A recent visit to BAE Systems shipyard facilities at Govan on the River Clyde provided me with the opportunity of seeing at first hand the huge progress that has been made in the build of the first in class Type 26 City-class frigate, HMS Glasgow.
Frequently referred to as the Global Combat Ship not only due to the formidable capability and design created by BAE Systems in the Type 26 programme for the Royal Navy but also because from the start this was a ship designed to create the availability of ‘design flexibility’ requirements of Navy’s internationally, Type 26 is already recognised internationally as a formidable design capability.
With two major global maritime nations – Australia and Canada – having already committed to programmes based on the Type 26 design the strategy that BAE Systems and the UK have adopted can already be regarded as being very successful. I suspect that a number of other navy’s around the world will also show interest in the Type 26 design in the years ahead.
Required by the UK to replace the eight existing Type 23 Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) frigates (the remaining five Type 23’s will be replaced by the proposed Type 31e General Purpose Frigate) and that continue to provide excellence in service with the Royal Navy, Type 26 will be the most advanced capability built in the UK and in Royal Navy service.
While the primary role of Type 26 in Royal Navy service will be ASW role the ships will also be used to escort the two Royal Navy aircraft carriers, for humanitarian requirements, acting also as an amphibious platform for raiding and special forces work – carrying as they will, up to four 12m boats for troop insertion requirements, and also as a flight deck that is able to carry large and medium sized rotary capability.
With a speed in excess of 26 knots, range in excess of 7,000 nm, displacement of 6,900 tons and length of 491 feet, Type 26 has already come to be regarded as a world beating design capability that will serve the Royal Navy well in the years to come.
In respect of build and comprising what will be more than 60 individual blocks (note that of the 22 units currently in build, 8 had already been erected in the Ship Block Outfit Hall by the end of April 2019) in finished form the intention is that all but half a dozen of the giant segments of HMS Glasgow will be in place by the end of next year.
It was with huge interest and pleasure that I climbed to a height well above one of the main blocks of HMS Glasgow currently in production at BAE Systems Govan shipyard in order to observe the already very extensive progress that has been made in construction.
Forward and stern sections of the vessel will ultimately be joined together on the slipway outside BAE Systems Govan. Subsequent to this taking place, main mast and bridge sections will then be lifted into place and the by then mostly complete frigate will be taken downstream for fitting out at BAE’s Scotstoun shipyard.
Engineering and build maturity have clearly progressed very well and I am satisfied that the Type 26 Programme remains on track to deliver the contract dates agreed for the three Batch One vessels.
In respect of the platform itself, all major subcontracts on contract for each of the first three ships (equivalent to over £1 billion on contract with the Type 26 supply chain) have been placed. At the time of my visit a month ago only 40 Category C contracts remained yet to be placed and these being primarily consumables will occur over the next year. Systems design and integration are maturing well enabling the special arrangements for the 12 design groups. My understanding is that 50% of design of the First of Class (FOC) is now complete and being released into production with all remaining design zones progressing well for FOC, completing in Autumn 2019.
In respect of Combat and Complex Systems capability the Air Weapons Handling System, MIGS (gun) and Polemast have concluded successful Factory Acceptance Tests, the Shared Infrastructure product and BAE Systems Combat Management Systems are progressing to plan. Separately, the Platform Management System (PMS) Initial Control Document Philosophies are complete and the enabling software development is progressing well in partnership with suppliers. Of note too is that the first PMS Software drop to Electrical Installation Test Facility was successfully installed during April.
In addition, various amounts of off-site de-risking has taken place including Shared Infrastructure, Combat Management Systems, Medium Range Radar and the Meteorological Systems which have all been successfully installed. I understand that the Diesel Generator has been connected to the Type 26 690v switchboard and successfully tested at 100% loading. The Gear Box is also progressing in line with expectation.
The MOD has already contracted BAE Systems for the first three Type 26 vessels – HMS Glasgow, HMS Cardiff and HMS Belfast. The remaining five proposed vessels have already been named as HMS Birmingham, HMS Sheffield, HMS Newcastle, HMS Edinburgh and HMS London. HMS Glasgow is intended to begin before 2025 and to enter service with the Royal Navy in 2027.
As already mentioned, the eight Type 26 ships that will be built by BAE Systems have been that are designed to replace the existing fleet of eight Type 23 anti-submarine warfare frigates. The remainder of the more general-purpose Type 23 fleet will eventually be replaced by a Type 31e frigate that is currently in the design stage.
Equipped with an acoustically quiet hull, two electric motors, four high speed diesel generators, and a gas turbine direct drive that are all optimised to reduce underwater noise, each Type 26 ship will have the Sonar 2187 towed array system that is designed for effective anti-submarine warfare capability and that includes active and passive detection plus torpedo warning, Artisan 3D surveillance radar, MBDA Sea Ceptor weapon system, open architecture combat management systems and medium calibre gun. With the ability to carry heavy and medium lift rotary capability and with a modular mission bay enabling carriage of multiple boats and autonomous vehicles in order to support any form of disaster relief missions required, putting all this together makes for formidable military capability.
Type 26 will be the UK’s core shipbuilding programme over the next 18 years. Production of the second ship of Batch One vessels ordered, HMS Cardiff will begin in the Autumn of this year. Type 26 is yet another credit to how BAE Systems and the Ministry of Defence through DE&S have worked closely together in order to meet the self-same ends. These ships, regarded as the most modern and efficient frigate design in the world, will be the backbone of the Royal Navy for the next thirty or more years. The open architecture design allows modifications and upgrade work to be done in a far more efficient and cost-effective way that has been traditional.
The Type 26 Global Combat Ship design and the flexibility built in for differing capability requirements of other nations has already been formally recognised by the design and build award to BAE Systems of the SEA 5000 – Hunter Class Frigate Programme in Australia. Based on the Type 26 design, this nine-ship programme for the Royal Australian Navy will, when all contract negotiations are complete, see BAE Systems through its ASC Shipbuilding subsidiary in Osborne, South Australia not only create and sustain 5,000 highly skilled jobs but also support a continuous naval shipbuilding capability in Australia.
The SEA 5000 Hunter class frigate award will see large elements of technology transfer from the UK to Australia. The award is also recognition not only for superb design capability that is inherent throughout this programme but also for the Government to Government framework in which it has been achieved.
Separately, BAE Systems through a subcontract from Lockheed Martin Canada was earlier this year awarded the Warship Design contract for the Canadian Surface Combatant ships for the Royal Canadian Navy. To be built by Irving Shipbuilding, Canada’s prime contractor and shipbuilder, the intention is that the Canadian Government will eventually acquire a total number of 15 Canadian Surface Combatants (CSC’s) in order to replace 12 currently in service Halifax Frigates and 3 Iroquois Destroyers, The build contract for the Canadian Surface Combatant was awarded to Lockheed Martin Canada and the ships will be built at Irving Shipbuilders Halifax, Nova Scotia facility.
Based on an adapted Type 26 Global Combat Ship design that will be modified for example, to include Lockheed Martin combat systems and which will also be built in Canada, the CSC concept envisages 54 technical design changes amongst which are combat system, mast, radar, IRST, EA and Laser countermeasures equipment, additions of Plume and Hull Cooling, removal of Sea Ceptor silos, replacement of ammunition handling systems and fitting out of aviation facilities in order to handle Canadian rotary capability,
CHW (London – 12th August 2019)
Howard Wheeldon FRAeS
Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,
M: +44 7710 779785