BAE Systems and Babcock International are expected to bid against each other for a £2bn contract for six Type 31 Frigates, according to The Times.

Recently it was reported that Babcock International was keen to challenge BAE System dominance and is interested in bidding for the £2Bn contract when it’s put out to tender.

It is understood that Rosyth is also seen as a potential site for assembly of the frigates but BAE is reportedly keen to win the work for its yards on the River Clyde in Glasgow according to The Times. Whoever wins, the vessel is set to be assembled in Scotland.

The £2bn contract suggests a cost per ship of around £330m.

The Royal Navy order book in Scotland stands at 5 Offshore Patrol vessels, 8 Type 26 Frigates and assemble an increased figure of 6 Type 31 Frigates, an increase over what was previously promised.

Work on building eight Type 26 frigates at Clyde shipyards will begin next month, after the five Offshore Patrol Vessels are finished.

The number was originally understood to be “at least five” according to David Cameron, Prime Minister at the last defence review:

“There will be eight of the Type 26s 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.”

Mr Cameron also told the Commons after the defence review that the new class of frigates would be “more affordable than the Type 26 which will allow us to buy more of them for the Royal Navy so that by the 2030s we can further increase the total number of Royal Navy frigates and destroyers.”

The build plan for the Type 31 Frigates is expected to follow a similar pattern to that of the Queen Elizabeth carriers and early Type 45 Destroyers in that blocks will be built in yards around the UK and assembled on the Clyde.

Modern shipbuilding makes considerable use of prefabricated sections. Entire multi-deck segments of the hull may be built elsewhere around the UK, transported to the building dock or slipway, then lifted into place and assembled into one ship. This is known as block construction and is far more cost effective.

Yards pre-install equipment, pipes, electrical cables and any other components within the blocks, to minimise the effort needed to assemble or install components deep within the hull once it is welded together.

We spoke to John Carmichael, who works at the Govan yard as a welder, about the possibility of the Clyde assembling parts of the new frigate:

“It’s no secret we’ll be getting the frigate work, we’re already gearing up for the Type 26 after the Rivers and Type 31s after the Type 26s.

An independent report into the National Shipbuilding Strategy by Sir John Parker has also recommended that the Type 31 Frigate build be spread across the UK, with blocks being constructed in yards in both Scotland and England.

The National Shipbuilding Strategy is intended to be a radical, fundamental re-appraisal of shipbuilding in the UK works, intending to place UK naval shipbuilding on a sustainable long term footing. It is expected that it will be published next month.


  1. “The Royal Navy order book in Scotland stands at 5 Offshore Patrol vessels, 8 Type 26 Frigates and assemble an increased figure of 6 Type 31 Frigates, an increase over what was previously promised.”

    It isn’t an increase actually, the original promise back in 2013/14 was for 13 Type 26 (5 of them lighter) to be BUILT in Scotland, not just assembled.

    The extra T31 will be welcome, both to the Clyde and to the RN, but it’s 5 LESS hulls than previously promised.

    • Dadsarmy – You really should stop using the Nicola Sturgeon theory on arithmetic and her fondness for the word ‘promise’. 5 OPVs, 8 Type 26 and 6 Type 31 = 19 vessels. That is 6 more than 13 vessels.
      Now I do believe the programme began in 1998, under what was then known as the ‘Future Surface Combatant’ of C1, C2 and C3 sub types. A total of 18 (10 C1 and 8 C2) were planned in 2009. Some might argue the ‘C3’ became the OPVs now being built because by March 2010 this programme had evolved to become the ‘Global Combat Ship’ covering types C1 and C2. Again in SDSR 2010 Type 22 frigates would be decommissioned reducing the Royal Navy’s escort fleet to 6 Type 45 destroyers and 13 Type 23 frigates. No type numbers were known and indeed given the different roles it was obviously going to eventually be two different classes of ship. The original planning assumption for the Royal Navy was for thirteen ‘Global Combat Ships’ (eight ASW and five GP), replacing the Type 23 frigate fleet on a like-for-like basis, which ended up as Type 26 and Type 31. My maths tells me that 8 + 5 = 13.

      The OPVs were ordered as a stopgap to maintain the skills in the Clyde. (No mention of that expensively fulfilled ‘promise’ from you or the SNP of course). And lest we forget Portsmouth was closed to keep the Clyde fully occupied. No mention of that disgraceful ‘promise’ either of course.

      Now my many years in negotiating high value contracts taught me the only time a ‘promise’ is made and kept is when the customer signs a contract. Everything before that is ambition, hope, desire or just pipedreams. The UK Government could NOT make any ‘promises’ to anyone on the Clyde as it hadn’t finalised the design or agreed contract terms. As of today 13 vessels are being built on the Clyde (5 OPVs and 8 Type 26). That is the number Sturgeon keeps quoting and that is what will be built. How and where the Type 31s will be built is not yet known.
      Personally, given the SNP’s aggressive attitude to the rUK, I would specifically NOT build Type 31s anywhere near Scotland until they withdraw their threats to destroy the UK itself. It seems monstrous that we are pandering to these Nationalists who abuse and disrespect the very Union that is paying for the 2 carriers, 5 OPVs and 8 Type 26 ships to be built in Scotland while demanding even more!

      • Totally ignoring your usual political aspersions there’s this: “The OPVs were ordered as a stopgap to maintain the skills in the Clyde”

        No, they were ordered as the T26 wasn’t ready in design to keep to the terms of the 15 year 2009 TOBA between the MOD and BaE, to avoid having to pay BaE for – nothing. The “maintain the skills” is window-dressing for the politicos.

        However, the 5 OPVs plus 8 T26 don’t count as 13 FF, as the OPV is not an FF, nor even a light frigate, whereas 8 T26 plus 5 T31 do – plus one. It was known at the time that the +5 for the T26 were likely not to be the same spec, as 8 of the T23 were already refit (or planned) in theory with bits for the forthcoming T26.

        • The sad truth is that this is a not a political decision in the sense of promised work going elsewhere. It is a cross party political decision to under fund the entire military using the same type of political cover ‘maintain the skills’ but instead hiding behind the 2% NATO blanket. Would be worse if UK split but it’s still sh1t.

          • “Would be worse if UK split”

            The rUK loses 8.4% in terms of budget but also potentially half the airspace and half the maritime defence requirement.

            If Scotland worked closer with Norway and Denmark than the UK can, including construction and hence cost reduction (e.g. NORDEFCO), potentially it could cover most of the North Atlantic and Arctic requirements – something the UK currently doesn’t really plan for, such as the passages opening more with icecap melting.

            So done sensibly it could mean the rUK being able to deploy its assets more in tune with its aspirations – with a transition period of course. It would also be freed of any need to consider the delicacy of the Clyde / Forth shipbuilding.

        • Dadsarmy – Its not ‘usual political aspersions’ at all. It is stating some hard facts and you don’t like it because it challenges your nationalist beliefs. (To which you entitled but it doesn’t make you correct).

          The Scottish Nationalist Party have developed this wonderful sense of entitlement that just get bigger and bigger by the year. And they have done it all on the back of the politics of envy, grudge and anti-English rhetoric. And the thing that really bugs me is they take the mick, laugh at us and have all their demands met and then pass on their £15 Bn a year deficit for us to pay.

          The fact remains the Clyde has no more rights to build ships than anywhere else in the UK. And if it leaves the UK Scotland will never build a seriously capable naval ship again. I am still convinced we should start building Type 26s on the Clyde but within one build cycle of IndyRef2 taking place we should just switch them South so we do not end up with UK taxpayer funded ships docked in an independent Scotland. And as I said Type 31s should be block built around the rest of the UK as the carriers were and assembled in Portsmouth or the Tyne or Belfast or Merseyside. Anywhere but Scotland.

          • I think you missed the word “political”.

            This is about defence, remember? So why persist in trying to turn it into your own personal anti-SNP and even anti-Scotland “crusade”? It’s the wrong place for it, and I’m not biting.

      • Could not agree more. The poison dwarf is getting the 13 hulls she keeps bleating on about. I would not build Type 31 up here either but not just to piss off the nats but because we need them built concurently with Type 26. we cant wait to build 31 after 26 at the clyde yards. the Type 23s wont last that long and besides we need to move to the new hulls asap to reduce manpower shortages.

        • The hulls that are mentioned in in the proposal for a Scottish Naval Defence Force actually represent considerably less than an 8.4% (or thereabouts) population share of the navy. Ther is no doing down of the English along the way, no Scottish exceptionalism unless by exceptional you mean like places such as Norway and Denmark too. There are politics around the building of such ships because of promises made by politicians in order to keep the UK together. Split the UK and the promises can go away, but in the process shipbuilding doesn’t. there was recognition that even taking on the vessels proposed it would have to build more and over time build ones more suited to the regional defence it proposes they play a part in. From a defense perspective it is indeed probable the rUK would benefit from this in that whilst losing only 8.4 of funding it would lose primary responsibility for defense of such large areas of air and sea that Scotland would have to take on. Once could actually see benefits to all though one has to say that retaining tow purely naval military ship builders in Scotland might be trickier not in the short to medium term but in the longer term.

  2. We’ll take the increase of one… Let’s hope for more on top of that in the future years to come.. 20 Destroyers and Frigates the RN can just manage ! But i do think we will need about 24 in the future as a minimum plus the River class patrol vessels and the RFA for the lighter deployments (north atlantic and anti piracy op’s and so on..) could also have up to 8 Destroyers and Frigates on deployment including carrier protection deployments.

  3. Well, that’s a bit of good news; an increase in hull numbers is always welcome and would take the escort force up to 20. It is going to be interesting to see what capabilities the chosen design has. VLS for Sea Ceptor I would imagine would be an almost certainty, but VLS for strike length weapons eg Mk 41 less so, though with Type 26 including them, it might make sense for the Type 31 to also include them, even if it couldn’t fit the 24 that Type 26 will have.

    • Hi Clive

      The escort fleet is ageing and currently standing at 19 quality vessels. It is recognised that this volume is no where near enough and from memory I think the golden number is closer to 30.

      I believe we should have 13 high value destroyers (T26/T45) operating the Sampson radar set and at least 48 Mk41 strike (using the current vls moved to the t31).

      We then have a post Brexit opportunity to build a new fleet of 25 (or 1 per year) T31 with the venator and Spartan designs seemingly favourite, what we dont need is another sub standard BAE OPV lookalike.

      I am disappointed with this news overall as it puts us back to where we were but with fewer quality assets.

      T26 could have been the favourite in a number of export markets by now and the opportunity is lost for both. Sir John Parker must be tearing his hair out.

      • A commitment to building 3 surface vessels per year to maintain a 77 ship fleet is not a particularly stretching goal either financially or intellectually.

        It is beyond infuriating that we just cant sort out a bit of simple maths and balance the books over time – The USN has a 30 year build plan, the UK has a fag packet somewhere.

        Fallon should be ashamed of himself

      • We need to stop all this export nonsense. Nobody wants our ships. Nations that can afford a destroyer or frigate mostly want to build thier own. Then there is the time constraint. We can barley produce enough ships for our own needs and cant go messing with the build schedules every time a banana republic fancies a gun bout. There is not a lot of profit to be made on warships. The FREMM ships and Mistrals have been a net loss for the French. There is plenty of work for multiple yards building exclusively for the RN if we order them at the right time and in the right numbers.

      • Parker has all the right ideas. BAE have blown it for type 31 with a dismal OPV+ design. They need to transfer some of their technology and technocrats to other the contenders. I am sure the problem with BAE is the board’s profit greed not the people at the workface.

  4. Hi Pacman, I absolutely agree that we need more ships. 20 isn’t enough, but better than 19. I hope that Mk 41 will be fitted to the Type 45s, but doubt any more will be built. Type 26, I think, has the potential to be a very capable class. I am puzzled why the design has 2 different types of VLS–one for Sea Ceptor and one for strike length weapons. I dare say cost could have something to do with it. Is the Spartan design you mention a Babcock design?

  5. So overall we are decreasing the amount of ships to replace are older ones, the UK is playing with fire, cut backs have left us with armed forces that will be cannon fodder.

  6. This is very disappointing news if true and the Royal Navy and British public are going to be conned into accepting an overpriced and old design of a stretched Khareef / River class patrol vessel and then have the MoD and BAE try to convince us that the ship will be a capable frigate closely matching a Type 26.

    We are, after all left with the Type 31 because of the scandalous mismanagement by the MoD and BAE from their handling of the Type 26 of which are rumoured to cost us, the tax payer, £1 Billion each.

    Where happened to the BMT Venator and Steller Systems Spartan?

    BAE and Babcock haven’t made any information available about their designs. BAE has only provided two mock-ups of stretched OPVs.

    It looks like the Type 31 is going to be more OPV than frigate and the mismanagement by the MoD and BAE will continue… what a disaster…

    • Well, we’ll have to wait and see. “light frigate” might be a stretched term itself, one I wasn’t too fond of as it gives politicians and othres too much wiggle room, but there is still a discernible difference between an OPV and a frigate.

    • Stop panicking. No one has said it will be the BAE design. Much more likley it will be Venator 110 or Spartan both of which are pretty credible warships.

  7. But what is being bid? BAE proposed Cutlass and Avenger but they also used a BMT design for the Carrier Alliance. Babcock? No idea.

    I guess my question is where do Spartan and Venator 110 feature in this, if at all. I really hope somewhere because those are the two designs that I like the best.

    • At £330 a pop, inc design costs, it’s surely got to be based on an existing platform -BAE River class derivitives, Babcock’s Sam Beckett or the USCG VARD

  8. Surely it has to be Venator if we are serious about configurability and exports? BAe’s Khareef is an old design and itself a stretched Amazonas – before it gets stretched again for Type 31.

  9. I am hoping they are going for either the more capable cutlass or bmt venator 110 design, the Avenger design would be nothing other than a very weak frigate design and a total liability.
    I am really, really disappointed that the RN is only going to get 6 ships of the type 31 design meaning the total frigate and destroyer fleet once constructed will be 20 vessels. 6 type 45s, 8 type 26, 6 type 31s. Fallon and the Torries have not lied to parliament this is an increase in our frigate and destroyer fleet but only by 1 flippin hull.
    Hardly a rebuilding of RN fighting power and still far short of the 26 escort hulls that the parliamentary defence committee and the admiralty say is the minimum required to cover current UK, Nato and world wide commitments which is 26 hulls. Really disappointed if this is all we are going to get.
    Unless of course this £2billion order for 6 ships is just the first batch?
    Lets all hope and pray that it is.

      • “£330m would make the Type 31 cheaper than the River batch 2’s!”

        That £348m was for the first three Batch 2 Rivers not the price for each one so the per-vessel price was £116m.

  10. We need to break this constant reliance on BAE I would give the order to Steller Systems Spartan It is a much better looking ship perfect fo the export market. The Nodal Modular Physical Architecture approach to the design allows for configurable options. Each node has the ability to accept different systems for example a customer may wish to have a simple 30mm Small Calibre Gun system in place of the forward Mk41 Vertical Launch System (VLS), or place a SeaRAM or Phalanx in this position. they seem to think outside the box i.e systems like Sea Ram.We need to break BAE they have got to conplacent

    • I think the Venator 110 has a pretty much identical concept to the Spartan’s nodal modular physical architecture as far as weapons stations are concerned, it’s just that Steller Systems have done a better job than BMT of highlighting and explaining it than BMT. I do agree with you though. I would be much happier with either Spartan or Venator 110 compared to Cutlass or Avenger. In fact a run-off between Spartan and Venator 110 would have two promising-looking designs competing against each other which would hopefully sharpen up the deal and designs from two already seemingly competent teams and could yield a good result.

      Having said that, how much do we really know about Spartan at the moment? The last I saw they hadn’t even announced displacement and size (length, beam & draft) figures which always struck me as a bit odd.

  11. The Five OPV’s are replacing 4 Batch 1’s (itself a disgrace as they are still good).

    T26 is really a new T45 (same size and better capability if we get a sampson radar on it) so I expect a second batch of T26 to replace T45 over time bringing the class up to 13 vessels)

    T31 is really important to the RN and needs a long term commitment. I agree with the comments on Venator / Spartan – it really needs to be one of these or both over time.

    This is the moment and the government need to get this right and commit to a 25 year build cycle. If not then we can kiss our exports goodbye as the french are proving countries buy a partially build product.

    Cost wise £330m puts us into the LCS price bracket, so looks reasonable. we now need volume to get the ships at this price.

  12. Venator design is the most frigate like. Medium calibre gun, hangar and flight deck. Bow mounted sonar available, CIWs easily possible atop hangar, sea ceptor and small mk41 vl strike cell 8-12 vl missile cells possible or an enlarged sea ceptor and containerised Norwegian anti ship missile. Not quite as capable as the Duke class they are replacing but not terrible.
    The effectiveness of the type 31 class will depend upon the sensors and weapons fit. Just need to make sure the vessel has enough teeth to fight and win.
    Reiterate though whether Spartan, venator or cutlass design the type 31 needs to be ordered in more than 6 hulls. The RN needs a minimum force of 26 frigate and destroyers to meet its operational requirements. anything less and we are already struggling in peacetime, god help us if there is a war.

  13. I found this link (in Spanish which can be translated into English) from March 2017 which refers to a defence exhibition in Colombia where BAE are actively promoting a ‘Cutlass frigate’ with Artisan and Sea Ceptor:

    Why is there no mention of a ‘BAE Cutlass frigate’ on the BAE website or anywhere on the Web?

    How are BAE able to offer a ‘frigate’ for £330 million when the Type 26 is estimated to cost around £1 Billion per ship?

    Everything points towards a stitch up and the Royal Navy are going to end up with modified OPVs and pass them off at frigates.

    • Good spot. Global Brexit here we come. Cost accounting is a black art. I think Type 26 would have picked up its design costs and the costs reconfiguring the Clyde manufacturing facilities. Hence the £1billion. I reckon River batch 2 picked up the costs of setting up an assembly line for any ship generically based on the Amazonas/ River 2/ Khareef hull plus the RN specified design changes required to make this hull into a warship rather than an OPV or a ‘corvette’. One man’s stitch up is another’s gentleman’s agreement perhaps.

    • Hi Colin, there are no specifications available for the ‘Cutlass frigate’ other than a CGI mock-up. You would think BAE would have created a dedicated website with CGI animations of their vessel, considering it’s supposed to be created for exporting in mind.

  14. I would be seriously disappointed if we went for any of the BAE designs – they are just not what the RN need.

    Its time for the First Sea Lord to stand up and be counted (before his memoirs are published and when it may help those serving).

    The RN need combat ships – not OPV’s and we need to build at least 1 per year indefinitely.

    • At this link Keith Campbell is arguing that River batch 2 is in fact a lightly armed warship rather than an OPV with features added over the Amazonas including things like firefighting, combat management system, military GPS, Kevlar magazine armour etc
      I am not qualified to judge but if these were added to a lengthened Khareef would they turn this corvette into an acceptable RN light frigate?

      • I could not disagree more with Keith’s assessment. The batch 2 Rivers are nowhere near a combat vessel. It can neither defend itself or sink a ship of comparable size and can therefore not qualify as a frigate.
        The above statement brings us to a conundrum however, is a frigate classified based on size or capability.

        I would be very happy with a FREMM and a belharra which have both offensive and defensive capability rather than the T45/T23 of the RN which do not.

        The RN surface fleet is incapable of sinking a ship of 100m + and this has to change, mk41 with cruise, harpoon replacement, torpedo’s etc all need to come into our armoury and quickly. This can all be done in a 120m vessel (which is still big). We do not need frigates that can land chinooks when we cant even put a merlin in them. Let’s be realistic . For me a 120m frigate with a wildcat is an amazing platform if kitted out with the full complement of weapons.

        Let’s stop going big just for the sake of it and start punching above our weight and having higher volume please.

        Batch 2 would not survive against a meko, holland, formidable, belharra or even a Csword90 it is therefore not a frigate, in my humble opinion.

        I think (but do not know) that Keith may be trying to rationalise the batch 2 as he has succumbed to the programming that these things are of any use. I am of the opinion they are of very limited value but are sheep in wolves clothing.

        The RN is becoming a laughing stock – I think Denmark and Norway would put us away if our subs weren’t involved.

        Sad – but time to face the truth – great people – poor equipment that will lead to the loss of life (as occurred to the army and RM in afghan).

        • Prompt response, thx. So for you, if (politically) it has to be BAe then Cutlass has to be 120m with Mk41 etc, right?

  15. Agree with Paceman the type 31 frigate unless it is armed correctly and has real teeth is potentially going to be a liability and cost RN lives in any future conflict. The RN desperately needs fighting ships bot more glorified OPVs.
    Whatever design is choosen must be a capable warship. I just hope the initial order for 6 vessels is followed up with 6 more and a commitment to supplement the type 45s in 8-10 years time with 8-10 air and surface strike optimised type 26 hull forms.
    We can live in hope but continually bad news on inadequate numbers and quantities of ships and subs seems to be the norm these days. The government are failing in their number 1 priority the defence of the realm.

  16. The RN is in such bad shape that it gives us a real opportunity change it and make it fit for the next 50 year.

    The T26 is potentially a great ship and with the right fit out could become the UK’s Arleigh Burke. The move to unmanned systems means we dont need dedicated ships and for me we need to start retiring the MHVC fleet and swapping them out for T31’s that are fitted with a range of equipment.

    The T45 is quickly coming to its end of life and a second batch of T26 in 10 years time will be needed to replace these.

    We are partially through a refresh of the RFA – but actually my view is we can do more with these large relatively inexpensive vessels and provide a lot more humanitarian aid and hospital facilities (as norway is doing with theirs).

    Lastly, non of this is any good without the fit out, more helicopters, mk41/57 VLS, replacement for Harpoon, Torpedo’s etc.

    Our current combat vessels have minimal offensive threat and this needs to be changed and changed quickly. T26 needs a minimum of 48 Mk41 VLS and a T31 16 and a Sea Ram.

    We need a strategy and not a set of random orders.

    I also question why the scottish government has not incentivised BAE to build a frigate factory on the Clyde, they are hardly showing a similar level of commitment to this workforces as the UK govt.

  17. If (as now projected) a Corbin Labour government is formed after the 8th June 2017, you can probably say goodbye to a huge cross section of defence spending. In order to meet the higher social costs as promised in the Labour manifesto, defence will most likely be hit hard in order to meet their promises.
    I fear Type 26 and 31’s orders will be much reduced, along with the likely sale of one of the new carriers. Trident would not be replaced, and an early draw down of the current fleet would ensue? No doubt Scotland would support an early withdrawal and closure of Faslane.
    Sadly, not just the surface fleet but army and airforce programmes would most likely be cut or reduced significantly.

    The future is not always as promising as we may hope for?

  18. Emerging nations are now building and designed their own warships. The UK has no proven record in warship exports since the 1960s. Other European nations have both the designs and record for the global market.

    The notion we the UK can some how become a player in the global warship market is fanciful.

    • Not sure if you are looking for a deeper source but the basic source is from that linked Times article (behind a paywall) that says that the contractors are bidding for that £2bn contract to build 6 ships. Presumably someone at The Times has seen the invitation to tender paperwork or had some early leak from the procurement office.

      I was hoping for 8 but 6 is exactly what I was expecting. It’s the minimum number whereby the government can say that T31 achieved the goal of increasing escort numbers by replacing the last 5 T23s with 6 T31s. That government boast will of course be completely ignoring the issue of how much more capable a fleet of 13 T26s would have been vs 8 T26s + 6 T31s unless something really miraculous comes out of the T31 program.

      If T31 got us an extra 4 to 6 hulls into the escort fleet and T31 is something more than a pimped OPV then maybe the tradeoff would make sense but for 1 extra hull the original all-T26 fleet would have been preferable in my opinion.

  19. My worry is the price quoted. £2 billiion is only about £330 million per ship. I am hoping for Venator 110 or Spartan but was under the impression that they would both be around £400 a pop. I really hope we are not going to get one of the BAE designs, you cant polish a turd. £330 sounds like Cutlass with no sonar or MK41. Might be better to increase type 26 order to 12 and bin the type 31 idea. 18 good escorts is better than 14 good and 6 crap.

    • Hi David,

      Where does your “impression that they would both be around £400 (million) a pop” come from? I haven’t seen any numbers that looked even vaguely well-informed guesses.

      From what I’ve seen of the specs (hard to judge given that the Spartan specs are so … spartan/incomplete) I wonder whether Venator might be cheaper than Spartan due to the simpler propulsion on Venator (CODAD vs CODLAG for Spartan). Then again, I wonder whether CODLAG gives advantages in terms of a quieter ship so maybe worth extra for better ASW potential? I really don’t know this stuff but ASW is critical nowadays so would be interested to know more.

      I’d also like to understand and hear more from real experts re Mk41 on the T31. For export it needs the option I think but would the RN be best going all soft-launch for the VLS (Sea Ceptor and maybe also Spear 3 in the future) and box launchers for something like NSM to give ASuW and, assuming NSM gets more JSM-like as it evolves or converges, land attack capability as well?

      Yes, no Mk41 means that a T31 wouldn’t be as potent as a T26 with 24 x Mk41 but realistically a T31 would likely only have 8 x Mk41 so hardly shock and awe and if more TLAM capacity was needed for something specific it might be cheaper to containerise some extra launchers to deploy on RFA ships. Tomahawk has long range so an RFA vessel could stay well out of any danger zone to launch. The USA built deck-mounted launchers when they bought battleships back into service around (I think) the time of the first Iraq war. Venator even has a topside mission space between the funnel and the mast so potentially could embark some itself.

      Another thing that not having Mk41 compromises is ASW weapons, e.g. ASROC or its successor. Are there any effective box-launched or top-mounted solutions there? I’ve read that deck-mounted torpedoes have such short range that the ship is probably dead already (or soon to be) if a sub gets within range and a helicopter can’t keep 24/7 in-air coverage so there are response time issues there. The soft-launch VLS probably couldn’t handle the weight of anything in the ASROC sort of category so where would that leave us as far as ASW weaponry is concerned? Then again, the answer would seem to be no more exposed than T23 is at the moment.

      • I’d like to know more about the Mk 41 VLS and Type 31 too.

        – BAE Cutlass:

        Here is a picture of the BAE Khareef corvette:

        And here is the BAE “Cutlass frigate”:

        In my opinion the “Cutlass frigate” is the Khareef corvette stretched by around 20 or so metres.

        Ideally it would need to be scaled up, not stretched.

        Will the “Cutlass frigate”(Khareef body) have the space to accommodate the Mark 41 VLS? Is there space in the middle for box launchers?

        – BMT Venator

        On the Venator design, BMT claim (on Page 9) there are “3 options for VLS”:

        Is it possible for a Type 31 Venator to have ExLS VLS, Mark 41 AND box launchers? If so, a Type 31 Venator could conceivably have Sea Ceptor, Mark 41 for Tomahawk & Spear 3 and NSM box launchers.

        A “lower end” Type 31 Venator could have a containerised version of Sea Ceptor and Brimstone Sea Spear / Spear 3 and NSM box launchers.

        – Steller Systems – Spartan:

        The Spartan appears to have more options for VLS. I emailed them for the specs and they replied with the following:

        “The Length waterline is 110m, Length Overall 117m, Beam Waterline 17m. Displacement Deep (Fully Loaded) 3,600 tonnes, Range is 6000nm at 12 knots, 4000nm at 18kts.”

      • Hi Julian. The £400 million figure is I admit a rough estimate. I did have a link but the website no longer functions. I first found it through a link posted on the Yuku discussion forum. The prices where based on known equipment cost and a few assumption on manufacturing. I agree that Venator 110 has better chance of meeting that target with the engine set up on offer. BMTs website and displays for Venator 110 show that an 8 cell MK41 alongside 2 x 3 cell ExLS which can house various weapons. Space wise it looks easy enough to change that and make it 2 x 8 cell MK41. The rest of the given specs where (as far as I can remember) 4,500-5,000 tonnes, 25-26 knots, 15m hanger (for Wildcat), 25m flight deck (for Merlin, type 2050 bow mounted sonar, 2 x DS30mm, 5 inch gun, Artisan 3D radar and standard EW/Decoy suite and a spot on the hanger roof for a Phalanx CIWS. If they could accommodate the 2nd 8 cell MK41 and crank it out for £400 million a pop, then I think its a great deal. 16 vls is a limiting factor but with only 6 needed to house 24 CAAM then you have 10 cells that can house ASROC, NSM/LRASM, Tomahawk or a mix depending on the mission. Its not a world beater like 45 0r 26 but it can do NGFS, APTN, APTS, NATO TF 150/151 and act as close escort for RFAs. Type 2050 sonar a Wildcat and ASROC is a decent ASW capability, 24 CAAM lends a decent AAW capability for self defence or escort duties and the gun is always useful. I think it even had space for 4 x 11m RHIBs. I think 6 of these would go a long way to helping free up destroyers and frigates for the carrier group or other more demanding tasks. Also the BMT website makes it seem like they can be constructed CVF style in blocks making it possible to build them concurrently with type 26 and get them in the water a lot sooner. The Clyde yards wont suffer from this as when they complete 8 type 26s it will be around mid 2030s so time to move straight to type 45 replacement.

        • @David S

          Let’s face it – a 16 cell mk41 as detailed in your response is more flexible than a all current RN vessels. 6 cells for Aster, 10 for NSG/Cruise and add a Sea Ram on the hanger and you have a very effective vessel

          MU80 torpedoes and a wildcat and this is stellar

          Compact Captas and I think we have a world beater.

          Interestingly SNAFU is lauding the latest SAAR which is smaller but has everything going for it as well

          We really need to sort our shit out and start building something – becoming a lot embarrassing now.

          • It needs to be spartan or venator and NOT a BAE design

            Absalon, huitfeldt or Nansen derivatives also welcome

  20. Bang on Paceman. Totally agree we need to go Venator or Spartan and build in blocks with final assembly anywhere capable of doing the work on time and on budget without disrupting the type 26 programme which needs to be built consecutively to the type 31 to prevent a drop in escort numbers.
    If I was Fallon I would opt for Appledore in Devon they have a recent track record of delivering on time and to budget for the Irish Navy’s recent OPV/ corvette the Niamh class (I think that is their name, they are good looking capable ships)
    If we can get the first batch in the water on time and budget for £2 billion for 6 ships then a follow on order hopefully for a further 6 type 31s will follow soon and also give evidence to foreign potential buyers that the RN has confidence in the design and ship builders to deliver on time and budget (something BAE systems fail to do time and time again)


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