It has been reported that the new general purpose frigates are to be known as Type 31.

It’s been reported that a concept study is underway and that the Royal Navy has decided on Type 31 as the number for “at least five” new general purpose frigates to complement the Type 26 anti-submarine warfare frigates.

According to DefenseNews and other outlets sources have confirmed said the decision on type number has now been made.

The original plan for Type 26 was 8 anti-submarine warfare variants and 5 general purpose variants. This is still the case with “at least” 13 frigates planned.

Minister of State for Defence Procurement Philip Dunne said in December 2013:

“In the less than half a minute remaining to me, I will unfortunately not be able to address many of the questions that have been asked, but I would like to deal with numbers and commissioning. My hon. Friend the Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis) gave me due notice of his questions. We intend to place an order towards the end of next year, once the design is mature, which we expect to be for eight vessels initially.”

The Type 26 and 31 frigates represent the future backbone of the Royal Navy and a massive leap forward in terms of flexibility of surface vessels enjoyed by the service. They will replace the 13 Type 23 frigates of the Royal Navy and export orders are being sought after by BAE. The programme has been underway since 1998, initially under the name “Future Surface Combatant”.  The programme was brought forward in the 2008 budget at the expense of Type 45 destroyers 7 and 8.

While it was previously expected that the “five lighter frigates” mentioned in November would be heavily stripped down general purpose variants of the Type 26 Frigate (and of course still might be), other contenders seem to be emerging.

One of the most obvious contenders for the UK’s future light frigate is an offering from BMT, the Venator-110 which is “designed to cover a multitude of general purpose and specialist roles”. Recent changes to the vessels marketing fact sheets and computer generated imagery show more or less what the Royal Navy want with a light frigate and the vessel quite clearly is now being pitched as a solution to meet the light frigate requirement. The full specification guide for the vessel can be found here.

Type 26 frigate order has been cut back from 13 to 8 in order to fund more of the immediate spending, a move that has been widely expected since 2013.

The Prime Minister confirmed that the five future light frigates mentioned in the defence review will be built in Scotland. This is in addition to the eight anti-submarine warfare frigates and two extra patrol vessels on top of the three already being constructed at the Glasgow yards.

David Cameron told the House of Commons:

“There will be eight of the Type 26’s and at least another five of the new type of frigate,probably more, and they can be built in Scotland if the conditions are right. The only way these ships wouldn’t be built in Scotland is if Scotland was independent and didn’t have the national resources of the Royal Navy.”

The original plan for the frigate fleet as mentioned above had been 8 anti-submarine warfare variants and 5 general purpose variants, this remains largely unchanged except for the specification and type of the later five vessels.

All will be built on the Clyde.

 

177 COMMENTS

  1. The Type 31 the new General Purpose Frigate but RN still needs at least 4 further T45s & further 4 T26s to protect the Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers when deployed,with its powerful air wing to protect the fleet.We are an island nation with interest across the globe therefore power projection is still vital.

  2. You don’t always need an expensive “super ship” for all duties. Spending a billion or 2 for a ship to police pirates is over kill. Sometimes you just need a presence, and some inexpensive ships with great sailors is more then enough.

    • 5, 4, 3 2,1 “”I have been reliably informed/ someone close to this program has told me down the pub (ie I don’t have any inside knowledge at all) this will be a disaster”

  3. Problem with the light frigate GP lean manned design because you don’t need a full blown expensive all the bells and whistles design where your going to use it is when it finds itself because there’s nothing else or what was a quite job has suddenly blown up in an area where you need all the bells and whistles, then it’s in trouble, I’m old enough to remember the type 21s

    • That’s really the difference in levels of defence. Lesson learned is that in days gone past even expensive front line ships were under-defended (pre-Falklands 42s, 21s, LPDs, RFAs, the lot!).
      But you don’t have to spend a fortune providing a reasonable ‘get out of trouble’ defence on any class of ship, lean/light or full front line.
      TBH, just stripping out the sub-hunting facilities removes an enormous cost, and in fact has always been the case any ways.

  4. Basically a corvette type frigate…??
    When you think the RN sent a River Class Patrol boat to the Caribbean instead of a full blown Frigate…why ever not…an all singing, all dancing frigate, is not always needed…if it means more surface warships, showing the flag and providing many RN duties that do not require massive capability, why ever not ??

  5. Perhaps the Type 31 was chosen as a nod to the Type 21, which was a cheap off the shelf design intended to fill a gap before the introduction of the Type 22.

  6. No CIWS defence? If this is going down the same route as the Type 23 have we not taken notes from losing ships during the Falklands.
    The Type23 is an excellent design but the lack of CIWS is unforgivable.

  7. Not all of the 2010 sdsr cuts were implimented. I suspect as the world situation grows more tense we may see more bits added here and there over the next few years. An old squadron or ship extended in service.

  8. The Type numbering system jumps from 30, last in the anti-submarine sequence, to 40, first in the anti-aircraft sequence. Where did they come up with this number? The sequence for general purpose escorts runs from 81 to 99, with 81 and 82 already having been used on previous ships.

  9. This is exactly the sort of Corvette we’ve been crying out for to take the pressure off the Frigates and Destroyers. The USN keeps toying with the LCS which isn’t delivering by all accounts so I’m glad this is the approach we’re taking.

    I much prefer this to a stripped out T26.

  10. In terms of the CIWS the question is “how good is Sea Ceptor?” Having been in the RN during the Falklands the lesson I learned was that the SAMs did not really work as advertised. If Sea Ceptor works then with a range of 25km and 32 missiles would you desperatly need a CIWS?

  11. Can’t believe we can’t come up with the funds to increase the number from 13 to 15 or even to a respectable 20 ships.

    Our current numbers are stretched and to say 13 will be the backbone of the Royal Navy is an understatement giving the creation of two aircraft carriers.

    There’s more ducks in my local lake than there is royal navy ships.

    • One modern ship is more capable than multiple previous ships plus there aren’t the worldwide commitments anymore (don’t need a pacific presence for instance) so you won’t see high numbers of ships again

      • “there aren’t worldwide commitments anymore”? Really, please elaborate. It seems the commitments haven’t diminished, if anything they’ve increased, all this with a reduced fleet!

      • Excuse me? We have had ships deployed in the Far East frequently over the last few years; (for example, both HMS Daring AND HMS Illustrious took part in relief operations for the Philippines Typhoon in 2013). That is the same as saying we will not do any more deployments East of Suez after the early Seventies. Look how many deployments the Royal Navy did East of Suez after that even BEFORE the Gulf & Iraq Wars & Afghanistan.

  12. We should build 30 Iver Huitfeldt class frigates over 25 years and be done with it. 1 Frigate every 10 months at a cost of £400m each (Fremm, absolon, Huitfeld all under this figure loaded) is hardly back breaking in a £40bn budget. The last 10 should replace T45.

    A radical overhaul of our navy is required as currently if any of our surface ships come up against a peer threat they will lose. Sad but true, the T45 is really good example – what happens when its 48 Asters are gone…. Its 4.5 inch gun is pretty much its only offensive weapon, simply not good enough.

    The UK GCS ( Huitfeldt) should have 72 cells – 24 of which should be Mk57 for TLAM this is all doable once you accept the increase in volume.

    Remove the Mine sweepers (replace with a Bay operating Atlas ARCIMS) , T45’s and River class OPV’s over time and rebalance our navy into a force to be reckoned with.

    The carriers alone will require 6 escorts (2 AAW 4 ASW) so you need 12 for carrier groups on a 1 on 1 off scenario that leaves 18 to do the rest.

    Produced at a regular interval to a single design in the frigate factory – this will be cost effective.
    Same can be said for the small boat situation – lets build 1 Safeboats Mk6 for our patrol craft per annum and upgrade from Ribs to CB90’s (6 per annum) A GCS with 2 CB90’s in its stern would be a formidable asset.

  13. Our whole navy only requires 7 hull designs – we are making the same mistakes as previous governments. Keep it simple and build in volume.

    30 x Hull Type 1. Frigates (Iver Huitfeldt or Fremm)
    2 x Hull Type 2. QE Carriers.
    25 x Hull Type 3. Patrol Vessel (Safeboats Mk6 looks good)
    8 x Hull Type 4. Tide Class Tanker
    7 x Hull Type 4. Tide Class (Karel Doorman Config – 4 x SSS/Amphib + 2 for MHVC mothership + 1 Hospital
    2 x Hull Type 5. Forward Repair Ship / Ice Patrol
    10 x Hull Type 6. Astute Class
    4 x Hull Type 7 Successor class

    Enablers would include more helicopters (Wildcats and Merlins), and a number of smaller assets.

    Small Boat building would include the replacement of all smaller combat boats for the CB90 and Mine clearance system would be the Atlas ARCIMS system running from a Tide Class asset (Karel Doorman).

    100 Atlas ARCIMS
    150 CB90’s (Royal Marines + 2 per GCS)
    25 Safeboats Mk6 Patrol Craft

    All Hull Type 4 will be built in Korea
    Hull Type 7 probably purchased from scandinavia

    88 Ship Navy that provides an offensive punch and costs less than £3bn per annum to build over 25 years.

    The USN has a 30 year ship building plan – It is clear that £30bn of the £178bn UK defence budget can build us 40% of a new navy over the next 10 years. Add £10bn for other items and the Navy requirement is 25% of the total equipment budget. Surely they can manage this and deliver a great capability.

  14. Doesnt matter what they order really when build quality is poor (45’s prime example) and the lack of man power as no one wants to stay in the navy anymore would mean they would end up as orniments in a dock yard

    • Didnt help ill give you that but most of the new lads are leaving and most of us with common sense have left already the navy is a dying job…. high demands and low pay make for a poor work enviroment which ill be the first to say is a sad thing as i did enjoy the navy and its sad to see it go down hill :/

  15. Looking at the BMT web site, and all the different types of vessels that they have designed, this company appears to have the necessary vessels to fill the RN’s requirements for the near future, lets get building asap, lets get the British Armed Forces back to a World respected force that it use to be – even as we discuss this vessel, the Russian Prime Minister has stated that we have entered a new “Cold War” – surely with the increase in ships being built by Russia and China, the whole of Nato needs to stop pussy footing around and start rearming their military and share ideas that will be beneficial to all of Nato, we have the brains and the capabilities so LETS start building the Fleet and also lets restart Britain’s Shipbuilding industries, not just in Scotland but throughout the whole of the United Kingdom

  16. Its difficult to argue with any of the comments above, which demonstrates the state we have let our armed forces get into. £40bn per annum is not an insignificant amount, however the leaders of the armed forces and the MOD have let the country down over many years and this must stop. The UK is a world leader in Submarines and could be the partner of choice if we get our Frigate design right. We can also have a vibrant small boat manufacturing capability with a stable order book.

    The benefits to our industrial base of ordering 50 aircraft, 4 ships and 50 (tanks or similar) each year should not be underestimated and we should commit to a long term plan of procurement. I get annoyed when we keep on with asset extension programmes that take years and valuable money from building new.

    Stop modernising 50 year old tanks and build new ones that are cheaper and better.

  17. Can we have some proper names for them, not HMS Puppy and HMS Kitten. Choose one of these…

    HMS Fearsome
    HMS Furious
    HMS Fighter
    HMS Fearless
    HMS Fierce
    HMS Firebrand
    HMS Formidable
    HMS Fortitude
    HMS Forceful
    HMS Ferocious
    HMS Frightful
    HMS Frightening
    HMS Fiery
    HMS Fervent
    HMS Frenzy
    HMS Fervid

  18. Have no problem with the design of ships, as long as the government, give them Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) and fit it across the fleet with the money saved. And fit them with Artisan.

      • We have had several reports over the past few months of the RAF intercepting Bears &, on one occasion, a Blackjack out over the North Atlantic. As, depending on the variant in question each one of them could have destroyed eight of our cities at that range I should think THAT constitutes a suitable threat, wouldn’t you? Or, how about the various sub contacts detected in our waters? How many cities could any of those destroy before we even knew that they were there?

        If you want to go cutting something to spend on the NHS then why not cut Foreign Aid? After all we have just finished giving over one BILLION pounds to India who, not only spending money building nuclear ballistic submarines, aircraft carriers, ballistic missiles, jet combat aircraft coproduced & financed a series of cruise missiles with the Russians that are now pointed at US! Tellme if you think that is a good use of our aid money?

    • Wow what a nieve comment. Let’s expand a bit.

      Protecting shipping lanes vital to the uk

      Protecting overseas territories

      Protecting the british mainland

      Meeting naval policing commitments

      Helping defend allies

      Defending british interests in other parts of the world.

      Policing british waters and overseas territories waters against illegal fising.

      Emergancy response and aid in natural disasters

    • How about lees money for the NHS and more value for the money we spend on it? I know people who work in the NHS and they are telling me money is like no object because they know they can blackmail any Government. So thats alright then. Simple things like global volume purchasing, making sure loan kit is returned having fewer meetings. Please don’t tell me the largest employer in Europe can’t make efficiencies.

  19. If someone can work out a fix to quad-pack SeaCeptor into a strike length VLS cell, then that would afford maximum flexibility with economy. A 24 cell set up could give you 32 SAMs and 16 duel use ASM/LAM weapons. Factor is some extended range ammunition for the new 5″ gun, and you’ve got a capable little platform.

    • Sea Ceptor can be quad packed into a MK41 VLS.

      Royal New Zealand Navy’s two Anzac class will be the first to use this configuation.

  20. I think the question we are missing, is what will the role be for the light frigates.

    If it is meant to be cheaper with cut down weaponary, then it can not be used as escort for more important vessels, there they will need the type45 and the 26.

    Long range land attack, we have the Astute class (we are on a tight budget, we don’t need multiple classes of vessels covering the same role). Shell based, bombardment role is pretty limited/niche and can be managed by the other surface vessels.

    So what does that leave, other than low intensity work, at which point a slightly bigger OPV is all we need.

    I will be interested to see what the target use is.

  21. @Steve
    Fair comment about what we use these for – I think we shoud ditch the ballistic nuclear detterent for a cruise missile option from out Astutes. That would then make the whole astute fleet our CASD at much better value.

    We could then put TLAM on our Frigates and build 30 of them. I put a bit above where in my Navy we have 5-7 hull types only. The key is to use the latest tech and some smaller boats (Atlas ARCIM’s and CB90’s to be specific) these are game changers in my opinion and cheap in comparison to some of our other assets.

    Given that we are unlikely to start a nuclear war I think a non ballistic (Storm Shadow or similar) nuclear arsenal is probably the way to go, we can still say we have the capability – but without the need to spend 30bn on it.

    I personally think 30 Global Combat ships that are fully loaded and have CEC are more important that yet another hull type. We have a lot of the basics already (Sea Wolf VLS can take aster15 quaded) lets update the fire control and other systems and buy the Mk57 strike length for the GCS.

  22. Cruise missiles are a lot easier to shoot down and much shorter range, I am not sure they really provide enough threat to a deterrent for a high tech country.

    Not to mention that adding a nuke warhead to a missile is probably not that cheap.

    I think it would be better to make the Vanguard replacement a little more flexible and add more tubes, so they can launch standard cruise missiles whilst still carrying their deterrent.

  23. Can somebody please explain to me why we continually spend so much money financing MOD Bureaucrat’s and private companies to design warships, which they tell us are the best in the world. and then not building them whilst the RN warship count continues to fall to dangerous levels? The more it goes on the more it kooks like a cosy Political/Bureaucrat Gravy Train!

  24. @M Wilkinson.

    Pure incompetence. If you look at the French military and what they have for a similar budget it is plain to see that the MOD is a failed organisation. Take a look at the USMC who have a similar budget but in dollars (so subtract 30% for £ value) and it is embarrassing. Although the USMC does not have its own fleet – this can easily be funded out of the currency difference.

    The USMC is bigger than the whole UK military – it is just embarrassing.

  25. Apologies

    The USMC and the French military are larger and better equiped than the UK military. Simply not good enough, hope those ex generals, admirals and air commodores are all happy working for major contractors – it should be made illegal to do so past a certain rank.

  26. I am not sure it is true that the French are better equipped, just that they are differently equipped.

    France has gone down the route of lower quality vessels, but in bigger numbers.

    We have more top end gear than they do, ignoring airforce, but the effect of having better top end gear we have less boots.

  27. we have much better equipment and tactics, why do you think the Russians were practically begging us to help in Syria, our Intel is just better, and as for equipment the Type 45 say’s it all

  28. Steve
    I think the French are better equiped.
    FREMM is essentially T26 – Horizons are also good.
    Rafaele is Typhoon and they have more of them.
    Le Clerc tanks are good.
    and they have lots of them

    As for the USMC – light years ahead of us… for far less money.

  29. Aircraft wise, yes it seems so but that will balance out with the F35s.

    We have 6 air defence destroyers compared to France 4
    We have 13 frigates compared to France 5 plus 6 corvettes
    We will have 2 aircraft carriers, compared to france 1
    France has 3 landing craft compared to our 3
    10 subs vs 10 subs

    Ok France has twice the number of tanks, but it is not an island nation and so needs them.

    Compare also helicopters and transport planes etc.

    It is hard to say one is better than the other, really depends on the conflict

    I don’t see how that is better equipped, it is just a different priority.

  30. @steve – all fair points and on the point of tanks I actually think the UK should get rid of ours in preference to more apache’s which we actually deploy and let our european cousins have tanks as their terrain actually does lend itself to them.

    France have more personnel and their air assets are rather good.

    And of course there is the USMC which has more than our entire military of everything and does so on a lesser budget. The difference which could fund the navy which the USMC does not have any assets. Yes it piggy backs off the other services, but so are we.

    The key here is that we spend our money wastefully and there is a lot of evidence to support this. We need to get back to basics and sort out key items of kit and get set management in place. We all change our car regularly why can’t the military change their assets regularly instead of having 60 year old tanks.

    A ships lifespan is circa 25 years – we should therefore schedule replacements on a regular basis this is not difficult and saves money in the long run through costly maintenance and upgrades that just get harder. We use this logic for everything else why not military gear.

  31. You can’t really compare to the USMC, because they benefit from economy of scales from the other divisions of the US military.

    However, I agree that we waste a lot of money propping up BAe and other defense contractors. The lack of realistic competition means that we lack competitive pricing.

  32. Steve – We can compare to the USMC as we should benefit from those scales as well. Granted the USMC doesn’t fund any ships. But their air arm is mightily impressive and we don’t even come close. There troops personal equipment is also a lot better (valued at around $15k per person I believe). So yes we can and should compare, if for nothing else to understand where the difference in costs are and then focus on reducing if possible/necessary.

    To be honest I haven’t a clue what we spend £18bn on each year for equipment, I find it virtually impossible to do this given the levels and quality of equipment we have. 10 F35 or Typhoons = £1bn + £0.5bn for spares, munitions and facilities that is £1.5bn to buy 10 new fighter per year, the same for 20 helicopters or a T45 – after 20 years you are kind of where we need to be and we will be on £4.5bn per annum to replace.

    These are not difficult figures to do – its actually simple budgeting and fleet management. just swap tanks, helicopters and fighter jets for Eddie Stobart trucks the principle is the same, everything has a lifespan and you should plan how you want to replace it.

    Even if we built a carrier per year there is still £14bn left in the annual equipment plan (£178bn/10) so where is it going…

    The USMC know where they spend their money and are getting far better value for it – including from BAE.

  33. Curious what your view is on the Khareef vessels and whether they would have been a better buy than the rivers and or for the proposed MHCP/Type 31 groups also, after all they can be and have been UK designed and built already.

  34. The problem with building a carrier per year is not the carrier itself; it is the cost of the air wing to equip it which is the limiting factor: (And the cost of raising & training the flight crews to operate them but that is another matter).

    We need a BALANCE of forces. Whilst I would have liked to have seen a third carrier for the RN at the moment the surface fleet is a more pressing concern. Whilst many defence commentators, particularly in the MOD, will go on about how much more capable our new ships are they forget two salient facts. One, fewer ships can only be in so many places at any one time and; two, our new ships may be more capable… but so are the threats that they are facing.

    With regards the Type 31’s they are not just following in the footsteps of the Type 21s. The Type 81 Tribal class frigates were designed for exactly the same sort of duties as the Type 31s & the idea of using First & Second class vessels is not exactly a new one. The only problem with a High-Low mix though, is that governments would invariably order the Second class ships though & not the First class ships to make the force balance work.

  35. Quite excited by the Type 31 actually. Moving away from the concept of big expensive and highly complicated ships to smaller less complex and cheaper ones.

    • As has already been explained to you Matt, articles are reposted every month or two at different timeslots so that new readers see them, for example, over 70% the people who have read this today haven’t read the article before.

      This is the best way to bring the story to new readers as well as grow our audience further.

    • Yes, we’ve ran it again today too. Articles are reposted every month or two at different timeslots so that new readers see them, for example, over 70% the people who have read this today haven’t read the article before.

      This is the best way to bring the story to new readers as well as grow our audience further.

  36. I’m not the biggest fan of them yet, I still think that rather then these, the original number of the Type 26 should be built, with an increased number of River class vessels. Having 4 different escort types of vessels between 2,000-8,000 tonnes seems over the top.

    • UK Defence Journal Patrol our Fishing zones, Humanitarian patrols in the Mediterranean (or future flash point) be a visible presence for the British people at home and overseas, Falkland Patrol, WIGS, OP KIPION, Presence in Gibraltar and Home Fleet style UK tours.

      As an RN serviceman this would be a good way to improve moral and improve the public perception of the RN.

    • One can’t argue the quality of RN ships and the sailors. But, numbers are indeed a factor as a global navy, even a lesser ship in the area represents what is behind her.

    • plenty of money with the eu cash and forein aid money, as its all wasted, instead of funding all the trouble in the world maybe spending on the services might just give us some clout and stop it all, saveings to be made in government departments nhs for one, cut the penpushers and stop government and councils hireing twits on fat wages will save millions to, without ships how can u defend your flat screen tvs and phones and food in your cubards it all come by sea

  37. Plenty of rn comitments to do apart from escort the new carriers and amfib fleet there is nato standing forces un work, pirates and protect uk international interests showing the flag, uk is a island and should be golbal wide

  38. Is it true that 4 more are being considered for coast guard patrol ships to cover UK waters and to be manned by civilian and navy mix ,I read this on twitter and like most things on twitter I take it with a pinch of salt I wondered if you knew anything about it,thanks.

  39. Thanks defence journal for an interesting article. Good to see so much debate generated.
    my views for what they are worth.
    Fund our public services adequately. It should not be an issue of where do we put the money if we cut foreign aid budget by 50%? (which would give HMG £5.5 billion extra a year)
    we should definetly cut foreign aid budget but also increase income tax by 5p in the pound. This would be fairest way to increase governmental resources for vital public services. 1p extra in the pound income tax going directly into each of the following NHS, Social care, defence, education and infrastructure building fund. If we did that within 15-20 years we would have a country to be proud of.
    we could easily afford to increase RN manpower by 5000 personnel. Allowing the RN to man all 6 type 45s and upgrade them with mk41 vl strike cells for asroc, lrasm, tomahawk. £600 million including a reasonable number of missiles.
    we could easily afford 12 type 26 frigates £ £7.2 billion in total and 8-10 type 31 frigates £2-3 billion.
    The type 31 needs to be comparable to
    type 23 so armed with sea ceptor, medium gun, 18-24 cell mk41 vl system a hangar for lynx and flight deck for merlin. Giving a displacement of 4500-5000 tons= a reasonably capable warship. 10x type 31 of this capability would be £3-4 billion.
    A replacement for HMS Ocean so we do not need to use a QE strike carrier costing £3 billion as a glorified lph £500-600 million.
    All easily funded with a increased income tax and reduced foreign aid budget

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