Babcock recently announced it will 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.

BAE themselves say that shipbuilding capacity on the Clyde at their own yards will be full until the mid 2030s while the Ministry of Defence want the first of the new Type 31 Frigates in service by 2023.

The MoD is hoping to reduce its reliance on BAE and cut the costs of procurement by spreading shipbuilding across civil and naval yards. To this end, the government are implementing the results of an independent report into the National Shipbuilding Strategy by Sir John Parker which recommended that the Type 31 Frigate build be spread across the UK, with blocks and components being constructed in yards in both Scotland and England.

The National Shipbuilding Strategy is intended to be a “radical, fundamental re-appraisal of how we undertake the shipbuilding enterprise in the UK, intending to place UK naval shipbuilding on a sustainable long term footing”.

BAE themselves signalled their own reluctance to bid for the Type 31 Frigate as prime contractor due to concerns of a “race to the bottom” on price. Speaking to The Herald here, BAE managing director Iain Stevenson said:

“We do want to be involved in Type 31. But we have questions. Does it have a budget? What are the timescales. We have not got solid facts. Type 31 could be a race to the bottom. If it is a front price contract people might bid for it to win and it and it might put them out of business. We would not, because we are BAE Systems.”

In a press release signalling a their intention not to bid to build the vessels BAE say:

“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.”

38 COMMENTS

  1. The Type 31 pre-qualification phase for begins in Feb with tendering of the downselected proposals.
    Detailed competitive design phase in April. Exciting times.

      • Ok, I’ll bite. Under 2 conditions: if the defence ‘review’ which was postponed a year results in sweeping cuts in a hear’s time and the Type 31 procurement process concludes we can’t do it for £250m then more River 2s build by Babcock or Cammell are the fallback plan. Exchange the crane for a hanger and the 30mm for a 57mm and put a few Sea Ceptor launchers midships and there you go, the pundits who said they were worried Type 31 would turn out to be a pumped up OPV will have been proved right. Come to think of it I think I can see those Sea Ceptor launchers just ahead of the funnel on this photo if I look hard enough…
        https://photos.smugmug.com/NAVALIMAGES/RIVER-CLASS/i-BJsDcRk/0/4d89a5a0/D/FORTH-D.jpg

  2. Oh lets just give everything to the Scots and to hell with the rest of the UK …. they are SO deserving poor dears

    Babcock now want Fife AND the Clyde involved. So that leaves Belfast doing the capstans and Devon adding some chains

    • I wasn’t going to bite, but I can’t leave this unfairness stand.

      From another UKDJ article: “According to a statement issued by the Ministry of Defence today, Scottish industry benefits from Defence spending £1.5bn with it each year.”

      UK defence budget – £42 billion. Scotland 1/12th population UK, pro rata contribution = £3.5 billion.

      NOW, that’s not the whole story, how much of that £42 billion is actually spent in the UK as a whole – see, that’s being fair and wanting the facts. Because if it’s more than £18 billion of that £42 billion, then the MOD spends LESS in Scotland pro rata than it does in the rest of the UK – including those “everythings” you mentioned.

      Where is the repair and maintenance done, and the refits? Where are jets built? Where tanks, rifles, uniforms, boots even? Where are the HQs, the research insitutes, the rest of the paraphernalia of the whole defence establishment? Where the boats built and refit?

      • Dadsarmy – OK I will bite too. We are discussing naval shipbuilding and within that context Scotland does exceptionally well. Basically it builds the vast majority of all naval shipping built here in the UK and has guarantees much of that will continue. Nowhere else in the UK has that guarantee. I am sure Warton would love a fixed stream of Typhoon orders or had a few extra ordered ‘to keep them busy’.

        But if you wish to widen the discussion you then have to look at the wider questions like Barnett Formula that delivers 16% more public spending to a Scot than I get as an Englishman. Plus we have to fund the the Scottish Deficit. That deficit @ £15 Bn PA is more than we spend on the EU @ £13 Bn. these are not irrelevant sums given the whole UK deficit is now some £45 Bn

        You raise a straw man argument by mentioning what is purchased abroad. Its irrelevant to your argument as by definition no one here is benefiting. But on this you talk to the converted as I feel NO taxpayer money should be used to fund overseas military purchases.
        However that 8% of the population calculation is of the reduced amount of £42 Bn less £18 Bn (or whatever the numbers are) so 42- 18 = 24 x 8% = £1.92 Bn. Mathematically it cannot be less…

        So in answer to your last paragraph do lets look at what is being built in Scotland and the increase in the defence footprint courtesy of this:
        https://ukdefencejournal.org.uk/defence-spending-benefits-scottish-industry-1-5bn-year-says-defence-minister/

        * A single home for the UK submarine fleet on the Clyde worth millions
        * Growth to 2 SCOTS and 3 SCOTS infantry battalions
        * Increasing the RAF’s Typhoon force
        * The build-up to the arrival of nine new maritime patrol aircraft, at RAF Lossiemouth.

        Scotland is home to more than 10,000 regular and 4,000 reserve armed forces personnel, supported by almost 4,000 MOD civilians.

        I think this supports my argument for wider distribution of new build naval shipping to be honest

        • We’re talking about defence Chris. I did invite some “facts” and said:

          “NOW, that’s not the whole story, how much of that £42 billion is actually spent in the UK as a whole – see, that’s being fair and wanting the facts.”

          As it happens I’ve never really supported the idea that Scotland hands up £3.5 billion and gets back only £1.5 billion in spending. Someone pointed out years ago that that doesn’t tell the whole story, hence what I said about spending abroad (missile tubes, missiles, rebreathing funnels, even steel). So I did some little research – since this is political soundbites it may well not be accurate, so take it as illustrative, but all around Oct 2017 for consistency.

          https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/659404/20171001_-_SPS.pdf

          and take the excel tables, with Scotland’s share by population 1/12th.

          Full time forces 147,525 / 12 would be 12,300, actual figure “over 10,000”
          Reserves 37,092 / 12 would be 3,100, actual figure = 4,000.
          Total 1/12th = 15,400, actual = 14,000. Not far off. 1,400 for your extra personnel you mentioned, and call it quits.

          And for the defence spending:

          https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/652915/UK_Defence_in_Numbers_2017_-_Update_17_Oct.pdf

          Page 2. £35.3bn at £538 UK spend per person = 65.6 million persons (to check their definition of “person”).
          Page 16. “MOD spent £18.7bn with UK industry in 2015/16” = £285 per person.
          Page 16: Scotland – £280 per person. Not enough difference to sneeze about.

          But from your point of view of protesting the spend in Portsmouth:
          Page 16: South West £810, South East £570 per person, 3 times as much and 2 times as much respectively. I don’t think either is hard done by, do you? Northern Ireland – £50, Yorkshire & The Humber £40. Whoa there.

          As for the overall UK defence budget, that page has it as £35.3bn, NATO estimate £43 bn, ukpublic spending at £45.4 bn. The speed of the hand defeats the eye.

          • (I don’t think it likes gov links – awaiting moderation, so removing links. Or I’ve been banned!)

            We’re talking about defence Chris. I did invite some “facts” and said:

            “NOW, that’s not the whole story, how much of that £42 billion is actually spent in the UK as a whole – see, that’s being fair and wanting the facts.”

            As it happens I’ve never really supported the idea that Scotland hands up £3.5 billion and gets back only £1.5 billion in spending. Someone pointed out years ago that that doesn’t tell the whole story, hence what I said about spending abroad (missile tubes, missiles, rebreathing funnels, even steel). So I did some little research – since this is political soundbites it may well not be accurate, so take it as illustrative, but all around Oct 2017 for consistency.

            (pdf titled: “UK Armed Forces Monthly Service Personnel Statistics
            1 October 2017”)

            and take the excel tables, with Scotland’s share by population 1/12th.

            Full time forces 147,525 / 12 would be 12,300, actual figure “over 10,000”
            Reserves 37,092 / 12 would be 3,100, actual figure = 4,000.
            Total 1/12th = 15,400, actual = 14,000. Not far off. 1,400 for your extra personnel you mentioned, and call it quits.

            And for the defence spending:

            (uk gov document titled “UK Defence in Numbers”)

            Page 2. £35.3bn at £538 UK spend per person = 65.6 million persons (to check their definition of “person”).
            Page 16. “MOD spent £18.7bn with UK industry in 2015/16” = £285 per person.
            Page 16: Scotland – £280 per person. Not enough difference to sneeze about.

            But from your point of view of protesting the spend in Portsmouth:
            Page 16: South West £810, South East £570 per person, 3 times as much and 2 times as much respectively. I don’t think either is hard done by, do you? Northern Ireland – £50, Yorkshire & The Humber £40. Whoa there.

            As for the overall UK defence budget, that page has it as £35.3bn, NATO estimate £43 bn, ukpublic spending at £45.4 bn. The speed of the hand defeats the eye.

        • Ah! First try put into moderation, perhaps because of 2 gov links, second without links was a reply, but to my first attempt. 3rd time lucky maybe!

          We’re talking about defence Chris. I did invite some “facts” and said:

          “NOW, that’s not the whole story, how much of that £42 billion is actually spent in the UK as a whole – see, that’s being fair and wanting the facts.”

          As it happens I’ve never really supported the idea that Scotland hands up £3.5 billion and gets back only £1.5 billion in spending. Someone pointed out years ago that that doesn’t tell the whole story, hence what I said about spending abroad (missile tubes, missiles, rebreathing funnels, even steel). So I did some little research – since this is political soundbites it may well not be accurate, so take it as illustrative, but all around Oct 2017 for consistency.

          (From UK Armed Forces Monthly Service Personnel Statistics 1 October 2017 – and take the excel tables, with Scotland’s share by population 1/12th.

          Full time forces 147,525 / 12 would be 12,300, actual figure “over 10,000”
          Reserves 37,092 / 12 would be 3,100, actual figure = 4,000.
          Total 1/12th = 15,400, actual = 14,000. Not far off. 1,400 for your extra personnel you mentioned, and call it quits.

          And for the defence spending:

          (from UK Defence in Numbers – Septermber 2017)

          Page 2. £35.3bn at £538 UK spend per person = 65.6 million persons (to check their definition of “person”).
          Page 16. “MOD spent £18.7bn with UK industry in 2015/16” = £285 per person.
          Page 16: Scotland – £280 per person. Not enough difference to sneeze about.

          But from your point of view of protesting the spend in Portsmouth:
          Page 16: South West £810, South East £570 per person, 3 times as much and 2 times as much respectively. I don’t think either is hard done by, do you? Northern Ireland – £50, Yorkshire & The Humber £40. Whoa there.

          As for the overall UK defence budget, that page has it as £35.3bn, NATO estimate £43 bn, ukpublic spending at £45.4 bn. The speed of the hand defeats the eye.

        • In fairness the Russian planes and ship leave their bases in the Northern hemisphere so having the Maritime Aircraft and QRA base here makes military sence. If the SSN and SSBM had to come out bases further down such as Portsmouth and travelling to their hunting grounds in the North Atlantic would just be stupid and make then easily tracked in the congestion in the area

  3. Good for Babcock. The QE design and build did more to unify the nation at the hands on level than either of the major English political parties and certainly more than UKIP and the SNP. In a world of arsenist politicians, engineers and designers are the firemen who demonstratie that Brits north or south of the border can in fact work constructively together.

  4. Does anyone know if the Navy/MoD can turn round and say we like this design, but we don’t think you have the right industrial backing, you two groups come back with costs to build this specific design. I ask as we have heard from the two main consortia, but as I understand it there we 20+ expressions of interest when the basic type 31e spec was issued.
    What hope for all the other interested parties?

  5. I’m going to go out on a limb and say if the T31e spec is good enough, and adaptable enough, and stretchable enough, we’ll see a total of just 6 T26, but a few more T31e / T32 etc. Plus export orders at last!

    • dadsarmy – On a convivial note maybe I am showing my age but does the Type 26 have all the hallmarks of the Type 82 which was quickly superseded by the 14 Type 42s for which read Type 31e?

      • To be fair the T82 was a carrier escort…when CVA01 was cancelled you where left with a bit of a white elephant that was very expensive to man and build. It had Sea Dart, Ikara (removed) and mortars (removed) and a 4.5 Gun. Its propulsion was steam and GTs which was superseded very quickly by 100% GT ships.
        so…
        They built the T42 then discovered they where to narrow and went to batch 2 broad beams and finally lengthened batch 3s.
        At least with T45 and now T26 they have learned that steel and air is cheap so build em big for a large future growth margin.
        Although that is now something of a false economy as systems get more compact , take up less space onboard and require less hotel and support services.
        So you now find a 5M x 5M x 3M room for a Gyro that has a very small 30cm cubed box in it that sits there with a few flashing lights, no moving parts and because it is a RLG or FOG very rarely goes wrong.

    • if they followed upgraded lines of the already export successful river design, it might help with the export hopes.

  6. I hope Babcock get this as they seem keen and have done a good job on the Irish OPV’s by all accounts.

    It is a pity there is no opportunity for Project Spartan in all this, I was reviewing their proposed design the other night and it just seems so well balanced for what we need that I personally wouldn’t hesitate.

    Another big Q for me on the T31 is which gun are we going to go for – I am leaning to the 76mm Otto as I personally think a 76mm with a captan array is better than a 127mm and no captas. It also seems more in keeping with the class.

    Hope this keeps on track and the Govt commit to 1 per annum.

    • Captas arrays are not part of the Type 31 spec so you will not get them regardless of which gun is chosen.

      If you want more ASW for the RN, you should be advocating a larger Type 26 build instead of these useless Lego warships.

      • Hi Ron5

        I personally think the T26 is far overspecced for its intended use and the T31 is more like what is required. I also have a major concern about what happens once we have located a sub as it is not particularly clear how any of our ships are meant to go on the offensive without launching a helicopter, and even then this is limited.

        T31 is essentially a modern T23 in specs and I dont really care that Compact captas isn’t on the spec – its a system that can be added at a later date if the ship is built accordingly.

        I also dont agree with the T26 having a chinook capable heli deck – its just unnecessary given the size and capability of a Merlin.

        So whilst I am not against T26 and see it as the UK’s Arleigh Burke once it gets a better Radar, I must admit I am all for the T31 and think we can get something decent for £250m – £350m (which I personally believe it will end at)

        • An interesting point, it is kinda strange that the t26 doesn’t have more offensive options against subs, considering it is meant to be principally an anti-sub platform.

          Some torpedoes and something like the mortar based depth charges that some nations have, would seems like a decent combination on top of the helicopters.

          • Mortars!
            If you get close enough to fire them you should have already been sunk.

            Towed array gives you stand off distances.
            A quiet ship gives you a counter detection advantage. (T23s are really really quiet and Subs hate them hence they need a lepers bell pinger in exercises so a sub does not collide with them because the subs have difficulties finding them.)
            A helo gives you the advantage of reaching out and touching someone at an extended range, especially when a dipper with buoys is used.

      • Ron5

        I dont think T31 will be useless if built properly. I actually question why we need frigates with a helicopter deck for chinooks to land on.

        T31 is essentially the same size as the current T23’s which are great ships – but old.
        I am actually really positive about T31 and think the arrowhead, venator and spartan (my fav) designs are really good.

        We can build these ships for £250m I have no doubt and from there we can start kitting them out as we get the funds to, but they need to be built as warships first and foremost.

        We’ve proved we can do great ships with the QEC, now to show the world what we can do with T31.

    • the first battleship h.m.s dreadnought was built in portsmouth in under a year, its not unreasonable for the clyde to be told at least two ships per year is expected.

  7. @Gunbusters

    Understood, but what if the helo isn’t available for any reason, what other weapons does a T23/26 have to disable a sub?

    We do seem to be really light in our capabilities to actually engage a sub – once we have found it.

    Apart from the helicopter – is there anything else we should have?

    • Currently most RN surface units don’t have any other ASW asset apart from the Helo.
      MTLS was reduced to standby/ long term preservation on board to save money on T23s. That may have changed recently but it is still a less than ideal system for dealing with subs.
      Ship launched torpedoes are limited in range by the endurance of the torpedo. Sting Ray is better than most but a sub that knows what the run time of the torpedo is and hence engagement range of a Sting Ray equipped surface combatant. The sub will simply stay out of range.
      That is not so easy for a sub when a helo dipper or a torpedo carrying pony is around.
      As for helos going U/S …it happens but there is usually another unit around with a helo that is “S”

      • the problem is only one helicopter on board, at best of time it will only be available part of the time due to refuelling and maintenance and then add bad weather into the mix which could result in them being unusable. Ok the ship based weapons have limited range but better than nothing.

        • During ASW ops Helos don’t go up all of the time. They only go hunting when you ID a possible sub using the ships sensors.
          They spend a lot of time sat on deck at alert 15 on call to launch.
          Refueling is relatively quick and easy be it a rotors running refuel or even by HIFR. The maintenance gets planned in around the workload as it does for all systems on board when doing ops. You plan it in around other units availability in your task group so you always have coverage.

          ASW is great in bad weather… because you mostly don’t do it. The subs go deep because they get battered near the surface and the environmental’s get screwed up by the rough seas . Your sonar range goes to pot with surface noise and the nice clean sonar ducts and convergence zones you where using get stirred up and disappear.

          As for it being better than nothing…yes its something but the money could be better spent elsewhere.

          • in a real war situation with the frigates escorting supply ships, the false potential targets will be happening often (we managed to torpedo a whale in the falklands) and attrition will hit the helicopter.

            Agreed, if considered in isolation, the money is probably better spent else where, but when you are designing a new asw frigate from scratch you would think the cost would be minor, like the cost of adding some missiles to the carriers, just how expensive are the US rolling frame missiles as a percentage of the cost of the carrier and the reduction in need for escort numbers due to self defence options.

            It also seems to me that every other nations has gone down the route of offensive weapons on the aew frigates, are they all wrong or are we cost cutting in the wrong places.

          • I have maintained a number of Ship launched torpedo systems from STWS 1 on a T42, STWS 2 on T22s up to the latest MTLS on a T23 (tail equipped)

            You will never ever get close enough to a blue water sub in a shooting war to use it. Standard practise if a torpedo is detected is to fire down the bearing of attack. Thats not going to do a lot if the wake homer came in from 20+ miles away or your on the receiving end of a sub launched ASM. A surface launched torpedo just does not have the range to engage that far out. A Mk 46 has approx a 6 min run time at 40knts…Sting Ray has a higher speed and better endurance but its still not long enough.
            In the littoral you may get to use a STWS /MTLS shot but the sonar conditions in shallow water means that detection range is appalling. You stand a better chance of seeing a sub below the surface from the air in a helo than using sonar to detect it.

  8. That is a possibility.
    But…and there is always a but…
    I don’t believe that Sting ray is qualified as an ASROC payload.
    That means we will need to buy in the inferior Mk 54 Hybrid Torpedo.
    That will be a step backwards in capability and get us back to the state we where 20 years ago when we had 2 types of torpedo in service to maintain and support along with all of the additional cost.

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