Britain’s Future Frigates: Type 26 Global Combat Ships
September 06/17: MBDA and the British Royal Navy have completed the first love-firing of the Sea Ceptor air defense missile system from the Type 23 frigate HMS Argyll. Utilising MBDA’s next-generation Common Anti-air Modular Missile (CAMM), the system is being fitted to replace the Sea Wolf weapon system on the Type 23 frigates as part of their life-extension program. The Argyll will conduct further firing trials of the Sea Ceptor system before returning to frontline service.
In the late 2000s Britain slated to replace its existing fleet of Type 22 Broadsword Class and Type 23 Duke Class frigates with 2 new ship classes under a program known then as “Future Surface Combatant” (FSC). By the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), the FSC’s C1 (T26) and C2 (type 27) tentative variants were merged into a single Type 26 Global Combat Ship (GCS) class.
Lord Nelson loved his HMS Victory and her fellow first-rate ships of the line, but he asked the admiralty for more cruisers because he knew their versatile value as the “eyes of the fleet.” Modern multi-role frigates that can engage threats on the water, under water, and in the air fill that same role today, protecting other navy ships or undertaking independent action away from their task group.
The Type 26 GCS will have to fill that niche – but first, its requirements and design must be defined.
Britain’s Future Surface Combatants
Of Britain’s 30 frigates built – 14 Type 22s and 16 Type 23s – 17 (4 Type 22s, 13 Type 23s) still serve in the Royal Navy, and some of the Type 23s have received modern refits to keep them going a bit longer. All remain outclassed by more modern designs. Another 10 frigates of these types have been sold abroad to Brazil, Chile, and Romania, and 3 Type 22s have been deliberately scrapped or sunk. The 2010 SDSR decided that the rest of the Type 22s will join their fellows abroad, or in the scrapyard, leaving just the Type 23 Duke Class. Fortunately, the Type 23s have been doing a lot of sailing in less strenuous environments than the treacherous North Atlantic seas they were designed for. That has helped them to last longer, but no ship lasts forever, and replacements are needed.
Key Type 26 design criteria include multi-role versatility, flexibility in adapting to future needs, affordability in both construction and through-life support costs, and exportability. In reality, these requirements represent a set of key trade-offs. Some can be complementary, such as cost and exportability. Other pairings usually come at each other’s expense, such as the desire for high-end multi-role capability within a small ship footprint, versus the desire to keep initial purchase costs low.
The current Assessment Phase was designed to make many of these trade-offs, and the program was timed so it can take the 2010 Strategic Defence Review into account. Initial reports indicate an imagined cost of about GBP 400 million per ship, but the Royal Navy is no better than the American Navy at shipbuilding cost estimates.
The first ships of the Type 26 class are due to enter service in the early 2020s, and Britain envisions at least 12-13 of them. The current Type 26 plan involves 5 basic frigates, and another 8 ships with additional anti-submarine warfare equipment.
By the 2030s, around half of front line Royal Navy personnel are expected to operate on Type 26 frigates.
Type 26: Design
At present, there is no full detail design, and hence no defined equipment set for the Type 26. BAE’s original working baseline reportedly involved a 141m, 6,850t ship, but reductions in target cost led them to publish figures of 148m but just 5,400t. The crew would be just 118, with room for 72 embarked troops.
The ship will use a CODOG (Combined Diesel Electric or Gas Turbine) propulsion system, with a 36MW MT30 turbine from design partner Rolls-Royce, unspecified MTU diesel generator sets, and a gear box via David Brown Gear Systems Ltd. GE will be the overall integrator for the diesel-electric system. Current plans state a top ship speed of 28+ knots, with 60 days endurance and a range of 7,000 miles/ 11,000 km) at normal steaming speed of 15 knots/ 28 kmh.
Armament will include a 127mm gun, where according to Jane’s BAE’s Mk 45 Mod 4 has an edge over Oto Melara for the Maritime Indirect Fire System requirement. The new MBDA/Thales CAMM (Common Anti-air Modular Missile) will replace the current Seawolf system for short range air defense. CAMM/FLAADS-M benefits from carrying an active radar seeker, reducing the need to rely on a ship’s own radar illumination for targeting during saturation attacks. The Ministry of Defence has also reiterated that the ship would have a mission bay for “unmanned air, surface and underwater vehicles, or additional boats.”
Little is certain beyond that. The big outstanding questions involve radars, the combat system, and secondary weapons.
Radars. Based on the drawings of the May 2012 design, the long-range volume search radar atop the integrated mast would be a Type 997 Artisan system, which is also slated to equip Britain’s future carriers and upgraded Type 23 frigates. The drawings also show the compact antenna faceplates of an active array radar mounted around the integrated ship’s mast, however, similar to Australia’s CEAFAR/ CEAMOUNT solution. At the very top end, a dedicated air defense variant of the ship could use the SMART-L derived S1850M radar that equips British Type 45 destroyers.
VLS. The May 2012 design’s 48 illustrated vertical launch missile silos combine 24 larger Mk.41 or Sylver cells and 24 shorter cells. The VLS systems do come in different lengths, and the smaller cells would probably be slated for the short-range CAMM air defense missile. By October 2014 it appeared Mk.41 was the UK’s choice.
Combat system. The use of CAMM means that at least some aspects of the PAAMS combat system will find their way onto the ship, but that area is still very unclear. What is clear, is that the ships will lack America’s Cooperative Engagement Capability, which allows participating ships to see, track, and even fire on targets illuminated by any other CEC-equipped ship or plane. CEC makes a big difference to roles like wide-area air defense, and to ship’s potential for use in anti-ballistic missile networks. Its presence would have pushed the Type 26 toward a positioning as a high end frigate, especially in conjunction with a very long-range radar like the S1850M. Instead, the Type 26 looks set to become a versatile mid-budget “value play” within the global export market.
Secondary Weapons. The displayed layout shows a last-ditch CIWS gatling gun, and its positioning would allow Thales’ through-deck 30mm Goalkeeper. On the other hand, Britain has now used Raytheon’s smaller, bolt-on 20mm Phalanx system on its Type 45 destroyers, so either choice would just expand existing buys. The Goalkeeper has more stopping power, but the Admiralty could decide that Phalanx’s expandability makes it the more desirable option. The ability to convert a MK15 Phalanx mount into an 11-missile “MK15, MOD31” SeaRAM launcher, or some kind of future “laser Phalanx,” is something Goalkeeper doesn’t have.
Helicopters. Merlin helos will provide maritime force protection and anti-submarine warfare capabilities, while AW159 Lynx Wildcats HMAs (Helicopter Maritime Attack) will play a variety of attack and utility roles. The Wildcats will share Stingray torpedoes and Mk11 depth charges with the Merlins, and they will also sport Martlet (light) and Sea Venom (heavy) missiles.
BAE Systems has made 10 selections so far, and expects another 19-20 agreements in 2014, before the production contract is signed. Official selections so far include:
Britain intends to develop its frigates with an eye to export orders, in hopes of to spreading development costs over more vessels, getting more benefit from the manufacturing learning curve, reducing costs per ship thanks to volume orders, and sustaining the UK’s naval shipbuilding industry.
Rumored design options for export customers include a choice of gas turbine engines for maximum speed, or a slower but more efficient all-diesel design; as well as optional ship equipment fit-outs focused on either anti-submarine warfare (ASW) or air defense.
So far, countries that have been reported as expressing some level of interest have included Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Turkey.
Talks do not a deal make, however, and Britain will have a formidable set of established competitors to contend with.
While the Americans have more or less abandoned this field, the Franco-Italian FREMM program offers a fully modern design, using the same MBDA PAAMS air defense missiles and DCNS SYLVER vertical launch systems as Britain’s Type 45 air-defense destroyers. Meanwhile, variants of France’s Lafayette Class stealth frigate design remain popular around the world.
The German-Dutch F124 air defense frigates offer stealth and advanced air defense via active array radars, while using the ubiquitous American Mk.41 vertical launch system for their missiles. Lower down the scale, ThyssenKrupp Marine’s globally popular MEKO Class family of ships provides a budget alternative. So does Damen Schelde’s modular Sigma Class, which can be built as anything from an Offshore Patrol Vessel to a full-size frigate.
Beyond the standard competitors, and countries like Russia with their own separate set of naval clients, China has recently begun exporting frigates in Asia. They will soon be joined by South Korea’s very capable naval shipbuilding industry, which has demonstrated success in fielding modern domestic warships, and has a very strong commercial shipbuilding base to draw from.
Contracts & Key Events
2015 – 2017
Long-lead production contracts; first ship timetabled late 2016.
September 06/17: MBDA and the British Royal Navy have completed the first love-firing of the Sea Ceptor air defense missile system from the Type 23 frigate HMS Argyll. Utilising MBDA’s next-generation Common Anti-air Modular Missile (CAMM), the system is being fitted to replace the Sea Wolf weapon system on the Type 23 frigates as part of their life-extension program. The Argyll will conduct further firing trials of the Sea Ceptor system before returning to frontline service.
August 15/17: BAE Systems has entered a bid to build Australia’s next fleet of anti-submarine warfare frigates. Nine vessels will be built under the contract and the company is offering a variant of the Type 26 Global Combat Ship frigate being constructed for the British Royal Navy. The frigates for the country’s SEA 5000 Future Frigate program are part of a company effort to partner with the government to develop a long-term ship building strategy.
July 24/17: Construction of the first (of three) Type 26 frigate has begun in earnest at a BAE Systems shipyard in Scotland. A ceremony last Thursday which launched the vessel’s production was attended by British Secretary of State for Defense Michael Fallon, who said the warship “will maintain our naval power with a truly global reach. Designed for a service life of at least 25 years, the Type 26 frigates will form the backbone of the future Royal Navy surface fleet into the 2060s.” Due to be named the Glasgow, the ship will be 492 long, 68 feet in the beam and have a speed of more than 26 knots. Its operational range will be more than 7,000 nautical miles.
July 5/17: The UK MoD has ordered its first batch of three Type 26 frigates for the Royal Navy. Valued at $4.81 million, steel for the first vessel will be cut in lead-contractor BAE System’ shipyard in Glasgow, Scotland in the coming weeks. London’s Type 26 Global Combat Ship program calls for the delivery of eight vessels for use as an anti-submarine warfare ship and will replace the current fleet of Type 23 frigates. The Type 26 will be the most advanced ship in its class around the world and we are exploring potential export opportunities where there is strong interest from international customers.
November 7/16: MBDA has been awarded a $125 million Demonstration and Manufacture contract by the British MoD for the Sea Ceptor air defense system for the Type 26 (T26) Global Combat Ship (GCS). The company said the deal will last for 10 years and involves support to the T26 design as well as the manufacture of the electronics equipment required for the class of eight ships. News of the deal comes following the announcement by BAE Systems that the first steel for the frigate will be cut in Glasgow next summer.
March 23/16: BAE Systems and the UK government have signed a contract extending the company’s development of a new class of Type 26 anti-submarine frigate. The $670 million deal will run from this April for 15 months, and follows a previous 12 month extension of demonstration phase which comes to an end next month. Work will now be carried out to further maturing the frigates design, and manufacturing of equipment for the first three of eight ships scheduled to be built by BAE. However, neither BAE or the MoD commented on whether a full scale production will follow the end of the latest contract.
March 9/16: BAE Systems and the UK MoD are currently in discussions to agree on to the next tranche of work, and establish a revised production schedule that could delay the start of building a fleet of new anti-submarine warfare/general purpose frigates. An initial contract under the Type 26 program was to build 13 of the vessels, however this was cut to eight last November by the Conservative government. To fill the capability gap, the Type 31 program looks to build five cheaper, smaller general purpose frigates. The current discussions aim to decide on how these programs will go forward with a revised schedule expected for the early fall.
August 7/15: The Royal Navy’s future frigate program, the Type 26 Global Combat Ship has received a boost with the announcement of a number of long-lead production contracts totaling $265 million. The subcontracts were placed with principal suppliers for the delivery of key system components. Prime contractor BAE Systems is executing a $1.3 billion, one-year demonstration contract awarded in February, with negotiations on the production and delivery schedule of the thirteen Type 26 ships planned still underway. Manufacture of the first ship is provisionally timetabled to begin in late 2016, with the first ships in class thought to be scheduled to enter Royal Navy service in the early 2020s. Other states have reportedly taken an interest in the Type 26, including Australia, Canada and Germany.
2013 – 2014
Design changes; Export prospects; Sub-contractors picked; CAMM-M Sea Ceptor missile confirmed.
Dec 1/14: Industrial. In the run-up to the September referendum on Scottish independence, then defence secretary Philip Hammond had made clear that UK naval ships were made in the Union, meaning that an independent Scotland couldn’t build future ships such as T26 frigates. Now that the Scots have voted to remain within the UK, Michael Fallon defence secretary confirms that Type 26 frigates will be built on the Clyde.
Fallon hopes to announce long lead contracts in early 2015. That would assuage for good Scottish voters who were distressed by statements made last month by the head of the Royal Navy who implied that a foreign procurement may be in the cards. BAE is improving infrastructure at the Scotstoun yard as well as recruiting more than 200 people there and at Govan. An OPV contract awarded in August was a first step to secure future work for these yards.
Sources: E&T: Frigates to be built on Clyde, Fallon confirms | The Herald: Boost for Clyde yards as BAE to take on 165 apprentices | The Telegraph: MoD announces new £348m shipbuilding contract for Clyde [OPVs].
Nov 9-13/14: Negotiations. A Defense News interview with First Sea Lord Adm. George Zambellas creates a bit of a firestorm, and underscores the difficult state of negotiations for the planned 13-ship contract. Which means approval could be delayed until at least mid-2015, making it hard to begin cutting steel in 2016. Adm. Zambellas stirred up a lot of passion in Scotland when he seemed to say that Britain may turn away from the Type 26 altogether, right after a referendum that dangled the shipbuilding contract as a major reason for a “no” vote on independence:
“The acquisition process looks for a solution …. to be able to give us what we need. The affordability question that comes from that depends on the best that industry can deliver. You’ll notice, I haven’t necessarily said that that’s the British industry, because the decision has not been made as to exactly what that solution to the requirement will be, and we wait to see what comes of it… But the Navy knows what it wants. It wants a credible platform with global reach and the sort of quality, particularly in anti-submarine warfare to keep us right up there.”
Key problems seem to revolve around the Type 26’s cost, and are made more difficult by reports that Type 26 ship size is creeping up to 6,500t / 8,000t full displacement. If true, that’s destroyer size, which would makes a per-ship cost target under GBP 400 million (about $650 million) almost impossible to achieve. Meanwhile, McKinsey’s consultants have been brought in to undertake a GBP 1.9 million program cost review.
The 6,000t Franco-Italian FREMM is mentioned by outside observers as the most obvious alternative, given its combat system and VLS compatibility with the Type 45s. On the other hand, even if Britain moved past its policy of only building warships in the UK, the French Senate’s 2013 report pegged per-ship program cost at EUR 605 / GBP 480 million. GBP 6.24 billion for 13 is far beyond Britain’s budget, and even paying less than the French paid for development is unlikely to bridge a gap near GBP 2.25 billion. Sources: Defense News, “Britain Struggles With Costs for New Frigates” | The Scotsman, “MoD considers pulling [GBP] 4bn Clyde frigate contract”.
Oct 27/14: Sub-contractors. The Type 26 will use CODOG hybrid propulsion of an MT30 gas turbine for sprinting, and diesel-electric systems for patrolling and cruising at lower speeds. General Electric is responsible for the diesel-electric propulsion system (q.v. June 3/14), and they have deployed a team of noise and vibration specialists using 3-D software to model its acoustic dynamics.
The goal for any sub-hunting frigate is to create a system that is somehow shock-proof, compact, and extremely quiet. It isn’t easy, but it’s one of those underrated characteristics that makes as much difference to the ship’s long-term performance as any carried weapon. Sources: Manufacturing.NET, “A Warship So Quiet, It Sneaks Up On Submarines”.
Oct 9/14: components. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon writes in answer to a question from the House of Commons that T26 GCS will use Mk41 as its vertical launch system, which has the benefit of accommodating a large number of missiles. Another tidbit is that the light LMM to be used by the Royal Navy on Wildcat helicopters will be dubbed Martlet. Source: MoD/House of Commons [PDF].
Aug 18/14: The Royal Navy is looking to acquire 13 Type 26 frigates in all, at an estimated cost of about GBP 4 billion (US $6.6 billion). The initial order is expected to involve 8 ships as a “phased commitment,” but one must wonder if a cash-strapped government will really be able to order the rest.
The main investment decision is supposed take place around the end of 2014, and BAE is very focused on getting a contract in place before the May 2015 elections. Meanwhile, a potential “yes” vote in the September 2014 referendum on Scottish independence threatens to derail the contract entirely. Sources: Defense News, “New UK Frigate Proposals Coming Together”.
June 24/14: Sub-contractors. Imtech Marine announces that a contract from BAE Systems will supply the frigates’ complete low-voltage electrical distribution systems, and a climate control system that includes protection against chemical, biological, radioactive and nuclear threats (CBRN).
Imtech Marine’s HVAC specialised division Schiffbau-/Dockbautechnik will design, manufacture, install and test the HVAC system. For naval applications Imtech Marine has developed a standard switchboard IMAS design, which is capable of adaptation with respect to voltages of 440V/690V, current ratings up to 4000A/5000A, head height restrictions, maintenance access, internal partitioning/separation, tolerance to flooding, arc flash detection, tolerance to shock and vibration, EMI & EMC tolerance and emissions, CO2 injection ports and top and bottom cable entry. Britain’s Bay Class LSDs use it, and so will the new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers. Sources: Imtech Marine, “Imtech Marine selected by BAE Systems to provide key systems for the Type 26 Global Combat Ship Programme”.
June 6/14: Australia. Australia’s new Liberal government announces funding for initial studies around their 8-ship SEA 5000 future frigate program. The initial commitment is A$ 78.2 million, for design & engineering studies around installation of the CEAFAR/ CEAMOUNT radar faces and associated electrical & cooling systems, Saab’s 9LV combat system, and the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow [ESSM] – to be mounted on the same Navantia 7,000t hull used for the Hobart Class air defense destroyer.
That’s a very big ASW frigate, and that size introduces extra costs. If that remains the chosen approach, the Type 26 will be out of the running, but Australia has to be able to afford these choices. On which point, the Liberal Party government is also making serious threats about buying their ASW frigates abroad if ASC can’t improve its productivity, which the Minister says stands at 150 man-hours per tonne instead of the global benchmark of 60.
That leaves an opening, but the decisions here also introduce technical complications to a Type 26 bid. The CEAFAR/ CEAMOUNT active-array radar faces are very different from the rotating Type 997 Artisan that’s currently planned for the Type 26, and would require significant changes to the existing mast and superstructure. The 9LV is a very popular global combat system, and that might make it a good choice if Britain wants to export Type 26s, but it would add extra costs to integrate Britain’s chosen CAMM-M Sea Ceptor air defense missile. Likewise, Australia’s insistence on the RIM-162 ESSM requires the American Mk.41 vertical launch system, not the French SYLVER A50 on board the Type 45s. Adopting those would also be good for export prospects, but now the Type 26s can’t share the Type 45’s Aster-15 missile as a long-range air defense option. Each of these incompatibilities creates extra costs for someone. Read “Australia’s Future ASW Frigates: Warfare Down Under” for full coverage.
June 3/14: Sub-contractors. BAE Systems announces a 2nd set of sub-contractor awards for the Type 26 program (q.v. Sept 11/13 for the 1st set). The new members include:
- Babcock for the ship’s Air Weapons Handling System. they also do this for submarines.
- DCNS for work on the vessel’s propulsion shaftlines
- GE Energy Power Conversion for the Electric Propulsion Motor and Drive System
- Imtech for the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning System, and the Low Voltage Electrical equipment
- Raytheon to develop the Integrated Navigation and Bridge Systems
- Tyco Fire & Integrated Solutions for the ship’s Fixed Firefighting Systems
BAE is expecting a manufacturing contract by the end of 2014, so they expect to sign on about 25 suppliers this year. Sources: BAE, “Type 26 Programme Welcomes New Suppliers On Board”.
Feb 7/14: Industrial. BAE’s preferred plan for the Type 26 project involves closing the Govan shipyard on the Clyde river once carrier and OPV construction ends in 2018, and investing about GBP 200 million to upgrade the Scotstoun yard in Glasgow as the sole GCS build facility. After comparing processes with 34 leading shipyards around the world, they’ve come to the conclusion that they need to be building by module, indoors, while using a number of techniques and technologies.
BAE Systems director of business and transformation Charlie Blakemore argues that Scotstoun requires more up-front work, but leaves the company with a more advanced facility that would allow speed production by 33%, and lower costs compared to a 2-shipyard build. The GBP 200 million investment’s centerpiece would be a 360 yard-long new dock hall capable of building 2 ships at once indoors. The investment would also create steelwork preparation & fabrication facilities, a paint cell, supporting offices and employee welfare facilities, and a quay. Construction would take place from 2015-2017.
In addition to lowering Type 26 costs, Blakemore also believes that the Scoutson plan would leave BAE in a better position to compete with modernized foreign shipyards for exports.
Plan B would invest GBP 100 million across both, and split shipbuilding between them, building partly in the open and moving completed sections between them by barge. Either plan uses the same number of workers, so the union is cautiously leaning toward the Scoutson plan. As GMB union steward John Dolanm reportedly put it: “If we stand still, we will fail in five years”. Sources: Herald Scotland, “Revealed: the £200m plan for a frigate factory on the Clyde” | BBC, “Govan shipyard likely to close in BAE revamp of Clyde facilities” | UPI, “BAE Systems seeks public comment on shipyard plans”.
Nov 6/13: Sea Change. BAE and the UK government agree on a big restructuring of military shipbuilding. The new agreement will replace the Terms of Business Agreement (ToBA) that restructured the sector (q.v. May 20/08, Oct 29/09), as a condition of the carrier contracts. This is just an agreement in principle, so far, but its outlines include changes to the CVF aircraft carrier program, designation of Glasgow shipyards as the site for Type 26 construction (barring a successful independence referendum), a government commitment to pay extra costs involved in shrinking the shipbuilding sector as a whole, and a bridge buy of OPVs.
The original agreement had made BAE responsible for financing slack shipbuilding periods, but if government delays to the Type 26 are the reason for the slack, industry argued that the government should pay. Rather than paying termination and industrial costs to keep the shipyard idle, the UK government is ordering 3 Ocean Class OPV vessels, for delivery by 2017. The River Class OPVs HMS Tyne, HMS Severn and HMS Mersey will probably be retired at the same time. The difference between the 2 classes? The larger Ocean Class adds a flight deck that can handle AW101 Merlin helicopters. Sources: BAE Systems, “UK Naval sector restructuring” | Royal Navy, “New ships for Royal Navy secure UK shipbuilding skills”.
Major shipbuilding restructuring
Nov 2/13: Industrial. BAE removes the dockside portal cranes at Govan shipyard, which sets of a lot of speculation and uncertainty about the shipyard’s future.
Industrially, the firm says the portal cranes haven’t been used for 5 years, as they’ve been replaced by better mobile cranes. The reason for all the nervousness is leaked reports that BAE is considering consolidation, including the closure of one shipyard. Sources: BBC, “Govan: A shipbuilding history” | BBC, “New fears for Govan shipyard’s future”.
Sept 11/13: Sub-contractors. BAE Systems announces the ship’s initial set of sub-contractors, but doesn’t offer specifics regarding the equipment.
The ship will use a CODOG (Combined Diesel Electric or Gas Turbine) propulsion system, with an MT30 turbine from design partner Rolls-Royce, unspecified MTU diesel generator sets, and a gear box via David Brown Gear Systems Ltd. The 36MW MT30 has already been picked for Britain’s new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers, so the choice creates future fleet commonality.
Rohde & Schwarz has been selected to design the Integrated Communications System. Sources: BAE, Sept 11/13 release | Defense News, “BAE Selects 4 Firms for Type 26 Frigate Program”.
Sept 9/13: Lots of news. The Royal Navy unveils the latest concept design for their Type 26 frigate, as well as a short video concept. They confirm that the Type 26 will be 15m longer than the Duke Class at 148m, and add about 500 tonnes at 5,400t. Noticeable changes from the 2012 illustrations include centering the helicopter hangar rather than mounting it on the port side, and moving the mission module space from the stern to a space behind the helicopter hangar.
At the same time, BAE Systems tells Bloomberg that they are pursuing interest from 8 countries for up to 30 ships, including a new air defense variant that Britain isn’t planning to buy. They’ve been burned before by naming countries, however, and won’t offer any details. Supplier selection is underway, with detail design expected to begin in 2014, and construction in 2016.
The UK MoD makes the day a trifecta by signing a GBP 250 million production contract for the Sea Ceptor missile, and confirms that they’ll deploy it on Type 23 ships beginning in 2016. Their move will ensure that the missile will enter service aboard the Type 26 as a proven weapon, but the Type 26’s margin for error is slim: the Type 23s will retire between 2023 – 2026. Sources: Royal Navy, Sept 9/13 release | Bloomberg, “BAE Systems New Global Combat Ship Draws Export Buyer Interest” | DID: I Think I CAMM: Britain’s Versatile Air Defense Missile.
Latest design, Exports & a Missile buy
May 14/13: Mk-41 + MBDA. MBDA signs an MoU with Lockheed Martin to jointly explore the market for the integration of MBDA naval missile systems into Lockheed Martin’s MK-41 Vertical Launch System, and ExLS VLS/cell insert. They’ll begin with a late 2013 demonstration involving Britain’s new CAMM-M Sea Ceptor missile, which makes the Mk-41 system a possible inclusion on board Britain’s forthcoming Type 26 frigates.
That’s also the right move if Britain is positioning its ships for export, and MBDA + MK-41 is a pairing that has the potential to shake up the global naval missile industry. Read “CAMM Opener for the Naval Missile Market: MBDA & LMCO’s MoU” for full coverage.
Jan 18/13: Australia. Britain signs a defense cooperation treaty with Australia. The Type 26 frigate is explicitly discussed, along with broader areas cyber security, defense procurement reform, personnel exchanges, and science and technology generally.
Australia’s 2009 Defence White Paper includes a plan to buy 8 frigates with an anti-submarine focus, but construction isn’t expected to begin until late in the decade. Britain’s invitation includes possible design work, however, which could start earlier. UK MoD | Australian DoD | Joint press conference transcript.
Basic design approved, without CEC. Turkish loss.
August 20/12: New Design Iteration. The Ministry of Defense and BAE release graphics of the latest Type 26 design from the Assessment phase. What this isn’t, is a detailed design, complete with a defined array of systems and weapons. It’s just the basic requirements and general characteristics – here’s what we know:
“With a basic displacement of around 5,400 tonnes, the Type 26 Global Combat Ship will be around 148m in length (the equivalent of around 15 double decker buses), and one of the most advanced vessels in the Royal Navy’s fleet. It is expected to feature: vertical missile silos capable of housing a range of different weapons; a Medium Calibre gun; a hangar to accommodate a Merlin or Wildcat Helicopter and a Flexible Mission Space for Unmanned Air, surface and underwater Vehicles, or additional boats; and the most advanced sensors available to the fleet.”
Basic design approved
July 5/12: No Portsmouth work? Portsmouth’s The News reports that BAE is leaning toward building the Type 26 frigates in Scotland, which could put thousands of local shipbuilding and sub-contractor jobs at risk, once Portsmouth’s sub-contracted work on Britain’s new carriers finishes around 2014. Apparently, the Portsmouth yard would require additional investment, while the Scottish yards would not.
BAE is said to be pushing for all 13 of the Type 26 frigates to be based in Portsmouth from 2020, which would boost its fleet repair and maintenance operations within the naval base.
June 11/12: No CEC. Speaking during question period in the House of Commons, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said the Royal Navy had identified Co-operative engagement Capability as a “lesser priority” during the Planning Round 12 process, and decided not to spend around GBP 500 million to implement it on their 6 Daring Class destroyers and forthcoming Type 26 frigates. Media coverage criticized the decision, and the UK MoD’s blog responded that:
“The MoD’s comprehensive assessment of CEC informed the decision made during PR12 that it was not necessary to commit to purchasing the capability at this stage. As the Defence Secretary made clear last month, the MoD budget has headroom of £8bn over the next 10 years for potential new programmes. The Armed Forces Committee will prioritise which projects to commit to when necessary, and not before.”
The American CEC system gives fitted ships the ability to see what other CEC-equipped ships, aircraft, or land stations see, and to fire at targets the launching ship’s radars cannot see. It’s vital for wide-area anti-air defense, and for ballistic missile defense. That makes CEC more important to the Type 45 air defense destroyers, but its absence will push the Type 26 toward an international positioning as a mid-tier frigate, instead of a high-end ship. Daily Telegraph | Defence Management.
No CEC for British ships
“The Defense Ministry last month sent a letter informing their British counterparts that Turkey was “no longer interested” in BAE Systems’ offer, [said] an official familiar with the tender… “BAE has already started the [Type 26] project. It was late to join. Our needs would have increased the cost. Or we would have had to review our requirements in accordance with the British Navy, but our requirements are different. BAE had also asked for a ‘license fee.’ The partnership offer would have become a model in which Turkey was financing BAE’s project,” the source told the Daily News.”
The question is whether the remaining bidder, Lockheed Martin, can do any better. Turkey reportedly wants to take a frigate design, add Aselsan’s Multifunctional Phased Array Radar project (CAFRAD) to Lockheed’s AN/SPY-1 to create what would essentially be a new radar, and use Havelsan’s Genesis combat system from Turkey’s FFG-7 upgrade project instead of Lockheed Martin’s Aegis. Then they want all of this equipment to work with Raytheon’s SM-3 long-range ballistic missile defense missile, assuming that the USA agrees to sell that to them. Making all of these changes is a major development contract in itself. Tying them together so they work properly, and then testing them fully, is another expensive project. Integrating them with Turkey’s ship design is the 3rd project, and could also prove to be rather expensive if required fixes from the previous projects are too far beyond initial ship specifications for space, weight, or power. Time will tell if this is another example of Turkey’s wish lists being too big for their budgets, if negotiations will lead to compromises on the wish list, or if Turkey will give BAE another opening by backing off and re-thinking its program.
May 17/12: Alba gu brath – but not shipbuilding. The Scottish National Party’s independence bid gets a setback, as procurement minister Peter Luff and the Prime Minister’s office tell union leaders that an independent Scotland won’t get any future warship contracts. Since Scotstoun, Govan and Rosyth only deal with military orders, and aren’t working on any export orders, that would be it. Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions’ regional secretary, Kenny Jordan, estimates that up to 16,000 jobs are at risk in the Scottish defense industry and its local supply chain.
This is a matter of regulation as well as preference. Even if Britain changed its mind, and wanted to outsource shipbuilding work beyond its borders, EU article 346 would force them to bid that work at least across Europe. Those Scottish jobs are currently protected, because there’s an exemption that allows strategic defense projects to be kept in-country. Leaving the country would place Scotland beyond that exemption.
A Scottish decision to buy into the Type 26 program for its own navy could create a way out of the bind, by allowing negotiated work-sharing offsets. That would still be a far smaller share of work on the Type 26, and skills decay could complicate even that plan. If there’s much delay between independence and serious ship orders, the layoffs and exodus of skilled workers could leave the Scottish shipbuilding industry struggling to execute even a reduced role. Defence Management | The Scotsman.
April 10/12: Design. QinetiQ touts BAE’s use of its Paramarine advanced marine design software for the Type 26’s early stage design and structural development, as they work to model various configurations and estimate costs.
That may have something to do with the fact that UK MoD picked Paramarine as its chosen “stability software” some time ago, and uses it for certification. That pushed BAE to use it for the new Astute Class fast attack submarines, Type 45 air defense destroyers, and Britain’s CVF aircraft carrier programs, before they began using it for the Type 26.
CAMM. Canada out? Prospects in Brazil, India?
Sept 13/11: FLAADS-M. MBDA touts recent milestones in its Future Local Area Air Defence System (FLAADS) program, whose CAMM missile will equip Type 26 and Type 23 frigates at sea (FLAADS-M), and also replace the Rapier missile system on land (FLAADS-L).
FLAADS’ Command and Control system currently involves >75% re-use of Sea Viper software from the Type 45 destroyer, and the Platform Data Link is undergoing trials at MBDA. The CAMM missile’s “soft vertical launch” concept has worked in trials, including a successful ejection and turnover trial at Bedfordshire on May 20/11. Finally, MBDA touts “significant progress” with the CAMM radar seeker in air carry trials. Read “I Think I CAMM: Britain’s Versatile Air Defense Missile” for full coverage.
Sept 5/11: Requirements. UK magazine The Engineer discusses the process underway to define the Type 26 and its systems. Brian Johnson of BAE surface Ships says that “the requirement specifies eight ships capable of ASW and five ships equipped for more general duties,” with the first few British ships receiving systems from the current fleet of Type 23s, as a way to lower costs and risks. The timeline involved means that some of this “legacy equipment” hasn’t even been installed on the Type 23s yet, during their planned refits and upgrades.
Right now, about 200 engineers and other personnel are working on capability tradeoffs and fine-tuning design, in anticipation of a Capability Decision Point scheduled for November 2011.
Aug 11/11: India. Could India be interested in the Type 26? Their current and planned frigate projects are all Russian designs, but India’s Project 17-A, and Britain’s budget squeeze, might create an opening. Pitches to Brazil and India are showing a common theme: invitations to be part of the ship’s design phase.
“BAE Systems has described to Business Standard how Whitehall envisages the designing and building of the GCS. The countries that eventually form the consortium would join heads to frame broadly common specifications for the warship. Presently, the GCS is planned as a flexi-role frigate. This means each vessel could be optimised for any one of the three traditional frigate roles: anti-submarine, air defence or general-purpose. To cater for these different roles and the different requirements of participating countries, the basic GCS design would have 80 per cent commonality in design and components, with 20 per cent remaining flexible.”
March 6/11: Canada. Jay Paxton, a spokesman for Defence Minister Peter MacKay in Canada’s current Conservative Party minority government, is quoted as saying that:
“Canada will not be pursuing collaboration with the United Kingdom on our new surface combatant fleet.”
This comes after a long set of political questions and industry lobbying by Canada’s shipbuilders, triggered by British admissions that talks were taking place. Soon after this announcement, the government fell on a no-confidence motion, triggering an election that gave the Conservative Party a Parliamentary majority. That could give the government the freedom to re-consider. Or, it could simply set their earlier position in stone. CTV News | Defence IQ | Ottawa Citizen.
Feb 6/11: Brazil. MercoPress refers to Brazilian and British media reports that a GBP 2.9 billion deal (about 7.85 billion Reals, or $4.68 billion) may be about to buy 6 Offshore Patrol Vessels at GBP 60-80 million each, and 5-6 Type 26 frigates at GB 300-400 million each. While the new Rousseff administration is reviewing both the F-X2 fighter purchase and naval plans, the paper cites Brazil’s growing deepwater oil production as a compelling driver for the Marinha do Brazil. MercoPress adds that:
“The articles mention that according to the agreement with BAE Systems and following on Brazilian policy of ‘technology transfer’ the first patrol and frigate units would be built in the UK and the rest in Brazilian yards… Developed countries are most aware of defence dynamics in Brazil since the country’s long term policy is to increase defence expenditure from the current 1.5% of GDP to 2% of GDP by 2030. Since the country’s economy is forecasted to grow a sustained 5% in the coming decades, defence investments will also expand strongly. With a nominal Brazilian GDP of 1.57 trillion US dollars, – IMF figures – if defence expenditure was now 2.2% of GDP, it would represent 34 billion USD.”
See also UPI.
Jan 31/11: Canada. U.K. Defence Minister Gerald Howarth responds to Parliamentary questions by saying:
“I am delighted to say that we are in close discussion with the Canadians [regarding the Type 26]. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has just returned from an extremely profitable visit to Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand and Turkey. All those countries have expressed interest in joining the United Kingdom in a collaborative programme that would have the benefit of bringing together not only members of the Commonwealth but some of our key allies, while also driving down costs for the Royal Navy.”
Both Canada and Australia have plans for a “future frigate” competition in their 20-year defense procurement strategies, and BAE can expect strong competition on both fronts. Canada may be a better bet than Australia, where Spain’s Navantia has established a very strong foothold with its current Hobart Class destroyer and Canberra Class LHD programs. UK Hansard transcripts | Defense News.
Assessment phase, requirements.
Nov 29/10: Requirements. Rumors surface that the UK government is looking to sharply slash target costs for the Type 26 frigates, from GBP 500 million to GBP 250-350 million ($400 – 550 million), in order to field a large enough Royal Navy fleet.
If the project is properly managed, and British shipyards can be cost-competitive, global precedents suggest that this is still enough to field a capable multi-role frigate. The question is what capabilities get removed, or become options that the frigates are fitted “for, but not with.” The latter approach has been popular in Britain, but it has resulted in expensive ships that lack key capabilities – such as the lack of anti-ship missiles on the Navy’s billion-pound Type 45 destroyers. The Scotsman | Reuters
Oct 26/10: Brazil bid. BAE Systems submits a detailed proposal to the Brazilian Navy for an 11-ship fleet renewal package that include Type 26 frigates, but goes beyond. They are certain to face competition from shipbuilders like France’s DCNS (FREMM/ Gowind), and possibly other competitors like Spain’s Navantia (F100), Royal Dutch Schelde (Sigma), and even South Korea’s Daewoo.
In addition to having Brazil join the Global Combat Ship (Type 26/27) program at the design stage, BAE’s proposal would supply a modified Wave Class fleet tanker and a variant of BAE’s River Class Ocean Patrol Vessel that’s similar to ships being built under technology transfer in Thailand. All ships would be built in Brazil, and BAE Systems Surface Ships division Managing Director, Alan Johnston says that:
“We are in discussions regarding the naval proposal with a number of potential industry partners in Brazil, including shipyards and combat systems developers… and will provide further details in due course.”
Sept 14/10: Brazil. Britain and Brazil sign a Defence Cooperation Agreement, which includes an “assured warship procurement package” of BAE Systems’ Type 26/GCS frigates and its 90m blue-water Ocean Patrol Vessels. If Brazil joins early, they can even influence the Type 26/27’s design. BAE Systems’ Managing Director for the West, Dean McCumiskey:
“This [package] is based on proven and versatile ship designs and includes an invitation to become an international partner in our new Global Combat Ship programme. If BAE Systems is selected to support Brazil’s ambitious naval re-equipment programme, the ships we develop will be built at a partner shipyard in Brazil, with maximum content sourced from the wider Brazilian industry.”
The opportunity to provide maintenance etc. for the ships’ 20-30 year lifespan might be even more significant than the order itself. BAE can expect competition from DCNS’ FREMM frigates first and foremost, as well as other contenders like the Dutch Sigma family, Korea’s shipbuilders, et. al. The fact that all of Brazil’s current frigates are British designs (6 Niteroi Class, 3 Type 22) may work in BAE’s favor. UK MoD | BAE Systems | Andover Advertiser | Financial Times |Reuters.
March 25/10: The UK Ministry of Defence signs a 4-year, GBP 127 million contract with BAE Systems, to conduct the Type 26’s Assessment Phase. A team led by BAE Systems Surface Ships, working with the MOD, will consider requirements and design proposals for the new multi-role frigates. An 80 strong joint MOD and BAE Systems team has already been established out of Bristol and this will rise to 300 over the next 4 years.
Britain’s First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope:
“These programme announcements are welcome news for the Royal 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.”
Type 26 Assessment Phase
Readers with corrections, comments, or information to contribute are encouraged to contact DID’s Founding Editor, Joe Katzman. We understand the industry – you will only be publicly recognized if you tell us that it’s OK to do so.
Background: The GCS
- Royal Navy – Type 26
- Naval Technology – Type 26 Global Combat Ship (GCS) Programme, United Kingdom
- UK MoD Defence Equipment & Support, via WayBack – Naval Design Partnering Team
- Information Dissemination (Sept 22/09) – Future Surface Combatant at DSEi 2009
Background: Ancillary Equipment
- Rolls Royce – MT30 Marine gas turbine engine. Will also be featured on Britain’s new aircraft carriers.
- BAE Systems – Artisan 3D Medium Range Radar Type 997 and YouTube video. Will also be featured on upgraded Royal Navy Type 23 frigates, and on their new aircraft carriers. Artisan isn’t confirmed for the Type 26 yet, but illustrations all show it, and its presence on the Type 23 makes it a near-lock.
- DID – I Think I CAMM: Britain’s Versatile Air Defense Missile
- QinetiQ – Paramarine. Advanced marine design software.
Background: Related Ships & Equipment
- Royal Navy, via National Archive – The Future Navy [PDF]. Long-term vision as of 2008.
- Royal Navy – Type 23 Frigates
- Royal Navy, via WayBack – Type 22 Frigates. Now retired.
- Project Gutenberg – Some Principles of Naval Strategy. Sir Julian Corbett’s classic masterpiece.
- Information Dissemination – May 10th, 2019: Missing Nelsons Cruisers. For those who might think that the principles of Nelson’s time are no longer relevant today.
News & Views
- The Engineer, via WayBack (Sept 5/11) – Designing the Type 26 Frigate.
- RUSI, via WayBack (October 2010) – A Global Role for the Global Combat Ship? [PDF].
- The Faster Times, via WayBack (Oct 4-27/10) – BRIC Military Modernization and the New Global Defense Balance. (Part 1 | Part 2).
- RUSI, via WayBack (October 2007) – The Shape of the Future Surface Combatant [PDF].
tag: t26, ukfrigates