Babcock and BMT recently signed a cooperation agreement which could see the Type 31e Frigate built in Rosyth, Scotland and Appledore, Devon if their bid is successful.

Recently it was reported that Babcock International was keen to challenge BAE Systems dominance and is interested in bidding for the £2Bn Type 31e contract.

We understand that Rosyth in Scotland and Appledore in Devon are the preferred build and assembly locations for the joint bid.

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 the combined strengths of Babcock and BMT and will deliver ‘innovative, capable, affordable and flexible customer solutions, within a fast changing and increasingly demanding environment’.

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.

We’ve contacted both BMT and Babcock and await a response on solid build location plans.

The option to build the Type 31e frigates in blocks reflects how the biggest ship ever built for the Royal Navy, HMS Queen Elizabeth, was constructed. The aircraft carrier was built in blocks by over 10,000 people in six main British cities.

Tony Douglas, the Chief Executive Officer of DE&S, said,

“The Type 31e programme will drive the change that is needed through the entire system, because we have set tough time and cost constraints.

The collective challenge for DE&S and industry is to deliver Type 31e in a different, more innovative way than has gone before. I want this to be a transformation in the way we do business – not just in ships and acquisition but across the entire defence equipment and support portfolio.”


  1. ….there’s going to be a very large number of sweaties gutted at that given they were promised all of them in lieu of the drop in number of the previous frigates. Serves them right for being so gullible.

  2. Surely Rosyth should be left free to build/assemble the solid support ships? Also building blocks hundreds of miles apart with the associated transport costs is inefficient and un-competitive. This is not the way forward. We need investment in British shipbuilding so we have modern shipyards, capable of building up to large ships on 1 site. If we build the solid support ships we will then have the facilities and experience to bid for cruise ships like other European countries do so British shipbuilding will not be relying solely on the Navy. The solid support ships are INVALUABLE to British shipbuilding.

      • If we build the solid support ships here they will cost £100’s of millions more. Unless you think Father Christmas will come to the rescue we (the RN budget) will have to find cuts elsewhere to make up the money.

        • Why not just move every single job to a foreign country, it will be cheaper after all and that is the only thing that matters, right? Wrong. They will keep our industries alive, keep our people in well paid jobs, and keep the huge £ in our own country.
          How about we take some of the £billions of Britain’s hard earned money we give away to foreign countries every single year (“foreign aid”)?

          • Plus it will give us the facilities, skills and experience to bid for cruise ships so the money will be MORE than made back up. Oh, I keep forgetting, they are waging a deliberate and organized war against Britain’s heavy industry (in every single field too mind you).

            We are being humiliated. No other major European country is waging war against its heavy industries, stop this war against ours.

          • In the national shipbuilding strategy they said they will “strongly encourage” Britain’s shipyards to bid for the solid support ships. I GUARANTEE they will do ZERO. They literally CANNOT WAIT to give this huge order to a foreign country, like they do in EVERY SINGLE FIELD.

            They have waged deliberate, organized war against Britain’s heavy industry for decades,and they are still waging it to this day. We have got almost none left compared with other major European countries who have massive heavy industries in several different fields. We do not want to be the only major European country with practically no heavy industry of our own.

            Are we just going to cap in hand to a foreign company for everything Britain needs from now until forever? END THIS DELIBERATE, ORGANIZED WAR AGAINST BRITAIN’S HEAVY INDUSTRY.

          • Stephen what you’re arguing for is an industrial strategy not a defence strategy. If the Govt agreed to subsidise their build out of non defence money then I would agree with it. But they’re not.

        • David. Can you explain this? It was a UK nation Shipbuilding strategy, not a naval shipbuilding strategy. You totally ignore the tax clawback in these projects. No, they would not cost 100s of millions more when they are built in the UK, but even if they are, they would still better value for the taxpayer when built here! This UK government abides by eu rules that are killing UK industry. Those MARS tankers were not cheaper by being built in South Korea.

          • So annoying that we cannot edit bad grammar. It was a UK “National”, not “nation”, Shipbuilding Strategy.

  3. The comment on Solid Support Ships seems sensible?

    On the subject of the article the RN needs the ships, in reasonable numbers, and quickly.

    We could spend forever going round in circles.

    I don’t care where or how they are built as long as it is in the UK and the MoD is not bled dry by Baes with the cost.

  4. They should be built in England so that skills can be maintained and BAE is not the default option. A shipbuilding Stategy should be based on all the UK yards available.

  5. I personally do not give two pennies about where they are built or assembled. I would love it if the final assembly yard was not on the Clyde so there was a more amicable and even spread of work.
    The simple fact is that construction has to start no later than Jan 2019 otherwise the RN is,in massive trouble. Even more peril than it is in now!
    The type 31 has to be built initially in a surge of construction for first ideally 6 hulls, all constructed and in service by 2028( to replace the type 23s leaving service) then follow on batches need to be built with a subsequent 4-5 hulls in service by 2032-2033.
    After that who can say…would like to see the hull form become a common modular design used for surveillance ship (a capacity lost when the type 22s left service) survey, mine warfare (using drones as a mother ship) patrol frigate, ASW optimised frigate, surface strike frigate etc.
    The RN could then replace all mine warfare and survey ships with the same hull type saving a vast amount of £ in training, spare parts, engineering and upgrade costs.
    We just need to get the programme going and ships built and in the water in reasonable numbers asap

  6. I think the Type 31 should be built in the most cost efficient manner – and for me that probably means single site.

    I have said a number of times that we have enough of a requirement to spread work out across the whole of the UK in a structured manner, but a frigate factory is the only way to reach the cost/value point the UK government (and others) are looking for.

    All of the worlds dominant ship yards are now single site – but the UK wants to spread the love, thats fine but it will cost more in the long run and I actually support that, given the economic benefits across whole communities.

    Time to just crack on with it and start building – lets be even bolder and commit to 10 over the next 10 years – it will hardly break the bank will it.

    • Totally agree. Single site is the clear choice. Problem is the nss needs modular assembly to keep multiple yards busy. The only way to square this circle is to include the FSS in the ship building workload. I have written to my MP to make this point. He has said he will forward my comments to the Secretary for Defence.

    • Pacman. It would be a single site (be it Cammell Laird, Harlands or Rosyth, but Rosyth with Inchgreen is future better options for the FSS), just that hull parts come from other areas. Shipyards around the world do get hull bits from other areas. Ulsan Yard receives pieces from a yard further south, and Cruise shipbuilders in Italy get midship sections towed over 300 miles around the country. Closer would be better, but the cost of towing or barging may not be much difference between 40 miles to 200 miles, I don’t know. But if this increases speed it would be of benefit. It is true that this work was spread around yards for the carriers, but had the benefit of using those yards best features in building certain parts, but also shows we have plenty of capacity in building far more than this, like the FSS. This first started with the Type 45’s, as Portsmouth concentrated on the very curved bow block. It suited them, similar to the curved blocks of the carriers.

  7. I may be being slow here, but the article says that this is a £2bn contract. I had been under the impression that it was a £1.25bn contract with the vessels being given an average unit cost of £250m (hence 1.25bn for 5). Does this mean that a) the uk has given a larger budget for the programme or b) that there is a commitment for more than 5 type 31e? Apologies if I’ve completely missed something obvious.

    • Very little is obvious when trying to join the dots between politicians’ statements and make sense of them.

      Notwithstanding the rumour that David posted below about 3 T23s being paid off early(*), if the current escort fleet is taken as 19 (6 T45 + 13 T23) then we would need to build 6 T31 to make good on the Cameron government’s statement that T31 was intended to increase escort numbers. If one also factors in design costs and contingency funding then 6 x £250m + £500m for design plus contingency might make the £2bn look about right. Also, quite a few people have despaired of the low spec if the RN only goes with the £250m basic spec but I’m still not 100% convinced that the RN will only go with the base £250m spec and might allocate budget to buy some of the extras which might also be a use for some of that £500m figure that I was trying to explain away.

      (*) The cynic/pessimist in me fears that paying off 3 T23 early is an underhand trick to reduce the total number of escorts to 16 hoping that by the time the first T31 and T26 are commissioned the general public (i.e. not people like us who read websites like this) will have forgotten that we used to have 19 escorts so can spin 6 T26 (i.e. a further cut in T26 plans) plus 6 T31 plus the 6 T45 as boosting total escort numbers from 16 to 18.

      • That is standard from the MoD Julian!

        4 Tides is an increase yet they replace 4 Leaf and 4 Rover.
        62 Wildcat replace well over 100 Lynx.
        QE and POW replace Ocean when in reality they replace Invincible, Illustrious, Ark Royal, Ocean.
        Ships 7 and 8 of Type 45 cancelled to spend extra on T26, which is itself then cut.

        The list sadly is endless.
        Needs people who follow, study and research this stuff to keep tabs and shout about it when they see it, because as you rightly say Joe public are only interested in what car is on their drive and what benefits they can get.

    • Platforms may cost that (CDEL – credit card purchase) but first year running costs (RDEL) are also picked up by the project.
      The slight of hand is at work again.
      When you buy a washing machine on your credit card that hasn’t paid for the electric it’s going to use etc. You pay for that out of your “housekeeping” or the cost of running your home.

    • Or think when you buy a mobile phone
      iPhone £1000 (CDEL) credit card – borrowed money
      Line rental £30 p/m (RDEL) wages – real money
      1st year cost of phone = CDEL+RDEL+(CDEL % interest @1%)
      Total cost

      • Which begs the question do BAE and the MOD price the Type 26 using the same accounting standards as DCNS and the French government used for Fremm?

  8. Where, when and how we build them is important but not as much as what the RN is getting. Do we really believe these will truly be viable surface combatants given such a bargin-basement ‘not-to-exceed’ cost/hull? Cross-decking Sea Ceptor and associated equipment from retiring Type 23s – as is the case planned for the Type 26 – will go some way but what about ASM, CIWS, sensor suite, etc.,.

    I really want to be optimistic and celebrate the RN actually getting what it needs but in the Type 31, I just don’t see it. That said, I would love to be proved wrong!

    Interestingly there are rumours out there – how true is another matter – but assume they are in that three Type 23s will be paid off early as part of the upcoming cutbacks, then we will be three Sea Ceptor sets short for Types 26 and 31. So will 10 be the new combined total for both? I’m just saying ………

    • Paying off Type 23’s early might suggest to the cynical that Babcock will be paid by the MOD to build Type 31 rather than put new engines in Type 23. Action replay of BAE Type 26 versus OPV anyone? Let’s hear it for the MOD; if at first you don’t succeed…..

  9. I am not as pessimistic as some out there and believe £250m can be achieved.

    It seems to me that the basic hull and fit often works out around £1m per metre length for a RN warship (Tides are double hulled but not armoured and about 60% of this cost).

    We then get to fit out and what can we get for the remaining £125m (all are ballpark as devil is clearly in the detail)

    5″ Gun (1)= £30m
    VLS (24) = £30m
    Compact C4 Sonar = £5m
    RIM 116 (1) = £3m
    Radars = £10m
    Fire Control Systems = £15m
    Navigation Systems = £2m
    RHIBS and Unmanned systems – £5m

    The above comes to £100m (conveniently) – but you can see where I am going with this, there should be choices to make that get us in the ball park, but the basic ship needs to be built to the right RN war fighting standard and then we go from there.

    For what its worth I think Babcock and BMT are going to make this happen, because this is a once in a generation opportunity for them to get back in the game and it seems to me they can deliver something that will deliver value for the RN and for their shareholders.

    As for numbers – well a T23 is approximately the same size as the proposed T31’s and it seems fine by me. A T45 is massive and I do question the need to land a chinook on one of these platforms when a merlin can take 28 fully kitted personal. Seems to be gilding the lily again, especially as the Merlin is our workhorse for the RN.

    I think the T31 is the new T23 and the T26 is actually an Arleigh Burke class destroyer in disguise. We should commit to a minimum of 10 T31 if the price point is met with an ongoing commitment to building 1 per year in 5 year tranches.

    Not going to happen overnight – but I think we will all be pleasantly surprised by the T31 (I hope so anyway).

    • We need to understand what we want the platform to do before we talk about numbers. What roles are they going to fulfil?
      If we believe that we will always have a carrier and her supports at sea:
      Carrier with up to 24 F-35, 9 Merlin ASW and 5 Merlin ASACS
      2 T26 with 2 Lynx Wildcat
      1 T45 with 1 Lynx Wildcat
      1 Astute
      1 Tide with 1 Merlin
      That doesn’t leave much left in the “high end” platform locker.
      1 T45 is always along side, 1 in refit, 1 in FOST. 1 preparing to deploy and 1 deployed in Mid East
      1 T26 on deterrent patrol, 1 in Mid East, 1 in refit, 1 in FOST etc.
      These things start to add up.
      If you look at the deterrent the minimum number of platforms required to keep a capability at sea is 4. Accepting risk we could get that down to 3. Therefore to sustain a single platform (capability) at sea you need at least 3 built.
      Capability is platform agnostic – hence North Atlantic Frigate is sometimes covered by an LSD(A) simply because we do not have enough frigates to do the job.
      The RN need to stop finding ways to improvise, adapt and overcome and state if you want to do something you have got to pay for it.

      • I think the preceived solution is Type 31, increased quantity of hulls which are cheaper to build and to man. Colloquially known as ‘patrol’ frigates, but perfectly adequate for standing tasks until they are are either sold or upgraded.

  10. “We understand that Rosyth in Scotland and Appledore in Devon are the preferred build and assembly locations for the joint bid.”

    Or the other way around, not convinced Devonport can handle the length (117 to 120 metres), the Irish Navy OPVs were 90metres. And the beam would be 14 metres compared with I forget less for the OPVs.

    Rosyth is massive could build 3 or even 4 at the same time, plus fabrication sheds for blocks.

  11. Cammell Laird deserve something. It is becoming clear the solid support ships need to be designated ‘complex’ warships if the national shipbuilding strategy is to become a real model for UK industrial strategy. Don’t really care how its done but pit something complex in the design!

    • Or just make sure they go to British shipbuilding for the reasons laid out in the n.s.s. I’d be very interested to know what “strong encouragement” (from the n.s.s.) is being given to British shipbuilding to build these ships?

  12. Appledore built HMS Scott in the late nineties, 13,500 t / length 131.1 m. Presume they still have that capability which more than adequate to build a T31e 4,000 t / length 120 m

    • Yes built diagonally in the dry dock. You could assemble two ships at a time in the Main Rosyth Dry dock, or four at a time at Cammell Laird with the BAE or any other type 31 designs. Fleet Solid Support Ships? Inchgreen is an area that has been eyed for being developed for future shipbuilding other than military, with Birkenhead, Harlands, or Rosyth having big deep dry docks and cranage? A&P Tyne would always be a great feeder yard, but does have good cranage but nothing like 1000 ton lift, but neither does Birkenhead and the deep dry dock at Harlands, only the building dock. At Pallion, parallel midship section hull blocks, be it the tanker section or cargo sections of the FSSS is an option to bring this facility back to a proper fully used site (but depends on the amount of skills to needed to and outfitting it can do at the moment, labour would come from elsewhere for the immediate need). But a lot of engineering fabrication is done there including making some of the worlds biggest digger buckets, but it is a primary marine facility, a ship factory for the 21st century as it was designed for. We do have many many options, and those Fleet Solid Support Ships really should be built in the UK, for financial reasons including tax, skills and new skills for the future, and future investment in facilities in building ships this country can do, more so than most EU countries, and probably why eu does not want the UK back in the game. If they are given away due to the lie that they are: Value for the taxpayer, we do not have the capacity, no UK firm bid (we know why), or, we have not built ships like these for many years, or do not build ships like these (since when?), means, there is no UK National Shipbuilding Strategy! These are all ideas, but if we want to become more of a shipbuilder again, which we can, all need to be researched. Including fully integrating our Steel mills at Appleby-Frodingham (needs to be reactivated), Dalzell and Skinnigrove, as the main suppliers, along with tube suppliers. We could then compete for UK market paid for ships in many areas and even private exports (I could never see a Germany government giving away German taxpayer-funded ships or any big contracts to a possibly on the face of it, cheaper UK bid as they do take all other factors into consideration, I’m sure!). It needs to be looked into more deeply though.

  13. Would be a turn up for the bookies if BAE and Cammell Laird got export orders for the Cutlass/Leander before Babcock got export orders for the Venator/Arrowhead/Type 31

    • It will be interesting. I wonder if the consortia that does not get the first batch ( I say first batch, because a fickle MOD may want the other design as second batch, as if, but nothing surprises me), get some work building certain deck superstructures and hull blocks? Along with not even mentioned facilities yet, as in Pallion (which has RFA Fleet Solid Support Ship hull blocks written all over it), or Port Clarence Wilton Marine (hull, or deck superstructures, not to unlike building deck for platforms, or it should not be seen as too different from)


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