In recent years, Scotland has emerged as a hub for military shipbuilding in the United Kingdom.

Between 2015 and 2035, Scottish shipyards are expected to construct 24 warships, with several already built and some in service.

As per the plans, Scottish shipyards will build five Offshore Patrol Vessels, eight Type 26 Frigates, five Type 31 Frigates, five Type 32 Frigates, and one Ukrainian warship.

Ukraine signed a memorandum with the UK securing £1.25 billion in funding to build new military vessels for the Ukrainian Navy. The first ship will be built in the UK, and the subsequent seven vessels will be constructed in Ukraine.

In addition to Type 26 and Type 31 Frigates, the Type 32 Frigate is slated to augment the escort fleet to 24 vessels from its current 19. The Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, had initially confirmed that the Rosyth shipyard would be building more vessels than initially planned. Specifically, he stated:

“We are committed to building the Type 26 in the United Kingdom; it is under construction on the Clyde. In Rosyth, work is ongoing to build the facility needed to build the Type 31s and the subsequent Type 32s. He also knows that I recently recategorized the future Fleet Solid Support ship as a warship. I intend to make sure that, if not entirely, there is a considerable degree of UK build in that process, subject to tender. I have to be cautious about the contract, because the competition is to begin soon—very soon.”

However, this statement was later retracted, and it was clarified that the work could be assigned to either the Clyde or Rosyth shipyards.

Despite earlier rumours that the class is set to be cancelled, the UK Government have insisted that new frigates, whatever form they take in terms of procurement, will be built. The UK Government have committed to new Type 32 frigates, be it as a new design or a second batch of already-in-build Type 31 Frigates.

Government confirm Type 32 Frigate not cancelled

Benefits of Distributed Approach

The National Shipbuilding Strategy has resulted in a shift away from reliance on a single supplier, BAE at Govan, to a more distributed approach. This has allowed a second shipyard in Scotland, Babcock at Rosyth, to enter the military shipbuilding business. This change is expected to lead to significant growth in the sector.

Moreover, the ‘case by case’ procurement approach has aided in avoiding the ‘feast and famine’ scenario that was prevalent in the past, where large orders were followed by periods of layoffs and uncertainty.

The new approach has also opened doors for export orders, especially for the Type 26 Frigate. These export orders greatly benefit the supply chain in Scotland, as overseas orders allow the industry to supply components for a significantly larger number of ships than domestic orders alone.

Trade unions and industry experts have emphasised the importance of continued investment. Gary Cook, GMB Scotland Organiser and CSEU Scotland Chair pointed out:

“This is a generational opportunity for the Scottish economy and particularly for the communities that are synonymous with shipbuilding. The industry needs the full support of both the UK and Scottish governments. Investment in infrastructure, skills, and innovation is key to ensuring that Scotland remains at the forefront of global shipbuilding.”

Moreover, focusing on environmentally sustainable practices in shipbuilding can also contribute to Scotland’s position as a leader in this field. Andrew McLaughlin, Director of Clyde Marine Planning Partnership, had this to say:

“As we build ships that protect our nation, it’s equally important that we consider the environmental impact. Sustainable practices in shipbuilding not only benefit our ecosystem but also position Scotland as a leader in green shipbuilding technologies.”

To what extent does Scotland benefit from exporting military ships and/or their design?

While, for example, the Type 26 Frigate based vessels ordered by Australia and Canada will not be built on the Clyde it is important to remember that there is still a benefit not only in reduced unit costs in the longer term but there is also a benefit to companies around Scotland and the wider UK making components for these vessels. Export success is also important to the Ministry of Defence; competitive companies, winning export work, enable overheads to be spread, reducing the unit cost to the Department.

In short, I’m getting at the idea that a company only building eight components for the British Type 26 fleet could now be building up to thirty-two components for the British, Canadian and Australian fleets. Export orders benefit the supply chain here in Scotland immensely.

The exports have turned the Type 26 Frigate from an eight-ship class to, essentially, a thirty-two ship class.

While it is fair to say that there will be significant local supply chain involvement in Canada and Australia, it should be noted that the businesses based in Scotland will have the advantage of retaining intellectual property and the fully trained people, putting them in prime position to compete for the work, even overseas. In addition, the export of ships and their components is beneficial for the cost related to maintenance and supply lines when it comes to operating the finished vessels.

What I mean by that is that the increased number of units, be they ships or components of ships, in service with navies worldwide makes it far more economical for the company building the components to retain repair and refurbishment facilities for those components here in Scotland, sustaining jobs and sustaining the ability of naval forces to cost effectively repair or replace those components should the need arise.

What more could the UK Government do to maintain and foster military shipbuilding in Scotland?

As things stand, the UK Government is, by far, the primary customer for the shipbuilding industry in Scotland. The entire future surface fleet of frigates and destroyers are, it’s expected, to be built in Scottish shipyards. Outside of procurement, however, there are, I believe, areas in which the UK Government could invest to encourage growth in the industry.

When writing this submission, I stated that I believed that investment allowing for a fully covered build hall (such as the one built in Rosyth) would encourage a faster and, therefore, cheaper procurement of larger warships. Well, that happened. BAE’s Govan shipyard is expanding. The facility will allow huge Type 26 frigates to be built entirely indoors – partly thanks to public funding.

BAE hopes to construct the next batch of five Type 26 frigates, bringing the total built up to eight inside the purpose-built facility. As things stand today, the first three ships are being built inside a much smaller shipbuilding hall in sections before being moved outside and welded together. It works, but it’s not very efficient and exposes the insides of complex vessels to the elements.

As mentioned above, this effort to enhance the capacity of the yard will proceed with some public funding. At a recent meeting of the Defence Committee, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace revealed that the Ministry of Defence (MOD) is investing in the BAE shipyard to increase its capacity and productivity for future work. Wallace told the committee, “I am delighted that BAE is going to put a covered build hall in place. We will be contributing to it as the MoD and the customer, but that is the sort of thing that is about the cultural shift and investing in the yard so that when, whatever happens, one day – there is not a naval contract, or it wins another contract to build a civil ship – it can show that productivity”.

Currently, in Glasgow, warships are built indoors in sections and moved out onto the ‘hard standing’ to be assembled in the open, requiring significant weatherproofing and allowing for relatively sensitive kit becoming exposed to the elements or prying eyes.

In Rosyth, Babcock has completed the ‘Venturer building’, a large, covered build hall which will house two frigates for uninterrupted, parallel assembly and, say Babcock, “support increased productivity gains through improved access to the platforms and digital connectivity”.

The Rosyth facility contains modern manufacturing facilities and new digital systems, as well as gantry access to remove the need for scaffolding. Glasgow will soon have that luxury too.

Progress picks up on new Glasgow frigate factory

Avatar photo
George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

24 Comments
oldest
newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Brom
Brom
9 months ago

But what are the Scottish prospects for motor homes?

BigH1979
BigH1979
9 months ago
Reply to  Brom

The sector has seen significant investment by the SNP……off the books of course 😂

NC
NC
9 months ago
Reply to  BigH1979

Hardly since itemised as an asset in annual accounts.

Geoff Roach
Geoff Roach
9 months ago

The Scottish Government do know we’re building these?🙄

Ben Rogers
Ben Rogers
9 months ago

It’s 2025, China is about to invade/attack Taiwan. The QE carrier has 36 f35b’s on board plus various choppers etc in the Indian Ocean/local neighbourhood. A hundred miles away is an American carrier with 75 f18’s etc on board. If you’re the Chinese military planner, which would you prioritise taking out. 75 4.5 gen planes or 36 5 gen planes? Fire at will

Puffing Billy
Puffing Billy
9 months ago

To hedge our bets we should be building some of them south of the border.

Puffing Billy
Puffing Billy
9 months ago

Correction. Ships I mean – not motor homes.

David Lloyd
David Lloyd
9 months ago

Infrastrata have made a commitment to Harland and Woolf in Belfast. training apprentices and building up engineering skills would help.

In April, the Belfast yard completed its first new vessel since Anvil Point in 2003, a barge for the waste management company Cory, the first of an order for 23 such craft. It came in on time and on budget.

From 2025 the yard is expecting to complete the final assembly of three naval support ships for the Royal Navy as part of the Team Resolute Consortium. We may soon have another centre of excellence for naval shipbuilding.

Frank62
Frank62
9 months ago
Reply to  David Lloyd

Great for Belfast & H&W to rebuild shipbuilding skills there.

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
9 months ago

“ In short, I’m getting at the idea that a company only building eight components for the British Type 26 fleet could now be building up to thirty-two components for the British, Canadian and Australian fleets” Also with a drumbeat more local supply chain will evolve so there is a full local ecosystem. When you talk about 32 gearboxes or 64 motors etc that is a lot if specialist manufacturing volume. Whilst there is talk of tech transfer a lot of it is too expensive to replicate locally and you then risk having expensive learning and prototyping curves. This really… Read more »

ABCRodney
ABCRodney
9 months ago

I couldn’t agree with you more. GE Power Conversion was saved by the 2nd Tranche of AIM’s for the T26. Now they are expanding and recruiting due to the extra 48 for RCN & RAN orders. And we also have to add the extra 24 RR MT30 for the RAN and RCN. They really are an absolute expert triumph USN, RCN, RAN, JSDF, MM & ROKN and more to come.
As for AUKUS we just need to think of where that is going. One thing is for sure BAe at Barrow and RR here in Derby need bigger car parks.🤣

Drew
Drew
9 months ago
Reply to  ABCRodney

This admirable re-industrialisation, is long overdue, may it expand to consumer products and promote worthy careers for the current generation and those who follow and get rid of the aspiration to become reality celebrity’s and indulgence in wokery ( namby Pamby (and develop a sense of pride in working towards helping us all to enjoy a reasonable standard of living

Bob
Bob
9 months ago

Given the fate of the Waves, perhaps its time to look again at recruitment and retention? No point building ships you cannot crew.

Rec
Rec
9 months ago
Reply to  Bob

Yes, recruitment and retention is a major issue. The Waves should not be sold, rather there should be a review as to why the RFA has a manpower crisis, and the issues addressed. In addition given the material condition of many ifl of the remaining T23s, is it not time to speed up T26 production and add a batch 3 of two units to fill the gap between T26 and T83 this is about focusing on long term strategy and not short term cost cutting. The Royal Navy is at a tipping point, with so few RFA tankers etc, there… Read more »

Jim
Jim
9 months ago
Reply to  Rec

Everyone has a man power crisis these days, difference is RFA can’t import people.

Drew
Drew
9 months ago

No mention whatsoever of the anti aircraft guns. Missile silos to defend these targets in the event of attack what means of defence is there for naval docks and airfields. Especially since we are unable to prevent invasion over the channel

Wasp snorter
Wasp snorter
9 months ago
Reply to  Drew

Is that a Joke?

Jim
Jim
9 months ago

Good where we are but we need to stop pretending the UK can or should build commercial vessels and maintain the focus on keeping naval yards with continuous work programs. BAE is easily the biggest exporter of warships in the world now following AUKUS.

Val
Val
9 months ago
Reply to  Jim

Stop pretending. We’ve not even tried and studied that aspect.

Rick
Rick
9 months ago

So in 20 years the UK will construct 24 warships — China will construct that many in how many years? 3 or 4 ? Obviously the UK cannot compete ship-for-ship with China , but it has to find the money to do more.

Val
Val
9 months ago
Reply to  Rick

Like the covid bs?

Frank62
Frank62
9 months ago

“slated to augment the escort fleet to 24 vessels from its current 19.”

But we don’t have 19 escorts at the moment. 17 I think, 16 by the end of the year. A couple more going bin the next few yeas before our first new builds get comissioned.
Total disgrace.

Thomas Afred Came
Thomas Afred Came
9 months ago
Reply to  Frank62

We will get the type 31/31 at one per year on average. Plus the 26s at what, one per year/15 months from 2026 ish to 2035

Frank62
Frank62
9 months ago
Reply to  Frank62

I’d bite your arm off for 2 new escorts p.a.!

Last edited 9 months ago by Frank62