The history of the Type 26 Frigate starts with the Type 23 Frigate.
The Type 23 Frigate
Following the Suez Crisis, British military strategy was largely characterised by that of withdrawal from empire and conflict containment, but from the end of the sixties until the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early nineties, NATO issues dominated British military thinking and the Royal Navy simply mirrored this.
Whilst there was still a great deal of thinking about the general utility of sea power it was Sir James Eberle Fleet C In C that firmly aligned the Royal Navy to the NATO task of anti-submarine warfare support for the US Navy with the intention to contain the Soviet naval threat and enable transatlantic reinforcements to flow into Western Europe in response to a Warsaw Pact invasion through Eastern Europe.
The 1975 Healey Defence Review was not as far reaching for the Royal Navy as the other two services but the 1981 Nott Review would change that.
The four principal NATO tasks assigned to the Royal Navy were;
- Containment of the Soviet surface and submarine fleet in their bases, mostly a task for the submarine fleet;
- Reinforcement of Norway using a reorganised 3 CDO brigade with a Dutch amphibious contingent;
- Anti-submarine warfare support for US Navy strike fleet;
- Defence of shipping from the USA to Europe.
It was the third and fourth task that the Royal Navy saw as a key means of retaining surface fleet numbers and aircraft carrier capability.
Despite the cancellation of CVA-01, by the end of the seventies, the Royal Navy was well on the way to establishing the CVS Invincible Class, each carrying Sea Harrier aircraft. Whilst the Invincible Class was coming into service, HMS Hermes was modified to carry Sea Harrier as a stop gap. The ‘through deck cruisers’ were intended to provide localised air defence for the surface ASW fleet and maritime patrol aircraft.
John Nott was a decisive minister, much more so than the service chiefs believed was possible. He quickly identified that given the commitment to Trident and the defence of the UK, the only area for significant savings were the maritime NATO missions and BAOR. Defence policy would change, based on an earlier premise that a conflict with the Soviet Union would be short and with little warning. The role of British forces would be to delay Soviet forces in Western Europe enough to either find space for a peace agreement, or time for a decision on nuclear forces.
Reinforcements from the USA were therefore seen as less of a likelihood and not deserving of a high level of funding, one of the four key maritime NATO tasks the Royal Navy was aligned with. It also assumed that Soviet submarines would have been dispersed well in advance of any attack and, therefore, would be unable to be contained within their port areas. This is not to say the mission was no longer required, simply that it was thought less likely and subject to prioritisation.
The paper proposed a much reduced budget percentage for the Royal Navy, down from 29% to 25%, despite it containing the Trident programme.
Whilst the regular British Army was re-equipped, the Territorial Army increased and a programme that would become the Eurofighter confirmed, the Royal Navy would take the brunt of the cuts. This would mean a much-reduced surface fleet and the cessation of the various upgrade programmes, to the Leander frigates for example. Cuts to the Royal Navy would also include the assault ships and one of the three Invincible Class.
The search for a cheaper frigate was intensified, and one that would not need a ‘Leander scale’ refit.
That cheaper frigate was the Type 23, by then in the concept stage. Type 23 was announced in 1980 as a replacement for the Leander Class.
In a Commons debate in May 1981, the then Secretary of State for Defence, John Nott, said;
A month later, the point about Type 22 cost was reiterated in a Statement to House by John Nott, introducing the 1981 Defence White Paper;
There has been much debate about the decisions made by John Nott, not least the implications of them on the Falkland Islands Conflict in 1982, but the Royal Navy was proposing a capital budget far in advance of the ability of the UK to pay for it and pressing threats meant hard decisions.
John Nott had the political courage to face down the gold braid and invite the Royal Navy to live within the nations means.
Although two more Type 22 were ordered and the four of the Batch III designs, only the Type 23 was planned to be in production for the medium to long term.
In the early seventies, there had been a number of studies on cheap frigates, the Future Light Frigate for example. The low-end ship was soon rejected, however, but towards the end of the decade, interest was again on the increase. The Type 23 was originally meant to be a towed array ship supported by the Fort Class replenishment ships carrying the new EH101/Merlin helicopters. The Type 23 would be able to embark a helicopter, the maintenance would be carried out on board the replenishment ship.
An Outline Staff Requirement was issued in 1980 that specified a target cost of £70 million, reduced radar signature, a crew of 150, limited onboard maintenance, high endurance and reduced noise when operating at low to medium speed, specifically for the towed array. The flight deck would need to accommodate the future Sea King replacement, the EH101 Merlin.
Early in the 1970’s a number of research projects in the UK and the USA examined passive and active towed arrays, fixed and floating designs and other means of creating an advanced submarine detection capability. They showed a great deal of promise and would influence Royal Navy shipping design strategies. Following trials success on the Leander class, the new Type 2031Z towed array and its large computing system was installed on the Batch II and Batch III Type 22’s. The new system included the Curtis Processor, a computing system that, for the day, was powerful and power/space efficient. Of course, by today’s standards, its 100Mb memory was tiny.
Type 2031Z was to be the primary sensor of the Type 23 Frigate.
Maximum towing speed was limited by the onset of propeller cavitation and so to achieve a high towing speed without cavitation, twin large fixed pitch screws were specified. A higher maximum speed was required to sprint between periods of low noise listening, especially vital when escorting high-value assets. Various design iterations followed the initial concepts until the final submission included a Sea Wolf installation and helicopter hangar.
It was still a specialised ship, however.
In the post-Falklands conflict era of frigate design and rebuilding, the specialist gave way to a series of more rounded general purpose designs. Type 23 was changed to include vertical launch Seawolf, greater fire compartmentalisation, a 4.5” main gun, Harpoon missiles and other survivability improvements. The final design was larger and obviously, a more general purpose in nature, Despite this, it still retained a core focus on anti-submarine warfare.
It was claimed they were the quietest combat ships in service with any navy.
Sixteen were ordered, with the first ship entering service in 1990, just as the Cold War was coming to an end. The need for such specialised ASW vessels was lessened and combined with a recognition of the limitation of 2010Z against the latest Soviet submarines, the last six were built without the towed array.
The advanced Sonar 2087 Array subsequently to be fitted.
Three have since been sold to Chile, leaving 13 in service;
The Type 23 Frigate has been continually upgraded over the years, many of the original systems completely different than when launched.
NATO Frigate Replacement for the Nineties and the Horizon Common New-Generation Frigate (CNGF)
There were a couple of projects worth mentioning to provide additional context for Type 26.
First was the NATO Frigate Replacement for 90’s (NFR-90), a multi-national programme that included France, Germany, Italy, the UK, the United States and Canada.
NFR-90 had the perfectly laudable objective of creating a common ship design that could drive standardisation across the alliance partners, reduce costs and collectively, increase combat strength. The mission need document was created in 1979 and the outline staff requirement the year after. Pre-feasibility studies ran until 1982. The project team recognised that the ships would be built locally and individual nations would choose different systems such as anti-ship missiles but by standardising on the basic design and major components, up t0 25% savings could be realised.
The project progressed through a number of milestones until the final study concluded in 1985 with a series of different design variants.
The Baseline (or Atlantic) design was to be a ship of 3,500 tonnes displacement constructed using modular techniques to accommodate different national requirements built in a quantity of 59, the UK planned to take 12.
In parallel with NFR-90, the various partner nations were also involved in one way or another with the anti-aircraft missile issue. There were two systems on the table, the NATO Anti-Air Warfare System (NAAWS) or Family of Air Missiles (FAMS).
In the NAAWS camp were The Netherlands, Spain, UK and the USA. FAMS was a European proposal including France, Italy, Spain and the UK.
Confusing, I know.
France and Italy signed a Letter of Intent in 1987 that agreed to develop the Aster missile system, Aster 15 for the navy and Aster 30 for the Army.
In 1988, despite this source of potential conflict, the UK joined the NFR-90 project definition stage.
Germany had already decided to build the Type 123 Brandenburg class in 1987, thus reducing their NFR-90 requirement. By 1989, with interest waning and costs increasing, the UK, France and Italy, withdrew. A year later, Spain also withdrew.
And that was the end of NFR-90.
An exchange in the House of Commons in January 1990 confirmed the cost of the UK’s participation in NFR-90;
The UK then awarded a follow-on contract for an additional three Type 23 Frigates.
On April 26th, 1999, the UK withdrew from Project Horizon, confirming many months of speculation. Instead of the tri-nation collaboration the UK would go it alone with the Type 45 Destroyer. Project Horizon, or the Common New Generation Frigate, was initiated after the NATO Frigate of the 90’s collapsed. The UK, Italy and France signed the Tri-Partite agreement in early 1992 with the intention of creating a common air defence ship that would meet the needs of all three participants. The simple intention was to achieve some economy of scale by using common systems and enhance European defence credentials.
The common systems would be the Aster missile, a vertical launch silo, a central combat management systems and multi-function radar, collectively called the Principal Anti-Air Modular System (PAAMS). PAAMS would be delivered by EUROPAAMS, a joint venture established by EUROSAM comprising Thomson-CSF, Aerospatiale Matra, Alenia Marconi Systems and UKAMS, a subsidiary of Matra BAe Dynamics.
Differing requirements and tensions arising soon emerged but many of these were resolved by the selection of two Multi-Function Radars (MFR), the BAE SAMPSON for the UK and Franco-Italian EMPAR.
By 1996 good progress was being made with PAAMS but the ship design itself continued to be problematical, in service slippage and cost increases seemed to plague the project on a regular basis, with the UK’s Type 42’s becoming increasingly obsolete, this was a serious concern to the MoD. The UK’s workshare was much lower than its intended purchases suggested, another concern.
On top of this, the inability of the partners to agree on a prime contractor structure meant withdrawal was inevitable. The UK withdrew from the platform component but continued with PAAMS. Commenting on the decision, the Secretary of State for Defence, George Robertson, said;
A memo to the select committee from British Aerospace Defence Systems in July 1999 described their view of the issues;
There were also crossover concerns, the UK’s involvement in the MRAV programme was also causing problems in the same time period.
A 2003 National Audit Office Report on Type 45 provided some details on the UK’s involvement with Horizon. The original approved cost for twelve vessels was circa £6 Billion, as history showed, we still paid circa £6 Billion, but got 6 vessels instead of 12.
Although NFR-90 and Horizon are not directly related to the quest for a Type 23 replacement there is a connection, mainly in the industrial capacity and timing areas. It was also thought that a derivative of PAAMS called SPECTAR might be used on the Future Surface Combatant to increase commonality. This was a proposal for a single face SAMPSON.
Type 23 (R) and Future Escort
In the late eighties, initial research into trimaran vessels at University College London (UCL) was sponsored by the Sea Systems Concepts and Integration Department at the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA).
Four years after the first Type 23 entered service and before the last had been built, the Royal Navy started early concept work on a replacement, in 1994.
This was called Type 23(R) and then Future Escort and was intended to be a like for like replacement for the Type 23 and 22.
Before the publication of the 1998 Strategic Defence Review, an extensive 15-month process was completed that took a radical view of the contemporary operating environment and concluded that rapidity and expeditionary intervention were critical to future operations. The Royal Navy was to change from an open ocean ASW focused force to one that could project power at a distance. The centerpiece of the 1998 SDR for the Royal Navy was the intention to purchase two large aircraft carriers, what are now the QE Class. The destroyer/frigate force was cut from 35 ships to 32 and confirmation that Future Escort would replace the Type 23 and 22 frigates.
In December 1997, Dr John Reid, Secretary of State for Defence, confirmed the Future Escort programme.
In July 1998, Future Escort was again mentioned in the House of Commons;
In four years, the Royal Navy had progressed from Type 23(R) to Future Escort, this was about to change.
Future Surface Combatant (FSC)
Following the publication of 1998 SDR, Future Escort was recast as the Future Surface Combatant or FSC. FSC was to have a reduced emphasis on ASW and a greater emphasis towards joint expeditionary operations in the littoral environment.
FSC was to have a reduced emphasis on ASW and a greater emphasis towards joint expeditionary operations in the littoral environment. April 1999 saw the first mention in Hansard;
This period was marked by an increase in interest in alternative hull forms, particularly the trimaran. A number of concepts and proposals emerged from UK ship designers/builders and the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA), with additional imagery developed by various media outlets.
The images above are both from official and non-official sources, but certainly, only initial concepts.
There was even a number of concepts proposed for a trimaran CVF and US Coast Guard vessel.
DERA let a contract to Vosper Thornycroft in 1998 for the construction of a research vessel that would validate the theoretical assumptions on stress distribution and handling in different sea conditions, the RV Triton.
The US Navy signed a Memorandum of Understanding with DERA and agreed to fund some of the RV Triton work (file under, not a lot of people know that!). The main advantage of the trimaran concept was said to be a reduced drag compared to a monohull that meant the same speed could be achieved with lower installed power. The outriggers provide high levels of stability and a large deck area for enhanced flight operations.
The US Navy contribution to Triton was the installation of 500 sensors and trials Information Computer System, clearly, there was a great deal of interest. Tom Cannon of the US Naval Sea System Command commented;
Perhaps there is some indirect link from this to the current trimaran Littoral Concept Ship (LCS)?
Triton used commercially available systems throughout and took advantage of innovations in electric propulsion and fibre optics for data communications. She was launched in May 2000, with two years of trials following.
Although there was a focus on the trimaran hull form, initial FSC studies also looked at a number of monohull concepts. FSC was planned to be capable of speeds of 40 knots and a 21-day endurance with a reduced crew. There was a great deal of enthusiasm for the project, the politics of the time was focussed on being a force for good and rapid intervention at distance, anti-submarine frigates that could combat Russian submarines were so ‘last decade’, at least from the various outpourings at the time.
The Cold War was over, after all.
The reality is, much like FRES, the basics were still there, still being considered and worried out, but the flashy stuff edged out the mundane in the publicity stakes. Look at Type 26 publicity today, and there is probably more spoken to disaster relief than there is about its anti-submarine capabilities, it is, of course, not a disaster relief ship. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
In 2001, with the Triton Phase I trials underway, the initial gate was moved and the programme restructured to reflect its increasing ambition and complexity. The initial gate was now planned to be in 2004 with a year assessment phase culminating in the main gate decision in 2008. In service date for FSC was now reported to be 2015 and the initial expectation of 20 vessels reduced to 18.
Because of the delay, and with ‘out of service’ dates approaching for both the Type 23 and Type 22 frigates, the Interim Capability Frigate study was initiated. Options included a Type 23 Service Life Extension, a new build based on Type 45 and a number of overseas frigate designs. The RAND Study on UK shipbuilding reported, it concluded that shrinking demand for warships and over capacity meant a strong strategy was required.
In 2002, Triton Phase I trials concluded but the MoD cancelled Phase II trials. The trial report concluded that the trimaran concept had proven the theoretical advantages.
In May, the government responded to a question about FSC;
Things got moving again in 2003, the FSC IPT was re-established and a draft user requirements document shared with industry.
It was now planned that the four year Assessment Phase would commence in 2005 with an Initial Gate decision in 2009, a year’s slippage from the previous position. In service date was quoted as being ‘in the middle of next decade’
The slippage was to allow the results of the Triton Phase I trials to be analysed.
Initial FSC Concepts
The by now planned Assessment Phase was to examine trimaran and mono hull forms, a perceived low risk solution using the Type 45 design and a radical approach using motherships and a small vessel called the Light Coastal Warfare Ship.
BAE proposed their Fast Modular Concept Ship (FMCS), BMT the Fast Flexible Frigate and VT, their Cerberus stealth corvette.
BAE Fast Modular Concept Ship (FMCS)
The Fast Modular Concept Ship proposed a trimaran hull form with a high degree of modularity to support role changing. It had a length of 149m and beam of 32m, with a displacement of 9,500 tonnes.
BMT Fast Flexible Frigate
The BMT Fast Flexible Frigate took the trimaran form a stage further and proposed a pentamaran, the F5. This was a large vessel, over 6,500 tonnes displacement and 180m long, with a very high top speed of 50 knots powered by three Rolls Royce MT30 gas turbines and a number of generators in a COGLAG configuration.
VT Cerberus Stealth Vessel
The VT Cerberus was a proposal to evolve the Triton hull form to create a stable ASW platform 116m long and 25m beam. With a displacement of 2,000 tonnes its top speed was 28 knots, powered by three diesel generators, driving four Rolls Royce Ulstein ‘Azipull’ podded propulsion units.
The BMT mothership concept carried four smaller vessels, each up to 1,500 tonnes displacement.
All the proposals used various combinations of in service and planned weapons, sensors and other equipment. Debates ranged from whether it would be best with Sylver or Mk41 silos, Aster or Evolved Sea Sparrow missiles and Tomahawk or SCALP.
None of these radical proposals by manufacturers went anywhere, but the MoD did fund study work and contracts were let, regardless of whether the requirement was stable or not.
Meanwhile, the MoD had contracted with Vosper Thornycroft for three Offshore patrol Vessels, the River Class. These would be owned by VT and leased to the MoD.
The following year, 2004, the MoD recognised that a 2005 Main Gate for FSC was looking increasingly unlikely. The working assumption was that the previous FSC proposals were no longer appropriate and the likely future fleet would consist of a Hi-Lo mix of ten Type 45 derived designs supplemented by ten enlarged River Class vessels.
The FSC Integrated Project Team (IPT) let four scoping study contracts to inform the programme.
VT proposed their Global Corvette design for the Lo part of the Hi-Lo mix.
The Alternative Platform (Type 45) retained the SAMPSON radar but deleted the S1850 search radar, replaced the Sylver VLS with a Mk41 installation for Tactical Tomahawk cruise missiles, a new medium calibre gun, Sonar 2087 and revised low noise propulsion system.
Triton was put up for sale by QinetiQ, obviously the corporate hospitality market was not what they had hoped.
A Parliamentary Question asked how much Triton and FSC had cost
BMT was awarded a study contract to investigate fast ship enabling technologies.
By the end of 2004, the Royal Navy was seemingly no closer to finding a steady state design or even an agreed concept. Industry had been encouraged to create radical proposals and significant funds (for the time) had been spent exploring alternative hull-forms.
Maritime Coherence Study
The Maritime Coherence Study was initiated to try and make sense of the confused and confusing situation.
The de-facto cancellation of the FCS project was questioned by Gerald Howarth MP in December 2004.
Everyone thought FSC had been cancelled but in February 2005, the government again confirmed it had not.
Assumptions from planning rounds i.e. cash meant that the programme was transferred to the Defence Procurement Agency’s Future Business Group, otherwise known as the long grass. The inability of the industry to agree on a long-term warship building strategy and maturity of proposed technologies were also cited.
QinetiQ found a buyer for Triton, Gardline, and BAE proposed a replacement for the 4.5″ Mark 8 gun that would use 155mm AS90 barrels.
Two years after the trials were completed Triton was transferred to Gardline Marine who operated her as a hydrographic survey vessel on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) until late 2006 when Gardline Australia leased her to the Australian Customs Service, image gallery here, data sheet here.
To try and get to the bottom of what the Coherence Study was, Andrew Robathan asked a question in the House of Commons in March 2005.
At the end of 2005, the Government published the Defence Industrial Strategy
It expected the industry to restructure itself around an analysis of skills and workload created within 6 months of publication. The key industrial partners were BAE, VT, DML, Babcock and Thales.
The requirement was stated thus;
On FSC, it made clear that the current approach was based on a two platform solution.
Whilst the Coherence Study was running, the working assumption was that those two platform solutions mentioned above would be called;
- Versatile Surface Combatant (VSC), entering service in 2023
- Medium Sized Vessel Derivative (MSVD), entering service in 2016.
The Coherence Study concluded that there was a need for another study, proposing the Sustained Surface Combatant Capability, or S2C2.
Sustained Surface Combatant Capability (S2C2)
S2C2 was established in late 2006 and lasted for 18 months, with representatives from the MoD and industry.
It concluded that FSC should not be delivered by the two class (VSC and MSVD) solution at all, but a new two-class solution, with an additional vessel that would replace the hydrographic, mine countermeasures and patrol ships.
Two became three;
- C1; Force Anti-Submarine Warfare Combatant, a large multi-mission combat vessel for ASW and land attack missions.
- C2; Stabilisation Combatant, a less well-equipped vessel for choke point escort and protection of sea lines of communication (SLOC).
- C3; ocean capable patrol vessel
This change in emphasis from a high end to a high-low mix was reportedly prompted by the then 1SL, Sir Jonathon Band.
Cue another round of speculation, design studies and proposals from industry, with much criticism from everyone else. Much like the British Army with FRES, it seemed the Royal Navy was having trouble deciding what it wanted, and calling each successive round of ideas something new only added to the mirth.
The Sustained Surface Combatant Capability project highlighted a need for up to ten C1’s and eight C2’s.
C1 and C2 would use the same hull form but have different equipment levels. C1 would be built at one per year, followed by the C2’s.
The proposed C3 variant was seen by many as a way of replacing the existing, and relatively numerous mines countermeasures vessel, with a less specialised and more general purpose fighting vessel, hoping that this approach would both retain MCM capability whilst bolstering surface fleet numbers.
In 2003, BMT started to examine the requirements for an Auxiliary Surface Combatant, comparable to the C3, but one that sat astride the C3 and C2 boundaries. The MoD even funded a small-scale feasibility study that examined the potential to combine the smaller vessel with heavy lift ships for global deployments.
The naval design company BMT, self-funded the 2007 Project Venator in response to the Royal Navy’s Sustained Surface Combatant Capability (S2C2) ‘Pathfinder’ initiative. The study programme was intended to inform the design of the C3 Ocean Capable Patrol Vessel (OCPV) which was to be part of the S2C2’s projected three-tier Future Surface Combatant solution.
One of the principal design objectives of Project Venator was to demonstrate that role reconfiguration was possible. A balance between roles could be made, determined by current requirements. The resultant design was a globally deployable minor warship would be able to execute mine countermeasures (MCM) using the rapidly maturing off-board unmanned autonomous systems, MCM support, hydrographic survey, maritime security operations (MSO) and offshore patrol.
Venator had the following characteristics (from BMT);
- Maximum speed of 25knots (to track and stop vessels)
- Cruise speed of 18knots (task group operations)
- Range of 5000nm at 18knots (task group operations) or 7000nm at 12knots (as a dispersed unit)
- Sustain a transit in Sea State 6, and remain operational in Sea State 4/5
- Accommodate a complement of at least 60 (stretch to 80)
- A mission payload of up to 700tonnes including (as fixed systems) a medium calibre gun, an air/surface search radar, and a flight deck/shelter sized for a Lynx helicopter
Mission modules would be tailored to the specific tasking and included (again, directly from BMT);
- MCM (Crew 59): largely based on off-board systems including minesweeping unmanned surface vehicles (USVs), reconnaissance unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), one-shot mine disposal vehicles, self-defence fit (air/surface search radar, guns, and obstacle avoidance sonar)
- MCM Support (Crew 79): MCM Tasking Authority and (limited) Forward Support Capability with logistics office, planning space, spares, workshops, diver support, and recompression
- MSO (Crew 78): two (manned) 11m Rigid Inflatable Boats (RIBs), USV, helicopter, EW/surveillance, unmanned aerial vehicle, self-defence fit (air/surface search radar, guns and obstacle avoidance sonar)
- Survey (Crew 48 plus temporary personnel): survey UUVs, survey launches, laboratories/offices
The project concluded that standard ISO containers could be used for many of the mission modules but a much improved and flexible solution would use task specific sub ISO sized containers (Bicon’s, Tricon’s and Quadcon’s for example)
The design study was submitted to the MoD, where it was promptly filed in the round filing cabinet.
Thales proposed a C2 vessel called the Modular General Purpose Frigate and VT, another concept based on their earlier Global Corvette for the C3 requirement, called the Ocean Capable Patrol Vessel (OCPV)
The VT design was based on its design for the Royal Navy of Oman but with more equipment space, taking its displacement up to 3,000 tonnes. The design could travel at a top speed of 25 knots, accommodate a crew of 76 and carry a number of ISO containers underneath the Merlin capable flight deck.
One of the other outcomes of S2C2 was that the Type 23 could be life extended owing to them having a much less structurally arduous service career than expected.
The Maritime Surface Effects (MSE) programme started to look at a number of themes including naval gunfire support and unmanned surface vessels in support of defensive and offensive surface warfare.
In mid-2007, after completion of their study, the S2C2 IPT was stood down.
In 2008, the Government confirmed that no more orders would be placed for type 45 Destroyers, the class being pegged at six.
As compensation, the FSC project was to be brought forward.
In a 2008 submission to the Select Committee of Scottish Affairs, BAE were clear on the implications for workload and build location.
Later in 2008, BAE and VT merged to form BVT Surface Fleet.
CORDA, BAE’s consulting division, and BAE Land Systems were awarded a £4m contract to develop elements of the 155mm AS90 system for use in a maritime environment.
This would later be cancelled.
Initial Gate for FSC, previously intended to be 2008, was again moved, to 2009.
The In-Service date was also slipped, from mid-decade to late in the decade.
In May 2008, QinetiQ announced an 11-month contract;
In 2009, BAE were awarded a design contract for the C1 and C2 element of FSC, the image below shows one of the early C2 designs, much reminiscent of the early Type 26, which would seem to indicate some stability in the requirements.
The Terms of Business Agreement (TOBA) were finalised in 2009 which were to form the basis of a new industrial capability that was to be underpinned by commitments from both the MoD and industry.
Ship delivery was defined by a number of stages;
- Stage 0; Concept Design
- Stage 1; System Design
- Stage 2; Detail Design and Spatial Integration
- Stage 3/4/5; Manufacturing Outputs and Production
- Stage 6; Integration and Trials
A new commercial entity was to be formed called BVT comprising BAE (65%) and VTG (55%).
In the Exclusivity schedule, it stated for Designated Naval Vessels – Frigates and Destroyers;
A RUSI Paper from Commodore Steve Brunton described the C1/C2 concept in some detail.
Early in 2010, the C3 variant was dropped in favour of a new programme, the Mine Countermeasures Hydrographic and Patrol Capability (MHPC).
In March 2010, the C1 progressed to Initial Gate, five or six years later than envisaged. Recognising the impending SDSR, no commitment was made to quantities, given that policy may be changed by the review, although the expectation was still for ten vessels.
After all the studies, contracts and concepts, the replacement for Type 23/22 was finally to be a single vessel with two different equipment role fits.
In essence, a modern Type 23, and this would go on to be called the Type 26.
SDSR 2010 and the Type 26 Global Combat Ship
BAE Surface Ships were awarded a four-year, £127m, contract in 2010 to design the Type 26 Global Combat Ship.
Commenting on the award, 1SL, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope said;
SDSR 2010 merged the C1 and C2 FSC requirements into a single acoustically quiet class of vessel, the Type 26 Global Combat Ship, subject of the earlier contract with BAE. Frigate numbers were reduced to 13, the Type 22’s being withdrawn.
Eight would be designated Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) variants and five, General Purpose (GP).
This was a change from the C1 and C2 concept being envisaged as different vessels, they would now be the same, but with different equipment fits, i.e. the ASW variant would have the Thales 2087 towed sonar array and the GP variant, would not.
Approval was to be split into two parts, Main Gate 1 and Main Gate 2. MG1 would endorse the concept at the end of the Assessment Phase and the main investment decision would be at Main Gate 2.
Planned entry into service was still expected to be as soon as possible after 2020.
Maritime Indirect Fires System was brought under the Type 26 umbrella in 2010.
After much speculation, BAE released the results of their shipbuilding study in November 2013, click here to read;
Three Offshore Patrol Vessels OPV’s were to be built to cover the gap between the end of QE Class construction and commencement of Type 26 work.
There was a great deal of commentary at the time that the Royal Navy did not really want these ‘make work’ ships, directly because of delays in Type 26 but this is immaterial, the TOBA was designed to retain shipbuilding skills and if the Royal Navy and MoD had decided what it wanted from a Type 22/23 replacement sooner, construction would have immediately followed QE work.
In June 2014, BAE let a number of design and development contracts;
The approved cost for Type 26 Assessment Phase was £158 million and as at 31st March 2014, the actual costs were £173m, some £15m over. This against a contract award in March 2010 to BAE (leading the Naval Design Partnership) of £127m.
The design life for the Type 26 is 25 years.
A month later, in August 2014, the contract for the River Batch III Offshore Patrol Vessels was announced.
A few months later, BAE released the first imagery for the River Batch II Offshore Patrol Vessels.
The design was the lowest risk and quickest into production, the entire point of the order.
They were to be named HMS Forth, HMS Medway and HMS Trent (in build order). Details on whether these would replace or supplement the existing Batch I vessels was unclear at the time and questions tabled in the House of Commons declared that this question would be considered in the 2015 SDSR.
The Royal Navy, BAE and Ministry of Defence embarked upon a public relations effort to try and convince everyone the ships were both needed and wanted by the Royal Navy, and not simply a means to satisfy the obligations of the Terms of Business Agreement (TOBA) to prevent skills fade.
At the end of 2014, the First Sea Lord, Sir George Zambellas, put the cat among the pigeons in an interview with Defense News by suggesting that Type 26 might not be built in the UK.
The article is no longer on the Defense News website but the reaction in Scotland was entirely predictable and understandable, it was uncharacteristic mistake from the 1SL.
The interview prompted a swift put down by the MoD;
In February 2015, the MoD awarded a £859 million demonstration phase contract to BAE
Since then, the Type 26 has been through a number of design evolutions but the first decent set of images does show a remarkable similarity to the 2008 design in the poor image above.
The 2012 version showed a stern ramp and under helicopter deck mission bay.
Later designs showed various changes, silo details, deletion of the stern ramp and ‘UAV dog kennel’, the location of the mission bay being the main changes from earlier iterations.
It was reported that this design change was significant, self evidently.
What impact this had on overall ship design maturity, complexity and costs is not in the public domain but it seems likely to have been significant.
Earlier aspirations for a build cost of between £250 and £350 million seem to have fallen by the wayside as news began filtering out of problems in the design phase.
As of mid-2015, the intention was that Type 26 would replace all 13 Type 23’s on a one for one basis, starting in the early 2020’s
In various public appearances 1SL and other Royal Navy Very Senior Officers would insist that only a one-for-one replacement of Type 23 with Type 26 would deliver the credibility and capability the UK needed.
They were uniformly emphatic and anecdotally, any suggestion of a two tier fleet or more OPV’s/Corvettes would be extremely unwelcome.
At the end of September 2015, Defense news reported a comment by Rear Admiral Alex Burton, Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Ships);
This, of course, set the hares and hounds running with extrapolations made to get unit cost.
A financial consultancy services contract was advertised to provide additional support to the decision-making process;
The Assessment Phase contract with BAE expired in March 2016 and this package of consultancy support was to inform the next stage, manufacture and support.
This next stage was indicated as a 3 ship batch, commencing April 2016.
The 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) was published on the 23rd November.
It described YET ANOTHER change of plan;
The news on Type 26 was arguably the most unexpected, Type 26 would be truncated at eight vessels, a direct replacement for the Sonar 2087 equipped Type 23’s, and, a new design, in unspecified quantities.
Another two River Class OPV’s would also be purchased, more vessels to cover the by now, extending delays to Type 26. A December 2015 Parliamentary Question and Answer confirmed the situation in respect of the final numbers of OPV’s.
Despite its openly articulated aversion to more OPV’s, the Royal Navy was getting more OPV’s.
Subsequent news reports indicated the ‘general purpose frigate’ would displace in the order of 5,000 tonnes and be used for maritime security, littoral manoeuver, defence engagement and other tasks.
In March 2016, a Demonstration Phase contract extension was awarded to BAE for Type 26;
The 20th of July 2016 saw a minor bombshell dropped in the form of a relatively obscure Defence Select Committee evidence session. Witnesses were Harriett Baldwin MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence, Admiral Sir Philip Jones, First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff, and Tony Douglas, Chief Executive of Defence Equipment and Support, Ministry of Defence.
The upshot of that exchange is that at the end of July, no agreement had been reached between the MoD and BAE for the build schedule.
Given the impending out of service sequence for Type 23 it is obviously critical that the MoD and BAE reach agreement.
The SNP predictably made a lot of noise about ‘betrayals’ but I think the reality is more mundane, money.
— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) July 20, 2016
The Secretary of State for Defence (Michael Fallon) responded to the SNP
That is a pretty broad cost envelope, especially at this stage of the process and it was widely reported that the MoD was seeking significant cost reductions to the programme.
The MoD awarded a £183 million contract to BAE Systems at the end of July 2016 for three Mk 45 Mod 4 five inch (127mm) main guns and one trainer for the Type 26.
The contract includes options for the additional five needed to make up the full eight vessel fleet.
BAE Systems in the US, will lead on the work to bring the weapons system into service, with subcontractor work being undertaken by:
- BAE Maritime Services Frimley & Broad Oak to develop, supply and integrate MIFS gunfire control;
- BAE Munitions Glascoed, which is carrying out the UK ammunition qualification and;
- BAE Weapons Systems Barrow, which is supporting the UK equipment safety cases.
It should also be noted that the Mk 45 Mod 4 is a reconditioned Mod 2 mount.
Work continues to mature the design and obtain an agreement between the MoD and BAE.
The oldest Type 23 is due out of service in 2023 (HMS Argyle) with the rest following as Type 26 comes into service although the MoD has not published how this may be integrated with Type 31. The youngest Type 23 has an out of service date of 2035 so changes to those dates accepted, the Type 26 will be a long programme and for many years, the Royal Navy will operate with a mixed type 23 and Type 26/31 fleet.
|Ship||Out of Service Date|
|HMS Iron Duke||2025|
|HMS St Albans||2035|
The envisaged out of service date for the Type 26 is 2060.
It is now assumed that the First Type 26 will not enter service until 2025, three years after the first planned Type 23 OSD.
Unless Type 31 can make up the pace or those two Type 23’s can be life extended, a fleet reduction is difficult to avoid.
On the 1st of September 2016, BAE announced they had received a contract to mature the Type 26 design for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN)
Fincantieri also received a similar contract.
Images were released of the gearbox test facilities under construction in September 2016, funded as part of the Assessment Phase
BAE Systems and MoD announced in early November 2016 that manufacture of the Type 26 would commence in Summer 2017.
As part of the Type 23’s Power Generation and Machinery Control and Surveillance Update (PGMU), BAE were awarded a £3.6m contract for integration services.
In December 2016, BAE Systems also announced further supply chain details, six additional contracts.
- Rolls-Royce for the steering gears and stabilisers, with manufacturing to take place at its Dunfermline facility;
- Johnsons Controls Ltd, based in Basildon, for the chilled water plants;
- Marine Systems Technology Ltd for gastight, weathertight and watertight doors, hatches and scuttles and the Hangar XY crane, that will be supplied from its base in Middlewich;
- Salt Separation Services, based in Rochdale, for the reverse osmosis desalination plants;
- Detegasa, a Spanish-based company, for the membrane sewage treatment plants and oily water separators;
- MEP – Pellegrini Marine Equipments S.r.l., based in Italy, for the anchor handling and mooring equipment, boat davit, and radar cross section screen closures.
Also in December 2016, the MoD announced a £287 million contract for additional OPV’s, to be named HMS Tamar and HMS Spey.
Harriett Baldwin said;
On the 27th of February 2017, an evidence session on the National Shipbuilding Strategy took place at the House of Commons took place at the House of Commons.
The plan remains for eight Type 26, with manufacturing contract let in 2017.
So far, the search for a replacement for the Type 23 has racked up the following bills;
- Prior to 2008; £17 million on various FSC studies
- 2008; £4 million to BAE to investigate the 155mm TMF
- 2009; £3.4 million to BAE for initial design work
- 2010; £127 million to BAE for the Assessment Phase on the programme
- 2014; £1.9 million to McKinsey for cost review support
- 2015; £859 million to BAE for the Demonstration Phase of the programme
- 2015; £1.8 million to £10 million for Financial Consultancy Services
- 2016; £472 million to BAE for a Demonstration Phase extension
- 2016; £183 million to BAE for three main guns and one trainer
These amounts will cover some long lead items for the first three ships and shore test facilities, in addition to continued design maturation.
Approximately £1.7 Billion, not including the Batch II and III River Class OPV’s, although in the BAE Systems press release in December 2016, it said £1.9 Billion.
Table of Contents
|Type 26 History|
|Type 26 Capabilities|