BAE have confirmed that they expect the Type 26 Frigate build will begin in Glasgow in 2017.
Anne Healey, BAE General Manager (Group Business Development Canada) said, referring to a BAE bid to sell the Type 26 in Canada:
“The Type 26 Global Combat Ship is the world’s newest and most advanced surface combatant design.
We are planning to cut steel in 2017, which is ideal timing for the CSC programme; being 3 years ahead of the Canadian program.”
More information on the reception of the BAE bid to sell the Type 26 in Canada can be found here.
This ties in with a recent parliamentary briefing paper detailing the upcoming National Shipbuilding Strategy which estimated that the Type 26 Frigate will not begin until April 2017 at the earliest.
While the planned 2017 start date is well known in the defence industry and other relevant circles, it’s the first time BAE have said this at this at a high level.
Manufacturing of the Type 26 Frigate was initially expected to start in 2016, confirmation of when the work will begin has still to be announced officially but we’re told that it’s anticipated that the steel will be cut for the first Type 26 in Q4 of 2017, this is backed up by a briefing paper and is no industry secret.
According to the Briefing Paper:
“The Government has yet to agree a manufacturing date with BAE Systems. The programme is currently at the Demonstration stage. This was extended in March 2016 for a year with a £472 million contract.
Manufacturing of the Type 26 was expected to begin around the middle of the decade and even in early 2015 the MOD was giving a date of 2016, with the first in class to enter service in 2022 in time to begin replacing the Type 23’s.
Manufacturing will not begin before summer 2017.
The programme moved from the assessment to the demonstration phase in April 2016. The demonstration phase was then extended until June 2017 with the signing of a 472 million contract in March 2016.
The MoD says a fixed date for the start of manufacture won’t be committed to until Main Gate. This is not expected to occur until the end of the demonstration phase. So far £1.8bn has been committed to the Type 26 programme.
BAE Systems is working on the assumption that the initial order will be for three hulls.”
RUSI analyst Peter Roberts suggests the reason for the continued delay to the build is not for design reasons but because the Type 26 budget is underfunded by around £750m this year.
Despite alarming headlines, the Type 26 frigates have not been cancelled or “indefinitely postponed”. Unions have also insisted that there will be no redundancies as a result of uncertainty over the Type 26 build timetable on the Clyde.
Duncan McPhee from Unite said the contract was still guaranteed.
“There is guarantees. The main issue is the timetable, which is causing us the real problems and that has to be sorted out as soon as possible.”
Mr McPhee also added that BAE bosses were in negotiations with officials at the MoD to resolve the Type 26 Frigate build timetable issues:
“It means for jobs that we have the workforce geared up for this programme and that workforce will remain.
It means that we are going to have to do a lot of things between the company and moving different work packages about, keeping people at Rosyth maybe for longer working on the aircraft carriers, maybe having to transfer people down to Barrow for the submarine programme so we will keep the jobs.”
Peter Roberts, Senior Research Fellow for Sea Power and Maritime Studies at RUSI has said referring to the commitment of the government to the Clyde:
“There is going to be a commitment, we see that from the government, of continued shipbuilding orders.”
A MoD spokesperson said:
“The Government is committed to building ships on the Clyde and to the Type 26 programme. over the next decade, we will spend around £8 billion on Royal Navy warship.
As set out in the Strategic Defence and Security Review, we will build two new offshore patrol vessels on The Clyde, maintaining Scottish shipbuilding capability ahead of the start of the Type 26 build.
We will also consult with industry and trade unions as part of the national shipbuilding strategy, which will set the UK shipbuilding industry on a sustainable footing for the future.”
The SNP and others had said that any reduction in the number of Type 26 frigates being built on the Clyde would be a “betrayal” of the workforce.
All will be built in Scotland.