Only 35% of the steel required to build each Type 26 Frigate will be sourced from the UK.
The reason for this, according to the government, is that the UK can’t produce the majority of steel types required. The news that 65% of the steel for the frigates will come from overseas is in sharp contrast to the fact that only 6% of the steel used in the Queen Elizabeth class came from outside the UK.
The information came to light from a written parliamentary question answered by MP Harriett Baldwin, Under Secretary of State for Defence Procurement:
“Responsibility for sourcing steel for the Type 26 Frigates rests with BAE Systems as the contractor. In accordance with Government guidelines on the procurement of steel, the company has run a competition to select a supplier of steel for the programme, and an announcement is expected shortly.
UK steel suppliers have been strongly encouraged to bid in line with the Government’s Procurement Policy Notice concerning the procurement of steel for major Government projects. This pipeline is published on GOV.UK. The MOD will continue to carry out early market engagement and forecast our steel requirements for shipbuilding through the UK Government Steel Pipeline.
We expect that around 35 per cent of the steel required to build each Type 26 Frigate will be sourced from UK suppliers in Scotland and Scunthorpe; approximately 1,400 tonnes per ship. For some grades of plate steel needed for the Type 26 Frigates the combination of thickness, size and flatness specifications means that the steel cannot be sourced in its entirety in the UK.”
A source in the Royal Navy, who wishes not to be named, told us via e-mail:
“It’s nothing new, the carriers were the last big ticket item we had that were mostly British. The new Dreadnoughts, the new OPVs will also feature mostly foreign steel. It’s disappointing but it’s either that or paying much more for the vessels.”
BAE explained to the UK Defence Journal today that the Type 26 programme requires a considerable proportion of ‘thin plate’ steel due to the nature of the warship. This thin plate steel cannot be sourced from UK steel suppliers.
BAE Systems ran an open and competitive process in line with UK government legislation and UK companies were invited to bid. Dent Steel UK based in Yorkshire has been selected to supply steel for the Type 26 programme.
A spokesperson told us:
“The steel we procure must meet the very specific technical specifications for the complex warships we deliver, as well as meet our customers’ needs in terms of availability timeframes and budgets.
We are pleased to confirm that, following an open competitive bid process, Yorkshire based Dent Steel UK has been selected to source steel for the first three Type 26 ships.
Steel for the Type 26 programme sourced by Dent Steel UK will come principally from mills in the UK and Sweden which can meet the very specific requirements for the warships. Approximately fifty percent of the value of steel for the first three Type 26 ships will be British; this equates to around 35% of the overall weight”.
This comes despite assurances from Philip Dunne last year, the then Minister of State for Defence Procurement, that the project would attempt to use mostly British steel. This was supposed to be made possible by encouraging contractors to follow new guidelines:
“In the main, Ministry of Defence (MOD) requirements for steel are sourced by our prime contractors taking into account cost, time and quality. The MOD has issued new policy guidance to ensure, as far as we are able to within EU procurement legislation and the Government’s overarching priority of value for money, that we are addressing the barriers that prevent UK steel suppliers from competing on a level playing field with international suppliers.
This emphasises the importance of increased pre-market engagement, including industry days and the signalling of future requirements for steel, bringing prime contractors and steel producers together to facilitate supply chain opportunities. I have also written to our main defence contractors to highlight the new policy guidelines and seek their assistance and support in implementing them.”
UK suppliers in the past have provided significant quantities of steel for major defence equipment procurement programmes and new government guidelines were supposed to help UK steel suppliers to compete effectively with international suppliers for major projects, this has not materialised.