Construction starts on Royal Navy’s 1st Type 31 frigate

The future Royal Navy fleet has started to take shape as the construction of the first of five new Type 31 frigates began.

The construction of HMS Venturer is underway in the dockyard in Rosyth. Photo: Royal Navy
The construction of HMS Venturer is underway in the dockyard in Rosyth. Photo: Royal Navy

In the brand-new assembly hall in Rosyth dockyard in Scotland, the keel of HMS Venturer was laid in a ceremony on 26 April 2022.

The keel-laying is the formal moment of construction beginning for the ship, following September’s steeling cutting for the Inspiration-class Type 31 frigate.

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Over the coming months, it will rise a 6,000-tonne ship and, alongside it from next year, the second frigate in the class, HMS Active.

The Venturer Hall is large enough to allow two frigates – each longer, wider and heavier than the Type 23 warships they replace – to be constructed side by side.

“The short seven months between HMS Venturer’s first steel being cut and her keel being laid demonstrates the continuing pace of the Type 31 programme building on cutting edge processes, skills and facilities in Scotland and the UK which should ensure that the Royal Navy gets the capability it needs on time,” Rear Admiral Paul Marshall, Director Navy Acquisition for the Royal Navy, commented.

The construction of the Type 31 frigates is part of a wider investment in UK yards and industry under the government’s National Shipbuilding Strategy of more than £4 billion over the next three years alone.

“The keel laying is a hugely important milestone in the build of any new ship and particularly for HMS Venturer, being the first of a new frigate class for the Royal Navy,” Defence Procurement Minister Jeremy Quin said.

“We look forward to more Type 31 milestones at Rosyth dockyard, demonstrating the Government’s commitment to UK shipbuilding and to modernising the Royal Navy.”

Each ship is larger than the current Type 23s they replace but slightly shorter and lighter than HMS Glasgow and the seven other planned Type 26 frigates also being built for the fleet in Govan, just 35 miles away.

The 26s will focus on anti-submarine warfare – like eight Type 23s fitted with towed arrays – leaving the 31s to carry out patrols wherever they are needed, from conducting counter-terrorism/drug smuggling patrols in the Indian Ocean to helping out in the aftermath of a disaster.

The 31s have been designed and are being built for the Royal Navy, but with one eye firmly on the export market; the Polish and Indonesian navies have selected the design for their future fleets.

Each ship is equipped with three Pacific 24 boats, – crucial for board-and-search/counter-narcotics work – a 57mm gun and two 40mm secondary guns, Sea Ceptor air defence missiles – also fitted to Type 23 and 26 frigates – with off-the-shelf sensors and computer systems. And the flight deck can host helicopters up to the size of a Chinook, although more typically Royal Navy Merlins and Wildcats.

A typical crew will be just over 100, but with space – notably for Royal Marine detachments – for up to 187 personnel on board.

All five ships being built take their names from previous predecessors which wrote their names large in naval annals thanks to inspirational actions and deeds.

In Venturer’s case, the ship is named after the first submarine to torpedo and destroy another boat while both craft were submerged. After Venturer and Active come HMS Formidable, Bulldog and finally Campbeltown.