Scottish shipyards will have launched 5 River class Offshore Patrol Vessels, 8 Type 26 Frigates and 5 Type 31e Frigates between 2015 and 2035.
With the awarding of the Type 31e Frigate work to Rosyth, between 2015 and 2035 yards in Scotland will launch 18 vessels of three types.
The following ships have entered service, been ordered or are currently under contract negotiation.
There’s a lot of misunderstanding and myth circulating about how many ships the shipyards on the Clyde are expecting to build, but what’s the truth?
The chopping and changing when it comes to the requirements of the Royal Navy in terms of ship classes, numbers and even the building of those ships has caused a great deal of misunderstanding and confusion, not least when discussing Scottish politics.
Shipbuilding on the Clyde became controversial during the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum, when the pro-union ‘Better Together’ campaign touted the planned Royal Navy order of 13 Type 26 Frigates to be built on the Clyde as a benefit of Scotland remaining in the United Kingdom.
Essentially, people believe that Scotland was promised 13 warships.
The issue? The future composition of the Royal Navy surface fleet was changed after a defence review in 2015 resulting in five of those Type 26 Frigates being cancelled and replaced with cheaper general purpose vessels, amid cries of ‘betrayal’ but why did this happen?
Why were Type 26 numbers reduced?
The initial Type 26 Frigate order had been cut back from 13 to 8 in order to fund more of the immediate spending outlined in the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review. As a result of Type 26 being reduced to 8 ships, it was announced that five cheaper general purpose frigates were to be designed and ordered.
Part of the reason for this is that the MoD is hoping to reduce its reliance on BAE and cut the costs of procurement by spreading shipbuilding work across civil and naval yards around the UK. To this end, the UK Government say they are implementing the results of an independent report into the National Shipbuilding Strategy by Sir John Parker which recommended that the Type 31 Frigate build be spread across the UK, with blocks and components being constructed in yards in both Scotland and England.
The National Shipbuilding Strategy was 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”.
The news that BAE decided not to bid to assemble the Type 31e Frigate on the Clyde due to an apparent lack of interest created a stir in Scotland after earlier expectations that the light frigates would be built there.
However, BAE themselves say that shipbuilding capacity on the Clyde will be maxed out until the mid 2030s while the Ministry of Defence want the first of the new Type 31 Frigates in service by 2023, one of the primary reasons they have decided not to bid as prime contractor for the project, there’s no space at the BAE yards on the Clyde to do so if they are to meet the deadline for the first Type 31e to hit the water.
BAE say the move will allow them to ‘appropriately support the National Shipbuilding Strategy’ whilst ensuring the delivery of the five Offshore Patrol Vessels and the City class Type 26 frigates currently on contract, ‘to time, budget and to the highest quality standards.’
So, who is building the Type 31e Frigate and how will they be built?
Babcock will be building the vessels in Rosyth.
According to Babcock in a statement:
“Following a comprehensive competitive process, Arrowhead 140, a capable, adaptable and technology-enabled global frigate will be the UK Royal Navy’s newest class of warships, with the first ship scheduled for launch in 2023.
At its height the programme will maximise a workforce of around 1250 highly- skilled roles in multiple locations throughout the UK, with around 150 new technical apprenticeships likely to be developed. The work is expected to support an additional 1250 roles within the wider UK supply chain.
With Babcock’s Rosyth facility as the central integration site, the solution provides value for money and squarely supports the principles of the National Shipbuilding Strategy. It builds on the knowledge and expertise developed during the Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier modular build programme.”
Archie Bethel, Babcock CEO, said:
“It has been a tough competition and we are absolutely delighted that Arrowhead 140 has been recognised as offering the best design, build and delivery solution for the UK’s Royal Navy Type 31 frigates.
Driven by innovation and backed by experience and heritage, Arrowhead 140 is a modern warship that will meet the maritime threats of today and tomorrow, with British ingenuity and engineering at its core. It provides a flexible, adaptable platform that delivers value for money and supports the UK’s National Shipbuilding Strategy.”
Babcock say that will begin immediately following formal contract award, with detailed design work to start now and manufacture commencing in 2021 and concluding in 2027.