After confirming that the Type 26 Frigate would be built on the Clyde, Michael Fallon has indicated that the Type 31 Frigate will also be assembled there.
The Clyde is expected to work on 5 Offshore Patrol vessels, 8 Type 26 Frigates and “at least” 5 Type 31 Frigates, an increase over what was previously promised.
It’s speculated that the build plan for the Type 31 Frigate will 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 on the Clyde.
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. This is known as “block construction”.
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.
Michael Fallon told BBC Radio Scotland:
“Nobody is shortchanging the Clyde. This is a huge moment for the Clyde; we’re confirming we’re going ahead with the steel cut next summer, earlier than expected. The first eight will be the Type 26 combat ships.
After that, we will be building a lighter frigate and we will end up with a fleet that is larger than the fleet at the moment.”
Responding to earlier speculation that the work could go elsewhere, Fallon dismissed this by saying:
“BAE will be in pole position [for that contract]. They’re the principal warship builder.”
This isn’t a surprise to anyone in industry, it’s a certainty that the vessel will be assembled on the Clyde.
The original planning assumption for the Royal Navy was for thirteen Type 26 Frigates (eight ASW and five GP), replacing the Type 23 frigate fleet like-for-like. However, it was later announced during the November 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review by then Prime minister David Cameron that only the eight anti-submarine warfare Type 26 frigates would be ordered.
The funding for the remaining five general purpose Type 26 frigates is instead to be spent on developing a new class of lighter and more affordable general purpose frigates.
The Cutlass design, pictured above, is a significantly stretched and enhanced derivation of the Al Shamikh-class corvette design and sits at the high end of the cost/capability spectrum. In Omani service, the vessels this design is based on carry one 76mm Oto Melara cannon, two 30mm MSI DS30M 30mm cannons, eight MM-40 Block III Exocet SSMs and twelve MBDA VL Mica SAMs.
The Avenger design is a modified Amazonas-class/River-class Batch 2 offshore patrol vessel, similar to the currently in-build OPVs on the Clyde and has been offered to fit the low end of any potential cost and capability options.
Due to an expected lower cost, the government suggested it may allow an eventual increase in the total number of frigates in the Royal Navy. This general purpose frigate will be designated as the Type 31 frigate.
Prime Minister at the time the Type 31 Frigate was announced, David Cameron, told the House of Commons:
“There will be eight of the Type 26’s and at least another five of the new type of frigate, probably more, and they can be built in Scotland if the conditions are right.
The only way these ships wouldn’t be built in Scotland is if Scotland was independent and didn’t have the national resources of the Royal Navy.”
The issue of UK naval contracts on the Clyde has become controversial after the 2014 Independence Referendum and even more so recently when several parties indicated that the work would not go to an independent country.
“No warships would have been built on the Clyde, because the United Kingdom Government would not have chosen to build them there.”
The full statement, confirming what many had already known, was made by then Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology Phillip Dunne in response to a question from Brendan O’Hara, MP for Argyll and Bute, regarding the Type 26 frigates.
“What I can confirm to the hon. Gentleman is that, had the independence vote gone the way that he and his colleagues would have liked, no warships would have been built on the Clyde, because the United Kingdom Government would not have chosen to build them there; we made that very clear.
As it is, as I have just confirmed to the House, we will be proceeding with the construction of eight complex Type 26 warships on the Clyde as and when the programme is ready.”