‘New frigates must be based in Portsmouth’

PROTOTYPE An artist's impression of the Type 26 frigate.
PROTOTYPE An artist's impression of the Type 26 frigate.

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A FIERCE battle is being fought between MPs from Portsmouth and Plymouth about where the Royal Navy’s next generation of frigates will be based.

The News understands that the destination for the new Type 26 frigates will be decided by defence chiefs in the coming months.

Behind the scenes, politicians are busy lobbying the case for either Portsmouth or Devonport as ministers try to come to a decision.

Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage said: ‘This new Type 26 is the global combat ship and I feel that Portsmouth is now very much the home of the Royal Navy. The HQ is in Whale Island, the new Type 45 destroyers are in Portsmouth and the new aircraft carriers will be here too so it makes sense to have the Type 26s based here as well.

‘As a cost-saving and logistics exercise, it makes sense to me to have all the future force ships based in the same area.’

The Type 26s, which will be built by BAE Systems, will replace the old Type 22 and 23 frigates.

The first new frigate is expected to be ready for service by 2021.

It has not been confirmed how many will be ordered by the MoD, although it has been suggested there will be around 10 ships. Production is expected to start in 2013.

The four Type 22 frigates will be retired by May this year.

MPs are also demanding answers over where the ageing fleet of Type 23 frigates will be based in the future. As it stands six are based in Portsmouth, with the remaining seven in Devonport.

The previous Labour government said Portsmouth could take on all of the Type 23 frigates in 2014 as part of a military reshuffle. But the coalition government ordered a rethink last year.

Ms Dinenage, whose husband is in the navy, said: ‘It has not been decided and it will not be for at least a couple of months.

‘I’m aware of the pressure coming from Plymouth MPs. Of course, I am biased towards Portsmouth and I will be fighting Portsmouth’s case very hard.’

Plymouth MPs fear a decision to base the frigates in Portsmouth will spell the end for Devonport base.