Royal Navy’s new Type 31e frigates won’t be used to protect HMS Queen Elizabeth during global deployments, defence minister Mark Lancaster says

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A FUTURE fleet of frigates being developed by the Royal Navy won’t be used to protect the nation’s two giant aircraft carriers, a defence minister has said. 

Mark Lancaster, armed forces minister, has said the Type 31e will not be used as part of carrier strike operations to protect the two Queen Elizabeth-class supercarriers.

A concept image of what the Type 31e frigate could look like.

A concept image of what the Type 31e frigate could look like.

Instead, the minister said the yet-to-be-built warships would tackle other roles to free up more advanced vessels like the sophisticated Type 45 destroyers – which specialise in air defence – and the hi-tech submarine hunting Type 26 frigates.

Mr Lancaster was responding to a parliamentary question from Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth South MP, over the role of the Type 31e vessels – which will be cheaper to develop than the Type 26 and less advanced. 

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The armed forces minister said: ‘The Type 31e frigates will be tailored toward maritime security and defence engagement, including the fleet ready escort role at home, our commitments in the south Atlantic, the Caribbean and the Gulf, and to Nato.

‘These ships will fulfil routine tasks to free up the more complex Type 45 destroyers and Type 26 frigates for their specialist combat roles in support of the strategic nuclear deterrent and as part of the carrier strike group.’

Five Type 31s are due to be built as part of a contract worth £1.25bn. However, there are hopes this could be expanded to help bolster the numbers in the surface fleet. 

The Ministry of Defence said it wants the first to be delivered to the Royal Navy by 2023.

However, the project has previously stalled after industry defence firms were unable to come up with viable plans to build the vessels within a strict budget of £250m. 

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But in December the MoD revealed three contenders to build the scaled-down frigate had been given £5m to develop their plans further. The organisations included BAE Systems, Babcock and Atlas Elektronik UK.

‘This is the first frigate competition the UK has run in a generation, and today we are funding three shipbuilding teams with extremely exciting concepts to continue developing their plans,’ said defence minister Stuart Andrew said when announcing the news.

‘Next year we will announce the winning bidder, and one of these designs will go on to bolster our future fleet with five new ships, creating UK jobs and ensuring our Royal Navy maintains a truly global presence in an increasingly uncertain world.’

The MoD has not announced where the frigates will be based. 

However, insiders have tipped Portsmouth as the potential front-runner.