Three new classes of vessels are scheduled to enter the Royal Navy’s fleet in 2027 and 2028, according to a report published by the UK’s House of Commons Defence Committee.
As informed, the vessels in question are Type 26 frigates, Type 31 frigates and fleet solid support ships. The ships will enter service simultaneously. The report emphasized that these projects must all be delivered on schedule in order to exit the period of risk that budgetary restrictions have placed the navy in. However, they face many structural and project-specific risks, and the Ministry of Defence’s track record on delivery is far from good.
“The Committee calls for better scrutiny to ensure vessels are delivered on time. It calls for the Government to report annually to Parliament on the availability of vessels, its shipbuilding plans, and the progress of five key programmes: the construction of theType 26 and Type 31 class frigates and the Astute and Dreadnought class submarines, and the Power Improvement Project to fix engine issues in the Type 45 destroyers,” the committee noted.
In October this year, the Royal Navy revealed that the construction of its first in the series of eight Type 26 frigates is sufficiently complete for the navy to begin assigning sailors to the vessel. The construction of the first vessel, HMS Glasgow, started in July 2017.
HMS Glasgow is the first of an initial batch of three ships all named after great UK cities, followed by HMS Cardiff and Belfast. Operating from Devonport Naval Base, the Type 26s will be equipped with bow and towed-array sonars, plus carry a Wildcat or Merlin helicopter, for submarine-hunting missions.
The eight Type 26s will replace the current anti-submarine warfare Type 23 frigates. They will make up the next generation of the navy’s fleet, along with the first batch of five Type 31 frigates. By retiring two Type 23 frigates, the navy wants to save £100 million to boost the future fleet.
The Type 31 frigates, which will now be known as the Inspiration class, will be built by defense company Babcock International. The Royal Navy has picked Babcock’s Arrowhead 140 proposal as the preferred design for its Type 31 frigates. The fleet of five ships will be built at an average production cost of £250 million per ship.
The steel-cutting ceremony for the first vessel HMS Venturer took place this September in Babcock’s facility in Rosyth, Scotland.
Each of the Inspiration-class ships will be equipped with the Sea Ceptor air defence missile system, a 57mm main gun and two 40mm Bofors, a 4D radar and carry a helicopter up to Merlin size.
They will also be able to carry the planned, persistent operational delivery systems (PODS), a “plug and play box of tricks” carrying drones, autonomous mine hunting equipment, a command center for commando raiders, or humanitarian aid.
The fleet solid support (FSS) ships will be built for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and will be designed to keep the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers and amphibious task groups supplied with everything from ammunition to food as they sail on operations around the world.
Four contracts worth £5m a piece for the ‘Competitive Procurement Phase’ have been awarded to develop the design and build of the new ships.
“The next ten years will prove a test for our naval fleet. The UK is faced with an increasingly hostile and unpredictable international environment but the Government is still reducing funding, retiring capability and asking the Navy to rely on increasingly elderly vessels for the next five years until new ships come in.”
“The timely delivery of these new ships is crucial to plug the hole in our naval capabilities. However, the Ministry of Defence has a poor track record projects like this. We need a firm hand on the tiller to navigate us through the next decade,” Chair of the Defence Committee, Tobias Ellwood, concluded.