ROYAL NAVY’S TYPE 26 ‘GLOBAL COMBAT SHIP’ – BAE SYSTEMS DESIGN ENGINEERING SUCCESS
By Howard Wheeldon, FRAeS, Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd.
05 Sep 14. As a hugely important future platform for the Royal Navy the Type 26 Global Combat Ship (GCS) programme currently in the fourth year of a five year capability assessment and design phase has broken substantial new ground in terms of engineering and design capability success.
When the first of a proposed thirteen of the Type 26 Global Combat Ships planned to be built by BAE Systems enters Royal Navy service in 2022 not only will the vessel be the most modern and efficient surface ship capability so far built it will be the result of what has been a transformational change in the concept of naval ship design engineering.
Along with change management, lean manufacturing, best practice, change of approach to training and health and safety and even outsourcing there can be little doubt that naval shipbuilding in the UK is today a very much changed industry to the one that existed five years ago. While equipment capability will remain the crucial element of requirement there can be no denying that affordability is also at the heart of all defence procurement. BAE Systems has risen to the challenge the MOD customer has presented and through the build process of the now completed Type 45 Destroyer programme and the ongoing Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier alliance programme the company has worked hard to achieve ever greater efficiencies and to make savings for the taxpayer customer. Being able to use the experience gained from Type 45 and Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier programmes and to use this right from the start of the design engineering process on Type 26 ‘Global Combat Ship’ has undoubtedly provided new opportunities for the company to make further efficiency gains in the process of Naval shipbuilding.
In the fast changing world of geo-politics and defence procurement designing replacement capability for the successful Type 23 frigate that would need to encompass not only a changed mission requirement (Type 23’s had in part been designed to hunt Soviet Submarines in the Atlantic) but at the same time ensure retention of flexible full mission capability would require new ways of thinking in terms how the ship was designed. In the new age of so called austerity affordability would also be crucial as would the need to fully build-in through-life cost into the design. The new approach by BAE Systems would not only need to consider the whole concept of design engineering but also to establish concepts such as best practice and change management at the very start of the programme.
Not only would achieving this require a different approach by all the various stakeholders involved in regard of establishing end capability requirement but also in the establishment of a far more efficient process of how and where the new ships might actually be built. The result is not only the creation of a truly excellent ship design for the Royal Navy and potentially for export customers as well but one that all stakeholders involved in what is after all a very large equipment capability programme would be content to sign up to.
Various development and procurement hurdles on Type 26 GCS have now already been passed while others are getting closer. As the programme moves further toward acceptance of commercial proposals within the procurement process and eventually final contract award and having already cleared the site of its former buildings, the planned investment in new state-of-the-art shipbuilding facilities that will be built on the existing Scotstoun site can’t come a moment too soon.
Global Combat Ship (GCS) or Type 26 as it will be called in Royal Navy service is not just important as being the planned successor for the thirteen Type 23 ‘Duke’ class frigates currently in service with the Royal Navy but also because from the outset the new Type 26 GC