Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has confirmed the Type 26 Frigate order on the Clyde and revealed that steel will be cut in Summer.
Work on building eight Type 26 frigates at Clyde shipyards will begin the summer of 2017, the defence secretary has announced.
Michael Fallon said the date for cutting the first steel would help secure new investment and safeguard hundreds of skilled jobs until 2035.
An £859m deal to build the ships on the Clyde was signed in February 2015, with the delay in actually cutting steel on the vessels being down to funding issues.
The Defence Secretary also announced that the MoD plans to sign a contract shortly to start building of the last two of five additional Offshore Patrol Vessels pledged in the SDSR, both of which will be delivered in 2019, protecting jobs on the Clyde before the start of the Type 26 programme gets fully under way.
The news safeguards 6000 jobs and £163 million in wages for the workforce.
The announcement confirms claims that orders on the Clyde have now increased over what was previously promised with the Clyde building 5 Offshore Patrol vessels, 8 Type 26 Frigates and “at least” 5 Type 31 Frigates. That’s 18 ships compared to the 13 originally promised.
Showing further commitment to the Type 26 programme, the Defence Secretary also announced a £100 million contract with MBDA to deliver the Sea Ceptor self-defence missile system for the ship.
According to a press release, the contract will support design work, allow equipment to be manufactured to equip the entire Type 26 fleet, and install the system on the first three ships.
This follows a £183 million investment in the Maritime Indirect Fire System, the Type 26’s 5-inch calibre gun earlier in the summer.
The Type 26 frigate represents the future backbone of the Royal Navy and a massive leap forward in terms of flexibility of surface vessels enjoyed by the service.
The vessel will replace 8 of the Anti-Submarine Type 23 frigates of the Royal Navy and 5 general purpose Type 31 Frigates will replace the remaining Type 23’s. The Clyde will build 13 frigates in total, in addition to 5 Offshore Patrol vessels.
During a visit to the Govan in Glasgow today, Mr Fallon said:
“Backed by Britain’s rising defence budget, the Type 26 Programme will deliver a new generation of cutting-edge warships for our Royal Navy at best value for taxpayers. The UK government’s commitment today will secure hundreds of high-skilled shipbuilding jobs on the Clyde for at least two decades and hundreds more in the supply chain across Britain.”
Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell said:
“This is a momentous commitment for Scotland that will strengthen and secure our shipbuilding industry on the Clyde for the future. The UK government is backing jobs on the Clyde and in its shipyards – and this investment is only possible because of the broad shoulders of our strong UK defence budget.”
The number of planned new frigates has already been scaled back from from 13 to eight, although the MoD has the option to build five smaller and cheaper general-purpose vessels.
The programme has been underway since 1998, initially under the name ‘Future Surface Combatant’. The programme was brought forward in the 2008 budget at the expense of Type 45 destroyers 7 and 8.
This news has silenced alarming headlines earlier in the year claiming the frigates had been “indefinitely postponed”. Unions had also insisted that there would be no redundancies as a result of uncertainty over the Type 26 build timetable on the Clyde. Minister Harriet Baldwin faced calls from SNP and Labour MPs to confirm a date for cutting steel on the frigates but said it would be “inappropriate” to do so as negotiations continued.
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 warships.
As set out in the Strategic Defence and Security Review, we will build two new (in addition to three already in build) 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.
Commenting on this important development Ian King, Chief Executive, BAE Systems, said:
“Today’s announcement secures a strong foundation for the next two decades of shipbuilding at our facilities in Scotland. It is a vote of confidence in our employees’ capabilities in the design, construction, integration and commissioning of warships.”
The UK Government committed to eight advanced anti-submarine warfare ships in its 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review, in addition to ive general purpose frigates and five patrol vessels.
Manufacturing contracts are already in place for the procurement of major equipment for the first batch of three ships, supporting progress to the full manufacturing programme in Glasgow.
According to BAE, there are 27 companies in the supply chain working with BAE Systems to deliver the Type 26 ships, with manufacturing of the ships’ air weapons handling systems, gas turbines, and electric propulsion motor and drive systems underway across the UK.
Today’s announcement provides BAE Systems and the UK Government with the confidence to continue to progress export campaigns for the Type 26 ‘Global Combat Ship’ with other navies around the world with similar requirements, including Canada and Australia.
The original planning assumption for the Royal Navy was for thirteen Type 26 Frigates (eight ASW and five General Purpose), replacing the Type 23 frigate fleet like-for-like.
However, it was later announced during the November 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review by then Prime minister David Cameron that only eight Type 26 Frigates would be going ahead with the funding for the remaining five general purpose Type 26 frigates is instead to be spent on developing a new class of lighter and more affordable general purpose frigate, the Type 31.
Then Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed to the House of Commons that both frigate types will be built on the Clyde:
“There will be eight of the Type 26’s and at least another five of the new type of frigate, probably more, and they can be built in Scotland if the conditions are right. The only way these ships wouldn’t be built in Scotland is if Scotland was independent and didn’t have the national resources of the Royal Navy.”
Due to an expected lower cost, the government suggested it may allow an eventual increase in the total number of frigates in the Royal Navy. This general purpose frigate will be designated as the Type 31 frigate.
It is understood that the Type 26 Frigate will primarily support carrier task group operations while the Type 31 is to be deployed for a range of less high-tempo operations.
The Type 26 will be an adaptable, powerful and flexible frigate with a wide array of cutting edge sensors and weapons designed to help it effectively and efficiently meet the evolving mission requirements inherent to modern warfare.