According to the recently released ‘Defencer Command Paper’, the Type 32 frigates will be designed to protect territorial waters, to provide persistent presence overseas and to support Littoral Response Groups.
The first mention of a new Type 32 frigate came in the Prime Minister’s 19 November statement. He said: “We are going to develop the next generation of warships, including multi-role research vessels and Type 32 frigates.”
The Defence Command Paper, titled ‘Defence in a Competitive Age’, describes the planned programme:
“Type 32 frigates, designed to protect territorial waters, provide persistent presence overseas and support our Littoral Response Groups.”
The Type 32 was not mentioned in the Government’s 2017 shipbuilding strategy, which overhauled the way the MOD procures warships for the Royal Navy. Nor was it mentioned in the review of the strategy published in November 2019. Early speculation suggests they could be ‘batch II’ Type 31s, but not necessarily based on the Type 31 design. Several MPs have tabled questions on the Type 32.
In November 2020, the Ministry of Defence stated that the concept phase for the vessel had not yet been launched but added that the ship is currently envisioned as a “platform for autonomous systems”, used in roles such as anti-submarine warfare and mine countermeasures.
What was the Ministry of Defence already planning for?
Before Type 32, the plan was for only two new classes of frigates.
Type 26 frigates
These will replace the specialist anti-submarine warfare (ASW) Type 23 frigates currently in service.
The Ministry of Defence has committed to buying eight Type 26 frigates and signed a contract for the first three in July 2017. The ships will be built at BAE Systems’ shipyards on the Clyde. The first in the City Class, HMS Glasgow, has an in-service date of 2027. The MOD says it expects to sign a contract for the second batch of five Type 26 frigates in the early 2020s.
Type 31 frigates
These will be general-purpose frigates to replace the non-ASW Type 23s. The MoD signed a contract with Babcock for five ships in November 2019. Manufacture will begin in 2021 with an in-service date of 2027. The overall programme cost is expected to be £2bn.