22 Feb 15. In the space of just a few days two separate and very important announcements from the MOD have confirmed firstly, an absolute commitment to the Type 26 frigate (Global Combat Ship) programme, vessels that when built will replace the existing fleet of 13 Royal Navy Type 23 frigates and secondly, confirmation this morning that a giant step forward has been taken in meeting the required Typhoon capability enhancement plan.
Both announcements are without doubt important and not only to the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force but also to BAE Systems that will build most of the Type 26 frigates at the significantly upgraded facilities planned for its Scotstoun shipyard in Glasgow. They are important for the nation as well not only in terms of the excellent defence capability that will eventually be delivered but also for the economy, the retention of skilled jobs and the potential that both provide in terms of UK export programme enhancement.
The work on Typhoon is good news too for the four nation Eurofighter Typhoon partnership and that, from a UK perspective, is also led by BAE Systems as the largest Eurofighter Typhoon work-sharing partner. The four nation NETMA partnership might have been slow in getting the enhancement programme act together but the speed and pace of Typhoon capability development shows that they fully recognise the urgency of moving forward fast.
The £859m Type 26 programme work awarded to BAE Systems by the MOD on Friday provides funding for a large number of long lead time items such as gas turbines and other important programme and technology elements. Moreover the real importance to me is that it signals full and final commitment on the part of the Government to go ahead with the important Type 26 programme.
The latest Type 26 programme award can be expected to support around 600 jobs at BAE Systems in Glasgow as well as another 1,000 positions in the company and throughout the supply chain. Rolls-Royce has already been awarded the contracts to design the Type 26 gas turbine system, MTU, Rohde & Schwarz and David Brown Gear Systems covering other forms of propulsion. In addition design contracts have already been awarded to Raytheon which will develop the Integrated Navigation and Bridge Systems and Babcock International which will design the ship’s Air Weapon Handling System.
UK suppliers can be expected to account for 80% of the Type 26 global combat ship programme and the importance to the maintenance of skilled jobs in the UK has not been lost. Long term manufacturing contracts can be expected to follow although there is no indication yet of when this might be. The important point though is that what has been announced is real and genuine commitment and in my view this marks the real beginning of the Type 26 manufacturing programme.
Under current plans, 13 Type 26 ships will be delivered to the Royal Navy, with manufacturing in Glasgow scheduled to start in 2016. The first vessel is due to enter service as soon as possible after 2020 and the Type 26 class will remain in service until 2060. The Glasgow yards of BAE Systems are currently building three 90 metre Offshore Patrol Vessels for the Royal Navy, the first of which is due to be delivered in 2017.
The £165m ‘Phase 3 Enhancements Package’ (P3E) contract for Typhoon announced by the four nation partnership and the Ministry of Defence today will see this fantastic fast jet capability receive hugely important upgrades that include improvement to the maintenance and mission systems and the full integration of the MBDA dual-mode Brimstone 2 precision missile. For BAE Systems the contract represents an order value of £72 million for the integration of the MBDA Brimstone 2 weapon and it will help to sustain more than 200 highly skilled engineering jobs in Lancashire where the upgrade work will take place.
The latest announcements comes on top of previously confirmed Typhoon mission capability enhancements put in place over the past 12 months. These have included completion of initial trials work to integrate the MBDA Meteor air-to-air missile which when complete provides a significant leap forward in operational capability, flight testing of the Storm Shadow cruise missile, a conventionally armed, stealthy, long-range stand-off precision weapon designed to neutralise high value targets, the placing of contracts by the four Eurofighter Typhoon partners for the full integration of the Captor E-Scan (electronically scanned array) Radar onto the aircraft and the latest announcement today that is relation to Brimstone. As part of P1E (see below) last November witnessed the first successful weapons drop by Typhoon of the Raytheon Paveway 1V bomb.
The dual-mode Brimstone weapon has long been in service on Royal Air Force and Royal Saudi Air Force Panavia Tornado GR4 multi-role fast jet capability and conformation that this excellent weapon technology will now be fitted to Typhoon has rightly been welcomed. While Tornado will remain the backbone of Royal Air Force multi-role capability for the time being the enhancements now being made on Typhoon bring forward the day when Typhoon will take over the role long carried out by the venerable Tornado. In any event that must occur before the 2019 out of service date for Tornado and the announcement today confirms that no time will be wasted in getting Typhoon through the final enhancements required.
The three contract phases to have been announced over the past year are (P1E) which provided required enhancements ‘operational diversity delivered through the Laser Designator Pod integration (Litening III or Damocles) to support Air-to-Surface attacks and Helmet Equipment Assembly (HEA) helmet mounted sight. When all the enhancement work is complete Typhoon will have a high-end swing-role weapon system that is fully capable of combining different operational tasks in a single mission.
P2E allows for development of Deep Attack and Beyond Visual Range capabilities that are delivered through: Stand-off targeting of high value assets through the integration of Storm Shadow, additional cockpit Interface developments, Meteor integration provides Beyond Visual Range air superiority against a variety of targets from agile fast jets to small Unmanned Air Vehicles and cruise missiles. P3E which was announced today provides for the development of fast moving air-to-surface capability through the integration of the Dual Mode Brimstone 2 with fast-moving Air-to-Surface precision effect.
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