A Briefing Paper detailing the upcoming National Shipbuilding Strategy has estimated that the Type 26 Frigate will not begin until April 2017 at the earliest.
Manufacturing of the Type 26s was initially expected to start in 2016, confirmation of when the work will begin has still to be officially announced but we were told that it’s anticipated that the steel will be cut for the first Type 26 towards the end of the year.
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”. The claims come amid news that Type 26 Frigate contract will not be signed until it offers “value for money”.
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.
The crucial importance of Royal Navy shipbuilding contracts to the Scottish economy has been laid bare in a report commissioned by GMB Scotland.
An economic analysis of the Scottish defence sector by the Fraser of Allander Institute revealed that 5,943 jobs and £162.7 million in wages are supported by BAE’s yards on the Upper Clyde; and 3,870 jobs and £105.9 million in wages are supported by the Rosyth dockyard in Fife.
The report also presents a challenge for the Scottish Government to demonstrate how they would sustain these jobs and wages in the absence of MoD contracts in a future independent Scotland.
GMB Scotland Secretary Gary Smith said:
“This report was commissioned following the delays to the type-26 programme and because of the long-term frustrations felt by our members across the sector after years of being used as a political football.
One job on the Upper Clyde alone supports an additional 1.18 jobs across Scotland so for the future of Scottish shipbuilding and our long-term economic prosperity it is imperative that the UK government makes good on the promised frigate programme.
Furthermore, and with a second independence referendum a real possibility, the Scottish government needs to demonstrate to our members how they would plan to sustain their jobs, wages, pensions, skills and local communities without MoD investment.
This report is a reality check and shows that the fragile Scottish economy cannot do without the thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of pounds in wages supported by navy shipbuilding contracts.”
The issue of UK naval contracts on the Clyde has become controversial after the 2014 Independence Referendum and even more so recently when several parties indicated that the work would not go to an independent country.
“No warships would have been built on the Clyde, because the United Kingdom Government would not have chosen to build them there.”
The full statement, confirming what many had already known, was made by then Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology Phillip Dunne in response to a question from Brendan O’Hara, MP for Argyll and Bute, regarding the Type 26 frigates.
“What I can confirm to the hon. Gentleman is that, had the independence vote gone the way that he and his colleagues would have liked, no warships would have been built on the Clyde, because the United Kingdom Government would not have chosen to build them there; we made that very clear.
As it is, as I have just confirmed to the House, we will be proceeding with the construction of eight complex Type 26 warships on the Clyde as and when the programme is ready.”