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An independent report into the National Shipbuilding Strategy by Sir John Parker has recommended that the Type 31 Frigate build be spread across the UK, with blocks being constructed in yards in both Scotland and England.

The National Shipbuilding Strategy is intended to be a “radical, fundamental re-appraisal of how we undertake the shipbuilding enterprise in the UK, intending to place UK naval shipbuilding on a sustainable long term footing”.

Today, Sir John Parker’s independent report designed to inform the strategy was released. The government say they will give Sir John’s work the full consideration that it deserves and will provide a full and detailed response in the spring 2017.

After confirming that the Type 26 Frigate would be built on the Clyde, Michael Fallon had earlier suggested that the Type 31 Frigate will also be assembled there.

It’s understood that the build plan for the Type 31 Frigate will follow a similar pattern to that of the Queen Elizabeth carriers and early Type 45 Destroyers in that blocks will be built in yards around the UK and assembled on the Clyde.

Modern shipbuilding makes considerable use of prefabricated sections. Entire multi-deck segments of the hull may be built elsewhere around the UK, transported to the building dock or slipway, then lifted into place. This is known as “block construction”.

Yards pre-install equipment, pipes, electrical cables and any other components within the blocks, to minimise the effort needed to assemble or install components deep within the hull once it is welded together.

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Sir John Parker said:

“Should Government, Industry and the Trade Unions rise to the challenges I have set, I believe we can establish a new era of collaboration and success across the ‘Total Enterprise’.

It will create savings over the coming years for MOD, renew the Royal Navy fleet, position the UK for new export opportunities and create regional prosperity and highly skilled jobs across the UK in the Shipyards and supply chain.”

One of the opportunities that the report identifies is the way Scotland’s cutting edge technology can allow for Modular Construction, in which ship components are produced across the UK before being assembled at a central Hub, which is expected to be the Clyde.

According to a government press release:

“The build of the Royal Navy’s largest ever warships, the Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carriers, has already demonstrated the success of such an approach, with multiple shipyards and hundreds of companies across the UK working together and benefiting from the aircraft carrier build.”

Welcoming the report on behalf of the government, Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said:

“I would like to thank Sir John for providing an ambitious vision of naval shipbuilding in the UK based on a new era of cooperation as part of our modern industrial strategy.

This report will inform our National Shipbuilding Strategy to match the needs of the Royal Navy with the ability to design and build efficiently, maintain skills, and maximise export opportunities.

This will ensure a strong naval shipbuilding sector and help deliver an economy that works for everyone.”

The government will publish a full response, and implementation plan, in spring 2017.

Michael Fallon told BBC Radio Scotland earlier in the month:

“Nobody is shortchanging the Clyde. This is a huge moment for the Clyde; we’re confirming we’re going ahead with the steel cut next summer, earlier than expected. The first eight will be the Type 26 combat ships.

After that, we will be building a lighter frigate and we will end up with a fleet that is larger than the fleet at the moment.”

Responding to earlier speculation that the work could go elsewhere, Fallon dismissed this by saying:

“BAE will be in pole position [for that contract]. They’re the principal warship builder.”

This isn’t a surprise to anyone in industry, it has long been expected that the Clyde will be building sections of the Type 31.

The report states:

“There is no precedent for building two ‘first of class’ RN frigates in one location in the UK. Type 26 is a critical project for the RN and the Nation. Type 31e is urgently required to maintain RN frigate fleet numbers and to establish a UK exportable light frigate. Against this background risks need to be assessed and evaluated in a responsible way by all stakeholders.

A separate lead shipyard or alliance appears to be the best way forward for Type 31e to minimise overall risk. Regardless of choice, BAES would remain in a position to compete for Type 31e work on combat systems, design support and in block build if capacity is available.”

The report will inform the National Shipbuilding Strategy.

The Clyde is expected to work on the construction of 5 Offshore Patrol vessels, 8 Type 26 Frigates and the assembly of “at least” 5 Type 31 Frigates, an increase over what was previously promised.

25 COMMENTS

  1. it,s ok saying these things with reports here and there when will we actually get them,or will they decide to mothball a few like they have done with challenger 2 where we will only have 200 operational and the rest either scrapped or butchered for spares…..this government and staff at the MOD need a serious kick up the arse…..

  2. Seems like a good report, unfortunately it will almost certainly be ignored as Michael Fallon has already said all the ships will be built in Scotland. The trouble is they are being built by a monopoly based in a part of the country that has been agitating for independence for years and that has recently been paving the way for another referendum. We are also re-basing all our submarines there too. The height of folly.

  3. DEFENCE giant BAE SYSTEMS faces losing its monopoly on building warships for the Royal Navy.
    City veteran Sir John Parker is expected to urge the MoD to axe BAE’s exclusive deal in a report published today.
    It criticised Type 45 Destroyers, built by BAE Systems and costing £1billion each, for breaking down in hot weather.
    At LAST SOME WITH SOME SENSE Go ” Sir John Parker ” as long as BAE Systems are in charge they over charge the government Never on schedule they design something we do not want no thought into upgrades take The Type 45 no room for MK 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) Now we need USA to build the Freedom class $362 million each we end up with Type 31 COST: £375million
    LENGTH:383ft
    SPPED: 24 knots
    CREW SIZE: 34
    NUMBER TO BE BUILT: 5
    ENTER SERVICE: 2020s
    And we will not get the TYPE 31 until 2020 we need ships Now

  4. Quite an interesting read. If modular build is vocated as the way forward this will undoubtedly shorten the scheduled build time. My Question is “Will we have the naval personnel available to run them?

  5. The report has been received by Michael Fallon with a polite ‘Thank you very much’ and will be put in a draw never to see the light of day again. We all know it’s recommendations will be ignored by the government and we will continue to order too few new ships which will be way overpriced and years late. It pains me to say it but nothing will ever change. This – and prior British governments – just don’t get it and have always strived to do defence on the cheap spending the absolute minimum they can get away with. An example in kind is the 2% NATO minimum – we all know HMG cooked the books to get there! Now there is no money to keep Harpoon and the Army will loose yet another third of the pitiful few Challenger 2 tanks that they managed to hang on to after the last axe fell. How does cut after cut after cut across the services translate into the 178bn that Michael Fallon harps on about?? Oooopps, I forgot – he’s a politician!!

    • @david
      The £178bn is a mirage – it is actually over 60% outsourced support contracts and not physical equipment. They also seem to double count the cost of aircraft carriers constantly. Actual equipment spend from the 178bn over 10 years is likely to be less than £78bn or £8bn per annum.

      Sad but true – its all misdirection and incompetence.

  6. Fallon should be charged with treason in my eye,s the government do not own the military we the tax payer do,and every day their are more and more cuts taken to our armed forces every day…BAE should have been made to foot the bill for the repairs to the type 45 they designed and built the damn things,you buy a brand new car and it goes faulty the manufacture sorts it out,at there expense..should be the same with military equipment,but governments and it,s ministers who all have shares in these companies will always wrangle the extra cash from the taxpayer rather than take a hit on their shares or profit,s……may as well scrap our military and pay some other country to protect us,oh forgot we do we pile cash left right and centre into the US..

  7. Sadly the release didn’t make it onto the BBC One lunch time news as even a 30 second minor news story at the end. A lot of the public’s reaction is driven by what they read in the media (and in fairness if it’s not a topic that someone has a special interest in how else would most people get exposure to issues in areas they don’t follow?). The sad fact though is that, if the media aren’t interested enough to bring military issues such as this to the public’s attention in any meaningful way, then there will be no widespread concern about the state of the RN (or our other armed forces) so the politicians can ignore the situation from a political perspective. If it’s not a hot button with the public that might give them problems getting re-elected that instantly puts an issue to the bottom of the priority list. I fear this is what will happen with this report.

  8. Would we rather have 1 ship built entirely in the UK or 4 that has had most or part of its construction elsewhere which has been built efficiently and economically? Whilst i support Home Grown/Home Built products and have always supported RN vessels be built entirely in the UK, it is now becoming a real issue as to whether we can put to sea a reasonable hull count of high quality vessels thus really putting our defence at risk and this has to take precedent… I really wish the Media would get onboard with the defence concerns of this nation rather than medial useless non news stories…

  9. If all the money wasted on reports, design studies and evaluation were spent on ships we would have the biggest fleet in the world.

  10. Whilst this may seem good news on the face of it the UK cannot really support a massive shipbuilding industry and as sad as I am to say this the maximum is four and the reality is probably 2.

    Firstly there needs to be a recognition that £3bn per annum needs to be spent on build alone. This would support an industry capable of 4 major vessels per annum and 40 smaller (sub 30m) vessels and assets (think Pac Ribs).

    Secondly, this needs to be strategic, the reason we are buying ships from Korea is because they has steel factories within their ship factories and a cheap workforce. We need to look at automated laser welding and a far more efficient production line.

    Thirdly, we need scale and 3 major surface vessels and a sub every 18 months is the bare minimum to keep Glasgow and Barrow going and sustainable at reasonable cost.

    Add in a load of patrol craft, Unmanned vessels and Attack craft and you have potential, but lets be honest this is UK only as everyone is in the same situation and wants to build their own navies.

    There may be some potential for export – but this will be limited. So my recommendation is 3 yards for major ships (surface – Glasgow & Liverpool, Subs Barrow). Barrow would build 14 subs every 25 years and the surface fleet would be 2.4 major surface ships per annum and 40 small vessels / UV’s per annum.

    This would give us a fleet of 74 major ships that have a life span of 25 years and a single refit with no life extension.

    The shipbuilding strategy is not sustainable in its current format I am afraid. Its just more of the same outdated thinking.

    • South Korea has a highly skilled and efficient workforce, not a cheap one. South Korea citizens enjoy a higher standard of living than UK ones.

      We cannot keep using the excuse of cheap foreign labour to cover up our industrial failures.

      • Mike,

        You are correct – the key is they have consolidated everything required to build a ship into one single peninsula in Korea and are indeed highly skilled and efficient.

        • I think the truth is a bit of both, South Korea does have available to a bigger pool of un/semi-skilled labour than the UK has (sad reality is this will get worse post brexit, when we lose the influx of cheaper and normally efficient eastern european workers), which is required for the support/logistic side of the build. I don’t know how the skilled wages compare, but i suspect also lower, even considering quality of life. They then have economy of scale in regards to numbers they are building. Finally i suspect location helps, as i suspect most civilan construction is requried by the asian market.

          None of this can’t be recreated in the UK, but it would take time and its not a instant fix.

  11. Let the scots build all of them shipbuilding in the uk don’t exist anymore all the best shipbuilders are gone thanks to the government and bae

  12. I agree with almost everything so I won’t waste time on repeats. Could the government not announce that they are committed to twelve Type 31’s and they will be built througout the U.K. or perhaps try to create a bigger Commonwealth programme with building in Australia and Canada. It woudn’t be the first time, would it?

    Going off the point somewhat. Do we really need an Astute boat to look after a boomer exiting and entering U.K. waters or could we not look at a small, quiet, conventional class for this task. Another partnership, perhaps with Scandanavian countries?

  13. France, Germany, Spain and Italy all successful warship building industries supplying home and export markets. We have a very British problem, which has been ignored for the past 50 years. The reasons are many such as lack of of investment, poor management, poor industrial relations and so on all aided by an incoherent defence policy, ineffectual MOD procurement process and the Royal Navy. The end result is we now a single source supplier to the RN which does have concern itself with trivia as efficiency, budgets and meeting deadlines that is unable to supply the warships required in terms of quality and quanity. If the situation does not improve, then future RN warships will be sourced from other countries.

  14. We have real problems across alot of Weapons we build No one wants them SA80 / Eurofighter / Type 45 Type 31 why do other countries buy guns from the US. Fighter from the US Kuwait has just bought 28 X F-18 Super Hornets why dont they buy Eurofighter India bought Rafale fighters Why do all other countries not want to buy from the UK may be they are telling us something. Nothing that that is built here is for export perhaps they dont want the rubbish we build No Country in the world queuing up to buy T45 or T31 so why not buy the Freedom class from US cheaper than the TYPE 31. lets us buy from other countries

    • Colin you do the Uk as a whole a grave misjustice. Have some pride!

      You are very wrong about Typhoon. It is a very good aircraft developing into an excellent multi role aircraft despite its horrendous birth process. Lesson: Avoid involving too many partners. It is also a very good export product. Some 478 have been delivered, from combined firm orders for 599, with examples for Austria, Germany, Italy, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Spain as well as the UK

      You mention Kuwait F-18s (an aircraft down to 2 built per month). It has requested 28 Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets although it has also considered a split buy that would include further Typhoons.

      Qatar has requested 36 Boeing F-15E Strike Eagles but this is tied to a 30 Boeing wide-body jets order. “Give us cheap F-15s and we will help your failing 787 aircraft”

      Where I do agree and have said on this website many times is we should acquire the Freedom Class boat. But we should build it here under licence using the ideas Parker has suggested. Why the Yanks can build one for $365 Mn and the Type 31 is now at £350 Mn and counting (according to analysis by Jane’s Defence Weekly) needs investigating and quickly.

      • @Chish

        I agree that there are some stunning examples of efficient platforms out there – the Meko class, Freedom Class and the Huitfeldt to name a few.

        I believe we should build these on licence until we can design market leading designs.

        The design team for the abalone and hutifeldts is available for hire I believe and this would be a good first step in getting the capability.

        Lets not also forget small ships as we need far more of them, again the benchmark designs would seem to be Atlas Arcims, Combat Boat CB90 and the Safeboats Mk6. If we cannot better these designs then we should build them

  15. The trouble with UK weapons systems of the larger kind is that they are too expensive, lack capability (due to a lack of investment/funds) and the designs are to orientated solely to the UK armed forces. The T45 and CVF being perfect examples of that flawed policy.

    If we cannot export our weapons to others and enjoy the economies of scale that brings, then the UK armed forces will in the future be equipped with mostly USA made equipment. I would suggest the F35 project being an example of this, on the positive we build 15% of every F35 so not a total loss. Maybe that is an alternative, to having a standalone weapons industry by being the USA’s major sub contractor of weapon systems of choice.

  16. Since the end of WW2, there has been a steady reduction of manufacturing capability around the country when it comes to Naval defence supply. During the war, ships and landing craft were built in small family run yards, some tucked up rivers and small ports. When the call came, there were plenty of options for the then War Office. Today, that choice is much reduced and has lead to small pockets of excellence, mainly located in Scotland. The latter’s continued desire to separate from the union further exposes just how bad the provision for defence supply has become.

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