ONE of the navy’s newest frigates could be based in India – and not Portsmouth – the head of the Royal Navy has hinted.
The Ministry of Defence has not yet revealed where £1.25bn fleet of five ‘budget’ general purpose warships will be based.
However, maritime experts and former naval heads have claimed Portsmouth is the front of the queue after missing out on becoming the home of the more advanced Type 26 frigates.
But speaking to The News during a briefing on HMS Queen Elizabeth with his Indian counterpart, Adm Jones said: ‘We have not yet decided where we base those ships - there are many decisions to be made.
‘But whether it is actually physically based in India, or whether it is just spending a lot more time working with the Indian Navy, I think there is a rich opportunity there for forward-basing.’
The comments came as the First Sea Lord sought to tighten the bonds of co-operation between the two naval forces.
He said he hoped HMS Queen Elizabeth would be able to operate alongside warships from the Indian Navy in the Indian Ocean on her maiden deployment in 2023.
The epic mission will see the £3.1bn, 65,000-tonne warship touring deploying to the Mediterranean, the Gulf and the Pacific region.
The basing came as Adm Jones said he would be eager to intensify training links between the Senior Service and the Indian allies.
The top sailor said he would be eager to see a greater exchange programme between the two navies taking place.
Admiral Sunil Lanba, head of India’s navy, welcomed the news the Royal Navy will be more active in the Indian Ocean and was eager for close links between the two forces to be forged.
He said: ‘The increased focus of the Royal Navy to the Indian Ocean region is indeed a welcome step, and we hope to partner the Royal Navy in leveraging our collective strength to ensure safety and security of the region.’
Type 31e are due to replace the ageing fleet of 13 Type 23 frigates. A total of five are planned to be built, in addition to the eight more advanced Type 26s, which will specialise in hunting submarines.
However, the government has hinted that more of the cheaper Type 31s could be built to help bolster fleet numbers.
The vessels have been earmarked to fulfill more ‘routine’ roles, freeing up the navy’s fleet of six anti-aircraft destroyers and the Type 26 frigates to protect the navy’s two new aircraft carriers.
Proposals to build the navy’s future workhorses are still being ironed out as defence firms compete for the lucrative £1.25bn contract.
The government has pledged to put an order in for the Type 31s by December 2019, with the first ships due to join the fleet in the early 2020s.