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.

0 0 vote
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Why not, the Type 31 frigate could be an export sales frigate just like the Leander-class frigate


“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… Read 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… Read more »


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… Read more »


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… Read more »


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.

David Gregory

The OPVs should not be mentioned in the same breath as either type of Frigate. They are a waste of money on a toothless, militarily inappropriate piece of hardware constructed for the sole purpose of keeping idle hands busy. In old Jacky Fisher’s words..’Warships that can neither fight not run away.’ They are replacing perfectly adequate patrol vessels only 14 years old – and with another decade of useful service left in their hulls. Ridiculous. On top of that, how on earth, in modern defence terms does a designer come up with a 2,000 ton warship that has No embarked… Read more »

David Stephen

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.


“poison dwarf”

Mike Condy

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… Read more »


Scotland wants the north sea oil, but it cannot protect the north sea, or any of its sea. Compare it’s defence proposals to those of Norway’s. How many fast jets does Norway have… How many does SNP say it can propose. Norway is already ordering f35s. SNP proposals are pie in the sky.


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.


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… Read more »


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

David Stephen

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… Read more »

Mike Saul

I agree with david

Jason Holmes

Erm…T26 kinda screws that waffle David


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.


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?


Why do we have an unambitious ship build plan? Because the intention was always to make the RN a part of the eu Navy.


Hi Clive – the spartan design is a standalone design from stellar systems – its actually a very tight design from what I can see – although goes against the clean line trend of the low signature vessels we have seen.

There are loads of great designs out there at the moment – the Belharra, Meko A200 etc. so I think we are kidding ourselves on exporting, but you never know.


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.

A. Smith

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… Read more »


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.

David Stephen

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.


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

Paul Padley

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.

Mr Bell

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… Read more »

Paul Padley

I do wonder whether Babcock and BMT are just column fodder in any ‘competitive’ bidding. £330m would make the Type 31 cheaper than the River batch 2’s! I can’t see how the numbers make sense unless the price of the Rivers included closet design work for a Khareef based Type 31.


“£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.


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… Read more »


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… Read more »


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… Read more »

Mr Bell

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… Read more »

A. Smith

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… Read more »

Paul Padley

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 A : Here is the link to the cutlass class The Cutlass design is a significantly stretched and enhanced derivation of the Al Shamikh-class corvette design and sits at the high end of the cost/capability spectrum.

A. Smith

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.


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.

Paul Padley

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… Read more »


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

Mr Bell

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… Read more »


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… Read more »


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… Read more »

Mike Saul

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.


Where is this 6 figure coming from, there is no source quoted or is it just wishful thinking/ rumour?


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… Read more »

David Stephen

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… Read more »

A. Smith

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… Read more »

David Stephen

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… Read more »


@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… Read more »


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

Absalon, huitfeldt or Nansen derivatives also welcome

Mr J B

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… Read more »


Did a bit of research and three years ago when the old sweattty Nats were way down in the 2nd indi ref polls there was no likelihood of anymore t31 orders. Then as they climbed it became “ a possibility more t31’s might be considered”. Now two polls say due to Brexit the indi vote is higher than ever before it’s apparently an absolute definite that more 31’s will be required. Why am I cynical about this announcement and sceptical that a government that from within openly admits its still going to have a defence funding problem will ever build… Read more »

David Gregory

All talk about increasing the number of much needed escorts for the RN misses the associated requirement to provide the trained personnel to man the ships. It takes a minimum of five years nowadays to build a warship – After it has been designed. It also takes five years to properly train officers and specialist crew to the standard required to operate the systems on these vessels. Some of the ships in the existing inadequate number of escort units available to the RN to meet its commitments are laid up or only semi-effective due to lack of trained personnel to… Read more »

Steve R

It doesnt take 5 years to build a warship, that’s just the current rate due to MoD trying to stretch the cost out to keep within budgets. A complex warship such as a frigate or destroyer could built in 18 months to 2 years if the money and will is there. The first ship is always the slowest; if we were to build a class of 10 Type 31s, for example, the 10th will be built much faster than the 1st. With regards to training, it would take some time through sea trials etc to perfect the ship but it… Read more »


If there is to be a second independence referendum and possibly independence, concideration should be given to how the UK’s military assets should be split and what Scotland will be untitled to take with it if it wants it and future ship building contracts for the UK (less Scotland) navy should be awarded to yards out side Scotland. And if the local people are happy for it to be there a new submarine base should be built at Milford haven.