AN AMBITIOUS bid to secure the navy’s next generation of frigates has today begun – a day after the announcement of a new National Shipbuilding Strategy.
Defence minister Harriett Baldwin launched the plans for the procurement of the Royal Navy’s new Type 31e frigates.
The competition, unveiled by senior leaders from the Ministry of Defence, navy and Defence Equipment and Support, will boost the UK shipbuilding industry and provide the route to grow the Senior Service fleet.
Minister for defence procurement Harriett Baldwin said: ‘A day after we launched the National Shipbuilding Strategy, we are taking our first major step towards realising it by launching the Type 31e programme.
‘It will take the very best of British engineering, innovation and drive to achieve it and, as a nation, we have shown time and time again that we have what it takes to deliver. This programme will re-energise a world-leading, vibrant and competitive British shipbuilding industry.’
The Type 31e frigate will replace five of the Royal Navy’s Type 23 frigates. The other eight Type 23s are already set to be replaced by the upcoming Type 26 class.
Geared towards maritime security and defence engagement, the Type 31e will fulfil roles such as the Fleet Ready Escort duties in home waters, fixed tasks in the South Atlantic, Caribbean and the Gulf, and the UK’s NATO commitments in the Mediterranean.
A price cap has been set of no more than £250m each for the first batch of five frigates.
Like other warships, the Type 31e will be built in the UK, the minister confirmed.
They could be constructed in chunks across multiple yards before being assembled in a new central hub – much like the Royal Navy’s two new aircraft carriers were.
This first phase of formal procurement activity is set to begin in early 2018, with competitive design phase beginning later in that year.
A date a design and build contract being awarded has been fixed for early 2019.
The aim is to have the first of the new vessels entering service four years later.
Admiral Sir Philip Jones, First Sea Lord and chief of naval staff, said it was an ambitious plan but one he believes the nation can achieve,
He said: ‘Through the Queen Elizabeth-class carrier project, we proved to the world – and to ourselves – that Britain still has what it takes to be a great maritime industrial nation.
‘The National Shipbuilding Strategy seeks to build upon this achievement by charting a course towards a more sustainable and competitive industrial base that can support regional growth and prosperity as well as strengthen our national security.
‘With the Type 31e general purpose frigate programme, the Royal Navy will bring our requirements into line with the demands of the export market to help support that ambition.
‘Mostly excitingly of all, this offers a historic and vital opportunity to increase the size of the Royal Navy in the decades ahead.’
The Type 31e needs to include a hangar and flight deck big enough for a helicopter and unmanned air vehicles, enough accommodation to support the standard ship’s company.
It also needs to have extra space for additional personnel, if needed, stowage for sea boats, disaster relief stores and other equipment.
It is expected the vessels will operate with a crew of between 80 and 100 sailors and will be adaptable enough to fit new technology like unmanned systems and advanced weaponry.