Portsmouth Naval Base’s future has ‘never looked so bright’ says HQ’s boss

CGI shots of what the Type 31 general purpose frigate could look like
CGI shots of what the Type 31 general purpose frigate could look like

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PORTSMOUTH Naval Base has a bright future – and will have a new generation of frigates, the head of the military establishment has outlined.

Commodore Jeremy Rigby said the naval headquarters is guaranteed to receive the navy’s newest breed of warship to replace its ageing fleet of Type 23 frigates.

Naval Base Commander Jeremy Rigby

Naval Base Commander Jeremy Rigby

It comes as city leaders look to press the government on securing a new batch of frigates for the city, which could include the Type 26 or Type 31e.

The government has committed to build eight state-of-the-art Type 26 warships, which once completed, will be the most advanced frigates in the world and at least five Type 31s – a move confirmed yesterday.

As submarine hunting specialists, the Type 26s will replace the 13 Type 23 frigates, which are split between naval bases in Portsmouth and Plymouth, with the cheaper general purpose Type 31e expected to fill the void.

Cdre Rigby did not say how many new frigates the historic institution could expect to see but stressed the base would still be home to a new generation of naval work horses ‘until the end of the century’.

He said: ‘We know the UK needs ships that can operate at all levels of the spectrum. But we have got the opportunity now to make sure that we invest the right amount with the right number with the right levels of capability.

‘Portsmouth Naval Base will be seeing frigates of one form or another operating from here for the rest of the century.

‘It’s the home of the Royal Navy and the investment that is going in to our frigate, destroyer, patrol boat facilities is very significant.’

The news has been welcomed by Councillor Donna Jones, Portsmouth City Council boss.

She said it was vital the government committed to replacing the six ageing Type 23 frigates in Portsmouth – which include Lancaster, Westminster, Richmond, St Albans, Kent and Iron Duke – to protect the fleet’s numbers based in the city.

Cllr Jones, who has been in discussions with defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon over the naval base’s future, said: ‘It’s an exciting time for the navy and for local business and the employment market as we formally establish this new chapter on the history of the naval base in Portsmouth.

‘To ensure the future safety and security of jobs across the city and Solent area it is vital that any decommissioned ships are replaced and that they are Portsmouth based.

‘The city now needs to get behind us to make sure that the government commits to the new frigates and ensures Portsmouth does not miss out.’

Cdre Rigby added the current frigate fleet had ‘never been busier’, dealing with the growing threat of Russia.

The news comes as the base continues a major series of improvement works to ready it for the future.

This includes opening a new dry dock, which will come into 
service later this year, capable of supporting ‘all classes of frigates and destroyers’.

On top of this, the dockyard is revamping its electrical supply system, which will be used to power the navy’s two new aircraft carriers when they are alongside.

Cdre Rigby said: ‘The refurbishment of the electricity supplies around the naval base, the work that’s going on bringing the new dry dock into service later this year that can operate all classes of frigates and destroyers all mean that this is a really dynamic place to be.’

Portsmouth is home to six Type 23 frigates.

In total, it has 36 warships, including six Type 45 destroyers, two aircraft carriers as of next year, minehunters and patrol boats.

Yesterday’s national shipbuilding strategy announced five Type 31s would be built in shipyards across the UK.