Jeremy Quin, defence procurement minister, has shed fresh light on the Type 32 programme after the mysterious new warship was revealed last month by prime minister Boris Johnson.
The vessel formed part of the PM’s £16.5bn boost to the UK’s defence budget, and will be in addition to the previously-announced Type 31 and Type 26 frigates.
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In a written request to parliament, Labour MP Kevan Jones demanded to know when the government planned to ‘announce further details’ of the new warship.
Responding, Tory minister Mr Quin said: ‘The programme and procurement strategy for Type 32 will be decided following the concept phase, which has not yet been launched.
‘Further work is required to develop the operational concept however it is envisioned that Type 32 will be a platform for autonomous systems, adding to the navy’s capabilities for missions such as anti-submarine warfare and mine countermeasures.’
The comment comes just days after the Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced a £184m deal to build a fleet of robot minehunters.
The drones are expected to enter service from 2022 and will replace the ageing fleet of Hunt and Sandown-class minehunters.
It is anticipated the new Type 32 frigates – which a source at the MoD previously told The News would act in a general-purpose role – could now be a platform for the new minehunting kit, alongside other unmanned tech being tested by the navy.
The government has not revealed how many ships will be purchased as part of the deal.
However, answering a different parliamentary question, Mr Quin said the number of ships in the class ‘will be determined by the requirements placed on defence by the government, and the outcome of the development work on the operational concept’.
Armed forces minister James Heappey added the future home of the frigates had not been decided.
‘The basing options will be considered at the appropriate stage of the procurement programme,’ he said.
The Type 32 are expected to begin entering service towards the end of the decade.