Steller Systems is offering Project Spartan, a ‘configurable, modular, survivable, affordable and exportable ship’, to the Type 31 Frigate programme.

The company say they have focused on packing as much UK industrial capability and UK equipment into the vessel, benefiting the Royal Navy and the UK as a whole.

The company add that the Nodal Modular Physical Architecture approach to the design allows for configurable options. Each node has the ability to accept different systems; for example a customer may wish to have a simple 30mm Small Calibre Gun system in place of the forward Mk41 Vertical Launch System (VLS), or place a SeaRAM or Phalanx in this position.

Spartan has been designed with the space and the margins to allow for future growth and through-life upgrades. The design includes a large hangar and a stern garage, capable of accommodating a range of unmanned vehicles as well as future systems. The ship is designed to operate a wide range of unmanned vehicles and deploy Special Forces.

According to Steller Systems:

“There is flexibility in the design through the use of an open architecture combat system. In addition a hybrid propulsion system gives a significant electrical surplus, allowing for next-generation weapons and sensor systems to be fitted in the future to meet changing requirements. 

With a large, reconfigurable multi-mission stern garage with access to a stern ramp, Spartan has been designed to be adaptable in a rapidly changing world.

This adaptable space is designed to accommodate waterborne assets such as Rigid Inflatable Boats (RIB), Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUV), Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USV), Variable Depth Sonars (VDS), humanitarian aid stores and equipment containers. Spartan is a highly configurable design that meets many navies’ needs now and in the future. The Royal Navy will benefit from a survivable and highly capable ship that will be the backbone of the fleet for many years. Ensuring that the design remains attractive to the global export market will bring economic advantages to the Royal Navy through efficiencies of scale, and will result in wider benefits to UK plc.”

Steller Systems is a privately-owned, completely independent naval architecture and systems engineering consultancy. They offer a wide range of naval architecture services covering all stages of a vessel’s life cycle, from initial concept design through to full detailed design, structural analysis, design review, stability analysis and emergency response.

This concept looks promising but very little detail exists, for more information see their brochure.

Imagery copyright of Steller Systems.


  1. I hope the real ship would manage to get the white ensign flown from the hoist and not the fly.

    • Haha-well spotted. Here in South Africa the local Cop Shop regularly fly the SA Police Ensign upside down!! Even someone who doesn’t know about flags should be able to see that this is wrong.

  2. And here’s more information:

    “The Length waterline is 110m.
    Length Overall 117m.
    Beam Waterline 17m.
    Displacement Deep (Fully Loaded) 3,600 tonnes.
    Range is 6000nm at 12 knots.
    4000nm at 18kts.”

    • Well done for digging that up. Thanks! It’s been driving me nuts that for the last 6 months or however long it’s been since they announced Spartan I couldn’t even find the dimensions and displacement.

      For comparison (from Venator 110 is:

      Length waterline 107 vs 110m for Spartan
      Length Overall 117m vs 117m for Spartan
      Beam Waterline ? vs 17m for Spartan
      (Venator maximum beam 18m so its beam-waterline is probably slightly (~1m?) less than Spartan)
      Displacement 4,000 tonnes vs 3,600 tonnes (Fully Loaded) for Spartan
      Range is 6000nm at 15 knots vs 6000nm at 12 knots or 4000nm at 18kts for Spartan

      From looking at the CGIs Venator seems to have a bit more top-side bulk which probably accounts for how it has more displacement in what is probably slightly less beam. It would be interesting to compare the drafts at full load.

      Spartan looks good but overall I suspect more preliminary work is under the belt for the Venator design so, although both are still early stage designs, I suspect that Venator is the more developed at this point.

      It’s a bit crazy to make a call on the basis of brochures but I’m still leaning towards Venator. Maybe having two strong non-BAE contenders will spur both of them on to excellence. Just possibly any “we’re your shipbuilder of choice, we have this one in the bag” type of complacency from BAE might lose them the contract in light of two strong competitors.

      • I sent them an email and the Managing Director sent me a nice email back with the information about the Spartan.

        I emailed BAE requesting information about their “BAE Cutlass” vessel (which they offered Colombia in March 2017) and have not received a response. There is no mention of the “BAE Cutlass” on their website. There is also no mention that BAE attended the “ColombiaMar 2017” exhibition on their website either.

        I think this illustrates my point well in that BAE are not going to be able to sell ships if they don’t exist on their own website and that we should move away from the single-source supplier relationship that is clearly not working for our Navy and goes against what’s in the best interests of our country.

        • its a shame stellar and venator don’t publish , projected cost and build time.more ships and produced fast is what the u.k needs

  3. I’d like to see the MOD implement a competitive bidding process that emulates private business practices. That would encourage innovation and cost control. The government should also stop getting caught up in choosing shipyards. Let the winning bidder choose the yard. That will stimulate competition amongst the yards. Steller deserves a chance to compete, although their offering seems to be comparable to a Type 23. At first blush, I don’t see standout innovation.

  4. i like the look of it,but as BAE seem to have the monopoly over the mod/government any private firm is going to be hard pushed because of the bully tactics used….and i would like to see more competition as you might get more for the same spenditure…

    • yards such as yarrow, harland wolf,camill laird i would expect, given the right build time incentives, do anything the clyde yards can. the BAE monopoly has gone on for far toolong

    • I think BAE’s dominance in the UK defense sector is slowly being chipped away. Losing the FRES contract to General Dynamics will hopefully wake them up and let other competitors know they can win contracts if they offer better value for money and design and build in the UK.

  5. The Spartan and Venator are both good solid designs. They are not exactly cutting edge though and that is disappointing. The South African Navy’s Meko’s or Israelis SAAR seem to be far more cutting edge and capable and are at a great price point.

    Can we really say this is the cutting edge of British Naval Design and if so is this good enough.

    I think we can and should do better – sorry

  6. Monopoly inevitably leads to over-priced goods and services and a lack of innovation. Im sure that the leaders of the MOD know this, yet they allow the Bae Systems monopoly to persist. It isn’t healthy and it’s hurting the ability of the U.K. To defend itself.

  7. The MOD has always suffered from a not invented here syndrome despite the best designs being private venture
    designs (think back to Spitfire, Mosquito, which would have been strangled at birth if the War Office /MOD had their
    way)I can only think of the Challenger 2 scraping through lately so I don’t rate this company’s chances.

  8. Ian, that’s would be bang on the money if it weren’t for the fact that BAE Systems IS a private company. The government is inappropriately propping up one private company. I understand why they might are likely to be doing that but it’s plainly the wrong course of action.

  9. Instead of waiting 10 years to see what design is handed over to BAE to extort from the taxpayer, the government could order the Gowind 2500 or the Sigma 10514.

    Both already in construction, both around £250m or less.

  10. Hear what all of you say but from a strategic perspective,the UK has to have a strong British defence company. There are also a huge number of jobs at stake which cannot afford to be lost or go overseas. Local competition would be great but the setup costs for new companies would be massive and would an Oligopoly be any better than the Bae monopoly?

    • Why do we have to have a strong defence company? We can’t now home build all our gear and so the strategic advantage is gone. If anything stop selling weapons to support questionable governments would help us strategically not harm it.

      • Right so we simply buy from other mops ies who supply questionable Governments then while claiming to high ground. Not sure that’s a great strategy for the future of what’s left of British Industry.

        Equally there might have been more competition here had various governments not encouraged the sell off of practically all major non Bae defence businesses to foreign owners, though I doubt through years of industrial and political mis-management and mis steps it’s doubtful they would have survived anyway outside of Bae’s clutches.

  11. They look brilliant let us give Spartan the go ahead and allow them to start building it would be good for the export market and with the right armament these would be good ships it about time that BAE had some competition Uk needs to break the monopoly and reliance on BAE They have always ripped off uk on the crap they build Cannot understand why the uk Goverment keep giving the work to BAE when other companies would do a much better job Get Spartan to install SeaRam if we can get a good deal with proper weapons these would be great ships

  12. Colin,

    These ships aren’t going to cut it in the export markets our German, Dutch and French allies all have better propositions at a more competitive price point.

    France (DCNS): Gowind, C-Sword 90, Belharra, From
    Germany (B&V): Meko and F Series
    Dutch(Damen) :Crossover

    Check out the Meko’s constructed for the Turkish or South African Navies – much better than what we are proposing, better equipped, stealthier, faster and cheaper.

    What we should do is look at how we can build something that is better than all the above at a cheaper or similar price. If we can’t then we should purchase the plans and build under licence.

    Apologies if this sounds brutal, but I want the best equipment at our service peoples disposal to keep them alive and am not particularly interested in the rest.

    British industry has shown it can innovate and pull its finger out when required, but there is a malaise in the UK where we quickly drop off the pace but expect to get orders and this needs to change.

    Both Spartan and Venator can be something special, lets try and make sure they are. We should also look at doing a smaller version of the T26 re-using everything we know about its hull form and making this knowledge available to the Spartan and Venator teams under NDA.

  13. Definitely looks the part. Pugnacious and practical. The stern ramp was a feature of the early Type 26 designs I think but was removed because it created too much turbulence for top notch towed sonar performance.

  14. Its not all BAEs fault. The boom and bust type of ordering we do and the slow construction pace (both government caused) are big factors in driving up costs for BAE. Yes it was a mistake to let them have an effective monopoly but we could do other things to help control costs. For a start give them a full order for 9 type 26 frigates to be delivered by 2036 and tell them they will be building the type 45 replacement class straight after that. With this level of security they can go ahead with the planned infrastructure upgrades (frigate factory) and consolidate at the one yard. This would cut costs drastically as the two yard solution adds complexity and cost.

  15. Pacman27
    I see your point about the other nations ship building. Why can other countries build good ships alot cheaper than UK. And better designed we seem to have lost something over the years the question is now should we start building ships under Licence do we need to include the Freedom class from USA Prehaps we have lost a lot of our good ship builders we could build a better relationship with the US and buy more ship designs from them

  16. I don’t see why a few people here are so dismissive of the prospects for Spartan (and I assume by implication also Venator). I agree that neither Avenger nor Cutlass from BAE look promising, both being re-hashes of very old designs from a company with a record for creating sometimes eye-wateringly expensive stuff, but I find it curious to read complaints about how much cheaper the foreign competitors are vs designs for which the costs haven’t been announced yet (unless I missed those costs – the rough £2bn for 6 doesn’t count because we don’t know what that includes or even whether some bidders might come in under-budget or with far higher spec for that price). The jury is still out on these new designs.

    Also, people complaining about them not being innovative enough, apart from also pre-judging something we know little about, seems unfair. I speak as an industrial designer (for part of my career) and believe me there can be a huge amount of innovation in cost-optimising a design to deliver unusually good value for money even if the external spec sheet looks very similar to other competitors. Doing the same at a more affordable price is innovative. I’m not saying that these designs will be unusually affordable but, at least for Venator I get the feeling that an awful lot of thought has gone into affordability and I’ll be very interested to see how/if that translates into unit cost. I just hope Venator and Spartan get a fair hearing in the bid process and aren’t somehow elbowed out by BAE and its probably deep and chummy connections within the MoD.

    • Isn’t the real issue here that DCNS and B&V make warships because they want to whereas BAe make them because they have to?

  17. @Julian – you have a fair point (as always) and part of the sales literature actually follows this approach by clearly stating the ships are not cutting edge but are done to a price point. I am not saying that Venator or Spartan are bad designs I am just saying competition is brutal and if I was selecting a vessel in this class that I am spoilt for choice that includes high end capability at relatively low cost. As you say horses for course, but I cannot help thinking the MOD is setting its sights too low.

    @David Stephens – The T26 is the defacto replacement for the T45 – with the exception of the Sampson radar the T26 is better in every way(made not engines once sorted) than the T45 and for me should be built to a class of 13 no matter what (8 now – 5 later to replace T45). Giving the UK an Arleigh Burke type capability that we have never had previously.

    The T31 is where we need to be very careful – it needs to be a class of 25 ships costing absolutely no more than £400m each that replaces the mine hunting, OPV and part of the T23 fleets.

    This will give us 38 Escorts instead of 19. It will do away with 2 classes of ship that frankly we don’t need (Arcims will take over from dedicated MHVC in 10-15 years so can be based from a T31 or RFA).

    This is the drumbeat – 1 T31 every year (tweak it every five years as necessary but keep the hull form for at least 10 years) and 1 T26 every 2 years.

    If BAE cannot get the price down – nationalise and get LM in to do it.

    • hey pacman. The type 26 will not replace the type 45. Cramming ASW and AAW in to one hull is a bad idea. ASW requires lots of noise reduction measures while AAW requires a very high mounted radar. Lots of people seem to think that the US Burkes are some sort of wonder ship but they are not. They are compromised in both fields. They do not have the radar high enough (Type 45 is a better AAW ship) and in regard to ASW they dont do that well either as they are constantly on AAW duty and dont get the required practice to become proficient. Dedicated AAW and ASW ships are better suited to our needs. I like your enthusiasim but think your fleet numbers are a bit ambitious. You have to remember that our biggest constraint is manpower not money. That being said we can still manage an escort fleet of close to your desired size (36) but with a slightly different split. Build 9 type 26, and 9 type 31 (Venator 110) concurently, then 9 AAW type 45 replacments (after type 26) and then 9 new MCM vessels. MCM vessels do not need to be anytyhing like types 26 or 31. Take a River batch 2 and delete the aviation facilities and replace them with a stern ramp and A frame for launch and recovery of USVs & UUVs and storage for a couple of ISO containers. Regarding nationalisation and LM. NO. They make BAE look efficient. I cant stress enough how absoulutley abysmall the LCS is. As I pointed out before BAE are not fully to blame for our current situation.

      • Hi David

        I take your point on Type 26 but would then come back and say that we have an accoustically quiet hull and the size is similar to current T45, it is better armed and all it needs to be better than a T45 is Sampson. In every other respect the T26 is better from a weapons fit out and has more VLS than a T45 and I think it will be our Burke – whether we do still then have dedicated ASW or not is something I would like to see but dont think we can afford. I also think a smaller vessel is probably best for ASW and a spartan design looks as if it can do the job as long as they have the tools to destroy a sub.

        On that note can anyone tell me how these ships actually plan to sink a sub without a merlin, our weapons for ASW are frankly laughable (although this isn’t the ships fault)

        As for my hull numbers I believe the RN should be escort heavy and actually the total size of my RN is the same as today’s at 75 major vessels – its just that over the next 25 years we do away with loads of specialist vessels and place MHVC and other systems onto our T31’s in particular.

        It is a personal preference of mine that I think we should do away with OPV;s and the MCM fleets but something has to give. I also would replace all RFA vessels (except Tides) with a Aegir based Karel Doorman style ship that would also be multi role – perhaps 8 Tides, 8 Joint Support Ships with enhanced aviation Docks.

        I have put a few numbers down on one of the other threads so wont repeat – but my view is we need to standardise on hull forms (T26, T31, Aefgir, Astute, Sucessor etc.) and I think 8 hullforms could provide the whole fleet. Likewise on mechanicals we can standardise on engines etc as much as possible and that will help enormously as well.

        I actually like Spartan and think it is worth pursuing, but dont want us to end up with a highly expensive version of the belharra or meko without the same fit out.

        • i understand your perspective Pacman but I look at like this. There are certain tasks that need doing, AAW, ASW (deep water and littoral), ASuW, auxiliary aviation facilities, NGFS, MCM. If you place to many of these functions on any one ship type you compromise its ability to do any one of them to a high level. I don’t want my destroyers playing with subs. I want them doing AAW and ABM duties and maybe contributing to ASuW and aviation facilities. That is more than enough for one ship to handle. What happens if a destroyer is out of position to receive an air attack because she had to make course changes to investigate a potential submarine contact? I want my frigates doing deep water ASW and my Light frigates doing littoral ASW and NGFS and ASuW. That being said there is no reason we can’t have destroyers for AAW, frigates for ASW and Light frigates for everything else whilst still consolidating on systems. If they all used as examples MT30 turbines, MK41 VLS, Type 2050 hull mounted sonar, 5 inch gun and so on we would still make huge savings in Support costs whilst still having the correct hull types for each task. Only a few equipment types would be duplicated like radar and sonar. The destroyers would have Sampson or its equivalent while everything else would have Artisan and the frigates (not the light frigates) would have Type 2087 as well as the Type 2050 every ship has.

          We can’t do away with the OPVs as we need something for low end patrols at home or in benign areas but we could dispense with a separate MCM fleet if we merge the two requirements like I suggested.

          Likewise I wouldn’t want similar ships covering most of the RFAs responsibilities. I would keep the 6 tankers as is (2 x Wave, 4 x Tide) and have 4 FSS ships to replace the Fort class. All the Ship classes have advantages and fill a specific need. It may look like we could replace the LPDs and LSDs with five or more likely 4 of the same type but in reality that wouldn’t work as the LPDs have way better command and control facilities and carry many more landing craft than the LSDs which are more cheap pickup trucks able to carry more heavy vehicles and stores. If we go stuffing all of those features in to the one ship type we will compromise it. Again, there is no reason they can’t all share systems like comms and propulsion.

          Regarding Spartan it does look ok but I prefer Venator and don’t care how it compares to foreign ships so long as it does what we need. If it comes as we discussed previously on another thread with 16 MK41 and Artisan a hull mounted sonar and a Widcat, good range decent speed a 5 inch gun and room for growth then I am happy.

          I think you are right that we need to standardise. I just think it should be on systems/equipment not hullforms or ship functions.

          • Hi David

            I can go along with you to a point, we can have a AAW version of a T26 and we can have a Atlas Arcims version of the T31 for MCM and the RFA will be Aegir based anyway.

            We can use common mechanicals across the fleet to further standardise.

            where I would slightly disagree (and it is only slightly) is that most of these ships are currently multi tasking and in the case of a destroyer I dont think it will get a choice as to whether it needs to engage a sub or not – it will happen and it needs to be able to handle it as I would imagine a Sub chooses its target and not necessarily the other way round.

            So yes I think there is some dilution of high specialisation – but I think that is offset by having much better assets in higher volumes.

            Horses for course I guess – I am a big fan of the SAAR, Formidable, Belharra, Fremm and A.Burke classes as they all seem capable of defending themselves against multiple threats and have an offensive punch.

            I also think by giving the RFA a K.Doorman style Solid Stores / Amphibious assault vessel that we can have a justification for a larger RFA (which we need) by having them busier either in a hospital / humanitarian role or supply role or even its amphib role thereby removing the need to have ships alongside.

            I have mad many compromises in my thought process to get to this position, but the realisation for me is that we need a volume of multi role combat hulls supported by a volume of multi role supply ships (not all but the majority of the fleet). Within that and the T26 is a perfect example, you can specialise – after all give the T26 a Sampson radar and it automatically becomes our best AAW destroyer unless they give the T45 more cells.

            It’s one way of doing it – not the only way and I respect your view as well.

  18. I agree with Paceman. The Spartan and Venator design whilst a step in the right direction do compare poorly with German Meko 200 design.
    I wonder if that is the solution to type 31s need for polyvalent hull numbers and reasonable advanced warship capability. We could probably get a British Meko 200 design built in the UK under license if 1st+2nd ships, or some number were built in Germany.
    As defence select committee state we need a minimum of 26 escort class warships this means we need 12 type 31s. Not the planned 6 declared and requested by tender. If if all 8 type 26s actually get built at £1.23 billion each, and the RN gets only 6 type 31s the combined programmes will deliver a frigate and destroyer fleet of 20 vessels.

    • I assume you mean the MEKO A-200SAN Valour Class as in service with the SA Navy? Looks like they were about £170m at 2007 prices, must be possible to build UK spec ships with our weapons for say £250m today. That would give us 8 for the reported £2bn contract. Sounds like a good plan!

      • Excellent ships the RAN ones – latest models are going to the Turkish navy and seem improved over SAN.

        They may not be perfect – but they seem very good to me for the money

  19. I feel the UK MOD will drag its feet on the type 31 project and will probably never see service in the RN. Some new project will conjured up and that to will never see the light of day.

    Which is a shame because we really need affordable platforms now and in the future.

  20. In post Brexit Britain, the RN will have to become bigger to protect our global trade routes. No matter which government is in power, additional naval spending will be essential. The question will be, does the UK continuing to build the eight 26’s and five 31’s, or buy more 26’s for deep ocean deployments? The latter will most likely be the real outcome, though a simplified frigate may have some logic behind it, to protect our shores and fishing zones?

  21. The advantages and benefits of building ships in the UK vastly outweighs those of licensing designs or having them built by other countries.

    We can create tens of thousands of jobs in construction, design, equipment manufacture, maintenance, support, creating new and supporting existing supply chains and not to mention the knock on effect of having more tax payers who will be spending money and contributing more to the economy.

    We are a member of the UN Security Council, a G7 member and have the fifth largest economy in the world. We are a force for good in the world and maintaining our influence and presence is essential for world stability, trade and the economy.

    Furthermore, building and designing ships is something we in the UK are good at.

    What we have to do, in light of the above is agree a planned national ship building program and schedule that allows competing British companies to submit designs and for competing British shipyards to build them. The ships should be designed for export in mind and we should aggressively compete against other countries and manufacturers to win orders. We need to build ships quicker, better and cheaper than anyone else.

    This will increase ship numbers, drive down costs, create jobs and increase innovation and quality.

    All that’s needed is for the Government to do it.

    • “Furthermore, building and designing ships is something we in the UK are good at.”

      If that is the case why haven’t we built and exported a single major warship for over 40 years?

      The reality is our ships are too expensive and of doubtful quality.

      • We need a national ship building program that allows for open competition between competing designs and competing ship yards. The ships chosen would also be aimed and actively marketed for export.

        At present we have a single source supplier building ships on an adhoc basis resulting in delays and escalating costs.

        Competition will increase quality and drive down costs.

        • That would still not explain the lack of export orders over the past 40 years.

          Any investment in UK shipbuilding on the basis of potential export orders would be waste of money as little or no export orders would happen.

          The T26 programme was supposed to be export focused and to date not a single export has been achieved in 7 years of marketing the design to other nations.

      • Most countries settle for second best, we dont. Our ships are excellent but this costs a lot. Talk of exports is useless. We can barley build enough for ourselves and anyone who wants a top of the line warship will build thier own. They are not of doubtfull quality. Type 45 has a few engine woes but they are getting fixed and they are the best AAW ship in the world. They dont do anything else but who cares they are for one use only. Type 26 will be the best ASW ship in the world replacing what has been the worlds best ASW ship, the type 23.

          • I think the structure of the industry is wrong. There is no real French competition for DCNS or German competition for B&V. Competition internal to the country is wasteful. What needs to happen is BAe’s shipbuilding interests need to be demerged and combined with the likes of A&P , Camell Laird and the independent naval architects. This would create something whise mission in life would be ships and only ships. A government commitment to a lomgterm strategy would give it the confidence for lomgterm planning and tje occasional speculative innovative export capable designs such as we see from the French and Germans. The UK does not lack skills, ideas or quality….just the common sense to recognize that we should not ve competing with ourselves.

  22. The images of Spartan show ISO containers on the garage deck, but with no obvious means of getting them there. Has anyone spotted something I’ve missed, or perhaps Steller can advise. If they don’t respond, i can always pop along to Windsoredge where they’re based as it’s only 10 min drive.

  23. […] Spartan – A contender for the Type 31 Frigate?, UK Defence Journal Ensuring that the design remains attractive to the global export market will bring economic advantages to the Royal Navy through efficiencies of scale, and will result in wider benefits to UK plc. […]

  24. It would appear that the two best designs are the Arrowhead and Spartan. The other designs are lacking in most areas. BAE’s entrants really are just OPV’s and I don’t rate the River class anyway

    • Venator looks better than Arrowhead to me, as it has room for Sea Ceptor cells and Mk 41 VLS, but I’ve heard nothing about Mk41 on Arrowhead. I’m hopeful that the forward VLS would be Mk 41, and the box launchers would be replaced with a Sea Ceptor silo, but it hasn’t specified this. It is also a more mature design, as it started hydrodynamics testing in April.


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