Mordaunt appears to have suggested that the new Fleet Solid Support Ship should be built in the UK.

Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt was speaking at the Royal United Services Institute, where she said:

“It’s long order books and steady drum beats in our yards that strengthen our supply chain and bring down the overall cost of procurement. What is needed is a closer partnership with industry that gives them the confidence to invest and build and us the confidence that we can and must buy British.”

Jude Brimble, GMB National Secretary, said earlier regarding news the contracts could go to Spain:

“The Royal Fleet Auxiliary contracts are the key to unlocking the country’s massive shipbuilding potential. But Ministers refusal to put the UK’s interests first will mean that instead of a massive programme of shared economic and employment re-distribution, our firms will be competing against each other for slivers of complex warship work. 

It beggars belief that the Government wants to give this golden opportunity away to foreign competitors when working class communities up and down the country are crying out for decent work.”

Who is bidding?

It is hoped that the bid will be won by Team UK (a UK consortium consisting of Babcock International, BAE Systems, Cammell Laird and Rolls-Royce).

Overseas shipyards who have been invited to tender for the FSS programme include:

  • Fincantieri: 70% owned by Fintecna S.p.A the Italian owned investment agency
  • Navantia: 100% owned by the Spanish government
  • Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME): received a USD 6billion rescue package from the Korean Development Bank and Export-Import Bank of Korea

What’s next?

December of this year will see the formal issue of documentation inviting bids for the design and build contract and in 2020, the contract for design and build is to be awarded.

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I think those figures in that list spell out quite clearly why we have been deemed to have been ‘uncompetitive’ over the years. Yes in the 60s and 70s our yards (as in much of our other industry) were ridiculously, intrinsically and structurally incapable of being competitive against far more nimble competitors (a dozen unions v 1 in Japan for example) but given a fair crack of the whip I don’t see that as being the case now. Survival of the fittest is only realistic an industrial plan if everyone plays by the same rules and that is simply not… Read more »


‘(a dozen unions v 1 in Japan for example)’ – for a long time the employers preferred that situation as it made it easier, with a split workforce, to lay off one group once their area of work was complete.

Peter Shaw

Very much agree with your sentiments.

Mike Saul

It is quite hard to imagine that the UK shipbuilding use to be the world’s largest shipbuilding industry.

But poor industrial relations, politically driven trade unions, lack of investment, political interference and a failure to modernize ensured it’s demise.

I am all for UK shipbuilding but it has to competitive and high quality.

If it cannot then the orders must go overseas.

The defence budget is to supply our military personnel with the best equipment we can afford in the quantities required, not to prop up ailing industries that cannot compete.


Mike, its a catch 22 situation. Lack of work leads to lack of investment because there is no viable means to recoup the investments that you make. Lack of investment leads to a lack of work. I’ve run my own ( small ) manufacturing business for 28 years and investment decisions are complex to say the least. Ultimately you invest when you believe there is a better than average chance of recouping the investment costs over a realistic time frame. This usually comes about through customers forward planning work with you. We cannot blame a lack of investment in our… Read more »

Mike Saul

You make some very good points, but it is not always cheaper for the government to buy British.

In fact that’s a ludicrous statement, every project should under go a cost benefit analysis to identify the best value most capable option.

Example, was the SA80A1 cheaper than buying a foreign competitor?

It cost four times more than a M16 and was worst quality small arm ever produced.


Hi Mike, I don’t know a great deal about the arrangements for the SA80A1, was it manufactured in the UK ? I was under the impression it was manufactured in Germany, perhaps you can correct me on that point. Moving forward from that though, would you say that the current version of this weapon is still the worst small arm ever built ? Again my knowledge is very limited but my understanding is that its now regarded as one of the best assault rifles ever built. So assuming that it was manufactured in the UK and still is then the… Read more »


Unfortunately the SA80A1 was designed and manufactured in the UK by the Royal Small Arms Factory. The first prototypes were built in the 70s. The idea was to replace the awesome 7.62mm (elephant gun) L1A1 SLR with a lighter weapon, with a higher cyclic rate of fire and was easier for infantry to move about in armoured vehicles. With cost in mind it was hoped that automation would enable quick production and drive down costs, this didn’t happen. Its main fault is that the weapon was a product of the late 70’s and early 80’s. So much like cars from… Read more »


The US Army had very similar problems, reliability wise, with the M16 in Viet Nam on its first issue.

Harry Bulpit

Just to inform you the SA80A1 was designed and manufactured in the UK buy Enfield. However, buy the time it need fixing Enfield had gone and the A2 variant was designed buy H&K and installed as well. However, at the time H&K was owned buy BAE and the design staff and work was all done in the UK.

Peter Shaw

That’s a very good assessment David and I would concur on all points.

Stevie gray

Part of the high cost for sa80 was the fact every front line rifle has a SUSAT sight. As far as I know the first in the world and gave us a massive advantage over everyone else


However BAe have had guaranteed work which has led to what most agree to be the most expensive OPVs on the planet. Sir John Parkers report states that there’s a wide variance in cost between yards but those who have commercial orders are lower. So, in short if you have to compete you become efficient and productive if you don’t you become unproductive and expensive like many foreign yards which rely on government subsidies and loans where as our commercial yards don’t.

Bill Kenny

Mike you are undoubtedly correct in your assessment and prescription of an effective, forward looking purchasing policy. That however won’t save you from the mercantilists ire being readied to launch against you. Plus ca change!


To be competitive and high quality, it needs orders and a it’s own government believing in them.


This whole issues should not be up for discussion. We have to build when we can in the UK, and not to be tied down by silly terminology, of what constitutes a warship and what does not. At the end of the day, we should always strive to increase homegrown excellence.


Good for her,good start to her job, these ships need to be built in the UK to enable the capability to be maintained for follow on large ships like the replacements LPD’s.


There are all ready early studies and I expect about 4 hulls replacing the LPDs Bays and Argus.2 with command facilities and 2 austere fit out.


If government that is the treasury, MoD and the department for international aid get this right with co-operation from the British ship building industry the industry as a whole could be put on a good footing. There is the possibility of the three FSS ships, two hospital ships have been spoken about and don’t forget the idea of the two forward deployed base ships. That is seven major vessels of 30,000 tons +. Then with the T31 program, T26 program and the replacements for Albion and Bulwark it could see an expansion of ship building for the next 15 years.… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

I’m liking this lady.


Peter Shaw

I think we have accept the fact that Europe massively subsidises their industry. Saying the UK is not competitive is simply not the case. I have worked with French companies before and anyone that says they are efficient simply has not worked with them. The same can be said of German companies. Given an even crack of the whip the UK can compete it is just we have been blinded by blanket use of Thatcherism for too long. Thatcher was very good but blindly using Thatcherism without any regard to hidden subsidises or the net tax take is old styled… Read more »

John Hampson

Successive UK govts have all failed to factor in the importance of maintaining a manufacturing base, including supporting skilled jobs and concentrated solely on unit cost or Political reasons. The Dreadnoughts are being built with French steel. The Type 26’s are using 20,000 tons of Swedish, German and French steel. The argument that buying according to unit cost effective is utterly superfical. It ignores among other things, the widespread cheating of EU rules by European countries. In 2016 a report into why TATA intended closing Port Talbot and moving jobs to the Netherlands and Germany was submitted to Parliament. Data… Read more »


Quite. Greed, short term thinking and lack of self respect by those who govern. Establishment chumocracy..I’m alright Jack.


Alleluja! Penny Mordaunt is spot on. You can do nothing without faith, and that starts by HM Govt and the MOD having some in British engineering and British workmanship. I believe the oft quoted criticism of BAE in respect of River 2 pricing is a pejorative interpretation of events. The MOD was contracted to pay BAE regardless of what was made. Well used to their customer’s institutionalised indecision they protected themselves by insisting on a contract which guaranteed a stready cash flow and hence continuity of capability. None if this excuses poor workmanship on R2 course. But that is a… Read more »

Andy P

Can’t argue with the logic that ‘full books’ keeps the workforce’s current on building vessels. If we keep it up then that should (that’s SHOULD) keep prices down if we have a steady workforce rather than having to ramp up and then lay off and then ramp up….

Of course, we would also need to have a realistic working relationship between the MOD and the builders, if the MOD are happy with what they’re getting then export orders might follow, its not always been the case.

Levi Goldsteinberg

Good. Very good

Nigel Collins

I wonder how long it will take to build and enter service given that the first Type 26 will not be in service until 2027?

In the case cited below, think quantity, not quality.

“The ship is being built in the same dry dock used for construction of the seventh Type 071. A considerable number of modules for the latest ship were evident on the dockside before the seventh vessel was launched on 28 December 2018, which has enabled the hull of the latest LPD to be assembled in less than six months.”