SECURING the new breed of frigates in Portsmouth would help to transform the city into a true engineering and technical powerhouse, a boss of a major defence firm has said.
Paul Livingston, vice president at Lockheed Martin’s UK integrated systems base in Havant, said the new Type 31e and Type 26s would be critical in helping the area become the UK’s leading hub for science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem).
And he claimed basing the new vessels in Portsmouth would create a raft of opportunities and jobs for companies across the Solent, something that would be critical in helping the area to prosper.
His comments come during a campaign by The News, unions and the city council, calling on the government to base all eight of the state-of-the-art Type 26 frigates and five Type 31e warships in the city.
Backing the appeal, Mr Livingston said Lockheed Martin hoped Portsmouth would be the home of the new frigates.
He added: ‘There are a lot of places around the country that will say they want to be the engineering hub of the UK.
‘But I think the opportunity is there for us to really put the flag for Portsmouth as a critical part of the national plan for science, technology, engineering and maths.’
Steel has already been cut on the first Type 26, HMS Glasgow, which is due to come into service in the early 2020s.
It comes after the government signed a £3.7bn contract with BAE Systems for the first three Type 26s.
A procurement process for the cheaper Type 31e was agreed earlier this month with a build contract due to be confirmed in 2019 and the first ship in service in 2023.
The cost of the Type 31e has been capped by government at £250m per ship.
Mr Livingston said Lockheed Martin would be looking to play a ‘significant role’ in the development of the Type 31e. And he believed the ambitious timeframe and restricted cost would not be an issue in getting the new breed of warships into service.
He added: ‘There are various systems that we have got as Lockheed Martin that we believe will be absolutely critical in achieving the Type 31e for the best value.
‘Are they deliverable? Absolutely. We think that the government has set a target, timescale and cost for the programme where you can deliver them as a capability to fill the gap that they need for the incredible capability of the Type 26 and the OPV (offshore patrol vessel) fleet.’
The News’s Bring Them Here campaign came after Portsmouth City Council boss Councillor Donna Jones demanded the government make Portsmouth the home of all the new frigates.
She claimed this would bring an economic boost to the city and clinch new jobs.
The calls have since been backed by fellow councillors and unions.
The naval base is currently home to six Type 23 frigates, with the other seven being based at Devonport, in Plymouth.
It is also the home of the Royal Navy’s two new aircraft carriers, six destroyers, eight Hunt-class minehunters, four OPVs and a raft of Archer and Scimitar-class patrol boats.