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.