21 Nov 16. As we went to press news reached BATTLESPACE that the Surveillance and Target Acquisition Support (S&TASSS) win by Qioptiq has been suspended due to a legal challenge believed to be from Leonardo. An MOD spokesperson told BATTLESPACE: “We can confirm that, due to a legal challenge, the award of a contract has been suspended in relation to Surveillance and Target Acquisition Support. It would be inappropriate for us to comment further while legal proceedings are ongoing.” The S&TASSS contract was for one company to support all the surveillance and target acquisition products owned by CDES&S from companies such as Harris, FLIR, L-3, Leonardo and Qioptiq. Companies short listed for the contract were believed to have been Qioptiq, Thales and Leonardo (Selex).
21 Nov 16. The Ministry of Defence has yet to explain how it will replace its 13 ageing frigates – due to leave service at the rate of one per year between 2023 and 2035 – whilst maintaining even the “woefully low” number of operational vessels currently available and the skilled workforce to renew them. So says the Defence Select Committee in its report, published today, Restoring the Fleet: Naval Procurement and the National Shipbuilding Strategy.
The Report examines the MoD’s plans to modernise the Royal Navy’s escort fleet, including the introduction of two new classes of frigate—the Type 26 Global Combat Ship and the Type 31 General Purpose Frigate—and the enforced refit of the Type 45 destroyers’ engines. It also considers this work in the light of the forthcoming National Shipbuilding Strategy, to be published later this week, and how that should deliver a sustainable shipbuilding industry.
The Report calls for the National Shipbuilding Strategy to provide the necessary detail on how and when the Royal Navy’s new frigates (the Type 26s and the General Purpose Frigates) will be delivered. Without that information, the Strategy can be little more than a collection of aspirations. The building of new ships requires a skilled workforce. Uncertainty over the funding and timing of these programmes undermines the long-term sustainability of the shipbuilding industry. Therefore the Report recommends that the Strategy should set out:
• a detailed timeline for the delivery of the Type 26 Global Combat Ships and the Type 31 General Purpose Frigates;
• a comprehensive assessment of the potential to build a new complex warship every two years;
• the criteria against which the expansion of the UK’s share of the export market in warships will be judged; and
• the numbers of apprenticeships required in each of the key trades and how it will monitor them to ensure there are no longer-term skills gaps.
Type 26 frigates. The Royal Navy’s existing frigates—the Type 23s—will be replaced by eight Type 26 and at least five General Purpose frigates. The first Type 23, HMS Argyll, is due out of service in 2023, followed by the other twelve at annual intervals until HMS St Albans is withdrawn in 2035. It is therefore vital that the new frigates are delivered to that timetable. Financial pressures appear to have played a sizeable part in the delays already experienced in the Type 26 programme. If further delays are introduced or funding constraints are allowed to slow down the production schedule, the current total of 13 frigates—already an historic low—will fall even further.
The Committee is not yet convinced that the MoD can deliver to this schedule. It therefore recommends that the MoD should set out:
• a clear timeline—with costings at each stage—for the Type 26 programme;
• unambiguous statements that the necessary funds are available in this financial year, and for subsequent financial years, together with details of the amounts spent on the programme as it progresses; and
• an absolute assurance that short-term financial limitations are not storing up for the future, large cost consequences caused by otherwise avoidable delays in the Type 26 construction programm