The Type 29 Global Combat Ship

RV Triton 2

It seems by the time the Type 26 Global Combat ship gets to the manufacture stage it should really be called the Type 29.

The MoD announced today that it had awarded a contract to BAE…

The Prime Minister has today announced a major boost to the UK’s shipbuilding industry as the Ministry of Defence signs a contract with BAE Systems worth £859million

The contract will deliver…

The new contract will include investment in essential long lead items for the ships, shore testing facilities. There will also be investment in key equipment for the first three ships – such as gas turbines, diesel generators and steering gear – allowing suppliers to plan, invest and secure their workforce on the project.

So no ships then, just more designs, some shore facilities, and bits of 3 ships.

It was reported by the BBC that the contract will ‘support progression’ to the manufacturing phase.

Apart from the usual guff about transformation and new ways of doing things the simple reality of the Type 26 is still far from a tangible design and welding work.

Type 26 has a long pedigree, like FRES. It came out of the Sustained Surface Combatant Capability pathfinder project in 2006 that ultimately went nowhere but you might remember the C1 and C2 concepts. Planning had actually started in 1998 with the Future Escort Project with trimaran hullform proposals, remember RV Triton

RV Triton 2

Port side view of the United Kingdom research vessel RV TRITON passing through the open draw of the Frederick Douglas Memorial Bridge.  Note how the unique hull design allows for a large bridge on the slim hull profile.

RV Triton 1

Future Escort

The Concept Phase progressed to Initial Gate in March 2010 after the Future Surface Combatant, another name for it, also faded away. SDSR 2010 merged the types into single design of vessel based on an identical hull, 8 were to be ASW optimised and 5, General Purpose.

None of the costs for Future Escort, Future Surface Combatant or others appear in T26 costs by the way.

As it wended its way through the investment approval process it was announced that approval would be split into Main Gate 1 and Main Gate 2. Main Gate 2 would come at the end of the Assessment Phase and constitute the bulk of the project. In November 2011 the Capability Decision Point concluded which identified the key assumptions and baseline design upon which detailed design work could continue in the assessment phase. The Assessment Phase was extended from December 2013 to July 2014 and then again with it planned to conclude at the end of 2014.

This would allow the Main Gate 2 decision to be made and production to commence immediately after.

As we know, this didn’t happen, hence the Offshore Patrol Vessel order to keep selected trades in work at BAE (they would have to be paid in any case courtesy of the Terms of Business Agreement (TOBA))

Type 23 frigates are planned to start going out of service in 2023 (HMS Argyle, launched in 1989), a short 8 years from now.

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.

We have all seen the various designs, seen talk of exports to every nation in the known world and discussed the subject at length over several posts on Think Defence.

Type 26 was billed as a low risk solution, after all, the vast majority of its major systems are off the shelf or will have been designed, developed and integrated with others vessels underscores this.

From the pointy end;

  • Medium calibre gun, already in service with a number of naval forces
  • Mk41 VLS, likewise
  • Sea Ceptor and Artisan radar, fitted to Type 23 under separate design and development contracts and transferred to T26
  • Sonar 2087, as above
  • Countermeasures, Phalanx and 30mm cannons, walked over from T23
  • Propulsion and power, we already know from T45 what not to do, major systems off the shelf
  • Combat management, navigation and communication, likewise
  • Chip fryers, as fitted to QE!

All good stuff, a sensible evolutionary design that will de-risk major systems outside of the design and build phase, plenty of room for growth, compliance with modern standards and expectations, endurance for extended deployments and improvements in certain key areas like the Mk41 VLS, mission bay and medium calibre gun.

What’s not to like, nothing, that’s what.

But the question is, what will the contracts awarded so far actually give the MoD?

  • Some nice graphics and a final design
  • Shore facilities and 3 (count em) sets of gas turbines, diesel generators and steering gear.

A billion quid plus change, plus the costs of additional external cost audits, the FSC, Future Escort costs which will not appear in any Type 26 numbers, Artisan, Sea Ceptor and a few other systems.

But don’t worry chaps, the target manufacture cost at last official airing was £250m to £350m

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