The purpose of this Contract Notice, say the MoD, is to advertise the requirement and invite companies to express their interest to receive the tender for the T31e Frigate.

As announced in the National Shipbuilding Strategy the Ministry of Defence is seeking to procure five new General Purpose Frigates for the Royal Navy for a Firm Price of £1.25 billion, according to the contract notice.

The notice outlines the requirements:

  • The T31e will be a General Purpose Frigate, providing an enduring and continuous worldwide maritime security presence in several forward operating areas and releasing other, more complex warships to their primary roles.
  • The T31e will carry out various maritime interdiction tasks, such as counter drugs and counter piracy. It will also carry out defence engagement activities, such as port visits and official entertainment, demonstrations of military capability and participation in allied training exercises.
  • It must be ready to respond to emergent events, such as natural disasters or evacuation of non-combatants and will routinely carry specialist emergency relief stores in certain operating areas.
  • The T31e design will need to be adaptable, providing evolution paths for future capability to enable growth of the destroyer and frigate numbers into the 2030s, and to address export customers’ needs.


The cutting of steel on the first vessel is expected in 2020.

Who are the big bidders?

The first bid team emerged when BAE Systems announced they would 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. BAE say the move will allow them to ‘appropriately support the National Shipbuilding Strategy’ whilst ensuring the delivery of the five Offshore Patrol Vessels and the first three City class Type 26 frigates currently on contract, ‘to time, budget and to the highest quality standards.’

Iain Stevenson, Managing Director, BAE Systems Naval Ships, commented:

“Type 31e is an exciting and important programme. Our expertise in warship design and engineering, combat management systems and export campaigns means we are in a great position to contribute to the success of this programme. We are pleased to be working with Cammell Laird with whom we have a strong and effective relationship, having worked with them on the Carrier and Astute programmes.”

John Syvret CBE, Cammell Laird CEO, added:

“Cammell Laird has very much welcomed the National Shipbuilding Strategy and the Type 31e competition. We will offer a UK warship design, a UK combat system, a UK build and a supply chain with high UK content. We will be working with BAE Systems and A&P to deliver certainty, speed and agility on this nationally important project. Cammell Laird is proud to be responding as a Prime Contractor for Type 31e.”

In a press release BAE say:

“In response to the Ministry of Defence’s (MOD) evolving requirements as outlined in the National Shipbuilding Strategy, BAE Systems will bring together its warship design and engineering capability and combat systems expertise with Cammell Laird, the commercial shipbuilder, in a Teaming Agreement to bid for the manufacture of the Type 31e, an adaptable general purpose frigate.

BAE Systems is focused on the manufacture and delivery of the two QE Class carriers, the five River Class Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV) and the first three City class Type 26 warships, as well as continuing to develop and upgrade combat management systems on all Royal Navy ships.Taking account our current and future workload, including Type 26, our shipbuilding capacity on the Clyde will be full until the mid 2030s.

BAE Systems has a capable workforce delivering flexible, next generation platform engineering and combat systems’ design, integration and security technologies that Royal Navy crew members can rely on.”

The second bid team emerged when Babcock announced it would lead a team of industry partners in a bid for the new £1.25 billion Type 31e Frigate with work to be undertaken in Scotland, England and Northern Ireland.

Babcock say work would be shared across the UK its facilities in Fife and Devon being among the prime locations for building. Ferguson Marine on the Clyde will also be in line for the work.

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 at one main location.

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.

Babcock will act as the overall programme lead, whilst Thales will have overall responsibility for the development of the Mission System solution. The make-up of the team, the company say, will ensure that the economic benefits of the programme are shared across the UK. Ferguson Marine on the Clyde, Harland & Wolff in Belfast and the Babcock facilities in Fife and Devon will all have ‘key roles to play’, while much of the equipment provided by Thales and others will support jobs across the UK.

Babcock CEO Archie Bethel said:

“Team 31 will allow Babcock and Thales to take forward the key lessons from the Aircraft Carrier Alliance and apply them in a new and highly capable team with Harland & Wolff, BMT and Ferguson Marine. We firmly believe that our combined skills can deliver an affordable and effective Type31e Frigate programme for the Royal Navy and offer something new and exciting in the export market. With a high degree of UK content and the use of innovative technologies, we believe that our approach will deliver real benefits to UK plc.”

Victor Chavez, CEO of Thales UK said:

“Thales UK is delighted to be working with Babcock and our partners as part of Team 31. We recognise the diversity of roles anticipated for Type31e and, together, we will create and exciting, innovative and flexible capability for the Royal Navy based on the best of UK and international technologies in an open-system architecture that will ensure long term value for money.” 

Sarah Kenny, BMT CEO said: 

“BMT has supported the UK and global maritime sector for decades. As a proud member of Team 31, we are delighted to be shaping the Type 31e programme, and we welcome the opportunity to bring our substantial global engineering experience to bear on this vital UK defence programme. We are confident that the combined Team 31 offering will meet the exacting requirements of the UK MOD whilst creating UK shipbuilding industry momentum and a competitive offering for wider export opportunities.”

Babcock were originally offering the ‘Arrowhead 120 while BMT were offering the Venator 110, the companies now say that they will be exploring both available designs to determine the best possible option. The companies say that new arrangement draws on combined strengths and will deliver ‘innovative, capable, affordable and flexible customer solutions, within a fast changing and increasingly demanding environment’.

As we reported last year, BAE Systems announced a partnership 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. If the bid is successful, Cammell Laird would be main contractor with BAE providing design and combat systems.

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Mike Saul

With regard to the fixed price contract, the devil will be in the detail.

For example what if any weapon, sensor and computer systems are to be included in the fixed price contract?


The devil may be in the detail but that ain’t one of them. Design & build of 5 complete ships plus initial support & service for 1.25 billion.

“Soft” items like length of warranty, coverage of support etc. will be the debating points.

Mike Saul

What weapons, sensors and computer systems are then included in the fixed price contract.


200 million a ship is aproximately the cost of the OPV’s, they are not going to get a credible warship for that price and from the requirements which mention maritime security and forward presence they arent expecting to.


Firstly, the T31s are price capped at £250mn, not £200. Secondly, based on the contract for the last two River B2s, the OPVs cost around £144, including support cost, which while still making them the most expensive OPVs in the world, is a world away from what you’re implying.

£250mn is plenty to get a credible warship based on what’s been offered. BAE built the Khareef class Corvettes for Oman for ~£133mn each, so a stretched and upgunned version for £250mn is easily possible




I thought the OPVs were built because the government had a contract with BAe so that they had to give them money even if BAe were not doing any work, so the gov thought they might as well get them to build the OPVs, and I seem to remember that the initial 3 cost £348m–£116m per ship. The Type 31Es are priced at £250m each, so over twice per ship. I am sure that both bidders will be anxious to give the MOD as much bang for their buck as they can. I am optimistic the Type 31Es will be… Read more »


Also, according to Wikipedia, “A £287m order, for two new ships and support for all five Batch 2 ships, was announced on 8 December 2016.”. Sadly the inclusion of the support component in the contract means that we can’t simply divide by two to get the unit cost of the final 2 River B2s (a cynic might think the the government does that on purpose) so all we can say is that the unit cost of vessels 4 and 5 is less than £143m each, possibly a fair amount less than that since I would have thought the support contract… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

I agree. I think this is what will happen. 6 T26. 6 T45 support carriers and Trident / GIUKG. Then 8 T31 and 5 RB2 can do the other stuff. leaving our best assets for their main roles. Also gives us 20 escorts so an increase in numbers, but not overall capability.


Agreed. The big shame in that scenario though is that, with the deployable T26 (I assume only ever 2 or 3 out of 6 at any given time) mostly tied to the carriers we won’t really be getting much benefit from the T26’s quite expensive big flexible mission bay.

Daniele Mandelli

Hmmmm. Good point. Yet 1SL himself has indicated as such.

A. Smith

I think you’re right and the Type 31’s will be passed off as Type 26 replacements which we know they’re not going to be.


another point to consider, is that the river class vessel has already been an export success, with ships being built for brazil, oman and th thai navies, exactly what the t 31 design will have to achieve.


I prefer the idea of spreading the work across the country; than just two yards. If we want to retain a broader span of excellence, then we ensure a countrywide capability if we had to rapidly build up our fleet.

Harry Bulpit

So according to the contract these ships are not designed for war fighting.


That is alarmingly absent from the spec: Basicly anything except war fighting. Let’s hope it’s just a PR oversight. Otherwise the escort fleet will shrink way below 19 in the future, which I can’t see the Americans wearing, let alone us in the UK. In a war your enemy will not respect 2nd rate warships, they’ll attack any RN vessel they find. Therefore these ships need to be capable of defending themselves & others as well as attacking the enemy.


Indeed that was my first take. Even if they see these uses as purely additional requirements, to leave the role of war fighting off that list completely, surely would have made someone in the MOD (political or civil service) think it would make these ships look like a bigger version of the ‘little ships’ at Dunkirk in the public perception. Especially once the press get their fangs into it so yet another overtime attempt to belatedly repair the damage is on the cards… do they never learn. If not it hardly bodes well for the ships themselves. I rather think… Read more »


Good news but… I don’t believe its the most efficient use of resource to block build at different sites, I prefer single site operations with a steady tempo it just must be more cost effective (but am happy to be proved wrong). I think this can be done, and done well for £250m, especially given Babcocks experience of the Irish OPV’s and BMT’s experience of the Carriers and Tide. Seems to me that they both can pull something out of the hat. If we use the Irish OPV as a gauge – Babcock were able to build these at £750k… Read more »


I was under the impression that radar/sonar would be taken from decommissioning Type 23s, so as a Type 23 is taken out of service its radar/sonar is transferred to a Type31E being fitted out, reducing costs.

Ben P

Clive, alot of the gear such as CAMM, radar, countermeasures, main gun and harpoon are been recycled from the type 23s on to the type 31 by the looks of it, on the BAE design at least. Hull sonar too most likely.

Problem is the type 31 will only have 12 CAMM vs 32 for the type 23. Tail sonar is not happening, as it is extremely expensive and these are GP frigates.


Cant see the Otto76 being fitted in place of the 5″. Has a rate of fire advantage giving it anti missile capability, but as Bae is now working with Leonardo on its smart ammunition one presumes for potential use with the 5inch gun its other main advantage would be covered I presume. I would presume that the navy (and suppliers) would also prefer a specialist anti aircraft/missile capability to be fitted.


I would be very weary using the PV90 derived Irish Samuel Beckett class as a benchmark! Don’t be distracted by the OTO76 under the skin they have the sensor and system fit of a large fishing vessel. Aside from the Electro-Optical fire control for the gun they lack a CMS or suitability features from armour through to fire suppression that you seen on contemporary vessels like the River Batch 1 or 2.


Is it me or is it strange that none of the requirements are non-peace time roles. Effectively they are just looking for a bigger version of the OPV.


T31E 250 mil GBP a ship…if the later T23 builds are used as a comparison ( they came in at around 227 Mil USD each) you should get a decent vessel if the project management team kicks the builders arse day in day out to monitor the cost. Cost savings compared to T23 build could be substantial even if weapons system fitting (not procurement as we already have a lot of the systems already) is included in the fixed price cost. I cannot see why removing systems from a T23, refurbishing and supplying to the ship builder as Govt Furnished… Read more »


Don’t be ridiculous. The Type 23’s were built decades ago. You might as well compare to the cost of building the Dreadnoughts.


Yes T23 where built decades ago as frigates not Battleships but the fact remains that the cost of each batch of ships dropped as economy in production and equipment procurement worked its way through the project. That as you said was decades ago but shipbuilding techniques employed on T23s where the same basic Keel up building used on Dreadnoughts. That method is no longer used and super blocks are the norm with all the added advantages of not having to wait for the decks of the vessel to be built before moving on to the next deck up The cost… Read more »


And the diesel engines perhaps
Is a set of 4 of these MTU diesels enough to move a Type 31 at carrier task force speed?
And is there any significance to the fact that we have ordered 12 sets?
Are they the same type as is used in the Type 26?


Are these for propulsion or services?


The T23 DG sets are based on the engines on HS 125 inter city trains.
The MTUs are to replace them. That may now not happen due to budget cuts on T23 maintenance and the engines could be diverted to the T45 DG re engine work instead.
The use of the MTUs in T23 is to de scope risk for use in T26 and possibly T31.


Both designs seem credible warships. I hope that 5 is just batch 1 and the MOD order at least 10 of them.

I would prefer Cammell to get it but can’t see the gov awarding more business to BAE. Like Arrowhead but don’t want to see yet more shipbuilding heading to the Clyde to appease the SNP


Have we got sight yet of the Arrowhead/ Venator hybrid proposal?


It doesn’t “appease the SNP” who want Independence, if anything it “appeases” the 55.3% who voted NO to Independence in 2014, and therefore YES to being a continuing part of the UK, contributing to the UK and sharing the benefits including defence work.

Mike Saul

Back in November 2010 this was reported “Rumors surface that the UK government is looking to sharply slash target costs for the Type 26 frigates, from GBP 500 million to GBP 250-350 million ($400 – 550 million), in order to field a large enough Royal Navy fleet.”

I don’t have lot of confidence in the UK MOD or industry to supply warships at an affordable price.


So which other country’s would you trust?

Mike Saul

As my experience is with the UK MOD I do have the knowledge to comment on other countries.

So your comment has no merit.

Mr J Bell

What is a firm price of £1.25 billion for 5 ships. TheMOD language needs to be much stronger. Fixed price do the work for £1.25 billion or forget it. If equipment transfer from type 23 then sea ceptor is a given hopefully they will opt for quad packed vl cells so 12 cells= 48 missiles. Norwegian anti ship missiles. Hangar + medium calibre gun=either handed down RN kryton 114mm 4.5inch guns or preferably go 5 inch guns and keep same calibre for all future warships. I think a 76mm oto gun is fine for anti surface work and close defence… Read more »


I think the problem with using the 4.5″ guns from the Type 23s is that the ammunition is scarcer for that calibre. Better to go for 5″ or 3″ as more manufacturers can supply and there is the possibility of using guided shells; I can’t see manufacturers developing 4.5″ guided shells for the relatively small number of guns the RN have, or if they do it is going to cost far more per shell. Better to stick to a common calibre–hopefully 5″ for the punch. Then convert the T45 class to 5″ in the future and abandon 4.5″ entirely–it would… Read more »


The problem with any large procurements, is that the design requirements will get changed as technology adapts, new risks emerge etc and so the increase in costs will not be 100% down to the contractor.


the spec calls for 1 x Medium Calibre Gun ≥ 57mm
no anti ship missile
anti submarine will be from the embarked helicopter
Point defence missile system (which is presumably sea captor but no mention of how many)

but at the same time calls for ASW, ASuW and land strike adaptability


Spend to save.
Start to kill off the venerable 4.5 and go for a 5″. No OTO 76…its disadvantages are to many and its suitability for NGS is very limited.

Ben P

4.5 will remain on the type 31/45 until the type 45s get replaced, then the new ones will get 5s along with the type 31 or replacement.


Perhaps you should look into the meaning of Fixed and Firm price contracts. Costs can be added to Fixed price contracts. Not so easy with Firm price contracts: Firm price contract The term firm price contract refers specifically to a type or variety of fixed price contract where the buyer or purchaser pays the seller or provider a fixed amount, and that this particular set amount will not waver of vary under any circumstances whatsoever, such as in instances in which unexpected costs suddenly arise and the provider may have to expend additional resources. There are benefits of this… Read more »


Should be ordering atleast eight. Eight T31 + Eight T26 = 16, taking us up to the number of T23 we had originally, and would put us past 20 escorts again. Sadly, I can see a reduction of T26 hulls on the horizon.


I think the government is trying to kid itself that the additional R2 OPVs count as escorts which is stupid.
When the government knew it was contracted to award BAE this minimum price contract they should have specified the Type 31 requirements then and we’d already have something similar to what is being proposed by BAE entering service.
They could keep the existing R1’s for their current purpose, then have 8 type 31’s for the same price as 5R2s and 5 type 31’s.

Ben P

They have not tried to count the R2 as escorts. Not sure what you are on about.


So it is confirmed that a ‘patrol frigate’ meets the minimum requirements spec. Even the intended deployments are mentioned. So the winning bid may be the one which delivers most of the other adaptable requirements, UK content and conformance with the national shipbuilding strategy, block build and export potential. For me the dream outcome would be the adaptable Venator design being promoted in the export market by the BAE marketing machine. No chance I suppose.


There is no “spec” yet.


At the risk of being called an armchair general, we have an “equipment budget” of £178bn over 10 years or £18bn pa. We can certainly buy/commit to £3bn worth of ships each year out of this and still leave loads of money for other things. We have a 75-80 ship navy that needs replacing every 25 years (except carriers) so that means 3 ships per year. Even if we take out Successor (4bn each) and 1 of the carriers (4bn each) that still leaves us £55bn to spend on 75 ships or £2.2bn each year. 700m on SSN – 1… Read more »

Steve M

According to the 2017 UK Defence in Numbers PDF document the planned equipment spend totals £178bn over 10 years:

Submarines – £44.0bn
Land Equipment – £19.1bn
Ships – £19.0bn
Combat Air – £18.0bn
Air Support – £16.6bn
Weapons – £13.5bn
Helicopters – £10.6bn
ISTAR – £4.6bn

Steve M

And yes, that is £145bn so there must be some wiggle room.


Theres just one problem with these figures they are for the purchase and support of equipment and the stats show that it is about 40/60 in supports favour. An astute class costs circa £1.3bn all in as does a T26 so I really dont see how a successor can be £10bn each never mind more. These figures just don’t make sense at all and cover the entire estate not just new kit, so I think it is disingenuous to state this is the equipment budget personally, when it the equipment, support and maintenance budget. For once I would like to… Read more »

Steve M

Completely agree, a little more transparency would go a long way here and add a degree of accountability (excuse the pun).

Daniele Mandelli

There it is. The sheer cost of just 4 SSBN, which must account for most of that 44 Billion.



Maybe not – there is a huge fleet of degrading nuclear subs that need decommissioning and this will cost a lot – I suspect some of this money will be allocated to them and also the upgrade of Faslane.

I have read somewhere that the decommissioning costs for our previous subs could run into the tens of billions.

Daniele Mandelli

It’s a good point mate.

The Mod is all smoke and mirrors. It’s been known for ages that 178 billion is indeed maintenance and support not just money for new equipment.

Good luck trying to get them to clearly define purely what money goes to what, for how many, and when, like other nations do.

This way they can hide cuts behind figures.


I know they are expensive, but I can’t see much of an alternative if we wish to remain a credible nuclear power. The US are designing and building a new generation of SSBNs to replace the Ohios, and I suppose that we might have been able to join that programme, but that route would, I suspect, have major difficulties and is probably a non-starter. Astutes armed with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles? that has been mooted by the LibDems and previously by UKIP, but cruise missiles are far easier to intercept than SLBMs, which will probably remain the most credible weapon for… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

Agree. The issue us what pot the money comes from.


The UK builds its nuclear submarines at two thirds the cost per ton than the US.

David Steeper

Fascinating reading your comments guys. Learnt as much from them as from article.

Sam Patterson

Question is what equipment will be brought over from the T23’s?

Mk 8 will still be in service with the T45’s so bring them over?
Harpoon is being upgraded so should come over?
CAMM cells seem the same as on the T23 upgrade as they are on the BAE/CL Leander mock-up
What systems other than Type 997 radar can be brought over?

How much is all that going to save? Would that not bring it within in the £250m


Satcom, DNA2, 997, 30mms, EW ??, Bowman radio fit, Link , AIS, Navy Star, Torpedo Defense, TV systems, Inmarsat…thats just the WE kit I can think of straight away…then there is ME kit, Aviation…


All good news re equipment transfer. Regarding the gun, as I see it the challenge for Leander is what does the changing of the ( probably) Khareef based forward section from Oto 76mm to 5in do to the cost of the ship? If it is a major design change will BAE be tempted to propose the 57mm ‘patrol frigate’ gun and postpone the 5in until first refit or a Mk2 later batch of ships? And for Babcock I see the issue is will they have to buy the 5in at full list price from BAE thus pushing up the cost… Read more »


As long as the base design has flexibility and room for growth I am fairly happy. The first 5 should be kitted out to a reasonable spec from the T23’s. we can then make them really ‘toothy’ if war comes about. 2nd batch ordered (hopefully) should then be fitted out for asw, tower array and torpedoes. I’m going to keep positive and think this is what the RN needs at the moment. We also have to remember that the highly specialised roles are likely to be filled in the coming years using smaller automated platforms that may be far far… Read more »


I agree. I also am happy if there is ‘room for growth’. But some of the designs are better than others. It’s one for the naval architects but how easy and costly would it be to fit a 5in gun and Mk41 vls to the Khareef based forward section of a Leander which starts life as a 57mm patrol frigate?
I still think that Venator is the only design which has through the whole life cycle and export variation required of these ships, much as I am attracted by the low risk of the Leander approach..


Based on what? Your in-depth analysis of the pretty CGI pictures?


On the BMT technical ‘spec’, which it seems to me was the cut and paste source for the MODs ‘request for information’. That is to say, a single hull of about 4000 tooms which could be configured as a ‘patrol ship’, a ‘patrol frigate’ or a ‘light frigate’; could be built in blocks and fitted with the combat management system, sensors and weapons of the (export ) customers choice. Of course I could be wrong and the MOD might have had original thoughts…..

Evan P

“Official entertainment” on the spec?! Oh, for crying out loud, what does that include? Kettles and bunting? It just goes to show you what the government plans for these “frigates”.


The mind boggles doesn’t it – may this is the configurable mission space aka a built in high security private VIP lounge for potential Gulf state export customers.


Defence diplomacy old chap. The Braid need somewhere to host their suave cocktail parties and of course, these ships are designed for export!


Evan P

I guess it is one way to please the top brass.

Martin Murray

Excuse my general ignorance regarding the drift of the above contributions, but, in respect of the T31e I am seeing frequent reference to the ‘Leander’. Am I to presume that this class will be a new (and most welcome!) Leander-class frigate?? What a fine collection of names to choose from and far more interesting than the City-class T26’s. I imagine it would be far too great a stretch of the imagination to foresee a class of ships similar in number to that most esteemed class built in the 60’s & 70’s?!