BAE Systems, Babcock and Atlas Electronik UK have been shortlisted in the competition to build the Type 31e Frigate.

The preferred bidder will be announced by the end of next year. The MoD wants the first of the five frigates to be delivered in 2023.

This comes not long after the previously suspended Type 31e programme, which could see sections of the ships built in Scotland and England, was restarted.

An MoD spokesperson said that a prior information notice has been issued to industry and a new contract notice has been issued.

“We have issued a Prior Information Notice for our new Type 31e fleet and plan to start discussions with industry next week to ensure we do not lose any momentum. There have been no changes in our plans to procure a first batch of five new Type 31e frigates to grow our Royal Navy. We still want the first ship delivered by 2023 and are confident that industry will meet the challenge of providing them for the price tag we’ve set.”

According to USNI here, an article published recently by Jane’s stated that at least two of the potential bidders had earlier regarded the terms and conditions set by the MoD as unworkable, citing both commercial aspects and intellectual property rights.

“Even if the MoD achieves its stated intention of ‘delivering’ the Type 31e lead ship in 2023, the subsequent sea trials, crew training and work-up could see entry into operational service slipping a year or two.”

What changed?

According to well respected defence commentary website Save the Royal Navy:

“The MoD says it will begin market engagement activity with suppliers interested in re-tendering for the Type 31e design and build contract starting next week.

The new contract notice issued yesterday has the same headline figures “Type 31e is to cost not to exceed £1.25 billion, inclusive of Government Furnished Equipment (GFE)”. This may indicate there is a recognition that the £250M per ship limit is not enough to cover the installation of credible combat systems. Just how much GFE will be provided may be the critical factor in the success of the design. It has always been the intention that some equipment would be transferred from the Type 23s to the next generation of frigates, both Type 26 and Type 31, including the Sea Ceptor missile system and the Artisan Radar. 

Weapons, sensors and combat management systems are a large cost component of warships and if paid for separately, would add significantly to the Type 31e ‘sail away’ price. The MoD could be looking at finding a great deal more than £1.25Bn. Any Type 31e built for export is therefore likely to have combat systems that differ considerably from the RN fit, but at additional cost to the customer.”

Read more here.

What are the options?

Two strong contenders for the Type 31e Frigate programme have emerged, Arrowhead and Leander.

Arrowhead

Arrowhead is expected to sit at 5,700 tonnes and 138.7 metres in length, the ships company is around 100 with space for an embarked military force of 60. Babcock’s Team 31 has selected the proven in-service Iver Huitfeldt frigate design as the baseline for their T31e product.

Leander

Leander is expected to be around 4,000 tonnes and 120 metres in length with a ship’s company of about 120 with space for an embarked military force of 30. The Leander design has evolved from the Khareef class corvettes built by BAE Systems.

Where will they be built?

For Arrowhead, the distributed build and assembly approach could see integration in Rosyth. Babcock say that the Arrowhead design lends itself equally to either a single build strategy, or a cross–site build strategy bringing together modules – an approach used for aircraft carrier assembly at Rosyth.

For Leander, BAE Systems will partner with Cammell Laird, who would ‘Prime, build and assemble’ the vessels at their Merseyside facility while the Clyde will focus on the Type 26 Frigates. Cammell Laird would be main contractor with BAE providing design and combat systems.

Currently, I can’t find any information on the Atlas Electronik UK offering so have contacted them for more information and will update this article soon.

66 COMMENTS

  1. Good hopefully we can get these ordered, I still want more of these orders we should be aiming to grow our fleet with all that is happening on the world stage. Give us another 10 of these to take numbers up to 15 and another 2 type 26 to get us to 10 should be bare minimum to increase hull numbers, and 1 more astute sub and maybe 5 diesel subs. Then eventually in years to come when we will build our next batch of destroyers increase toughs numbers. Then we will have enough hulls to be taken seriously and leave one of the type 31s to patrol Gibraltar.

  2. Still quoting ‘delivered’ by 2023 – yet taking a further 12 months just to decide on the vesels that have essentially been in the pipeline for a substantial period based upon previous designs. Seems at odds to me.

  3. First up , the info above is out of date . In particular Appledore is mentioned in the consortium , but Appledore is now closed for Military build.
    Secondly the MOD keep stating “for our growing Navy” I just wish it were.

    • I almost spat out my coffee when I read that! I knew this was a very old post right then! If they build a further 5 after the first batch then they can say the navy’s growing… Also the navy might be growing in tonnage but not ships! Big difference….

      • I mean, technically we’re gaining 3 OPVs over what we were meant to have. That’s growth in numbers.

        The government spouts the growing navy line so often, I can only conclude they truly believe it. They must consider growth to be beyond what we had when this government took over

  4. A bloody year to get an announcement? Then they want the whole lot sorted in three years flat? Impossible

    I’m assuming that whoever wins the contract has already gotten the heads up to prepare their supply chains and infrastructure, otherwise HMG has descended to a whole new level of delusion.

    Can’t think of why they’d give the winning company the tap now but not announce it; maybe issues with the Treasury or PR?

  5. Why don’t they build five of each of the type ,stop messing about with costs ,years ago they would have been built not like the piss artists of today ,the navy needs them built now

  6. My bet for the Atlas bid would be a MEKO A-200 derivative, along the lines of the South African Valours and the new Algerian frigates. It meets or exceeds most of the requirements and is currently in production.

    The other, less likely options imo would be an enhanced K130 corvette design, similar to what Israel have ordered for the Saar 6, or a full on frigate like the F124 or F125 the German navy use. The former is too small to be a blue water warship, the latters are over the top for theT31 spec

    • The F124 and F125 are far to expensive to be a T31 option. Any idea how much those Corvettes that Germany ordered recently cost? Still pretty sure they where well over £250mm

      • Theres not much information available, but apparently the contract for the second batch of 5 K130 corvettes is worth “around 2 billion euros” in 2017. Thats currently around £1.8bn, but we don’t know whats actually included in that contract. Given that its a design already in service, development costs might not be included in that contract, however future maintenance might be.

        Based off of that £1.8bn figure, that’s £360mn per corvette. Money could be saved on a T31 version by utilising Sea Ceptor, Artisan, and various other second hand gear from the T23s, but the K130 design is seriously lacking in many key areas. Its only capable of 4000nm and 7 days endurance: the spec is for 6500nm and 28 days endurance, so it would need to be stretched. Theres also no accommodation for anti submarine equipment like sonars, which is a major flaw that I hope the RN don’t fall in to. The hangar and flight deck are also tiny.

        • Just read an article on Save the RN website, it looks like the Atlas bid will be based on the Meko 200 with build work split between Ferguson Marine and H&W. Interesting indeed.

          • Ferguson marine, there building 2 ferrys for CalMac worth 97 million, their having technical issues, Nicola had to give them a loan to buy tools to help build them and they will be a year to 18 month behind schedule.

            Do think we should give them a warship to build

    • Interesting thoughts. I’ve always wondered why the Meko 200 design has not been considered, unless it’s something to do with pride. But then again was not the Type 26 mentioned as a candidate for the Deutsche Marine?

    • Can’t see the K130 meeting the RNs global deployment requirement. But building the Meko A200 in Harland and Woolf sounds like a plan. I smell pork barrel politics. An Angela Merkel assist and the DUP voting for Brexit? Still, the right size and with bigger hanger than Leander. What’s not to like?

  7. Three years to build 5 ships is very ambitious, let’s hope it can be achieved? I just wonder if there will be further orders beyond 2023?

    • No it’s only 3 years to build the first of class. The other 4 would likely follow on i 2024, 2025, 2026 and 2027 as the other GP T23s leave service and before the first T26 comes into service.

  8. As the BAE Systems has team with Cammell laird and the Babcock has team with BMT, Thales UK Maybe the Atlas Electronik UK. Just maybe they are teaming up with Steller Systems and other Shipyards to offer the Spartan design or other design or team up with other Company’s to offer other designs

    • There wasn’t the budget for it, and even if there were we’d still be waiting 2 decades to get them. The Type 31 programme wasn’t a whimsical choice: it’s the only practical way to maintain current fleet numbers within budget

    • A T26 without a towed array sonar set will be very capable anti-submarine platform.

      All escorts since the advent of Type system have to some extent been ‘general purpose’ with the exception of the under armed (for size and cost SeaViper not withstanding) T45.

      • That’s debatable. A the early Type 15 and 16 ASW frigates had one or two Bofors guns for AAW. Even for their time, that was a weak anti air suite.

        Conversely, the Type 45 may not have a dedicated ASW weapon itself, but with a hull sonar and an embarked helicopter it has a decent ASW capacity.

  9. Quoted from the FT article:

    https://on.ft.com/2BZQJlG

    “BAE, Britain’s largest defence contractor, has taken the lead role in the bid from its partner Cammell Laird, the shipbuilder. One of the aspirations of the shipbuilding strategy was to increase competition among British shipyards for naval contracts. Cammell Laird was originally the prime contractor in the consortium, with BAE taking the position of sub-contractor.”

  10. Considering ww2 destroyers were around 2000 tons, and the 1950’s ‘super destroyers’ – the Daring class – were about 3500 tons I’m always amazed at frigates coming in at theses weights.

    • Yeah and the type 26 is 6500/7500t. The biggest frigate we have ever had in the uk. The type 22 used to be the biggest before the last 3 (best ones) were scrapped not long ago!

  11. Type 31 is a good idea. You don’t need a Type 45 or Type 26 as FRE or on NATO Task Forces 150/151 or ATPN/APTS. A GP hull to free up Destroyers and Frigates is a winner if done right. The Leander design appears to fit the bill well. For the roles mentioned endurance room for extra personnel and a few RHIBs as well as decent sensors are required and with a few other additional features it becomes useful in a combat scenario as well. Ideally it would come with Artisan Radar, 24 Sea Ceptor, Type 2050 sonar, Wildcat and 8 deck mounted ASMs a CIWS and a medium calibre deck gun with room for 3-4 RHIBs. In peacetime they can cover the low end patrol type taskings freeing up the high end ships for Task Force or carrier escort and in combat they can provide close escort of RFAs or NGFS or inshore ASW and of course contribute to the AAW defence as well. £250 million seems cheap but if all the major kit is GFE (which it should be) then really we are just building a 4000 tonne diesel powered hull and integrating existing equipment on to or in to that hull. There should be no need to buy any new equipment as everything listed is already there, in fact we have enough kit to fit 6 of these Leander Class Type 31s and still have bits left over. Even smaller items like navigation radars and SatComs as well as decoys and DS30mm guns are available. We are not getting and don’t need more than the 6 AAW and 8 ASW high end hulls. What we do need and could get is 5/6 cheaper (to buy and run) credible but expendable GP hulls which can be used to ease the strain on the main escort fleet in peacetime or fill out the escort ranks in wartime. I would much prefer risking one of these Type 31s close in to shore on the gun line or digging an SSK out of the rocks than a Type 26 or Type 45. Also at the other end of the spectrum better a Type 31 chasing pirates or smugglers than a Type 26 or Type 45.

  12. There are always a lot of comments about how many ships we have lost in the last few years. Whilst I would increase the size of the fleet if I had the chance it might help if we had a reality check on actually what’s happened.
    In major vessels since 2010 decommissions are Ark Royal and Illustrious; three T class SSN’s; five T42’s and four T22’s. Coming in there are Queen Eliazbeth and Prince of Wales (nearly); three Astutes and six T45’s. plus the River’s?
    Not wonderful bu not nearly as bad as it sometimes seems.

    • I know you said major vessels Geoffrey, but I’d add to that Fort Victoria, 4 Leaf tankers, 5 Rover Tankers, 1 Bay, Dilligence, and numerous MCMV and LCU LCVP and RCL.

      I’ve probably missed a few there too.

      The cuts, although from 2010 as you say, should not be seen in isolation but in the wider context of endless cuts continuing after the reductions from the Labour government of 1997 to 2010 and the Tory cuts under Options for Change and Front Line First in 1995.

      Both drastically reduced the military before the ConLib lot in 2010 finished the job, having complained while in opposition!

      • There are very few votes in defence these days Daniele as we both know. As far as most of the electorate are concerned defence is irrelevant until something goes wrong ( Falklands? ) and then everyone is proud of “our boys” and now, quite rightly our girls. Ask them to put defence first and they run for the hills.

        • Does the educational curriculum still require history? The public seems not to be aware of the facts that the UK is a maritime nation. How do they think all those goodies get to stores?

          • Ah David…is it British history you mean or how to be nationally and globally politically correct. If the latter, then schools teach history.

  13. As long as these are credible warships it’s all fine, I’d be happy to see a ship with a good well rounded sensor fit, soft kill, medium gun, Seaceptor, anti ship missile of some description (even a light ASSM capability provided by Seaceptor) and the ability to hanger a Merlin. I suspect all this talk of a constabulary vessel will lead to something that looks like a Warship ( gray, with a medium gun on the front and a small light rotor hanger at that back) but is not (no Credible anti air self defence etc ). This would be the worst situation as inevitable they would be seem as Warships politically, leading to issues.

    • I agree, but unfortunately the suggested weapons fit is one matching our high end assets.
      If the T31 is truly only for patrol, flag waving and anti piracy then fine, just give them a 30mm gun and leave it at that, but they must not be called warships, just large opv’s. But if this is the case, then we have gone from 19 to 14 real warships (escorts), and we should just order some more River B2’s with a better range. Our first rate escort ships should also be upgunned in this scenario and fitted with as many cells as possible to give them true punch and saturation attack defence capability.
      If they are to perform the duties of a warship as part of their purpose, then they have to be able to defend themselves, other vessels, and be able to persecute attacking ships or strategic cargo vessels supplying the enemy state.
      I think the T31 should be truly multipurpose, and be able to forfill patrol, anti piracy, basic ASW, aid relief supply, mine hunting, protect shipping lanes and escort for amphibious fleets. Whilst I have warmed to the Leander design for its probable ASW strengths and low running costs, only the Arrowhead would have space to carry out all these roles in my opinion.
      Now let’s see what the new competitor can offer in contrast!

  14. The type 31 should at the very least equal the general purpose type 23 in anti-air, anti-submarine (acoustic-quietening), anti-surface, and electronic warfare capabilities. This includes the construction standards which determine survivability under combat conditions. It must be able to stand in the line of battle as a gp type 23. Not be the maritime equivalent of cannon fodder on the gunlines. If we’re replacing the gp type 23s with less capable vessels can we truly say that escort numbers are being maintained?

  15. Personally, I’d like to see a cut In Hull and Personnel numbers and an Increase In our Politicians Pensions. They are far more worthy than a bunch of Low Life’s prepared to Die for Queen and Country after all. Or so It Seems.

    • Ha! Call me sad, but I have just watched several hour of the BBC parliament channel. Wow,we are completely f!#ked! Factions within factions, total seizure of the polical system. What times we live in. I would say we are looking at a second referendum, so many MP’s calling for it, and the forth coming no confidence vote is unlikely to draw a general election, therefore it’s could be the only place to go.

  16. Stephen I second that – as long as there are not any issues regarding OMT influence/intellectual rights, effecting any payout for exports to UK plc. Although from a purely RN perspective I don’t really care. I hope that a carrot of a second batch of 5 would be seriously dangled at any bidder. If these can be built at under £300 million then fingers crossed. My personal opinion is to transfer all the type 23 equipment to arrowhead except maybe towed array (although it would be nice to have a 5inch gun as a fleet standard I can’t see the money for t45 being converted or t31). I would then like to see new weapons purchased for type 26 and type 45, namely long range cruise missiles and long range anti ship for both, asroc for type 26 and an abm for type 45. If it is a more advanced system maybe ceafar 2 radar being purchased for type 26. Spare artisan sets could perhaps go to the solid state support ships?

  17. I think an estimate in 2007 cost with the South African A-200 ships in inflation and conversation in pounds is needed here! Along with size (battle and seaworthiness which can keep costs down) capability etc. Funnels under the water is not new, but does it ad something more important?

    • I just had a check, although the numbers seem off to me. The final cost in 2007 SA Rand was 9.65bn, which converted to £656mn. Adjusting for inflation, that’s £865mn in today’s money for 4 ships. £216mn for 1.

      Someone needs to double check this, because theres something dodgy going on. These were built in Germany by the same people who make the German Navy’s ships, yet they’re cheaper than even the K130 corvettes.

      • The 9.65bn rand is the price quoted on wiki. I used an average 2007 conversation rate of 14 rand to the £ and a 2008-2018 inflation index of 1.34 and get a cost of £925M for the 4 ships. Maybe wiki is wrong.

      • German govt subsidise ship construction, if its anything like the deal with the Israelis then its a 1/3 of the construction price, in reality theyre probably more like £280m.

  18. Appledore being closed another English yard going like vospers going to the wall to keep Scottish yards going, it’s a damn disgrace.If the Scots vote for independance and get it the Tories will be up the creek without a paddle .Appledore was part of the build strategy for the type 31e,so much for the costly national shipbuilding strategy Serve babcock right if they don’t get them especially after they have destroyed a perfectly good workforce and yard .

  19. Save the Royal Navy has a little info on the Atlas Electronic offering. Speculation is they will offer a Meko 200 variant with X form hull for low radar x section, water jet drive for quiet asw work and below water engine exhausting for low infra red. The ones supplied to Algerian navy are 3700 tonnes though, a little small maybe?

  20. Will any future RN shipnhave torpedo tubes? I heard the type 26 won’t have torpedo tubes and will instead rely on its helicopter? This can’t be serious is it!

    • It’s probably the RAF. They’ve got those new fancy P8 that should be with the FAA anyway and now they think they can hunt subs from 30,000 ft by littering the ocean with £?m of sonobuoys and polluting the air with 20 tons of fuel for about 10 minutes on station. This of course means those Navy chaps don’t need torpedoes, except on helicopters which are or will be joint force assets run by the RAF with a token Admiral at the start who will be sidelined and replaced soon enough. I’m surprised we still have ships at all.

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