At LIMA 2017, Commander UK Maritime Forces Rear Admiral Alex Burton described the Type 26 Frigate and its range of capabilities in a bid to talk the vessel up to Australian officials.
“The government has committed to eight Type 26 ships and they will be the mainstay of our anti-submarine warfare capability, both to project the continuous at-sea deterrence and to project what I’ve often described as the strategic conventional deterrence of the carrier task group.
The Type 26 will undoubtedly be the most capable ASW afloat, arriving early next decade. But it’s so much more than an ASW platform, with the ability to take Tomahawk strike missiles, a 5-inch gun and a considerable local area defence capability; and the mission bay, which can take a whole range of mission support packages.”
Despite recent sensationalism in the press, the Type 26 Frigate fleet will be armed with Sea Ceptor missiles with additional types to be carried decided at a later date.
The issue at the heart of the recent speculation is the fact that no weapons have yet been ordered or are in service that can be launched from the Mk41 Vertical Launch Silo system to be installed on the vessels, however the vessel will also carry Sea Ceptor missiles contained in separate silos.
Various media outlets have reported mostly sensationalised stories about the ships, the most notable of which was the Times saying in its absurdly titled article ‘Misfire as new navy ships lack missiles’:
“A navy programme to build a fleet of new warships at a cost of £8bn has been branded a ‘dog’s breakfast’ after it emerged the ships would have missile-launching tubes — but Britain has no missiles to fire from them.”
A Royal Naval spokesman said:
“The Type 26 Frigate will be delivered with cutting edge weapons and sensors that build on the excellent operational record of the Type 23.
Backed by a rising defence budget and a £178 billion equipment plan, investment in the MK 41 launcher enables the Royal Navy the option of investing in a wide range of additional capabilities at short notice and according to the threat.”
This indicates that nothing, as of yet, has been ordered.
This does make sense, the first vessel is some years away from sea trials, let alone operational service. Ordering so far in advance would likely prove to be a futile effort, wasting money that would benefit other programmes and initiatives.
The view being taken, that it’s best to wait and see what emerges before committing to and paying for a missile type years before it is required, is the right one.
As explained above, the Type 26 will have Sea Ceptor silo’s on the bow and at the funnel of the vessel in addition to a 24 cell Mk 41 silo positioned behind the Sea Ceptor silo’s on the bow of the vessel. The 24-cell strike-length Mk 41 VLS will be able to host Tomahawk cruise missiles, ASROC anti-submarine rocks and LRASM, the Long Range Anti-ship Missile.
The true test of whether or not the Mk 41 silo will host these is if they are ordered closer to the vessels entering service, around the 2020 Strategic Defence and Security Review.