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.
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.