Despite alarming headlines, five frigates have not been cancelled. Postponing the order of five lighter frigates until the next SDSR frees up money for other projects.

The initial Type 26 frigate order has been cut back from 13 to 8 in order to fund more of the immediate spending outlined in todays SDSR, a move that has been widely expected since 2013. Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that we will be buying 8 ASW frigates, 5 general purpose frigates and 2 more patrol vessels.

The original plan for Type 26 was 8 anti-submarine warfare variants and 5 general purpose variants. This is still the case.

Many media outlets such as the Daily Record are claiming that only the 8 ship ASW variant of the vessel will be built, this does not appear to be the case, it is understood that the 5 General Purpose variants will still be going ahead.

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.”

Work on the first of the frigates doesn’t start until the end of the decade, putting money towards an order this far in advance for ships not due to be complete until well after 2025 despite needing the money to fund other commitments made today would be an unwise decision.

The Type 26 frigate represents the future backbone of the Royal Navy and a massive leap forward in terms of flexibility of surface vessels enjoyed by the service. It 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.

The design has now passed Main Gate approval and a detailed design is under way and it is expected that the Type 26 will “enter service as soon as possible after 2020″, each vessel is expected to cost between £250-£350m.

The original working model for the ship put the length at 141 metres long and gave a displacement close to 7,000 tonnes. In late 2010 it was reported that the specifications had been reduced in order to bring down the cost from £500m to £250-350m per ship. By 2011 new specification details began to emerge of a 5,400 tonne ship emphasising flexibility and modularity. The new design is believed to be 149m long, a top speed of more than 26 knots and accommodation for up to 200 people. It is expected to have 60 days endurance and have a range of 7,000 miles at 15 knots.

The Type 26 will be an adaptable, powerful and flexible frigate with a wide array of cutting edge sensors and weapons designed to help it effectively and efficiently meet the evolving mission requirements inherent to modern warfare.

70 COMMENTS

  1. Anyone with a reasonable undertsanding of how defence planning and expenditure now works will appreciate this. The 13 T26 ships were not to be ordered all at once anyway and were going to take over 20 years to buy and build. Updating the younger T23s remains a sensible alternative in the meantime, as well as operating a mixed fleet of T23 and t26 for the next 15 years or so. The frigate fleet remains at 13…. to many thats not enough but its not another cut either.

    • I fully appreciate that the 13 were always going to be built over a period of time even if 20 years but that does not require the order to be only 8 and 5 layet over 20 years rather than the order being 13 over 20 years from the off.

    • I think the authors of this post fail to understand that buying naval ships is not like running to the store to buy eggs. A modern warship takes many years to design and build, and then even more time to bring fully into service. A ship ordered today, for example, won’t be ready to leave the quay for 7 or 8 years.

      Meanwhile, existing ships wear out and/or become obsolete. If you fail to properly plan for the future and prepare replacements, you will soon have a situation where there is a gap in naval capability – your existing fleet is ineffective, and there are no new ships to take their place.

      Cancelling ships today might free up money immediately, but it comes at the expense of capabilities a decade from now. No one knows what the world situation will be in 10 years, and I hope that we are not going to be kicking ourselves for having made stupid choices.

    • the ocean issue won’t go away i’d propose a return to a tried and tested method of the conversion of other ships to similar type vessels. i’d look into the removal ofth superstructure on a bay class, exten d the already big flight deck full lenghth and operate it as a h.l.p.

  2. Its a more sensible procurement, the batch 2 T26’s wouldn’t need to be signed for years and this would save money now to pay for the holes in our defence, namely Maritime Patrol Aircraft. The last of the T23’s were commissioned only 13 years ago and could easily meet today and tomorrows technical needs with any necessary refit. I would agree that we need more numbers in the surface fleet, but with the new larger river class to take over from light duties such as the Caribbean patrol it does free up more frigates for escorting our carriers. I would have liked to have seen the MHC programme retain its patrol element requirement as i feel this would fill any long term gaps in patrol’s in any possible major conflict as it would offer long term value for money.

    • another onsideration might be the purchase of the u.s. ticondaroga cruisers as the they are withdrawn from service, proven, technologically current. the only real drawback being the age of the hulls

  3. Days before the Scottish referendum on 18 September 2014 Hoon clearly stated that in the event of a NO vote an order for 13 Type 26 frigates would be placed at Govan in a matter of days. Over a year later and nothing has happened, at best that order will now be 8 if it ever materialises. Just lies and false promises.

      • As least you still have some RN shipbuilding unlike the NE of England, so be happy. I so wish HMG were terrified of losing the NE like they are of Scotland leaving the Union. So that we got some off the work and bases that get thrown at Scots to keep them happy.

    • the ocean issue won’t go away i’d propose a return to a tried and tested method of the conversion of other ships to similar type vessels. i’d look into the removal oft he superstructure on a bay class, exten d the already big flight deck full lenghth and operate it as a h.l.p.as for broken promises, 12 type 45’s reduced to 8 then 6

  4. It does make sense but for the anti england brigade in scotland its an easy headline to shout about. Its not as if they won’t build all the ships as the t23 will need replacements and who knows by 2020 more could be ordered. The yards in scotland will have plenty of work after all there still building the carriers the new ocean patrol ships and now 8 new frigates.

  5. When dealing with SNP gnashing of teeth, remember, that cancelled of not(remember they will stick to that line), the rationale behind the decision is to fund new maritime patrol aircraft. Yup – the same type of aircraft the SNP critisice the UK for not having….so all that need to be asked of the SNP is – would they rather a fleet of patrol aircraft AND new frigates, or just frigates? And then pause and wait for them to bring Trident into the debate… !

    • Interesting – just got home myself – I’ll slog through the actual SDSR document tomorrow and see what they say exactly. This would make sense. We were never going to build and commission 13 new frigates into the fleet within a decade. Hope yet lives!

  6. Who knows how this will play out over the next 20 years, but history shows that you should always pick the lower number, usually its even less.

  7. it looks like five type 26 HAVE been cancelled and the Royal Navy will get a new cheaper class of frigate – I wonder if the Black Swan project will make a come back

  8. Reading the SDSR it implies that the 5 general purpose frigates will be a new lighter frigate class that is also more suitable for export.

  9. As expected bbc and sky have started the “reduced number” headlines why they can never report the whole story i dont know. Why not say 8 t26 but also a new design that costs less so we could end up with more than 13.

  10. The SDSR says “introduction of eight advanced Type 26 Global Combat Ships” and “we will also launch a concept study and then design and build a new class of lighter, flexible general
    purpose frigates”
    Is anybody seriously suggesting the new class of frigates will be based on the T26?
    This will be a totally new warship, cheaper with far less capability.
    So the T26 program has been reduced from 13 to 8 warships.

  11. “We will launch a concept study and then design and build a new class of lighter, flexible, exportable general purpose frigate to complement the Type 26 so that by the 2030s we can further increase the total number of frigates and destroyers.”

  12. My guess would be something in between the River Class and the Type 26; a more modern version of the old Type 21, hopefully without the design faults. The Type 21 was 117m long, compared with 148.5m for the Type 26 (or even 133m for the Type23), while the latest River Class are 90.5m. BAe are already making the 99m long Khareef class for the Oman Navy, priced about half as much as the Type 26.

  13. Just hilarious to read SNP ravings over frigates. In the event of a YES vote the order would never, ever have gone to Clydeside. And anyway, an independent Scottish currency would have been down the pan by now too. Norway’s krone has fallen 12% since referendum day because of oil price collapse. So much for “Independence would be the best thing for generations” rubbish!

  14. The author of this article, despite his posturing and ‘ apparent BAE connections ‘ in Govan really has dropped the ball on this one. As some have already touched in we are to receive 8 T26’s. Thats it end of. The price just went up on those 8 to boot.

    The 5 + however many will be nothing to do with T26 in any way. Nor will they be eligible for export as many of those interested and capable of paying a BAE asking price would have to of gone elsewhere years before.

  15. David,
    Again as with your comments on all things your positive way of thinking is to be lauded, but it is sadly wrong.
    TYPE 26 numbers HAVE been decreased by 5. The 5 new frigates are of a different design. Lighter to appeal to other nations. Thus the already old design utilising outdated and cast of weapon systems from Type 23 will be replaced with an even more economical design. Though I support the increase in patrol vessels around UK waters, I feel this is as serious reduction in the overall capability of the RN. For some reason “Sea blindness” is continuing in UK, and many are unable to see the devious behaviour exhibited by politicians. As for the enhancement of one carrier for “Amphibious operations” that sounds like early retirement for Bulwark or Albion will follow shortly.
    At first glance the SDSR is good news, but as I mentioned the “Devil is in the detail” and the detail is less good.

  16. I don’t really understand what is happening with the OPV’s – why are we ordering 2 new ones unless that is to increase our fleet, but with only 6 mentioned in the report that seems to mean scrapping /selling slightly older OPV’s, with the only reason I can understand being that they don’t carrry helicopters. Didn’t we only recently buy them outright?

  17. It’s all about cash-flow but, additionally, we need to start breaking down the monopoly held by BAE in order to get value for money. I’m quite sure that a German or French design for the GP frigates with major components coming from the UK would be a good “shot across the bows” for BAE.

  18. The future 5 or more could be the BMT Venator 110 design with CAMM forward of the bridge and StanFlex module slots behind the bridge. Guns could be 5-inch or 75mm main gun with 2 30mm on each side.

  19. Providing suitable escorts for the new 65,000 ton “Jump Jet” carriers in addition to any semblance of additional independent ship deployment and refit cycles is going to be an interesting exercise for the Naval Staff!

  20. It seems to me that the UK could procure some decent ships in the 3,500 ton range. The Meko 200 series provides a range of options, albeit the design is a bit dated now. If these ships could be used for less demanding work closer to home and funds are allocated to other programs seems reasonable.

  21. We never have enough frigates – even Nelson wanted more. However during WW2 we had time to build corvettes and lease American, (albeit old), destroyers etc. The next naval war will be fought by ships whose hulls are already in the water. As it takes so long to build a ship, my fear is we won’t have the time to do so.

  22. I’m an interested observer with only a layman’s knowledge of all things military, but I have a few questions:

    Why are the Royal Navy’s ships (when compared to Russian, American, Indian, Japanese and South Korean ships) relatively lightly armed? For example, the Type 45’s have no strike-length launchers, and even if they did there would only be 12, only some have anti-ship missiles, and the ones that do only have the aging and pretty much obsolete Harpoon, they have no self-defence torpedoes and only a 114mm main gun. And although the Type-26 frigates will have strike-length launchers, there will still only be 24 of them.

    I realise a lot of it is to do with politics… but still! Why spend so much money on ships if they have nothing or little to attack or defend with?

  23. The answer to Nick is that British ships are designed to do things that a few of the navies mentioned do not do – deploy outside home waters for extended periods, and go to war. The former requires room for stores, and accommodation, the latter requires a more dense construction, which costs money. Russian ships can’t generate their own fresh water and have personnel facilities which are incompatible with a volunteer service. Type 45 could do with a larger gun but it is not a tomahawk truck and self defence torpedoes are pretty much useless. There are stories of shiny new FREMM frigates coming back from NATO excercises with the front deck
    buckled whereas old type 23s could fire their main gun all day no problem – the spec sheet doesn’t tell the full story

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