With good news in short supply and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak appearing to have now ditched the previous administrations commitment to raise defence expenditure to 3%of GDP, it is extremely good to see that the MOD has today confirmed an additional £4.2bn contact award to BAE Systems for the build of the next five ‘City Class’ Type 26 Frigates for the Royal Navy and that, along with the three currently in build, are constructed at the company’s primary Clyde shipyards in Glasgow. Type 26 Global Combat Ship is a brilliant frigate design and one that will serve the Royal Navy and those nations including Australia and Canada that are using Type 26 as a basis of design for their next generation frigate requirement, well in the decades ahead. The Type 26 programme has undoubtedly placed the UK back on the international leadership map in respect of design/build of maritime defence capability and BAE Systems can be justifiably proud of its massive achievements.
Already recognised internationally to be one of the world’s most advanced warships available, Royal Navy Type 26 frigates are primarily designed for anti-submarine warfare and high-intensity air defence. However, with mission flexibility a crucial aspect of th design, Type 26 ships can be very quickly adapted for transport of high volumes of humanitarian aid and will have sophisticated medical facilities on board. The eight Type 26 ships now ordered are planned to replace the current fleet of Type 23 frigates which continue to serve the UK extremely well on a like for like basis after 2025.
The MOD contract award formally announced today will sustain more than 4,000 jobs across BAE Systems and the wider UK maritime supply chain and will also secure shipbuilding at the company’s facilities in Scotland well into the 2030s. Up to £1.8bn of the new order will be spent in the supply chain, including £1.2bn with UK suppliers.
Along with the three Type 26 ships for the Royal Navy already in build in Glasgow, the first of which, HMS Glasgow is on track to enter the water later this year before being ultimately delivered to the Royal Navy in the mid-2020s, together with HMS Cardiff and HMS Belfast whose construction at BAE’s Scotstoun shipyard is also underway, the eight ship when delivered to the Royal Navy will provide a formidable array of UK maritime defence capability.
Confirming the contract award, Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace said: “We are investing in our fleet to ensure our Royal Navy maintains its world-leading capability to protect and defend our nation at sea. This design has already been successfully exported to Australia and Canada, proving itself as a world-class maritime capability, securing thousands of further UK jobs along with strengthening alliances with our allies” adding that “Supporting thousands of high-skilled jobs in Scotland, and more across the wider UK supply chain, this contract will continue to boost our British shipbuilding industry, galvanising the very best of British engineering, manufacturing and design.”
Charles Woodburn, Chief Executive, BAE Systems, said: “This contract secures a critical UK industry and allows us to build on our long history of shipbuilding on the Clyde as we continue to deliver cutting-edge equipment to the Royal Navy into the next decade. It underpins the ongoing investments we’re making in the skills, infrastructure and technologies needed to stay at the forefront of the maritime sector and to support the UK Government’s National Shipbuilding Strategy.”
The Type 26 programme is a UK-wide endeavour, with more than 120 UK suppliers having already secured contracts linked to the new batch of frigates, including for steering gears in Dunfermline, gas turbines in Filton and maritime LED lighting in Cumbria.
This year, 180 new apprentices joined the 400 already working at BAE Systems on the Type 26 programme. BAE Systems’ Naval Ships business employs 4,500 people across the UK including 1,700 at its Govan and Scotstoun shipyards on the Clyde and the company is currently in the process of recruiting a further 400 trades people as the Type 26 frigate programme continues to ramp up.
Importantly, BAE Systems is also investing around £15m in a new ‘Applied Shipbuilding Academy’ in Glasgow in order to further support development of the entire workforce, from apprentices through to senior leaders. In addition, the company has applied for planning consent to start construction on a new shipbuilding hall worth more than £100m and that is planned to further enhance productivity on the Clyde in order to support the delivery of all eight planned Type 26 ships and future orders.
Of note too is that the Commonwealth of Australia has ordered nine ‘Hunter class’ frigates for the Royal Australian Navy. Based on the Type 26 Global Combat Ship design with construction by BAE Systems Maritime Australia planned to begin in 2024 at the ASC Shipbuilding subsidiary – Osborne Naval Shipyard in Adelaide, the build programme for all nine planned Hunter class ships will take the company through until 2044. BAE Systems has also been awarded the contract for the design of the Royal Canadian Navy ‘Canadian Surface Combatants’ and which is also based on the Type 26 Global Combat Ship design. To be built or already under construction, the total number of ships based on the Type 26 Global Combat Ship design for the three nations – UK, Australia and Canada – has already reached 32 ships with more potential ahead.
Royal Navy Type 26 Frigate Design
While primarily designed to be a state-of-the-art replacement for the Type 23 Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) ships, Type 26 Global Combat Ship design for the Royal Navy is based on modularity and flexibility and includes a wide range of weaponry and sensors together with stealth capabilities that make it difficult for enemy submarines to detect.
The main hangar will be able to hold EH101 Merlin or Wildcat helicopter capability with a secondary hangar that will accommodate unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capability and the stern has a mission bay with a ramp to allow rigid-hulled inflatable boats, unmanned surface vehicles (USV) or towed array sonar to be deployed. The flight deck of the frigate will also allow heavy-lift helicopters, such as a Chinook, to use the Type 26 capability.
Type 26 Global Combat Ship for the Royal Nav will have a displacement of 6,900 tonnes, and is 149.9m in length with a maximum beam of 20.8m. The ship is intended to have a crew of 157 together with berths to accommodate a potential of 51 embarked troops. Type 26 is designed to have an endurance of 60 days and a range in excess of 7,000 nautical miles. The ships will be able to operate independently or as part of a task group and will, just as Type 23 has done so successfully over the past two decades and is still doing today, serve as the ‘workhorse’ of the Royal Navy’s fleet performing a wide range of potential core warfighting, maritime and security missions together with international engagement.
Royal Navy Type 26 frigates will primarily be deployed on specific ASW and air defence operations although secondary missions can include counter-piracy, counter-terrorism and humanitarian assistance. In respect of weapons, Type 26 is expected to be fitted with Sea Ceptor (the maritime variant of MBDA’s Common anti-air modular missiles (CAMM), anti-submarine weapons and anti-ship missiles, such as future cruise/anti-ship weapon (FC/ASW) and armed with MK 45 Mod 4 5in (127mm) 62-calibre main gun and two Phalanx close-in weapon systems (CIWS). On board sensor and radar capability will include Type 997 Artisan 3D medium range surveillance radars from BAE Systems, as well as a Sonar 2087 towed array sonar system and Sonar 2150 hull-mounted sonar. It will also be equipped with Terma SCANTER radar system and Raytheon Naval Radar NX software.
CHW (London 15th November 2022)
Howard Wheeldon FRAeS
Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,
M: +44 7710 779785