The Type 31e programme, which could see sections of the ships built in Scotland and England, has been 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.”
Prior to this official confimation, a Ministry of Defence spokesman insisted that the project would still be going ahead, hinting that industry will have to refine their bids to meet the price tag:
“This is an early contract in a wider procurement process, and we will incorporate the lessons learned and begin again as soon as possible so the programme can continue at pace.”
We spoke to a contact in the Ministry of Defence when the news that the programme had been suspended broke, who told us on condition of anonymity:
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.”
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.”
What are the options?
Two strong contenders for the Type 31e Frigate programme have emerged, Arrowhead and Leander.
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 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 would see work going to Appledore in North Devon, Ferguson Marine on the Clyde, Harland and Wolff in Belfast with 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.