A cheaper and general purpose frigate is the tagline that describes the Type 31 Frigate, it has also been called the child of austerity but it could be more than it, it could be a ticking timebomb for the Royal Navy.

This article is the opinion and thoughts of the author and not representative of the views of the UK Defence Journal.

A ticking timebomb may sound like a harsh and critical view of the T31 but in several areas this conclusion can be reached. As it is a ship design that will be driven by fiscal concerns that will cause capabilities to be reduced potentially leading to the production of a ship that could be unfit for purpose.

Before I delve into the different issues that will come into play for the T31 some context is needed. As it stands the Royal Navy has a fleet of 13 frigates and plans to replace them one for one which was originally going to be 12 T26s but this was reduced to 8xT26 and then 5xT31 owing to the budget available and rising costs for the T26.

Financially the Type 31 Frigate as it stands is a wise decision to be made for the Royal Navy as currently 13 T26 frigates cannot be afforded, so to have 8 of them followed by 5 cheaper frigates could be a good idea.

Yet the worry is what kind of frigate could be expected within the money set aside which works out to approximately £350 million per ship in contrast to the £800 million for a Type 26 frigate.

The question then is where will the £450 million of savings be made to reduce the price tag of the ship to less than half of that of a T26?

Obviously as one would expect the potential designs that have been pitched are considerably smaller than that of the T26 but size alone will not drive the cost down. As looking at the designs, especially the BAE offerings, they look like very stripped down vessels or slightly upscaled OPVs.

Yet are these designs not something to be expected and potentially the only viable solution from a budgetary point of view. As with all programmes a vast amount of the costs are generated in the research and development stage, so before you even cut steel the price tag is high.

So by offering ships based on current designs BAE can likely keep the costs down for they are not designing an entirely new class of ship. Not to mention the designs remove aspects such as a helicopter hangar which removes capabilities for cost.

We are yet to be enlightened about the role of the Type 31 Frigate outside of it being a general purpose frigate but we can still speculate on the role that it will fill and perform.

Yet as mentioned earlier with the BAE designs while there is a landing pad for a helicopter there is no hangar for one. This could be of serious concern and make either Project Spartan or the BMT Venator 110 front runners as a helicopter is a serious asset for ASW and having a hangar increased the operability of a helicopter from a vessel.

Outside of ASW a limited AAW capacity could be expected with the mounting of VLS for Sea Ceptor though how many can be fitted onto a smaller vessels is to be seen and would be very much for self protection.

Though how much self protection is also a topic for debate as there are likely to be many times when they may have to deploy on their own, outside the protection of T45s and T26s, so could the Type 31 Frigate hold its own?

As if it couldn’t we are then faced with a serious credibility issue and rather than expanding the fleet we would have in essence reduced it as they would need to remain near a ‘big brother’ escort meaning less ships to patrol the same area. And we have a vessel that in effect becomes a secondary escort to a larger task group which does offer up a new role for a vessel class.

If the Type 31 Frigate became a smaller and secondary escort vessel that could offer up many uses in a task group. A vessel that could detach from the main group at times if to scout ahead or go closer to a coast line, to perform search and rescue if an aircraft was downed, to offer close support to amphibious landings or to escort RFA ships.

Though outside of this she could have a large role in maritime protection as with potential water disputes after Brexit ships may be needed to patrol our waters and this could be a ship well suited to that need.

There is the potential for a very flexible ship but how much and what she can undertake would be subject to the design that is chosen. There has been suggestions that instead of 5 general purpose frigates, we design 5 role specific frigates but that would either create 5 different designs all becoming expensive to purchase. Or a design similar to the American Littoral Combat Ship with a modular design but this is an idea the Americans are moving away from so may not be a good course to pursue.

I may have laid out an image of doom and gloom for the T31 but while there are many elements to be worried about the ship could also offer cause for celebration. Firstly, if the Royal Navy was to grow its escort hull numbers this ship offers a viable path owing to its low cost.

So while the number of orders may remain low at the moment there is always the potential for an increase in order numbers in years to come. There is also the build time to consider, as a T26 will take 1 ½ years to build so if 13 of these were built there would certainly be a drop of numbers as the build and commission dates would not match the T23 out of service dates.

As a smaller ship the build time would likely be lower so the arrival of these ships would help to combat any potential drop in the number of frigates. There is also the matter of where they are built as the BAE yard on the Clyde will be busy with the T26 so other UK yards could build this ship, boosting the shipbuilding industry of the UK.

While the T31 may offer limited capabilities by itself it has the potential to offer the Royal Navy great flexibility in its role and be able to respond with more appropriate force to a situation. As there may be times when we do not want to sabre rattle by sending a £1bn warship somewhere but a smaller cheaper frigate to fly the flag could be what a situation calls for.

It could allow for both the growth of the Navy itself and of the industry that supports the Navy as well as many jobs here in the UK. But also allow the Navy to expand its role and ship operations from ASW and carrier operations (upcoming) to more low key operations with this smaller vessel.

82 COMMENTS

  1. Nobody’s got a clue yet about the 31 but the bar room experts are already talking it down .. And it will be a great ship when built ..

  2. History repeating itself, Type 31 a modern version of the disastrous Type 21 general purpose escort.
    Great on paper, not fit for combat.

  3. The Khareef corvettes have a hanger so presumably the Cutlass design does too. But it would probably only take a Wildcat, not a Merlin.

  4. The Type 31 was conceived due to a lack of funds. We have a lack of funds due to appalling mismanagement by politicians using an ineffective agreement with a single source supplier.

    I believe there is a place for the Type 31 vessel and it can sit between high end destroyers / frigates and OPVs.

    The solution from now onwards in my opinion is very simple. We arrange a national ship building program that allows competing companies to submit designs which will in turn be built by competing ship yards. The Government would work with industry to create jobs and support / create supply chains.

    The Type 31 should be a credible war fighting ship which, provides similar functionality to a high end frigate but also offers value for money.

  5. It is going to be replacing the T23 frigate which is primarily an ASW platform so it is a safe assumption the the Type 31 Frigate will be performing an ASW role.

    Only eight of the type 23’s are performing the ASW role primarily, it is those eight which are being replaced by the type 26’s.

    • That’s correct, the other 5 T26 were always intended to be GPFF which basicallly excludes a dedicated role in ASW.

    • All T23 have an Active /Passive hull mounted sonar and can conduct ASW.
      However not all T23 have a Tail fitted.
      The lack of a towed array does not stop ASW tasking. You can still ping active and use the 2050 to listen passively if you want to

        • Not really, I have served on T22 and T23 with and without tails…They all still do ASW and all the other jobs Frigates do…NGS, Surface Warfare, Boarding Ops, Maritime Patrols, Fly the Flag etc. Having a tail means you have the capability to do a different type of ASW.

          • Having been on towed array Leanders before moving to batch 1 T22’s whilst the T22’s had an ASW capability they were by no means an ASW unit.
            I think what dadsarmy is getting at is that the T26 as a dedicated ASW unit would conduct ASW ops especially as an escort to a carrier battle group and whilst the T31 is very likely to have passive/active sonar fit it won’t fit the ASW role profile because it’s not specialised enough. A stop gap capability perhaps but they are unlikely to be deployed on dedicated ASW ops.
            Which begs the question as to its role in a bigger task group.
            We saw with the T21 and to a lesser extent the batch 1 T22’s that an under armed/equipped GP frigate struggles for a role. The T22 had sea wolf and we deployed as a goalkeeper unit primarily because of that system, and I’d like to think we were pretty good at it. (Never lost a carrier on our watch 😉) We were little use in a SAG with Exocet as it was outranged and we didn’t have the sensor fit for much else. The worry is that cost cutting will reduce the T31 to a platform that can do a bit of most stuff but not enough of anything to make it as useful asset. And let’s face it the MOD has a long and distinguished track record of poor planning and preparation!
            I think the success of the T22’s was because they were given both Harpoon and a tail so as a GP frigate they were very capable surface units, more than capable as a goalkeeping unit and had very good ASW capability.
            I suppose it really depends on how the RN or the bean counters want to deploy the T31. If we know its mission profile we’ll have a good idea of what sort of hull it will need.

  6. The key thing to appreciate about the Type 31 as I write this – it’s still in requirements phase. There’s really nothing anyone can say about how this thing will look nor what it will do until the appropriate discussions have been completed. There have been so many assumptions and presuppositions made about this ship that people’s expectations have been set unrealistically. I don’t think the design submissions by industry have helped either.

    Personally I hope the whole thing will be scrapped and T26 built in appropriate numbers.

  7. France has decided to commit to rejuvinating the light frigate by ordering Belharra. So this is therefore the benchmark for Type 31e. Assuming the RN specs comparable capability the question is how many Venators or Spartans or Cutlasses the RN can afford to buy and man?
    An alternative could be to revisit the Black Swan idea. How many River batch 2 can the RN buy and man with the same money? Perhaps twice as many hulls? Put the money into Wildcats, containerised Sea Ceptor and NSM modules loaded on an as required basis. If more than one weapon is needed ‘assemble’ a frigate by forming a Black Swan squadron.

      • Absolutely. You get what you pay for. It looks like a platform for the French radar and missile industry. But you could say the same about Type 26 I suppose, except that we won’t sell Sampson to anyone and no-one will buy Artisan in preference to the fully active scanned arrays which are de rigeur these days.
        Have to say though that the DCNS website ‘spec’ is a bit wooly. And is the radar actually developed yet? Not sure I would put a lot of faith in the ‘scheduled’ cost. Selling price is another matter. Isn’t DCNS part state owned?

  8. In my view, the Type 31s should be optimized for service in the Gulf. They should operate from our new naval base in Bahrain. This plan would free up our more capable assets for carrier group operations elsewhere. The Type 31s could be essentially similar to Khareef-class corvettes built by BAE Systems for the the Omani Navy. As such, they would be designed for the hot environment. Instead of the Exocet and Mica missiles of the Khareef, the Type 31 should be equipped with Sea Ceptor for now with the provision to add a SSM later. A wildcat equipped with Sea Venom and Martlet could operate from the enclosed hanger. Add a 76mm rapid-fire cannon, a few 30mm guns and 7.62mm mini guns for defence against small boats and you’re ready to go. It would help the project schedule if the existing Khareef design were copied to the greatest extent that could be tolerated by the RN.

    • In my view, the Type 31s should be optimized for service in the Gulf. They should operate from our new naval base in Bahrain.

      The Bahrain base is a facility rather than a power base. Given the dreadfully few surface vessels the RN has I’m not sure what purpose making these 5 vessels there would serve.

    • I too think there’s a role for the T31 from Bahrain, but perhaps more on an at need basis with relocatable logistics than a permanent base. Ocean Shield ended last year, but it would seem to make sense to have shorter repeats every so often.

      • Incidentally that’s an example of the reason I think VSTOL was a better idea for the carriers. On route to the Pacific drop off a squadron or part in Baharain, easier runway requirements, and a couple of T31s, and there you go, a small combined task force. Both Gulf and Horn of Africa. And perhaps a reason the RAF should go for a squadron of F35Bs.

  9. maybe if the idiots in power stopped giving so much money away overseas in that big sesspool called foreign aid then we could have had 13 type 26,my biggest worry is will the type 26 end up like the type 45,where we were supposed to get like for like which was 12.then reduced to 10 finally 8 were ordered we only got 6,hulls 7 and 8 were scrapped….due to over budget and the recession…plus add to the fact BAE are that greedy they complain we don,t buy enough from them,well maybe if they kept costs fair then maybe we would,but they seem happy to cut there own throats because if costs were fair maybe we could get a bit more and at the same time they are making money…but no greed has got in the way…

    • ‘maybe if the idiots in power stopped giving so much money away overseas in that big sesspool called foreign aid’

      Foreign aid is soft power, which gives the UK a lot of influence. Much of the aid is actually used to help UK firms to win business in countries where it is deployed. In addition – sometimes it’s necessary to help poorer countries – might help stop them ‘flooding’ the west with economic refugees.

      • soft power my rear end,foreign aid is just corruption and should have been scrapped years ago…once again we see countries where they have no water or food,after the hundreds of billions given to them inn foreign aid they should have none of that but know they always have enough weapons and munitions but cannot feed there own people so don,t give me twoddle about foreign aid being a soft power…i would sooner spend that money looking after our own country and it,s people before giving it to countries who spend it on anything but what it should be..and for gods sake why are we giving foreign aid to argentina…it,s nothing but a corrupt way for people to make money from doing nothing…always has and always will

    • Bae builds warships at comparable costs to other companies in other countries. And in some cases much cheaper.

      So what’s this crap about Bae fair prices?

    • We have to stop giving away £billions of Britain’s hard earned money to foreign countries every single year. We are basically being mugged. This has to stop. We can use our hard earned money to enlarge the Royal Navy, upgrade our motorway network, upgrade our railway network, rebuild our industries, etc.

  10. The T31 should be based on the Meko A200 class (SAN Formidable class).

    This is the benchmark for this size class and is being adopted by a number of navies. It is a great vessel and one that would add greatly to the RN.

    Cost seems to be in the £250-400m mark so in the ballpark.

    • MEKOs?? No
      I have worked very closely with a Meko operator and that particular operator does not like the modular concept.
      For example, Why have a modular communications cabin fitted in the mission space? When , if ever, is a warship ever going to sail around without a comms system? The modular fits are apparently more trouble than they are worth.
      They are now looking at a dedicated purpose built warship to replace the Mekos they operate

  11. As a point of reference, this is the BAE Khareef Class corvette:

    https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-UV4T4D9lSZk/VyPJzVp6okI/AAAAAAAAEIA/tAtHBEk6OXEJ73C_O6Zp_736N_3pArAOwCLcB/s1600/Khareef%2BClass%2BCorvette-1.jpg

    This is the Khareef class stern with hanger visible:

    http://militaryedge.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/al_rahmani_khareef.jpg

    This is the BAE Cutlass concept (same picture as lead graphic above):

    https://ukdjstatic-b4d.kxcdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/cutlass-1021×580.jpg

    The VLS on both vessels appear to be in proportion with one another which leads me to believe that the proposed BAE Cutlass vessel is a stretched Khareef Class corvette.

    BAE showcased a “BAE Cutlass Frigate” in Colombia in March of this year (link in Spanish):

    http://www.infodefensa.com/latam/2017/03/21/noticia-colombiamar-entrevista.html

    The “BAE Cutlass Frigate” offered to Colombia has Artisan and Sea Ceptor.

    If the “BAE Cutlass Frigate” is chosen as the Type 31 frigate, my questions would be the following:

    (i) Can the vessel accommodate Mark 41 VLS, box launchers, a Wildcat and a Rolls-Royce MT30 gas turbine with electric motors?

    (ii) Can this vessel be a credible war fighting vessel with similar functionality to the Type 26?

    (iii) Can BAE convince other navies that this stretched Khareef class frigate can be a realistic alternative to other ships available on the market for export?

    • Cutlass with Artisan, a 5in gun, Sea Ceptor, Wildcat and a few deck mounted LRASM tubes would work I think. From memory I think one of BMT’s configuration options for Venator shows silos for Sea Ceptor and deck mounted anti ship missiles.

      • According to BAE, the range of the Khareef Class Corvette is “Range: 4,500 miles”.
        According to BMT, the range of the Venator 110 is “Range: 6,000Nm at 15 knots”.
        According to BAE, the Type 26 has a “Range in excess of 7,000 nautical miles in Electric-Motor (EM) drive”.

        I would hope that any “BAE Cutlass Frigate” vessel would have a Rolls-Royce MT30 gas turbine with electric motors to mirror functionality with the Type 26.

        There will also be noise reduction measures that could be transferred from the Type 26 and applied to the “BAE Cutlass Frigate” as well.

  12. Don’t think the Type 31, is in anyway going to lower naval performance. The way I see it, Type 26’s to deploy globally, 31’s to concentrate on UK/European coastal policing. I’m sure depending on the UK’s finances, we will see more Type 26’s, due to the post Brexit demands for increased visible British presents across the World.

  13. The T31 is a political fog, created to hide the lack of funds and vision by the government. For me the answer can only be build more T26s and Rivers, building the latter in non BAE yards under the NSS ahead of a future MHPC Sloop programme. The Rivers are the Flower class of the day, and a small amount of investment will transform them into a capable (but low end) warship. If there was a war and there was a threat to UK shipping these would need to be the Convoy Escorts.

    • Indeed, who was is said ‘quantity has a quality all of it’s own’. Instead of 6 limited range Khareef based Type 31 build 12 River 2 with twice the range, small extendable hanger, Wildcat, containerised Sea Ceptor and towed sonar.

    • ‘If there was a war and there was a threat to UK shipping these would need to be the Convoy Escorts’

      I doubt very much there will be a new Battle of the Atlantic. Even if there was the USN plan was not to support a convoy system during the Cold War, in the way we understand it from WW2. They planned to place very strong carrier forces in Norway’s sea fjords, where they would have protection from air attack by the height of the surrounding land and be able, with a large amount of sea room, to intercept Soviet aircraft before they could actually reach the air above the Atlantic to disrupt their attempts to use anti ship missiles against convoys. Can you imagine the disruption carrier fighters would wreak against lumbering ‘Bear’ bombers in such a situation ? It would also prohibit the use of their faster aircraft to attack convoys, as they would, with their limited range (the USSR were never able to build a strategic bomber, due to their inferior engine technology) have no choice but to try to go either further north, or further south (into a mesh of NATO fighters in a NATO controlled airspace) where they would be more than decimated.

  14. – Type 26 -> Too expensive, cut numbers, promise Type 31

    – Type 31 -> too expensinve, cut numbers, promise a really really terrific RHIB

    – RHIB too expensive….. give up!

    • Tory ‘defence policy’. The cuts in the forces are an outrage, which if they’d occurred under a Labour government, would have caused outrage in the tory press, quite rightly. Strangely silent now, though.

  15. Anything other than the Venator 110 is a mistake. Both Venator and Spartan are only concepts but the former is closer to fruition than the later. The two BAE designs are not fit for purpose. They would serve do nothing other than wasting precious crew. We have enough high end escorts (barley) with six destroyers and eight frigates (with tails) to protect a RFTG, cover Operation Kippion and protect the deterrent The Type 31 has got to cover stuff like APTN, APTS, NATO task forces 150, 151. As such it needs to be globally deployable which means range and RAS capability. It needs a hanger for a Wildcat and the ability to deploy RHIBs. ASW is not the priority as Type 26 covers that but as part of an amphibious operation any ASW done by Type 31 would be close to shore in shallow water where an active sonar and a helicopter are exactly what is needed. Since that means your in the littoral may as well cover NGFS as well which means a 5 inch gun. Venator 110 ticks all the boxes and is the only option that does. Even if it is more expensive per ship four Venator would be way better than six Cutlass or Avenger.

    • Hopefully we will get export orders for the type 31, it will be much needed good newsfor our British shipbuilding industry.

  16. So in the future we will have 2 huge aircraft carriers which will have no catapults , they will be defended by STOL aircraft which will have a much reduced capability than aircraft from an aircraft carrier which has a catapult . The ships which will defend the AC will not have any anti ship capability other than the front gun. Its as if MPs and not naval staff wrote the book on how to defend the UK.

  17. I would say stuff BAE they have built enough crap give the order to Spartan steller systems it look like a good design I sure other countries can build cheaper than us we need to fill these ships with good weapons we need to order LRASM in large numbers or any ship are pointless without weapons to protect the UK or the carriers and No Hanger is a waste of time

  18. I really hope that whatever design is chosen it is properly armed. No capability gaps, no fitted for but not with garbage. Our servicemen and women deserved to have the best equipment when sending them in harms way.

    The Venator design looks the most promising to me. I really hope we do not end up with Cutlass or even worse Avenger.

  19. I agree that the Venator and Spartan designs seem to be capable designs but also stress that the MEKO is the benchmark in this class of vessels and if we cannot build cheaper and better then we should purchase them directly or under licence.

    Damen have the crossover which has been mentioned previously on this site and there is also the C-Sword 90 which is smaller but seems capable as well.

    The market if stacked with quality products in the 90-110m range and the UK will need to do something better than what is out there to win orders. A smaller version of T26 seems plausible – reduce the flight deck and create a single mission space and you are there I think (clearly I am not a naval architect so don’t know if this is really possible but you would think they have looked at different sizes through the last 10 years).

    • I cannot see the Govt announcing a national ship building strategy that is basically…………. let the Germans build them better and cheaper. Not going to happen.

      I wonder what the Germans would want in return for the licence? The first few built in their yards perhaps, plus lots of £££££.

      • understand Rob

        but shouldn’t we be getting the best product for our money and even if we buy a licence they are still great value if their cost really are in the £250-350m region.

        We have to accept that we are a long way behind the curve here and may need to buy in a design in order to get back into manufacturing cost effective warships.

        As it stands the Algerian, South African and Australian navies are all using Meko’s and they look very good to me.

        • Oh I agree, The MEKO seems to be a great affordable solution (although I am no naval architect). I just cannot see the Govt making a rational decision like that, too much pressure from BAE et al.

  20. The UK MOD needs to find the right balance between affordability and capability, given the track record of the past 40 years I fear they will not in the next 40.

  21. All the great ship building experts are out again in force .. They all know better than the real ship building engineers ..

    • No just giving opinions, much of which is uninformed I grant you!

      If we didn’t state our opinions on these topics then there wouldn’t be much need for the comments section 🙂

    • @P tattersall

      Our track record of doing this is quite poor and the cost base we have keeps on reducing the fleet size. I am not trying to be a naval architect, but what I am saying is that I believe there are choices out there that may not be precisely what is required but are close enough and far cheaper.

      History has shown that we will end up with an under performing expensive item that in the end does not meet the RN’s requirements and costs more than its competitors. (the River Batch 2 is a prime example).

      I am aware the RN have specialist requirements – but we either need to forgo some of these on our less combat intense assets or accept a smaller navy.

      I agree with Rob – we should continue to raise issues and create a forum where these things are being discussed as otherwise our service people will end up with rubbish.

    • Neither the ‘experts’ or ‘engineers’ appear to know what they’re doing. The Germans, French and Dutch are able to deliver very capable vessels at a reasonable price.

    • If you’re referring to opinions on this forum then they’re valid as millions of pounds are being wasted, ship numbers are decreasing and costs are escalating.

  22. Spectacular lack of research by the author of this article. Also stated costs & budgets as gospel instead of wild speculation.

    Grade: F.

  23. I’ve read lots of posts saying we are short of money and short of hulls. Therefore smaller, simpler, cheaper and requiring fewer crew seems sensible. As has been said, even the best ship can’t be in two places, be it the wrong side of the world, or the wrong side of a carrier group, amphibious group, or convoy. Even something with a basic sonar or weapons fit is better than nothing. In peacetime, the high-end capability doesn’t matter, being there does (e.g. Somalia). In times of war, we will probably operate in concert with allies, but we also need a lot of hulls to do a lot of functions. A GP frigate fits the bill. Even Nelson said he always wanted more frigates.

    So, what does it have to do?
    1. Constabulary patrols (UK waters, Caribbean, Somalia).
    2. Convoy, CVBG, Phibs escort.
    3. Naval Gunfire Support/SF deployment (you don’t want to send £1bn T26 or T45 in that close).

    So in my opinion it needs:-
    1. Helicopter with anti-ship missiles) – Wildcat. Plus hangar (aid stores, UAVs, SF contingent).
    2. A radar and a hull sonar.
    3. Credible Air to Surface missile – probably Sea Ceptor.
    4. A gun, NATO standard either 3″ or 5″, pros and cons to both. Plus 30mm and miniguns.
    5. Nice to haves if the budget stretches – CIWS, ASW torpedos.

    As has also been said, the greatest costs are in design development, so an existing basis would be good. Any particular reason we can’t take the BAE Khareef design (buy it if we have to), add a few metres for a bigger VLS box and better living quarters, and then invite all the yards around the UK to bid to build it for the best price?

  24. Lets all get serious about the perilous state of the Royal Navy under the current Conservative government (admittedly after repeated cuts and the last 2 disastrous SDSRs)
    The Royal navy needs warships not glorified OPVs , we already have the OPVs with the river batch 2s.
    I agree foreign aid wastage has to stop or be significantly cut back.any country that cannot afford to correctly fund, man and resource its armed forces or provide social care cannot afford to give £13 billion away every year.
    The type 31 must have a medium calibre gun. Sea ceptor, torpedoes, hangar and flight deck to take upto Merlin size helos and an anti ship missile (Norwegian anti shi missile) Also if no stern mounted towed array sonar they must have at least a bow mounted sonar for pursuing subs. All those capabilities deliver a basic frigate warship of about 4100-4500 tons minimum.
    These vessels do not come cheap but the RN needs more than 5 type 31s that is for sure. Ideally 10-12 to take the RN back upto the minimum required 26 destroyer and frigate hulls.
    The RN needs urgently rebuilding it has been wrecked. Type 45 ordered reduced to just 6. Type 26 now only going to get 8 if the RN is lucky, most observers and healthy skeptics think only 6 will be built due to recent passed history repeating itself.
    The problem with the inadequate current force level is that there is zero spare capacity and redundancy. Not enough vessels to undertake all the duties required leading to what ships and crews we have, having to be deployed more frequently and for longer.
    There needs to be a public outcry about this. We should all be writing to our MPs. Demanding
    Norwegian anti ship missile asap so no capability gap when harpoon retired.
    A replacement for RFA Diligence
    Retain HMS Ocean until a replacement lphd built, it is madness to task a £3 billion QE class strike carrier to support a close inshore role for amphib landing.
    26 destroyers and frigates are our minimum required hull numbers
    10 SSNs are our minimum required hull numbers so a 2nd batch of astute class needs to be ordered.
    If we cannot afford to do these basic things then stop sending £13 billion abroad free of charge with no oversight to corrupt failed states.
    Utter insanity, if the RN losses any future conflict as a result of May, Hammond, Cameron’s decisions they should be arrested for dereliction of duty and failing in their primary duties as a government, that of the defence of the realm.

    • I don’t disagree with anything you have said, however, given budget constraints I cannot see this happening any time soon. If we can get 6 T31s in service and built at the same time as T26 that would be a great start so as not to reduce numbers. The T31 also needs to be credible, with Sea Ceptor, ASM, torpedoes, main gun, GPMGs, and perhaps a bow sonar. I can’t see it having a towed array as it has been slated as a general purpose ship, not ASW.

      It will be interesting to see what design is chosen. I, along with many on here have slated the Cutlass design, but looking at it again would it matter as long as it has the weapons and survivability?

      The Venator looks promising but I wonder what the price point would be as it looks to have a lot of the sophistication that the T26 has – as far as this novice can tell anyway!

      Spartan to me to looks good too but isn’t any more than a drawing as far as I know.

      Cutlass may well be the best option at the price point touted – which I believe was reported as £2bn or £333m per ship in a class of 6. This seems to be realistic when compared to the newer MEKO designs – such as that delivered to South Africa, although I do not know if the prices stated for that ship include weapons fit.

      • With the lack of funds available and BAE as a single-source supplier, it’s highly likely that the Type 31 will be the “BAE Cutlass Frigate” (stretched Khareef).

        We have been told many times by politicians that the Type 31 is being built in place of some the Type 26’s originally ordered.

        Therefore, I expect the “BAE Cutlass Frigate” to mirror the functionality and be close in capability to the Type 26.

        The “BAE Cutlass Frigate” would need to be a war fighting capable frigate and able to operate on it’s own and have Artisan, Sea Ceptor, Mark 41 VLS, box launchers (NSM or LRASM), a Wildcat and a Rolls-Royce MT30 gas turbine with electric motors – as a baseline configuration.

        The Government would then announce that the “BAE Cutlass Frigate” will be built in shipyards across the country to try to appease people like who want to have the whole shipbuilding process reformed for the better.

        • If they can do all that for the price then I say lets do it. We need hull number so 6 to start with, then hopefully follow up orders in the 2020s. Who knows maybe even a few more T26s, although I doubt it!

  25. We need to get away from a 100% BAE project for the type 31. The design if suitable should be off the shelf to ensure the 31’s do not have the built in BAE gremlins that they specialise in and to give the RN some comfort of operational reliability.

    The 31’s do not have to be the latest, most up to date designs, but rather a stable, survivable weapons platforms with a suitable level of all round performance for a light general purpose frigate and the built in ability to be upgraded for future needs, dictating a modular design.

    As to its role then the name general purpose frigate should lead us into assuming it will be able to defend itself from below and above the waves, up to a certain level (i.e. 121 against a similar vessel or a submarine). It will have hunting ASW capabilities, with a small helicopter housed, (as an ex submariner I can tell you that a helicopter is a pain to a submarine). It will do donkey work for a larger task force / carrier group, show the flag and patrol in areas where a larger more capable OPV is required.

    In summary in my humble opinion the key design brief is:
    1) Able to defend itself (121 against similar vessel or a submarine).
    2) Survive an acceptable level of damage (unlike 21’s).
    3) A capable level of ASW tools (including helicopter).
    4) Ability to operate independently in lower risk areas.
    5) Built in future proof design (upgradable).

  26. I have a comment above which has just been approved (with links) which compares the Khareef class and “BAE Cutlass Frigate”.

    I can just imagine Michael Fallon announcing the Type 31 “BAE Cutlass Frigate” as a “Multi Role – Multi Mission Frigate” (dropping the use of “General Purpose” and “light”).

  27. As a ‘layman’ I am hugely enjoying these informative comments. I feel a Quality Function Deployment exercise coming on, the technique auto manufacturers to design their cars. Across the x axis we have broad solution options: Cutlass, Avenger, Venator, Spartan and Type 26 lite.
    The y axis is the problem until you decide what you want the solution to do, how much time and money and manning you can afford and the importance ranking of the requirements e.g. must have, nice to have, don’t need for the RN versus exportablity versus the bells and whistles designs from the competition.
    Seems to me Type 31e could be a different animal to Type 31 ( RN). Can Cutlass compete with Belharra?

    • If it were up to me I’d order 12 BMT Venators tomorrow.

      I fear it’s highly likely that the Type 31 will be the “BAE Cutlass Frigate” due to BAE being the single-source supplier of ships at present.

      I think BAE would have to produce an exception ship and offer value for money if its going to compete with other designs available today and in future.

      • An order for 12 Venators sounds great but realistically isn’t going to happen. Current thinking is 6 Type 31 I think. Tend to agree Cutlass ( stretched Khareef) is favourite. The
        Khareef hull looks like a stretched River 2 and a lot of design work was invested in combat hardening River 2. Machinery walkways, fire systems, magazine armour. Difficult to see the reason this unless BAe are demonstrating how they would bring Khareef up to RN survivability standards as ‘Cutlass’.

  28. Good Day!

    Steel being cheap would it Not be more sensible to have a GP class 26 instead of a new Type 31?

    The vessel would have interchangeable components with the Type 26 Sub Version ! Surely more sensible?

  29. It has been suggested that MOD may have chosen Babcock to compete with BAE for the Type 31.

    Babcock have been building OPVs for the Irish and in March won the contract from Eastern Shipbuilding in US to provide platform engineering design for the design and construction phases of the United States Coast Guard’s budgeted twenty five off Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) class vessels.

    The OPC spec is length:360 feet, beam:54 feet, draft:17 feet, sustained speed: 22+ knots, range:  8500+ nautical miles, endurance:60 days, hybrid diesel, it has been called the ‘other’ LCS as similarly kitted out but using a standard displacement hull.

    The costing is of interest as the HM & E is $264 million plus GFE for total of $421 million ~ £325 million, so purely speculation this could be the basis of a Babcock bid.

    As to what is possible to meet the suggested budget one might look at the 3,100 tonne DCNS designed SGPV Gowind frigate, 364 ft LOA, 344 ft LWL, 52 ft beam main deck, 47 ft waterline, draft 12.6 ft, 28 knots, range 5,000 nm at 15 knots which won in competition for the Malaysian order for six ships against ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems MEKO 200, Damen Sigma 10514 and others.

    Contract $2.8 billion, $467 million ea.~ £360 million
    Wikipedia info:

    Sensors and processing systems:
    • Combat System: DCNS SETIS
    • Search radar: Thales SMART-S Mk2
    • Fire control radar: Rheinmetall TMEO Mk2 electro-optical tracking system & TMX/EO Mk2
    • Decoy Wallop/Esterline SuperBarricade system
    • Sonar: Thales CAPTAS-2 ASW suite with hull sonar & towed array sonar

    Electronic warfare & decoys:
    Thales Vigile ESM

    Armament:
    • 1 ×  Bofors 57mm gun
    • 2 × MSI DS30M 30mm cannon
    • 16 × VL Mica in Sylver VLS
    • 8 × Naval Strike Missile SSM
    • 2 × J+S triple torpedo launcher

    Aircraft carried:
    • various types of UAVs
    • a helicopter, weighing up to 10 tons

    • The OPC appears to be based on a Vard 7 110 OPV hull.

      As an alternative, the BAE Cutlass is based on a Khareef Corvette hull.

      If the Vard 7 110 OPV hull is painted grey and built in the UK, will foreign navies buy them in preference to other European offerings? I personally doubt it.

      Can the Vard 7 110 OPV hull be made silent to hunt subs and stealthy with a low RCS? I doubt that too.

  30. The key thing for me is to focus the 31s east of Suez. The threat environment is different there. It’s really about policing Iran and anti-piracy. There can be less of a focus on ASW because those potential adversaries aren’t strong in that area. The Khareef-based Cutlass seems to me to be the obvious choice. Operate them from our base there and keep our 45s and 26s in Portsmouth and Plymouth for home defence and carrier escort. I bet that’s what happens.

  31. “Yet are these designs not something to be expected and potentially the only viable solution from a budgetary point of view. As with all programmes a vast amount of the costs are generated in the research and development stage, so before you even cut steel the price tag is high”. So should the design, engineering and research be outsourced, not the build? I know this is unthinkable, but so should the build of any RFA and RN ship.

    We hear about this competition (to cover the fact is about eu enforced rules) for taxpayer funded ships and it gets called value for money. Why not a UK competiton for the type 31s, and see what a non BAE consortia can do? Maybe final assembley at say Inchgreen can by on the Clyde with certain parts made at Goavn and Scotstoun along with Barrow and Cammell laird, just as with the support ships and Pallion, A&P tyne and Rosyth etc. There are options, and all help growth in UK shipbuilding that is also non grey in colour, in which helps the military side in the future. Reading reports from Civitas makes it clearer.

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