady build of the Type 26 are hard to overestimate. Not only will direct costs of the eight Type 26s and five Type 31s be as much as 13 Type 26s would have been (around £11.5bn turnout, and £2.75bn wasted), further costs in the Type 23 Lifex, increasing the lethality the Type 31, increased short term operational costs (Type 23s require larger crews) all… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by Jon
Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
2 months ago
Reply to  Jon

The missed opportunity of a “frigate factory” at Scotstoun will increase costs for future builds too”

BAE have applied for planning permission to build one.

So what’s the alternative? For Govan, fast build of expensive ships alternating with the build of cheap ships”

It is possible to build the Gucci stuff in parallel to the more mundane.

But I agree that build rate should be related to value for money, as with T31, and not smoothing the cash flow curves.

Andrew Robinson
Andrew Robinson
2 months ago

Interesting, thanks George. Slightly off topic, but with the arrowhead design starting to pick up up export orders (Poland, indonesia) does anyone know how much potential work UK companies might get for turbines, gearboxes radar etc, that go into said ships??

andyreeves
andyreeves
2 months ago

i’d imagine that the bulk of the vessels can be produced with no less than80% home produced. as long as the contracts are given nationwide on a fair basis then numerous areas of the u.k could benifit greately

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
2 months ago

“With the success of the Type 26 and Type 31 designs in the export market, this aim of reducing dependence on the Ministry of Defence is being achieved to a small degree” I think I am right in saying that since T42(?) UK has zero success at selling new build warships or warship designs. Now UK appears to be the warship designers of choice for high end stuff. So this is a massive success. And then we can sell the design and the parts to our allies like the T31 – > Ukrainians and Poles & T26 to CAN /… Read more »

Andrew Robinson
Andrew Robinson
2 months ago

Agreed. The t26 is a prime example. Not only the design, but lots of high end british made kit will go into both the aussie and Canuck ships, benefitting all our ship building requirements (reduced costs etc)…

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
2 months ago

And make the manufacture of those components and therefore jobs more sustainable?

Like the drive motors and gearboxes are now a big production item.

andyreeves
andyreeves
2 months ago

the more t31’s built the cheaper they’ll become especially at the t32 design phrase as the basic model of the t31 could be the basis of the t32 i like this way of preparing for future designs. it will be interesting to see how much of the type 26 design makes its way onto the t83 destroyer.

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
2 months ago
Reply to  andyreeves

Quite – the more refined the production process is the better.

I’d be very happy to see T32 being T31B2 but maybe stretched – shed will need to be first.

andyreeves
andyreeves
2 months ago

i often think back to the 27 or so oberon ssk’s we had. the boat was a real sell on bonus with R.N boats going to chile, australia and other countries. the follow on upholder class was slated to be as many as ten, but all 4 were sold to canada and australia the whole class service amounted toless than 4 years for the whole class maybe its not all about design and cost, but further down the line when it may become surplus and a sell on value.

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
2 months ago
Reply to  andyreeves

Well quite.

Ordering in Batches, as per Parker building new at volume and flogging on is the way to go with the mid level frigates T31/T32.

The big cost in the midlife upgrades very often is wedging all the new systems and overhauling them.

2nd tier navies will very often accept lower levels of serviceability on missile/radars which are for them perfectly adequate as their labour costs are lower so fixing things on the fly isn’t a problem but capital costs are an issue.

Pacman27
Pacman27
2 months ago

I have always thought the ship building lan should be in 25 year cycles mainly to align with the carriers (50yr) and nuclear fleet (25 yrs on the reactors) lifecycles, but more importantly to provide a sell off point at year 13 which would be the midlife upgrade point.

we have to give those serving the latest kit and we have to break the very expensive mistake of life extension programs that really do not deliver the benefits we need them to.

Monkey spanker
Monkey spanker
2 months ago

There will be a report somewhere in the bowels of the treasury stating what the build rate should be to achieve best cost per ship and how many ships could be built over a certain timeframe to achieve this. The treasury has went with slow and expensive but if that’s the only way to keep a military shipyard open then it has to be. I say military ship yard as this is what they should be seen as. Focus the skills on that. Having some dream that some international customers are going to say can I buy a billion £… Read more »

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
2 months ago
Reply to  Monkey spanker

That might change if UK can

a) get hull costs down; and

b) gain a reputation for selling fully debugged warships.

The problem always is the variable requirements of different customers. This is where it makes sense to make the base design as big as possible so changes and upgrades are not a Tetris nightmare.

andyreeves
andyreeves
2 months ago
Reply to  Monkey spanker

i hope the new frige building complex works well and that ships will be turned out at a faster rate. investment in the yards and retention of skilled workers shoud be looked at to expand on.

John
John
2 months ago
andyreeves
andyreeves
2 months ago
Reply to  John

amazing sight. thats what ambition and hard cash can get you

andyreeves
andyreeves
2 months ago

one things for sure they are still too slow in delivering. hopefully the new frigate hall will speed thing up. more emphasis should be placed on delivery times when contracts are given out.

IwanR
IwanR
2 months ago

What is the contractual status of the ship for Ukraine? If the Ukraine does become a neutral country (according to the official Russian demands), it shouldn’t really effect the contract. I mean, Indonesia is a neutral country and is allowed to get the Type 31.