BRITAIN’S defence secretary has today announced the signing of a £3.7bn deal to start building the Royal Navy’s new fleet of frigates.
The contract is part of a major investment project by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to build the first three of eight new Type 26 Global Combat Ships.
Defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon said the move would secure about 1,700 shipbuilding jobs in Scotland and a further 1,700 jobs across the UK until 2035.
Speaking today, Sir Michael said: ‘The Type 26 frigate is a cutting-edge warship, combining the expertise of the British shipbuilding industry with the excellence of the Royal Navy.
‘We will cut steel on the first ship later this month – a hugely significant milestone that delivers on our commitment to maintain our global naval power.
‘These ships will be a force to be reckoned with, there to protect our powerful new carriers and helping keep British interests safe across the world.’
The new frigates are set to replace the navy’s ageing fleet of Type 23s – the workhorses of the Senior Service.
Once built, they will protect the UK’s nuclear deterrent and the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers, the first of which, HMS Queen Elizabeth, has recently taken to sea for the first time.
The ships specialise in anti-submarine warfare.
The flexible design will allow the capabilities to be adapted throughout its lifespan to counter future threats.
A total of eight Type 26 warships were announced in the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review.
The contract for the second batch of five ships is expected to be negotiated in the early 2020s.
This is expected to be followed by the construction of a less sophisticated Type 31 frigate.
Britain’s top sailor, Admiral Sir Philip Jones, welcomed today’s announcement and said the Type 26s would be a potent force to be reckoned with.
The First Sea Lord said: ‘Today there are over 500 submarines in the world operated by 40 navies.
‘As one of the quietest and most potent submarine-hunters of any navy, the Type 26 will have a crucial role to play to protect the nuclear deterrent and our two new aircraft carriers.
‘Although designed to fight and win in the most demanding scenarios, they will also work alongside our international partners to protect and promote the United Kingdom’s interests around the world.’
The Type 26 will be the most advanced anti-submarine warfare ship in its class around the world.
The MoD added it is exploring potential export opportunities where there is strong interest from international customers.
The current fleet of Type 23s will be phased out gradually in the 2020s and 2030s.
Portsmouth has six of Type 23 – Devonport Naval Base, in Plymouth has the remaining seven.
There is no word on where the new batch of warships will be based.
The first Type 26 is due to enter service in the mid-2020s.