Portsmouth will miss out on new hi-tech frigates, experts say

A computer-generated image of the future Type 26 global combat ship
A computer-generated image of the future Type 26 global combat ship
The three River-class patrol vessels of the Fishery Protection Squadron, HMS Mersey, HMS Severn and HMS Tyne on Exercise off the south-west coast. Picture: LA(Phot) AJ MacLeod SUS-171031-100537001

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MILITARY experts have predicted Portsmouth will miss out on the Royal Navy’s newest, most technologically-advanced frigate ever built.

But they say the city’s dockyard will be the first to welcome a new breed of general purpose frigates for the next generation of naval warfighting.

The comments by a former head of the Royal Navy and a naval expert come after the Ministry of Defence (MoD) revealed plans to shake-up the base-porting of the current Type 23 frigate fleet.

Under the proposal, Portsmouth has been earmarked to house all the Royal Navy’s five general purpose Type 23s, while Plymouth will take the remaining eight anti-submarine warfare (ASW) warships.

Now defence experts, including a former head of the Royal Navy, have said this is a sign of things to come when it comes to the navy deciding where its new Type 26 and Type 31e frigates will be based.

Admiral Lord Alan West said: ‘What this review seems to indicate to me is that the Type 26s will be base-ported in Plymouth.

‘That will become an ASW centre of excellence. While Portsmouth will contain the Type 31. It makes perfect sense. The water is deeper in Plymouth and would be better for ASW training.’

The former First Sea Lord added: ‘I don’t think Portsmouth needs to worry. Having the carriers, the Type 45 destroyers, the MCMV (mine counter-measure vessels), refuelling jetty and the Type 31 will make the base secure for the future.’

The Type 26 frigate will be one of the most advanced frigates in the world when completed.

They will be equipped with the latest cutting-edge equipment and radar systems as well as a vertical launch missile silo and 5in main gun.

Earlier this year a £3.7bn contract was signed by the government to bring the first three ships into service, with steel having been cut on the first vessel.

The Type 31e frigates will be capped at a maximum of £250m each, with the first due to enter service in 2023. The MoD did not comment on base-porting of the new frigates.

However, a defence source in Whitehall told The News: ‘The rebasing of the Type 23s by anti-submarine warfare and general purpose variants paves the way the for like-for-like replacement in the base ports.’

Former naval officer and ex-publisher of Warship World Mike Critchley, of Gosport, said he could not guarantee where the new frigates would be based.

But he said: ‘It makes sense to have similar ships in one base port.’

The ASW variant of the Type 23 are due to be phased out of service from the second half of 2020 onwards.

A navy spokesman said: ‘We expect the first Type 26 frigate to be handed over to the Royal Navy as a replacement for the ASW variant of the Type 23 frigate by the mid-2020s.’

As previously reported, the Portsmouth will now have one less frigate based at the naval base.

HMS Lancaster and Iron Duke are the only Type 23s currently based in Portsmouth that will remain in the city.

They will be joined by HMS Argyll, Monmouth and Montrose.

The first ship to change homes will be HMS Richmond. It will leave Portsmouth for Plymouth in 2018.