UK MoD announces plans for Royal Navy’s T31e frigates

Photo: Royal Navy

Defence Minister Harriett Baldwin on September 7th launched plans for the procurement of the Royal Navy’s new Type 31e frigates – a day after the announcement of a new National Shipbuilding Strategy.

The competition, unveiled by senior leaders from the Ministry of Defence, Royal Navy and Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S), will boost the UK shipbuilding industry and provide the route to grow the Royal Navy fleet.

A price cap has been set of no more than £250M each for the first batch of five frigates. In line with standing UK policy on warships they will be built in the UK. They could be built in a way which could see them shared between yards and assembled at a central hub. The first ships are set to be in service by 2023. Shipyards will be encouraged to work with global partners to ensure the vessel is competitive on the export market.

The announcement comes the day after Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon unveiled an ambitious new National Shipbuilding Strategy, outlining a commitment to encourage a more competitive industry, grow jobs across the country, and put a focus on exporting state-of-the-art British ships.

Minister for Defence Procurement Harriett Baldwin said, “A day after we launched the National Shipbuilding Strategy, we are taking our first major step towards realising it by launching the Type 31e programme.

“It will take the very best of British engineering, innovation and drive to achieve it and, as a nation, we have shown time and time again that we have what it takes to deliver. This programme will re-energise a world-leading, vibrant and competitive British shipbuilding industry.”

The Type 31e frigate will replace five of the Royal Navy’s Type 23 frigates. The other eight Type 23s are already set to be replaced by the upcoming Type 26 class.

Geared towards maritime security and defence engagement, the Type 31e will fulfill roles such as the Fleet Ready Escort duties in home waters, fixed tasks in the South Atlantic, Caribbean and the Gulf, and the UK’s NATO commitments in the Mediterranean.

Admiral Sir Philip Jones, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, said, “Through the Queen Elizabeth-class carrier project, we proved to the world – and to ourselves – that Britain still has what it takes to be a great maritime industrial nation. The National Shipbuilding Strategy seeks to build upon this achievement by charting a course towards a more sustainable and competitive industrial base that can support regional growth and prosperity as well as strengthen our national security.

“With the Type 31e General Purpose Frigate Programme, the Royal Navy will bring our requirements into line with the demands of the export market to help support that ambition. Mostly excitingly of all, this offers a historic and vital opportunity to increase the size of the Royal Navy in the decades ahead.”

Other requirements for the Type 31e frigate include a hangar and flight deck big enough for a helicopter and unmanned air vehicles, enough accommodation to support the standard ship’s company with mission specialists as required, and stowage for sea boats, disaster relief stores and other equipment.

It will be operated by between 80 and 100 men and women and needs to be sufficiently flexible to incorporate future developments in technology, including unmanned systems and novel weaponry.

The proposed Type 31e frigates will be built in a modular way, which could see the construction work shared between yards around the UK and assembled at a central hub.

The option to build the Type 31e frigates in blocks reflects how the biggest ship ever built for the Royal Navy, the 65,000-tonne HMS Queen Elizabeth, was constructed. The aircraft carrier was built in blocks by over 10,000 people in six main British cities. She was then assembled in Rosyth, before commencing sea trials in June and arriving in her home port of Portsmouth last month.

Tony Douglas, the Chief Executive Officer of DE&S, said, “The Type 31e programme will drive the change that is needed through the entire system, because we have set tough time and cost constraints.

“The collective challenge for DE&S and industry is to deliver Type 31e in a different, more innovative way than has gone before. I want this to be a transformation in the way we do business – not just in ships and acquisition but across the entire defence equipment and support portfolio.”

The Ministry of Defence is committed to new ships for the Royal Navy through its rising budget and £178 billion equipment plan. In July, the Defence Secretary cut the first piece of steel for the first of eight Type 26 frigates at BAE Systems’ Govan shipyard in Scotland.

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