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MoD announce programme for Royal Navy Type 31e Frigate and detail requirements

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Defence Minister Harriett Baldwin has today launched plans for the procurement of the Royal Navy’s new Type 31e frigates – a day after the announcement of a new National Shipbuilding Strategy.

The competition, unveiled by senior leaders from the Ministry of Defence, Royal Navy and Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S), will boost the UK shipbuilding industry and provide the route to grow the Royal Navy fleet.

A price cap has been set of no more than £250M each for the first batch of five frigates. In line with standing UK policy on warships they will be built in the UK. They could be built in a way which could see them shared between yards and assembled at a central hub.

The first ships are set to be in service by 2023. Shipyards will be encouraged to work with global partners to ensure the vessel is competitive on the export market.

The announcement comes the day after Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon unveiled the new National Shipbuilding Strategy, outlining a commitment to encourage a more competitive industry, grow jobs across the country, and put a focus on exporting state-of-the-art British ships.

Minister for Defence Procurement Harriett Baldwin said:

“A day after we launched the National Shipbuilding Strategy, we are taking our first major step towards realising it by launching the Type 31e programme.

It will take the very best of British engineering, innovation and drive to achieve it and, as a nation, we have shown time and time again that we have what it takes to deliver. This programme will re-energise a world-leading, vibrant and competitive British shipbuilding industry.”

With the Type 31e General Purpose Frigate Programme, the Royal Navy will bring our requirements into line with the demands of the export market to help support that ambition”

Admiral Sir Philip Jones, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff

The Type 31e frigate will replace five of the Royal Navy’s Type 23 frigates. The other eight Type 23s are already set to be replaced by the upcoming Type 26 class.

Geared towards maritime security and defence engagement, the Type 31e will fulfill roles such as the Fleet Ready Escort duties in home waters, fixed tasks in the South Atlantic, Caribbean and the Gulf, and the UK’s NATO commitments in the Mediterranean.

Admiral Sir Philip Jones, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, said:

“Through the Queen Elizabeth-class carrier project, we proved to the world – and to ourselves – that Britain still has what it takes to be a great maritime industrial nation. The National Shipbuilding Strategy seeks to build upon this achievement by charting a course towards a more sustainable and competitive industrial base that can support regional growth and prosperity as well as strengthen our national security.

With the Type 31e General Purpose Frigate Programme, the Royal Navy will bring our requirements into line with the demands of the export market to help support that ambition. Mostly excitingly of all, this offers a historic and vital opportunity to increase the size of the Royal Navy in the decades ahead.”

Click here for a larger version of the graphic

It will be operated by between 80 and 100 men and women and needs to be sufficiently flexible to incorporate future developments in technology, including unmanned systems and novel weaponry.

The proposed Type 31e frigates will be built in a modular way, which could see the construction work shared between yards around the UK and assembled at a central hub, most likely in Scotland.

Tony Douglas, the Chief Executive Officer of DE&S, said:

“The Type 31e programme will drive the change that is needed through the entire system, because we have set tough time and cost constraints.

The collective challenge for DE&S and industry is to deliver Type 31e in a different, more innovative way than has gone before. I want this to be a transformation in the way we do business – not just in ships and acquisition but across the entire defence equipment and support portfolio.”

64 COMMENTS

  1. It will be very interesting to see what BAE, BMT, Babcock etc do with their designs now they have a price and outline specs.

    I get the feeling the Venator Patrol Frigate will be put forward, as opposed to the Light Frigate. I can also see BAE putting forward something that resembles Avenger as they seem incapable of designing anything decent at low cost.

    Lets hope we end up with a credible frigate whatever happens, one which our sailors are as safe as they can be in and not shortchanged.

    • Did you spot the bit in the graphic that says “Point Defence Missile System (PDMS) + Sensors or Close in Weapon System + Fit to Receive PDMS”?

      I really hope the RN doesn’t exercise the “or” option, i.e. CIWS only with PDMS not fitted. That really would not be anything close to a frigate worthy of compensating in any way for the loss of 5 x T26 (or T23). It does support your “I get the feeling the Venator Patrol Frigate will be put forward, as opposed to the Light Frigate.” and your “I can also see BAE putting forward something that resembles Avenger” hunches though. They (BMT & BAE) could certainly get away with that based on these specs.

      I’m getting a bad feeling about all this.

      • Yes I did spot that. Yet more capabilities ‘fitted for but not with”. I can’t think of one instance where we have actually fitted it later.

        I am no naval architect but I find the comment about commercial build standards a tad worrying. Might be making something out of nothing though.

  2. Not liking where this is going – seeing a lot of what looks like ‘fitted for but not with’….. makes me think the ‘e’ in Type 31e means ‘economy’!!! Can this really be considered a frigate???

    • The ‘E’ stands for ‘Export’ We don’t know what each countries requirements are so why would we fit them with what they don’t need?

      The standard Type 31 without ‘E’ is our version, which has completely different standards and requirements. Think of the Chally 2 and the Chally 2E, one for us, one for export.

      • Which is rather worrying as a comparison, given the Challenger 2E was significantly better than the British one which was instead left with obsolete systems.

        • you mean the Leopards the Germans and Dutch had 1000’s of, wanting to get rid of for next to nothing to the Greeks who could still barely afford them anyway, and with production lines still open, as opposed to say the Chall2 out of production and no spare ones for sale anyhow….good comparison

  3. Britain should just buy American Arleigh Burke class destroyers or design something similar. The Arleigh Burke class has torpedoes, tomahawk, anti-air and anti-ship missiles. It can also destroy nuclear missiles. It has 2 phalanx weapon systems and 2 25 mm cannons as well as a 127 mm main gun. The type 31 frigate will not be able to engage enemy warships because it’s weapon systems will be inadequate. A lack of phalanx guns means that it is vulnerable to missile strikes.

  4. Exactly as my son predicted. Don’t depend on any of these five ships serving long in the RN as they are being built to keep the shipbuilders in work and will be sold off. A 12 ship escort fleet is being actively talked about and a massively reduced MCM fleet. The two carriers and the Trident replacement have brought about a massive reduction in the RN. My son intends to retire in 5 years.

  5. The or fitted for, does kinda sound like its getting the MOD out of a hole. They can’t afford proper frigates and so they will say that they attempted to get point defence within the budget but it wasn’t possible and that this was the most effective way of getting a vessel that can then be enhanced once finances are made available.

    Well we all wondered what the point would be for these vessels and it seems its a replacement for the river class. The needs they will fill seems to be exactly what was specified for the rivers.

  6. I really cannot believe the negativity on display here today.
    People moaned that the NSS wasn’t happening.
    They moaned about a lack of progress on Type 31.

    And now they moan even though this is the very first stage of building Type 31 using the NSS!

    • The NSS is a great idea and proper joined up thinking which will underwhelm because Govt not prepared to put enough hull numbers in right order.

  7. I remember the Type 21s. They were corvettes really despite anything the Andrew said, fast but corvettes. I was gone before they came in. This is a repeat. They aren’t going to last. Alan is right. Ask anyone in the Andrew.

    • Type 21’s a Corvette? Lynx, exocet, 4.5″, SeaCat (;-/) seemed to me to be a GP Frigate…

      And still in service with updated weapon systems!

  8. The timescale and cost cap seem very ambitious.

    I don’t believe BAE should be lead contractor on this project given their history of cost over runs and failure to achieve date targets.

    I believe Babcock is in the best position to deliver this project.

  9. “In line with standing UK policy on warships they will be built in the UK”

    George, you need to read the NSS. They’ve sneakily changed that policy. Now only frigates, destroyers & aircraft carriers have to be built in the UK. Every other warship (amphib, minehunters, patrol, OPV) can be designed & built overseas.

    And they will. How can UK yards compete on price with Korea etc.?

    Not at least because UK built warships have 20% VAT added to their price, Korean warships do not. Let alone all the other taxes that are billed to UK shipyards & their workforce to pay for UK social services that do not exist in the far east.

    • Ron5 – A small correction if I may? The Tide Classes when imported into the UK (not sure technically when that happens) pay 20% on the ‘CIF’ (Cost, Insurance Freight) value. Given they are civilian ships there may well also be an EU External Tariff Duty of at least 10% to pay as well.
      I have never understood the logic of buying ships abroad given at least 40% of any UK costs incurred building here return to the UK economy through wages and taxation etc. Not sure the Korean costs are 40% (plus duties) cheaper than UK costs …

  10. So effectively we are looking at a medium cal gun, and a piont defence gun/missile, light helo and soft kill. So that’s looking like we are actually going to buy an OPV, put a big gun on the front and call it a frigate. This is the worse case as it will encourage politicans to use it as a war ship.

  11. So if I interpret the spec correctly the RN would be satisfied with the ‘core’ feature set: 30mm gun, Sea Ceptor, Scanter, NH90 / Wildcat sized hanger, a bow sonar, soft kill. The Type 23 114mm gun might be a bonus zero cost pull through. Have all the Tyoe 23s received 997 radar or just enough to equip Tyoe 26? At a £250m price and with the ‘core’ crew meant to be about half of a Type 23 we should be thinking in terms of 10 of these ships. Just make sure they have the growth potential to fit Mk41 tubes and power for laser weapons.

  12. This is much better than I anticipated – 6500nm range, 80-100 operational crew with up to 40 more to be deployed, 28 days endurance matches type 23. Remember that T26 is 118 operational crew with 7K range and 60 days endurance. This will be bigger than concepts recently put forward by ship builders and certainly bigger than some of the moaners here stating an OPV.

    There’s obviously a lot of emphasis put on the modular design and being able to support various functions through upgrades. A lot of people react to this negatively but this is how ship architecture should be and will enable and initial build at a lower cost.

    • “bigger than concepts put forward by ship builders”

      Actually it seems pretty much a Venator 110 and, since they seem so similar, probably Spartan too. I don’t know about Cutlass but I agree that it seems bigger than Avenger.

      Venator 110 is 85 core crew plus 39 extra, range 6,000nm at 15 knots. Not exactly meeting the specs but so close that I would think that some re-jigging and liberal interpretation of the rules could get there (using mission space for a couple of extra berths, taking economical speed as < 15 knots to get the extra 500nm range or squeezing in a bit of extra tankage somewhere. Perhaps it might have to become a Venator 120 (it's actually 117m as envisaged right now) but it's really close.

      As a reference point, a Meko 200 (e.g. Valour Class) would meet the range and endurance specs with ease although crew complement would be considered too high but a next-gen design with a focus on automation could address that issue I assume.

      Talking of reduced crew and automation, is that a good thing? It is for the RN with its catastrophic staffing shortage but T31 is also aimed at export. Might many of the potential export customers with cheap labour and large populations want exactly the opposite, less money spent on automation in favour of more crew? Not saying, just asking.

    • From that spec it’s a constabulary vessel with a meduim gun, Point defence (likely a CIWS), soft kill and a hanger for a light helicopter. What it has not got, realistic AAW self defence capability, Sonar or ASW self defence. It is truly the worse type of OPV, one that is just over specified for the role,but no where near what a war ship requires to survive. Even worse with big visual clues it could be a warship (the gun on the front) and a warship type designation it has a fair chance of acidently/onpurpose ending up in harms way, at which point we put a boat load of matelots up shit creak. I have no issue with OPVs and light frigates as part of the mix of resource, but sticking a gun and soft kill on a large OPV and calling it a warship is criminal.

  13. John O’Connell, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “If we are ever going to balance the books then it is essential that a culture of delivering best value for money exists across the public sector and the MoD cannot be any different.”

    Two Royal Navy ships and battlefield training for thousands of troops will be cut to save money from the defence budget, The Times has learnt.

    A slowdown in the purchase of next-generation F-35 Lightning II warplanes from the United States is under consideration as military chiefs and mandarins struggle to find up to £30 billion in savings over the next decade. Twelve helicopters used by special forces will also be taken out of service.

  14. the important question remains unanswered, which is what is their role if a shooting war starts. If their role is purely for policing activities than we could get perfectly useful vessels for a fraction of the price. Without a full set of offensive and defensive weapons fitted as standard, the. the answer is they have no role and are just making up numbers to tick boxes to say no reduction in numbers.

    • Look at the Type 21’s. The last attempt to build an “exportable” UK frigate. Death traps in the Falklands war and the whole class disposed of as soon a possible afterwards.

  15. If core is minimum starting poiny for export fine. Key will he seeing the RN spec sheet…or is it a case of….i suspect with the price cap…of who can offer the most bang for buck to the RN.

    On face of it it looks like the punch will come from Helo’s for the RN.

    • Yes, that’s the way I see it, a larger number ( than 5) of Patrol frigates with the Wildcat as the offensive weapon and Sea Ceptor as defence against AShM. Global presence and ‘balanced’ fleet.

      • NB…No Bow sonar in the ‘core’…only ability to fit. RN would need otherwise a stretch OPV it simply is.

        Muliple salvos of ship launched home grown spear 3 would be minimum for a frigate rather than OPV pending Anglo french solution.

        • Ues I noted the way bow sonar was an optional provision. Maybe some export customers would want an OPV. After all the RN is getting 5 new ones, and with bow thrusters I think, making it easier to launch USVs perhaps.
          I don’t think there are any plans for Spear 3 to be anything other than a mini cruise missile for Typhoon and F-35B and I think the strategic decision has been taken – no over the horizon AShm for the RN until LRASM. For offensive capability against a peer frigate a lot is riding on Sea Venom and the guided ammunition for the 5in gun, assuming Type 31 gets a 5 in gun of course.

  16. the export game will be interesting. Most more advanced nations will want to build ships locally and so little to no value to the UK. The nations that won’t, probably want low end capability, but I suspect even they will want some form of missile decent capability, hence the can be fitted for requirement. If it ends up with smaller nations buying these and then adding more effective weapons, it will be a national scandal and I wonder if that is what the MOD is hoping for, which would push the politicians to pay for up arming ours.

    • Also might my comment I made somewhere else re automation be relevant to exports. I was musing that while for the RN and it’s extreme personnel shortage it makes perfect sense to load some extra onto the build/purchase cost for automation in return for lower crew requirements, for some other poorer and more populous potential export countries with lower labour costs and fewer recruitment issues might they want exactly the opposite. Might they prefer to either save build cost or, to tie in with your point Steve, maybe spend that bit of the purchase costs on extra weapons fit rather than automation.

      I would hope that any competent design, being sympathetic to the government’s stated desire for exports, would have variants that removed automation and downgraded crew spaces in order to fit more crew in.

  17. As I said a couple of days ago…with one or two exceptions…moan, moan, moan. We have just had the great news that the P of W is months ahead of time; the first of the type 26’s have been ordered and now the “first batch” of type 31’s. Dreadnought and co. moves on the Astutes are being delivered. Meanwhile there are five new patrol ships arriving and next year the Q E will start working up. Why all the death, doom and disaster. For heavens sake celebrate something!
    While I’m at it why do people attack Michael Fallon. Given current budgets I think he’s doing a bloody good job!

    • Because he is a lying a**.

      He has presided over a 40% cut in UK defence forces since 2010 and all he does is stick his hands in his ears and mutter “increasing defence budget”. The budget is increasing but the spend on defence is decreasing.

      • Considering he has only been Defence Secretary since July 2014 that was pretty clever of him Ron5. Examples of him lying please…on a postcard!!!

        • I already said it: “increasing defence budget” on a daily basis. Implies increasing defence spending which is a huge lie. He’s increasing the budget by transferring budgets for other ministry’s that are not defence spending.

          For proof read the reports from the UK Parliamentary defence committee which was most scathing about this dishonest practice.

          Army – fewest soldiers since before WW2.
          RAF – fewest aircraft & squadrons ever
          Royal Navy – fewest sailors & ships for hundreds of years

          • I’ll say it again, and I’ll make it easy. Give me one specific example of when Michael Fallon lied about defence expenditure.

    • Because the concept of a light frigate is great,I’m also a fan of OPVs. But what they have described here with the type 31 is a constabulary vessel, with a gun on the front and a war ship designation, that I’m afraid is a what’s called confusing your paradigms…. It’s going to end up with matelots put in harms way in a constabulary vessel (or completely up shit creak). I would prefer them to remove the meduim gun, stick a 30mm on the front and call it want it is “an extended range OPV, equipped for areas of higher risk”. It will mean admitting that our escort fleet is dropping to 14, but at least it’s less likely that some idiot will end up getting the crew of these ships killed.

        • Geoffrey if what the RN get is a ship with two missile systems ( self defence AAW + anti ship), a CIWS and a 5inch gun with adequate sensors I would be happy as that’s a light frigate

          Unfortunately the RN is getting core, the minumume option for this ( and let’s be honest at 250 million thats what they are aiming for, if you listen, sub 250million is the primary driver not quality of the units) is a meduim gun ( nothing to say it’s a 5 inch, infact reading into the core description over the adaptable the RN are thinking something smaller, 76mm ? As gunfire support is not core, just engaging small craft) and a CIWS with a couple of other light guns. the core does not even have a citadel or sonar. So that’s what the RN gets. Export versions can have a proper heavyweight ASM, citadel, ASW sensors and fit decent AAW missile.

          • Don’t get me wrong. I’m with you all the way on quality…but if you look at the various designs being submitted they all have a combination of kit along the lines I described.
            In an ideal world we would cap the overseas aid budget and something like £10 billion and you and I and all the the others who care would have the budget we need. Sadly it’s not an ideal world.

          • Geoffrey, where did you see in the brochures of those designs that they were on offer for 250 million each?? We’re all waiting with bated breath.

            Truth is they are all brochure warships, no design sufficient to build exists for any of them. Let alone a costed design.

      • Maybe there’s some confusion in the terminology. In my industry (IT) there were mandatory requirements and desireable requirements. the T31 spec talks about “core” and “adaptable” features. “Core” surely does equal “mandatory” but perhaps it is a mistake to assume that “adaptable” maps to “desireable”.

        On the mandatory/desirable requests for tender that I dealt with a bidder would be rejected if they didn’t meet all mandatory requirements (same as with “core” here I would hope) but then brownie points would be awarded for how many of the desireable requirements could be met. Maybe for T31 it is a case of the RN wanting all the adaptable options available. The one thing that the current T31 spec doesn’t seem to define however is how many of the adaptable options can be hosted simultaneously. in theory a bidder could say “yes, I can do absolutely everything on the diagram and all those adaptable elements are in the design but you can only choose from core plus your choice of 2 adaptable options”. An extreme example, and it would be far more complicated than that, but hopefully the potential issue I’m trying to highlight is clear.

        What I would have liked to see is two specs, the vanilla one that this article describes and then an RN-specific template to lay on top of it that says, for the RN configuration, the design must be cabable of being configured as core plus the following adaptable elements all installed in the same hull. That would define a minimum level of systems that must be hosted which, as I read it, this core+adaptable spec doesn’t really do.

        • Unfortunately looking through the document, Core is whar the RN is getting, adaptable is what is avaliable to export customers.

          • Is there a bigger document beyond the click-to-expand graphic in this article? If yes then do you have a link.

            I don’t read the 2-pager that way. Well, it could be read that way but I see enough ambiguity to not make it a given that the RN will only be buying the core spec.

            Looking at it another way (from a cost basis) perhaps the £250m not-to-exceed price is for the core spec and, where we have all been assuming that the £250m is the price cap per vessel for the RN procurement, that might not be the case and it might end up being the £300m – £350m figure that was being kicked about beforehand where £250m buys the core capability and there is budget for an extra £50m – £100m per vessel to add some of the adaptable elements (or some are being costed at near-zero prices because they can be harvested from outgoing T23, e.g. Sea Ceptor).

        • Actually I think the spec is cleverly constructed so as to give the vendors the maximum chance to be creative. ( I used to work in IT and dealing with the traditional check box RFP process from either end was one of the most dispiriting aspects of the job).
          For illustration the spec might result say in Babcock proposing a design using the Type 23 gun ( which they know inside out), a bow sonar and some Mk41 tubes whereas BMT might propose for the same money a 76mm OTO Sea Ceptor cells only and no bow sonar. I haven’t done the sums but you get the idea. The vendors get to be involved and contribute their skills rather than the procurement process being done to them.

          • Being a person thats involved in large complex public sector contracts and procurement I suspect we are going to get the cheapest option possible both in capital and on costs terms that the RNs risk assessments say we can get away with (that’s how it’s played in the public sector, the RN got away with it for a while but they have clearly been brought to heel) that will mean: Not opening up any new equipment lines ( unless it shows a really good saving), keeping manning as low as possible and as low a capital investment as possible ( without impacting on costs), so I suspect we may actually see a five inch on these simply due to reduced on costs and trying costs around a single fleet wide medium gun system. I very much suspect that CAMM is going to be to expensive for these units, so that leaves CIWS. I would defiantly put a fiver on this being the final load out, five inch gun and whatever CIWS the fleet is using at the time, that’s probably the most economical load out in regards to on cost, training and maintance streams. I want to be wrong I really do……

          • That’s the way I see it playing out. First batch of ships are ‘patrol frigates’, fast and lightly armed, maybe with a GT, 30mm or 57mm gun, space for VLS but no missiles, Wildcat but maybe not even Sea Ceptor.
            For constabulary work (as is says in the spec), in the Caribbean, South Atlantic, Gulf and Home waters. Able to kill FAC and Corvettes, anti piracy / drugs, disaster relief, interception and escort of foreign vessels.
            Then I see a second batch increasing RN numbers. The second batch would have the 5in gun, Sea Ceptor, ShM, bow sonar and be used for carrier task force screening and NGS.

      • He’s also a lying t*d and first cousin to Pinocchio.

        “We’re increasing the Royal Navy”

        According to the Times he’s taking two minehunters out of service this year”

        Actual frigates going out of service: 13 Type 23’s.

        Actual new frigates on order to replace them: 3 type 26.

        Promised increase in number of frigates to occur in 2030’s by some future government.

        • According to the Times, Ron5! The two mine hunters are going into refit and the crews transferred to bring the first of five new OPV’s into service. I am not aware of the fact that all Type 23’s were leaving quite so soon but presumably you have inside knowledge. The eight Type 26’s are all part of an agreed purchase of which three have gone to order status. The Type 31 announcement is described as a “first batch”.
          Going back to an earlier post you asked where I got the information about the costs of the proposed designs being submitted. The answer is that I din’t because that was some one else.
          Your going to have to start using facts if your going to keep up with the serious contributors to this post.

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