Type 26 Global Combat Ship
City-class Type 26 ASW frigate
The Type 26 is a high-end anti-submarine warfare frigate, and it is deliberately designed to be so. Its design enables it to provide high-end protection both to continuous at-sea deterrent forces and to future carrier strike groups, and it is deliberately designed to be resilient, noise-quietened and highly effective in countering peer and near-peer threats in the anti-submarine warfare environment. The new Type 26 Global Combat Ship will replace the Type 22 and 23 frigates in the early 2020s. The first ships to be developed under the Future Surface Combatant program will be known as the Type 26 class.
Designed to replace the existing Type 22 and Type 23 frigates, Type 26 will deliver a versatile, affordable capability that can be easily upgraded to ensure it remains at the cutting-edge throughout its service life. First and foremost, the 26s are being designed to protect the nation’s strategic deterrent and new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers from hostile submarines. The ships will be expected to deal missions across the full spectrum of Royal Navy operations – complex combat scenarios, counter piracy, as well as humanitarian and disaster relief.
The difference with the general purpose frigate that will come as part of the national shipbuilding strategy is that it is deliberately designed to be a much less high-end ship. It is still a complex warship, and it is still able to protect and defend and to exert influence around the world, but it is deliberately shaped with lessons from wider industry and off-the-shelf technology to make it not only much more appealing to operate at a slightly lower end of Royal Navy operations but of interest to a much wider set of international partners.
Type 26 is the first of two classes of ships to be built under the Future Surface Combatant program, delivering enhanced anti-submarine warfare capability and enabling a more agile response to a wide range of threats and emergency situations. Both variants will be developed with their potential for export factored into the design from the outset, with the aim of securing overseas orders to spread non-recurring costs and reduce the cost per ship to deliver better value for the MOD and UK taxpayers. This approach will also provide a platform to showcase the capability within the UK maritime supply chain, helping to secure the UK's long-term future at the forefront of the global maritime industry.
BAE Systems pushed the boundaries of warship design, with a whole host of options being assessed, including:
- A mission bay, which can embark a wide range of boats, unmanned vehicles and stores for use in disaster relief operations, or to provide additional accommodation
- A stern ramp, so the ship can recover larger vessels than a traditional davit and can operate in rougher seas
- Vertical launch silos, capable of carrying a wide range of weapons
- A flight deck of equivalent size to the Type 45 so it can accommodate a Chinook
Where the new class really stands out is in its ability to surge manpower and specialist capabilities depending on its role, thanks in no small part to the flexible mission bay. The bay will be able to house and deploy additional boats, unmanned vehicles (aerial, surface or underwater), or store ISO containers for example, allowing the ship to adapt to changing missions, ranging from disaster relief and humanitarian aid operations to embarking military forces or supporting diving operations.
Given the apparent impracticality of extending the service life of the Type 23s, the importance of the Type 26 build schedule cannot be overstated: the replacement of the former by the latter must remain fully synchronised. The delivery of the Type 26s to the Royal Navy had to be coordinated with the out of service dates of the Type 23s. The first Type 23 would come out of service in 2023 and the rest of class would follow on an annual basis. This meant that one new Type 26 would have to enter service every year from 2023 onwards, if even the current total of 19 frigates and destroyers was to be maintained.
Delivering the Type 26 class (and subsequently the GPFF) to match that timetable will be challenging. Extending the life of some of the Type 23s to accommodate the construction schedule of the Type 26 was not a cost-effective option and would risk diverting the funds available to the Royal Navy away from the Type 26 program (or other programs, such as the GPFF and the Carrier programme). The alternative — to decommission Type 23s before they are replaced — would represent a dangerous downgrading of the capabilities of the Royal Navy.
A key factor in bringing the Type 26 into service will be the maturity of the equipment it uses. That is why MOD decided to utilise and transfer proven equipment from the Type 23 Frigates to the Type 26 ships including the Sea Ceptor missile system, the Artisan 997 radar as well as some elements of the ship’s communications and electronic warfare equipment. As announced, the £1.9 Billion committed to the Type 26 program covered nearly all the equipment for the first three ships. The detailed arrangements for transferring equipment from the Type 23s to the remaining five Type 26 ships were being worked through as MOD developed the granularity of the program schedule.
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