Britain’s Future Frigates: Type 26 & 27 Global Combat ShipsSep 09, 2012 14:33 UTC by Defense Industry Daily staff
Britain’s “Future Surface Combatant” program is slated to replace the existing fleet of Type 22 Broadsword Class and Type 23 Duke Class frigates with 2 new ship classes. Outside attention often focuses on big-ticket ships like aircraft carriers, submarines, and advanced destroyers – but the frigate is the real backbone of most modern navies.
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 multi-role frigate 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.
Type 26 frigates are actually the 1st of 2 classes of ships to be built under the Royal Navy’s Future Surface Combatant program, also known as Global Combat Ships. 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 a either a Type 26 frigate, or the 2nd “Type 27″ FSC variant.
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. Current plans state a top speed of 28+ knots, with 60 days endurance and have a range of 7,000 miles/ 11,000 km) at normal steaming speed of 15 knots/ 28 kmh. The crew would be just 118, with room for 72 embarked troops.
Armament will include the standard BAE 127mm gun, and the new MBDA/Thales CAMM (Common Anti-air Modular Missile) for short range air defense, to replace the current Seawolf system. 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 rear mission bay for “unmanned air, surface and underwater vehicles, or additional boats.”
Little is certain beyond that. The big outstanding questions involve radars, the vertical launch system (which helps determine eligible missiles), 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 Royal Navy could choose a higher-end capability instead, and use the SMART-L derived S1850M that equips British Type 45 destroyers. The drawings also show the compact antenna faceplates of an active array radar mounted around the integrated ship’s mast, similar to Australia’s CEAFAR solution.
VLS. The May 2012 design’s 48 illustrated vertical launch missile silos combine 24 larger Mk.41 or Sylver cells and 24 smaller cells. The smaller cells would probably be slated for the short-range CAMM air defense missile.
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 the ability to convert a MK15 Phalanx mount into an 11-missile “MK15, MOD31″ SeaRAM launcher, or some kind of future “laser Phalanx,” make it the more desirable option.
Both British FSC variants will also be developed 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 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 set of naval clients, China has recently begun exporting frigates. 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
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.
“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.
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.
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
- 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.
- BAE Systems – Global Combat Ship
- Royal Navy – The Future Navy [PDF]. Long-term vision.
- UK MoD Defence Equipment & Support – Naval Design Partnering Team
- Information Dissemination (Sept 22/09) – Future Surface Combatant at DSEi 2009
- DID – I Think I CAMM: Britain’s Versatile Air Defense Missile
- Royal Navy – Type 23 Frigates
- Royal Navy – Type 22 Frigates
News & Views
- The Engineer (Sept 5/11) – Designing the Type 26 Frigate
- RUSI (October 2010) – A Global Role for the Global Combat Ship? [PDF]
- The Faster Times (Oct 4-27/10) – BRIC Military Modernization and the New Global Defense Balance. (Part 1 | Part 2).
- RUSI (October 2007) – The Shape of the Future Surface Combatant [PDF]
tag: t26, ukfrigates