‘PORTSMOUTH will not take no for an answer – we want all the navy’s new frigates to be based here.’
That is the audacious message going out to Whitehall today from The News and the head of Portsmouth City Council as we launch our Bring Them Here campaign.
The leader of Portsmouth City Council, Cllr Donna Jones is on a quest, backed by The News, for the city to secure the cream of the crop of the nation’s two new breeds of naval warships.
And to kick-start the bid, she has already begun lobbying senior Tory ministers to make her lofty hopes a reality.
Her aim is to get a commitment from the government to base its eight state-of-the-art Type 26 and the five newly-revealed Type 31e frigates at the city’s historic naval base.
Speaking of her intention, the Tory chief said: ‘We are going to fight hard and this is going to be a full-on campaign.
‘I am determined that Portsmouth will be the home of the next generation of frigate class. We won’t take no for an answer.’
The News is backing the call following the government’s national shipbuilding strategy, announced this month, which revealed when the first new frigates would come into service.
Cllr Jones has already pressed the UK’s defence secretary, Sir Michael Fallon on the issue, telling him of her hopes for the city.
Speaking to The News, Cllr Jones said she would like to see Portsmouth designated the sole hub of the Royal Navy’s surface fleet.
She claimed the new vessels would help to prop up the plethora of defence businesses creating sophisticated military tech for the nation.
Cllr Jones said: ‘We have got two of the largest defence contractors in the world – Babcock and BAE Systems – based in the Solent.
‘We have got some very, very highly skilled people already employed by both of those companies in Portsmouth and the surrounding area doing a huge amount of work to support the navy.
‘These people will inevitably have work due on the new Type 26 contract and importantly the Type 31s.’
Currently the city is the home to all of the Senior Service’s six £1bn-a-piece destroyers, six of the ageing Type 23 frigates and the first of two new aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth.
The base also houses eight Hunt-class minehunters, four River-class patrol ships and an array of small Archer-class and Scimitar-class patrol boats.
But the majority of the frigate fleet is based in Devonport, Plymouth’s naval base; there are seven of the warships located there.
Vessels located at the military hub include helicopter landing platform ship, HMS Ocean and landing platform dock assault ships HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark. There is also a range of survey vessels, the ice patrol ship and the six Trafalgar-class submarines.
At this point, no formal decision has been made on the home port for the new frigates.
However, a Admiral Lord Alan West – the former head of the navy – said it could be possible for the base to accommodate the new frigates.
He said: ‘Can the base take it? The answer is it would be a stretch but it probably could – if the right facilities were in place.’
But he said the nation still needed to have at least two strong naval bases, with ships split between Devonport and Portsmouth.
He added the city could consider vying for shipbuilding contracts for the Type 31e – contracts which will be awarded in 2019.
However, Cllr Jones said: ‘I’m not looking at the two to three years of the shipbulding itself, I’m looking at the 30-year lifespan of those ships. ‘I want to get the Type 26s and Type 31s base-ported in Portsmouth because then you have employment for the Solent, you have employment through the defence contractors who are refitting and maintaining those ships for many, many years and it really will mean that Portsmouth Naval Base will be one of the biggest and strongest naval bases around the world.’
The first Type 31e is due in service in 2023. It will operate with a crew of between 80 and 100 sailors. The first Type 26, HMS Glasgow will enter service in mid 2020.