Type 26 Program
The project, which has been scaled back from an original order of 13 vessels, and which was meant to have begun earlier this year, has been beset by controversy. The number of destroyers and frigates had steadily declined from more than 50 in 1991. In 1991 the UK had 52 destroyers and frigates; since then the Conservatives cut something like 22 out of that and Labour cut 11. The eight Type 26 frigates are approximately £8 billion-worth of planning going forward. Nineteen frigates and destroyers is the number set in the last two SDSRs, both 2010 and 2015, and the Navy has adjusted both its inputs—people, training, manning and support—and its outputs, such as where we deploy our ships and where we operate, to reflect a destroyer/frigate size of 19.
Eight Type 26s will replace the eight dedicated anti-submarine frigates, alongside a new class of five general purpose light frigates. The out-of-service dates for the Type 23 frigates have been promulgated for all 13 of the class, and they begin in 2023 with HMS Argyll. In in the mid-2020s they will be at a stage when to extend their lives would be a significant investment.
Construction work on a new class of anti-submarine warfare frigates for the British Royal Navy is set to get underway in the summer of 2017, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon confirmed during a November 2016 visit to the BAE Systems shipyard in Scotland, where the vessels will be built. Subject to final contract negotiations, steel will be cut on the first of what was expected to be a fleet of eight Type 26 frigates destined to replace the current Type 23 vessels now in service.
The first of the new class was due to enter service around the start of the next decade and by the 2030s around half of frontline Royal Navy personnel are expected to operate on a either a Type 26 or the second variant to be developed under this program.
Type 26 Combat Ship BAE Systems was awarded a four year £127 million contract by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) to take forward the program to develop a new generation of combat ships for the Royal Navy. Under the contract, BAE Systems will work in a joint team with the MOD to assess options from the initial concept design in order to develop a detailed specification ready for manufacture.
Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth said: "Planning for future Defence is crucial. It is our duty to provide key equipment that will ensure the UK is properly prepared to meet its own Defence needs in an ever changing world, and continue to play an important role in maintaining global security. Programmes like the Type 26 not only ensure the Royal Navy continues to have cutting edge capability but also sustain the industry that supports them. The commitments the MOD has made will protect skills and employment, and preserve the industrial capability needed to carry out future programs efficiently, in a way that represents value for money."
First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope said: "These program announcements are welcome news for the Navy. You simply cannot have an effective Navy without capable Frigates, and the Type 26 combat ship will form the future backbone of the Royal Navy's surface combatant force, alongside the new Type 45 Destroyers. These ships will be highly versatile, able to operate across the full spectrum of operations, from war fighting to disaster relief."
Alan Johnston, Managing Director of BAE Systems Surface Ships, said: "This is an exciting step in a program that is hugely important not only for the Royal Navy but for the whole of the UK maritime industry. "Type 26 is a key component in sustaining a surface warship capability in UK industry as agreed under the Terms of Business Agreement we signed with the MOD last year. Working in close partnership with the MOD and industry will help to reduce risk and deliver better value for UK taxpayers. It represents a real step change in procurement for defence."
An 80 strong joint MOD and BAE Systems team was established out of Bristol and this will rise to 300 over the next four years, bringing together expertise in all aspects of warship engineering to complete the assessment phase. The first task of the team is to evaluate the main options including capability, operational availability of the ships, exportability features and support optimisation. The program is also timed to address outputs from the forthcoming Strategic Defence Review so that changes to policy will be reflected in the final ship design, ensuring that Type 26 delivers the right capability to support future UK defence.
This is the first major shipbuilding program in the UK in which BAE Systems have been able to fully incorporate bold, innovative principles and technology. Recognising that front end design concept expertise is a scarce resource, BAE Systems worked in partnership with the UK MOD and our industry partners from the outset of this program as part of a group known as the Naval Design Partnership (NDP). The NDP brings together the very best engineering expertise in all aspects of warship engineering to work towards a common goal. BAE Systems have taken this a stage further, breaking down traditional organisational barriers and have established a joint MOD and industry team, which is collocated in a single building, to work together throughout the design phase. This approach not only delivers greater transparency among those involved, but it also strips out unnecessary costs that can be incurred in a lengthy design process, and drives greater innovation ensuring that all the efforts are 100% focused on developing the very best capability for the customer.
The parties involved in the design of the ship will also have responsibility for the build and support of those ships throughout their service lives. This means that during the current assessment phase, BAE Systems can have sensible conversations about implications of how the specification developed now will impact on the ability to repair and upgrade the ship in later life and weigh up the costs and benefits from a whole life perspective.
By November 2010 the assessment phase for the Type 26 Global Combat Ship was not expected to conclude until late 2013, after which the main investment decision will be made and an initial order will be placed.
The White Paper "Securing Britain in an Age of Uncertainty: The Strategic Defence Review" (Cm 7948), presented to the House on 19 October 2010, explained the Government's intention to make certain changes to the armed forces in order to deliver the force structure we require for the future and to help address the legacy of unaffordability in the defence budget. The MOD is committed to procuring the Type 26 Global Combat ship to replace the Type 23 frigate from 2021 onwards. The SDSR said: "We will launch a concept study and then design and build a new class of lighter, flexible, exportable general purpose frigate to complement the Type 26 so that by the 2030s we can further increase the total number of frigates and destroyers."
The pledge to build 13 Type 26 frigates in Glasgow, safeguarding thousands of jobs, was one of the top arguments of unionist politicians, including Defence Secretary Michael Fallon. The Scottish independence referendum took place on 18 September 2014, with some 55 percent of the population choosing to stay within the United Kingdom. The pledge to build 13 Type 26 frigates was then revised in the SDSR ’15 to only 8 frigates. SDSR15 set out the Government’s commitment to build eight Anti-Submarine Type 26 ships to replace the in-service Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Type 23 Frigates, and that construction of the Type 26 would be preceded by two additional Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs).
The MoD’s announcement that the construction phase of the Type 26 will start in the summer of 2017 belatedly represents a step forward, but it raised as many questions as it attempts to answer. Observers were concerned at an apparent degree of complacency and lack of urgency on the part of the MoD and DE&S. The start date remained contingent on a successful conclusion to the negotiations between the MoD and BAES on both the design and the contract. Furthermore, even with a 2017 start date, the Type 26 program would not be “fully underway” until 2019. It was clear that the delays in the construction of the Type 26 had a negative impact on the development of the workforce on the Clyde. Apprenticeships were not being offered at the necessary rate, and those undertaking apprenticeships were having their skills training disrupted. Furthermore, workers were being required to move from Scotland to Barrow in order for them to undertake meaningful work. Efforts were made by the trades unions and BAES to retain the workforce during this period of uncertainty, but MOD remained deeply concerned by warnings that further delay could be “catastrophic” for the skills base.
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