The Type 31 General Purpose Frigate

SDSR 2015 truncated the Type 26 Global Combat Ship at eight vessels.

We will maintain one of the most capable anti-submarine fleets in the world with the introduction of eight advanced Type 26 Global Combat Ships, which will start to replace our current Type 23 frigates in their anti-submarine role. We will maintain our fleet of 19 frigates and destroyers. We will also launch a concept study and then design and build a new class of lighter, flexible general purpose frigates so that by the 2030s we can further increase the total number of frigates and destroyers. These general purpose frigates are also likely to offer increased export potential. We will buy two further new Offshore Patrol Vessels, increasing the Royal Navy’s ability to defend UK interests at home and abroad.

The General Purpose Frigate may or may be not designated Type 31, it is a short hand guess, nothing more.

Reading between the lines, two thoughts spring to mind about the implications…


ONE – More OPV’s Please

Type 26 GCS is not yet ready for a manufacturing contract, for either technical or commercial reasons, so, the two Offshore Patrol Vessels are make work projects for BAE, as we all know, we would have to pay them anyway. Another pair of OPV’s are probably the quickest, easiest and cheapest way of maintaining a numbers of trades in work whilst the Type 26 manufacture contract is finalised.

Contracts have not yet been announced, but one would hope they have a lower unit price than the three Batch 2 River Class OPV’s recently ordered at a cost of £348 million. Crude maths it may be, but that is nearly £600m spent on five unwanted vessels directly as a result of being unable to bring Type 26 GCS to manufacture.

The Royal Navy will, therefore, receive five Offshore Patrol Vessels that it arguably does not need or want, as a direct result of the MoD being unable to bring the Type 23 replacement programme to fruition. Plans for the original OPV’s are not yet 100% clear but the SDSR Future Force 2025 graphic indicated ‘up to six OPV’s. Putting two and two together, this would indicate the three Batch 2 Rivers ordered a short time ago, plus the two new indicated in SDSR, plus HMS Clyde. Unless we intend to retire HMS Clyde, or get rid of ships that haven’t yet been built or ordered, the up to six, means six.

Six OPV’s that have a very limited wartime role, taking up nearly double the at-sea billets they do today.  For a manpower sensitive Royal Navy, it is hard to see the upside of this.

But if we try and see the positive case, they will have a range of uses in a range of roles and if they retain comemrcial and skill capacity, perhaps not a wholly poor outcome.

But that isn’t the only implication of the Type 26 GCS ‘issues’.

TWO – A Cheaper Type 26 Please

Type 26 GCS is evidently too expensive to produce beyond the 8 ASW variants, or logically, we would be committing to the full thirteen.

Of course, I say variant, but it isn’t really a variant. The concept for the Type 26 GCS was a single variant, or design, with two different equipment fits, pretty much as the Type 23 Frigate is today. This very sensible idea was to ‘build at quantity’, thus allowing the MoD to maximise commonality, and therefore, achieve some economy of scale for capital and support costs, driving down overall costs across the surface fleet whilst providing a bridge to an eventual Type 45 replacement that would perhaps utilise some of the same propulsion and systems as found on Type 26.

Type 26 GCS was about as sensible, intelligent, flexible, well planned and thoroughly practical as could be, it was, and is, a fantastic concept.

One of the great things about the concept is its flexibility and growth potential

Should ASW technology emerge that makes use of offboard unmanned systems, the mission bay was there to accommodate them. Should the submarine threat increase, just add a Sonar 2087 and associated equipment to the non ASW versions. The ship is designed to look after itself and others, stay deployed in all manner of weather/sea conditions and deliver a potent land attack capability, but whilst not doing that, act in the maritime security, counter-piracy, defence engagement or HADR roles.

Everything about Tye 26 GCS concept makes sense.

Everything, it would seem, except cost.

Unless there is some as yet unreleased reason, the only logical deduction is that a Type 26 GCS, without the ASW equipment, is too expensive to procure in a quantity of 5, i.e. 8 plus 5 to get 13 Frigates, the desired baseline.

So the answer the MoD have arrived at is to start again with a clean sheet of paper in the hope that whatever is left in the budgetary envelope after the eight ASW Type 26 have been purchased, is enough to agree the concept, assess, demonstrate and manufacture five (or at least five) of the new General Purpose Frigates, let’s just call them the Type 31 for now, again, as a short hand for General Purpose Frigate.

And as a handy reminder, Type 26 GCS Assessment Phase was £158 million, and this doesn’t include the costs of the various Future Surface Combatant projects that went before it. The Demonstration phase contract was £859 million that included shore facilities and long lead items for the first three ships, but it also included costs for detailed design work.

Even being conservative, the concept and design phase for Type 26 GCS was in the £200 million area.

We don’t know the numbers, Type 26 Manufacture contract has yet to be awarded and even then it would be difficult to determine an actual build cost from what would be a programme cost.

But we do know that the intent is that the MoD and Royal Navy think they can design and bring into service at least General Purpose Frigates at a lower cost than five vanilla Type 26 GCS.

On face value, that seems to be a big ask, but let’s stay positive.

Being Positive

I like to think that this is a cunning move to get industry to sharpen its pencil, it seems so far away there is ample time and a few SDSR’s for changes of mind.

Am hoping the General Purpose Frigate will still be a Type 26 GCS, just with a cheaper price tag attached.

Unlikely I know.

The inability of the MoD and industry to bring Type 26 GCS to fruition has cost time and very real money, but it may well have opened an opportunity.

I don’t buy into the export theme and think we should just stop kidding ourselves but a new frigate does allow us to keep industry design skills fresh and could allow some bold and innovative thinking to come to the fore. As one of our commenters said, in times past, the Royal Navy introduced a class of ships that had every other navy scratching their heads whilst they looked at their old-fashioned fleet.

Could the General Purpose (or Light) Frigate be just that?

I remain unconvinced by the corvette, Black Swan, OPV+ arguments.

Not that these types of ship are rubbish of course, but in a hull constrained Royal Navy, there is no room for ships that can’t fight, our Falkland Islands experience taught us that. There are good arguments for cheaper and more numerous vessels for the less demanding tasks, but not at the expense of fighting ships. When I wrote about A Ship That is not a Frigate, the title was intentional, auxiliary or cheap and numerous vessels are fine, but, as the title suggested, they are not frigates and shouldn’t be thought of as such.

Details remain sparse on the new ‘General Purpose Frigate’ but early indications are that it is intended to be a fighting vessel of about 5,000 tonnes.

Cast your mind back to the Future Surface Combatant project and it is not a million miles away from the C2 Stabilisation Combatant, the C1 being the now Type 26.

Come to think of it, the very idea of 8 Type 26 and 5 GP Frigates, has a great deal of similarity to the FSC concept, around in circles we go.

Before anyone gets into weapons and propulsion, or what VLS and radar it will have, I would like to see a discussion about what it is for.

What is the General Purpose Frigate for?

Once we know, the rest should follow.

However, the proper question is actually much broader than even that, the actual question should be…

What is the General Purpose Frigate for, in the context of a future Royal Navy based around a QE Class Carrier task force, operating in an unpredictable world, looking at a Type 45 replacement, and some 15 or so years from now?

This is a fiendishly difficult question because we must look far into the future and try and make some best guesses.

I may be looking at this very simplistically but it strikes me there are many missions and requirements that have to take place across a spectrum of intensity.

The Royal Navy seems to be going in a general direction that is described by two objectives;

ONE; be able to operate in a multinational (or national) task group with the QE carrier at the centre, in a risk environment that varies from none to the worse imaginable. Supersonic anti-ship missiles, low noise diesel-electric submarines, swarms of small attack craft and fighter-bombers need a multi-layer defence capability, many onion skins. For this, the favourite word of Admiral Zambellas rings absolutely true, credibility.

TWO; be able to operate in singleton deployment or detached from the task group; providing support to land forces, engaging in reassurance missions, special forces, training, choke point escort, all manner of maritime security tasks and even an occasional mine countermeasures mission as the technology matures.

Whether operating singly or as part of a gang, requirements drive design, form, as always, follows function.

All escorts types are flexible; Type 45 can just as equally carry out a maritime security task as it can provide area air defence, but there are limits, with only six available, the limitation is obvious. Certain design features may lend themselves more to one task than the other, the Type 26 GCS mission bay and Chinook (as opposed to Merlin) capable flight deck, for example, adds relatively little to the primary mission of hunting down and killing enemy submarines.

But these add value in other areas so we include them in the design, the problem being of course, adding flexibility adds volume, which despite the oft-heard adage about cheap steel and free air, adds cost.

So, are we looking at the Type 26 ASW and General Purpose Frigate the wrong way around?

Are We Looking at this Backwards?

Type 26 GCS is a hugely flexible ship that seems well suited to either task ONE or TWO, but the features that make it so capable of operating in a detached mode, attacking land targets, providing support for special forces, MCM and HADR rack up the costs/weights/volumes. If there are only eight available, and those eight are going to be specialists in ASW, protecting a QE Class task group, what exactly does that massive flight deck and mission bay bring to the party?

Do we have the right design features in the wrong ship?

We have spent a lot of money on the hull, low noise equipment and space provision to make Type 26 an efficient submarine hunter, but have we then saddled it with a load of features that are more suited to a ship operating detached or in a singleton deployment?

If the General Purpose Frigate is a modern Type 23, why are we not considering a towed sonar for it, why do we assume that a light(ish) frigate without a large mission bay and flight deck is flexible enough for the myriad of tasks we expect frigates to do?

A Thought

A dangerous thing I know, and what would I know, seriously :)

But from a land-lubbers perspective would we better reverse our thinking?

So here is a hairbrained idea;


Truncate the Type 26 GCS at five hulls and reverse plans to fit them with the Sonar 2087.

Type 26 GCS then becomes our general purpose flexible design that can operate in a task group or alone, capable of a wide range of tasks by virtue of the flexibility afforded to it from the very large flight deck, mission bay, oversized accommodations and weapons/comms fit. We might argue that the extensive low noise hull/machinery  is wasted but is it, should we want to turn them into towed array carriers they could be, and is a quiet ship ever a bad ship?


Design and bring into service eight ‘light frigates’, specialising in task group ASW escort and not much else. Instead of adding more and more feature to make them flexible multi-role vessels, reduce the feature count to drive down cost and provide at least some possibility of them being purchased in sufficient quantity to provide protection to our very valuable and expensive carrier force.

Am not a ship designer but if we look back through the history books there are plenty of concepts to get the ball rolling, concepts that actually formed part of industry and Royal Navy thinking for exactly such a vessel.

What main features would it need?

One could almost take all the main systems from Type 26; Artisan, Sea Ceptor, combat management system and countermeasures.

In a small enough hull, would it need a gas turbine, could a diesel only propulsion system provide enough power for high-speed sprinting, are battery and other energy storage systems mature enough?

No need for a mission bay, just enough room for a couple of seaboats. No need for Chinook capable flight deck but if the hangar was capable of accommodating two Merlin HM2’s, in a task group we could remove the need for merlins to be carried on the carrier, freeing up space for more F-35B’s or transport helicopters. A large hangar also provides growth potential for future unmanned ASW concepts.

No need for a Mk41, unless we are serious about Mk41 launched torpedo weapons, and then we might consider using one of the newer standard length or easier to integrate ExLS designs. At any rate, certainly no need for a ‘strike length’ VLS

No need for embarked crew accommodation, or at least not to the same degree as type 26 GCS.

How about the medium calibre gun, I might be guilty of heresy but how about dispensing with it altogether? Everything above is about driving down size and weight and removing features that add cost, why not think the same way about the main gun? Instead, fit a couple of 30mm Seahawk SIGMA mounts with 30mm automatic cannons and Martlet missiles for defence against swarming vessels.

Does it need as much endurance, in a task group there will likely be an RFA in support?

Making something small by reducing the feature count also makes it more politically acceptable but in reducing the ‘optional extras’ we protect the important parts that are focussed, laser like, on its primary mission protecting high-value assets like a carrier task group.

Type 26 is flexible and general purpose, as I said above, form follows function.

If we want a low-cost but flexible frigate, as per SDSR, then it seems the height of insanity to expect a different result from the same thinking that went into Type 26.

Instead, we should return to the simplicity of task focussed design, a design that is right-sized and featured for its main task and to hell with everything else.

I don’t know if such a vessel is possible, or what it would look like, but when writing about the Type 26 history one of the vessels proposals from VT jumped out as being interesting, the Cerberus.

VT Cerberus

This was obviously from the trimaran craze at the time and although the simple fact that nothing like this entered service should tell us something about the suitability of such a design but it is the kind of simple task optimised design I was talking about.

Don’t get too fixated on the above, am not for one second suggesting it is ‘the one’, but it is the kind of disruptive thinking I like, small but with a large hangar for two Merlin HM.2’s. Whether such a design is desirable or could be produced in the regulatory and habitability requirements environment of today is not the point.

My point is, for a ship whose main job is to stop the carriers being sunk by submarines, submarines by the way, that are getting deadlier and harder to find, it needs to focus on that job and not worry about being multi-purpose or flexible because being multi-purpose and flexible AS WELL AS doing ASW results in Type 26 i.e. unaffordable in quantity.

We need to go on a ‘nice to have’ safari and humanely cull anyone that mentions a mission bay.

Why we think that the new ships will be flexible AND cheap is beyond me, seems to fly in the face of our experience with Type 26.

If we can get them cheap enough then who knows, thirteen might become fifteen or eighteen, and wouldn’t that be something?

As for the ‘make work’ OPV’s, I would gift them through DFiD to those fragile states the SDSR mentioned.

We have very little need of them and they are a drag on scarce manpower.

So to summarise

History tells us you cannot have a ship that covers a vast spectrum of tasks and be cheap (see Type 26 for evidence) but that doesn’t mean flexible and multi-purpose are bad. But it does mean not everything has to be so, there are good arguments for both multi-purpose and single role.

So why not have both?

FIVE Type 26 GCS/Cruisers that can go anywhere and do anything joined by EIGHT specialised ASW Frigates whose main job in life is to protect our very large investment in F-35’s, and not much else.

How about it….

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November 27, 2015 1:58 pm

1) When is the OSD for the Type 45 destroyers?

2) How likely is it the Type 45s will have additional VLS cells in place of the Harpoon launchers once the Harpoons really OSD or their contract ends?

3) Is it likely that a different gun will be procured for this Type 26 version 2? Say the Oto Melera 76mm?

November 27, 2015 2:01 pm
There are good arguments for cheaper and more numerous vessels for the less demanding tasks, but not at the expense of fighting ships

It seems to me the decision on this has already been made in the diametrically opposite direction. Type 31 will be more Corvette than Type 23 despite all the logical arguments you put forward.

November 27, 2015 2:05 pm

S’easy init!…. Why not just build T23 Mk2?

….Bear with me…

I am told that T23, a proven, in service, design, has matured into a capable warship. We intend to gut the T23s to equip the T26s- so why not redesign/ or modify the T23 hullform to accomodate the new stuff we are going to lonk onto the T26, except the big flightdecks and multi-mission bays etc, of course.

Then just as our Illustrious Bloke in Front (TD) says, operate the T26s as high-end, go-anywhere superships, use the T23, batch2 as the ASW / fleet escorts.

As the stated intention is to have more vessels in the long term, then the answer is to maintain the contract for 8 T26s, run on at least 5 T23s until the Batch 2s are floating.

…And bobs your mothers brother….

November 27, 2015 2:10 pm

As the best way to kill submarines is with other submarines, should the frigate programme be spun around to put 5 dedicates ASW T26s in the water + 8 cheaper GP frigates and build another Astute? There is room for another who Astute in the Barrow timeline isn’t there with a bit of jiggling? Could anyone else chip in to get another two built a la modular construction?

November 27, 2015 2:31 pm

Gets my vote – I have long campaigned for common subsystems and common support but role-specific vehicles (or vessels in this case). Compromises by their very nature remove point-brilliant performance in specific roles. If new hulls are to be developed you would hope MOD will firmly mandate common systems between GP and ASW vessels even if the ship looks completely different and weighs half as much.

November 27, 2015 2:31 pm

The “Type” conventions of the RN would suggest that “Type 31” would be wrong for this class of vessel.
1X, 2X (presumably would continue to 3X) for ASW frigates
4X for AAW frigates/destroyers
6X for aircraft direction frigates
8X for GP/multirole vessels.
Type 83 or 84 would be better suited to a class of general purpose frigates as the 3X would indicate an ASW frigate.

The concept of having the “high end ASW cruiser” as part of a carrier task group never made much sense to me. I’m by no means an expert, and perhaps there is a reason for it, but it seems a waste to have such a capable ship act as just a towed array tug for the carriers. With only 8 in service, there would likely only be enough for 1 or 2 of these vessels for carrier escort and one for UK ASW work. If the main task of the ASW Type 26 is to protect the carrier, would they need things like TLAM?

Wouldn’t those 8 high-end Type 26 be better off as multirole/general purpose, land attack, HADR, cruiser-type vessels as an evolution of the T22 Batch 3 and those “lighter” frigates (perhaps a bit larger than the T23 to allow for margin of growth and perhaps based on the “cruiser” hull if that reduces costs) to become the dedicated ASW vessel to protect the carrier(s)/task group and keep them cheap enough to build the minimum of 8 required.

November 27, 2015 2:44 pm

If it were me I would have ditched the shipyards or repurposed them as purely repair and refurbishment facilities. Would have told BAe to hop it and damn the “north British” political angle, if the SNP can save the yards let them. I would then have bought a large number of Ivar Huitfeld class FFG from the Danish along with amphibious vessels from the Dutch and Spaniards. Grand strategy is about using all the elements of national power; diplomatic, military and economic. But rising in the defence industries of these countries with that of our own we would have gained valuable allies within the EU as well as with regards to our foriegn policy. After all, the entire history of the Empire was determined by the production of manufactured goods and provision of financial services. Let the military industrial complexes of other countries deal with the downsides while we ensure a strong civil economy sans the leaching of its lifeblood by a bloated monopolistic concern. Buying foreign, especially from yards that are already tooled, equipped and manned for production could then have allowed me to really sit back and think; a breathing space. What will future warfare be like and especially its naval component in say 50 years? Once I’d figured that out I could then initiate an series of government led and controlled R&D programmes to start laying the foundations for what would be needed across government. Then, when the time came, say in 20 years time, lay the keel for HMS Dreadnought Mk2. That, or my medication isn’t working….

November 27, 2015 2:52 pm

@TD, this is utterly brilliant. The only changes I would make would be:-

– a good sized Mk41 silo count since we want it to be able to fight and carrier groups will attract the biggest attacks
– forget the big hangar and Merlin flight deck, since they will drive up the size and result in a large flight deck. Assume you will need UAV’s only for short range ASW.

The whole concept neatly throws the agonies over T26 and escort count in the bin. Build only 6 ASW T26 and 18 T31 :-)

November 27, 2015 2:55 pm

The concept that is being considered is obvious, T23 Mk.2,

Basic RN requirements rule out any silly corvette or LaFayette notion.

People on this site don’t understand what GP means in RN language- for the RN that is an ASW frigate.

There actually aren’t many system features on T26 such a design could do without, there are some volume features but not really system features.

Finally, lets just see what the concept study brings- the fact that one has not been undertaken tells you everything you need to know about how much thought has thus far gone into this.

November 27, 2015 3:17 pm

keep 8 (12 = better) type 26 then build 3 of Dutch Absolm type Ocean patrol ships for Caribbean / Horn of Africa type mission, Have useful weapon fit, plus storage for disaster supplies an long endurance which would free up type 45 & 26 hulls for navy missions not police with the 3 Rivers for UK patrol

November 27, 2015 3:18 pm

Few quick comments:

Unless there is some as yet unreleased reason, the only logical deduction is that a Type 26 GCS, without the ASW equipment, is too expensive to procure in a quantity of 5, i.e. 8 plus 5 to get 13 Frigates, the desired baseline.

It is at least theoretically possible, although unlikely, that the RN looked at the money available and concluded that although it was enough to buy 13 T26s they’d rather have more hulls. As I say, unlikely but it would be nice to think that this u-turn had been prompted by innovative thinking on the part of the Admirals rather than spreadsheet thinking on the part of HM Treasury.

…there is no room for ships that can’t fight

Yes but fight what? The T26 can’t fight if the opponent is a mass air attack and it’s tasked with protecting a convoy, the T45 can. The T45 can’t fight (much) if the opponent is SSNs whereas that sort of threat is what the T26ASW is designed for. A T71 (45+26, clever huh?) could cover both but that’s not on the cards.

Design and bring into service eight ‘light frigates’, specialising in task group ASW escort and not much else.

I don’t think this is a workable idea, although it’s certainly a fun intellectual exercise which is what we have to amuse ourselves with for the next few years given the lack of actual plans from the MOD. Isn”t what you’re arguing for an updated version of the T23 original concept, a ship that cannot operate realistically on its own?


November 27, 2015 3:19 pm
the fact that one has not been undertaken tells you …

that we have adopted modern design methods: the proxy for output is how many iterations get done
– unfortunately, most of the time, on the one and the same thing

So ” let’s design an affordable class, not to exceed £350m (in c. year 2000 money), and ensure we end up with a sufficient number of units”

Just like we are not going to redo T23, the French are unlikely to replicate the Lafayettes for the first to be launched in 2023; any descriptors for their design goals yet?

November 27, 2015 3:25 pm


T26 could actually put up a pretty sturdy fight against a mass-air attack- especially when integrated with a T45. “Convoy defence” hasn’t been a thing for, oh, about 55 years; RN ASW frigates post 1960 were always intended as fleet ASW vessels.

Operate on its own? Depends at what task, T23s frequently operate on their own, they wouldn’t fight the Red Banner Northern fleet on their own (unless something went very wrong) but neither would an Arleigh Burke.

November 27, 2015 3:27 pm


Nobody wishes to believe me, and that’s fine, but it seems obvious what this is all about. T26, in part because of the increased costs of Trident renewal, is unaffordable at 13 hulls, nobody wanted to state that the escort fleet was going to shrink in this document so a vague notion for a cheaper frigate was inserted.

November 27, 2015 3:35 pm


You forgot the worst case scenario, the promised “new frigates” program goes over-budget and over-time, leading to their cancellation and leaving you with only 8. I have this very sneaky suspicion that the “extra” frigates are being set up to be cancelled.


The problem with using a sub to hunt another sub is that subs are ambush hunters. They sit quietly until someone stumbles over them. A sub that is trying to screen a task group moving at speed is forced to move at a fast pace and is at a disadvantage against a sub waiting in ambush. Of course, there is the old “sprint and drift” tactic, but that assumes a slow moving HVU. NaB and APATS might be able to expand on this more, I just browse naval journals.

Peter Elliott
November 27, 2015 3:46 pm

If the T31 programme fails to produce a viable design then 8 ASW Cruisers are followed by 8 AAW Cruisers. T45 goes but the wretched 6 Amazonas Patrol Ships are retained as a fig leaf for presence tasks with no wartime role.

November 27, 2015 3:49 pm
so a vague notion for a cheaper frigate was inserted.

I agree
– the drum beat for the 8 T26s is not known
– the target date for the new class is ridiculously far (hence the comparison to the French, who started a year before us, and will launch the first one in 2023)

You only need to look at the Top Ten items in the equipment plan, and something will have to give. This year it was T26 (and not so obviously, F35, a little bit of acceleration in the early years, then standing on the brake for the same number of years. The clue: 10 years longer for the Typhoon, hence the hours will have to be spread across a bigger fleet).

Peter Elliott
November 27, 2015 3:50 pm

Personally I’d settle for 8 + 8 Combat Ships but replace the Amazonas with an updated Bay Class. Still unable to defend itself but stuffed with supplies, container and offboard systems, with a genuine wartime role as a supply ship, and big enough to accept generic containerised missile systems as part of a networked task group…

November 27, 2015 3:51 pm

But the crowd here can truly be excited by one thing only: a new ship design.
– and we got it – yippee!

The Other Chris
November 27, 2015 3:54 pm

Will the new Type 83 be a Destroyer or a Sloop?

northern power house
northern power house
November 27, 2015 4:05 pm
Reply to  Hohum

I guess the real question is what is our place in the world and can we afford to be where we would like to be . Do we have to have power projection if the answer is yes then we need the 13 type 26s two fully operational carriers , and a further 2 type 45s . Is this going to come to pass , I doubt it simply we as a nation are skint . So we really need to look at the best option to protect our interests on the high seas and territorial waters . We need more capable OPVs as soon as possible as the back door to our shores is wide open . The question is how many naval vessels are committed to the defence of our territorial waters which includes off shore platforms , wind farms underwater cabling and other sensitive equipment . Also we remain a trading nation with a considerable amount of maritime traffic around our coastal waters , So which comes first power projection or home defence .

November 27, 2015 4:07 pm

Lets assume the type 26 with a few expenive bits taken out is the fall back option if it all goes wrong.

What is the out of the box radial proposal to do things differently. What are the foundational technologies (tech/uav/power plant/fuel) we could use to build and deploy a ship/submersible to change the way we deliever maritime security over long distances from the uk?

November 27, 2015 4:08 pm

I must have missed something?

I read the SDSR are really saying we had our ASW frigate the Type 26 and very happy we were too. We just need 5 or more GP frigates? Not more ASW?

ASW is very complicated in terms of drive system and hull form etc etc etc, you can just knock off a tub and stick on a towed array and get any kind of ASW asset, the rest of the world may do that, but …… well you know.

It can’t really be about money. R&D is the expensive bit, and we will have paid all that by the time the first T26 is build, cutting the numbers just makes each ship MORE expensive ( see SEAWOLF Zumwalt Class )
It’s just about keeping the design teams busy, so the skills done atrophy, and I’m not opposed to that necessarily.

With a drum beat of 2 years, its 16 years of constant building, chances are the T26 design ethos will need updating.

The idea they will be cheap though is idiotic, the R&D for a new class of frigate split over 5 hulls. Dur.
The rest of the world ( those who might be in the market for a new ship ) are happy to call a River batch 2 sized hull a frigate, we won’t even call it a corvette, when we are THAT far out of whack with the world navy’s requirements markets. I think we should probably just give up.

We COULD build a hull for export, but the RN and the nation wouldn’t accept it as a pleasure cruiser never mind a warship.


November 27, 2015 4:23 pm

We are the 5th biggest economy in the world growing at 2.5%. IF we fixed the (quite new) problem of net foreign direct investment, imported a bit less and exported a bit more (about 10% for which we could all play our part) we would not be having this debate. Then we could be talking about a real expansion of the Royal Navy.

November 27, 2015 4:28 pm


Yes I believe you have, as have many others commenting on this subject since the document was released. The relevant section actually says that T26 will:

“start to replace our current Type 23 frigates in their anti-submarine role”

Emphasis on ‘start’, which implies T26 won’t finish replacing vessels in the ASW role. it then goes on to talk about frigates, not corvettes or patrol vessels, and specifically “general purpose” frigates which in RN language has always been an ASW vessel with other functionality.

The idea most certainly seems to be a modernised T23 concept (not design, concept), not a diesel only metal tub for chasing down rogue slave traders in the red sea or protecting British opium steamers in the Yangtze delta from as yet uncivilised savages.

November 27, 2015 4:35 pm

“So which comes first power projection or home defence”

Theres no real difference there. Power projection IS a major facet of home defence. Conventional deterrence is a valid chip in the game. If I can send a couple of squadrons of stealthy strikefighters, park them off your coast, and break lots of your valuable things are you going to muck about with my sea lanes?. Like as not the answer there is no. Likewise if I can put said squadrons behind your naval taskgroup, on an unexpected threat axis, and sandwich you between land- and sea-based airpower….do you REALLY want to come in to my littoral acting all tough and obnoxious?. Again….pause for thought would be anticipated.

Doing one does both….just by its existence and upkeep.

In escort terms the Type21 lesson has to resurface at some point. We have planned, next year, the biggest trial of naval unmanned vehicles that we’ve ever undertaken owing to the acceptance, in the service, of the hugely transformational effect that drones of all stripe will bring to the maritime environment. The 26 is scaled to be able to operate and maintain offboard effector systems of that type partly on that understanding. I’m not sure how the logic of bouncing back to a light frigate type platform….unsuited to drone deployment…is going to sit within this transformational structure.

If we are building T26’s and are commited to the ‘unmanned revolution’ as much as we say we are its hard to see how the answer is anything other than a tail-less, CODAD, Type25.9!

November 27, 2015 4:46 pm


An insightful point and I agree with one exception: Despite some impressive officers having been tasked with “robotics” the RN hasn’t really demonstrated any particular commitment to unmanned platforms beyond Scaneagle and even that has been half-hearted compared to what it could have been. Industry is currently covering most of the cost of R&D for demonstrators that have no clear service requirement- IMO.

November 27, 2015 4:58 pm


I agree your idea is reasonable. To have 5 “cruisers” (T26) for singleton deployments, and 8 “ASW frigates” (T31?) to escort your CVTF.

However, I think there is bigger risk.

1: The new ASW escort may not be cheap, if you require “quiet hull”. I think it is one of the major items making T26 larger and expensive. As T26 are designed to be with quiet ASW hull, making use of it, even if its mission bay and VLS are not optimum, is not a bad idea.

2: I think there is non-negligible risk of having only 8 frigates in total at last, depending on the future ecnomy of UK. Then, you shall start from T26 not T31.

With these risks in mind, I propose to make T31 similar to typical light frigates such as ANZAC-NZ-mod (but with RN living standard it would be a little larger), and task them for peace-time show-the-flag and low-threat (such as west africa) singleton deployments.

In real war, they will be escorting “2ndary” fleet, such as logistic fleet a few 100 km behind the CV-TF. Another example will be being paired with a T26 to escort a small detechment fleet, used as a guard to cover the other side blined to the T26.

CAMM equipped and with 5 inch canon, the “light frigate” will be a mojor contributor in Falkland strait, San Carlos, Goose Green for local area air defence and naval gun support.

It is only 5 or so, there are enough places (1-2, or 3 at most) for these “light frigates” to do their jobs.

P.S. >As for the ‘make work’ OPV’s, I would gift them through DFiD to those fragile states the SDSR mentioned.

Great idea !! Let’s cost it in foreign aid budget, as high as 0.7% GDP, and not the Navy budget. Uhhm, yes! In these 200 nm EEZ era, the developing countries do need good OPVs to patrol their sea resources (such as fishes). RN will gift a B.1 River, and they need replacement, i.e. a B.2 River, which shall be payed from foreign aid budget….. Ha ha ha… (Sadly it may not happen, I know ….)

stephen duckworth
November 27, 2015 4:58 pm

“FIVE Type 26 GCS/Cruisers that can go anywhere and do anything joined by EIGHT specialised ASW Frigates whose main job in life is to protect our very large investment in F-35’s, and not much else.

How about it….” You got my vote!
On the design of the new smaller and accepted reduced flexibility surely one of the earlier smaller T26 designs would work before all the flight deck level multimission bay with it 20t capacity xy roof crane , 15m side doors , room for 6 20′ ISO containers , etc etc . Granted if over the time from the early FSC designs the Naval,stability, accomadation,emmisions,water discharge standards etc have moved on too far then no but the early designs purported were in the 5000t range IIRC. Just an idea …… please shoot down as little AAW defences fitted :-)

November 27, 2015 5:01 pm

The idea of turning the idea on it’s head and going with just 5 GP T26, and 8 ASW “T31” is interesting and I’ve often debated for a simple TAS Tug. I think however, given where we are I think we have to go what is almost ready and go full throttle for 8 (preferably 9) ASW T26s.

Longer term, I think the next class to replace the T45s and T26s should be a single class, but we are talking probably early 2040’s.

I’d say what we are looking at for RN requirements in the short/mid term are to replace:
– GP Frigates
– OPVs
– MCMs and Survey ships
– LPDs

Now, if we could replace these with two classes, a proper MHPC (Venator) replacement and a larger GP/LPD hybrid that could operate in high threat scenarios, that would be my bet.

November 27, 2015 5:04 pm
Reply to  Hohum


T26 could actually put up a pretty sturdy fight against a mass-air attack- especially when integrated with a T45. “Convoy defence” hasn’t been a thing for, oh, about 55 years; RN ASW frigates post 1960 were always intended as fleet ASW vessels.

The T26 could put up a pretty good fight against a mass air attack aimed at itself but it could not do what a T45 was designed to do, put a bubble of air protection around a group of ships (I should have said “task group” not “convoy”).

Operate on its own? Depends at what task, T23s frequently operate on their own, they wouldn’t fight the Red Banner Northern fleet on their own (unless something went very wrong) but neither would an Arleigh Burke.

As built, the T23 can operate on its own but as originally conceived (pre-Falklands) it could not. It was originally intended that a number of T23s would operate in conjunction with a Fort class vessel, the T23s would have flight decks (no hangers) and ASW weapons, the Fort would mount the defensive weapons and provide maintenance/service facilities for the helicopters.


November 27, 2015 5:08 pm


Because they are not meant to, they are intended to provide self/local air defence. Fundamentally nothing wrong with that. Ultimately a T26 could make a pretty good show of defending itself which is the point.

I am well aware of T23 history- and only the very early studies came without hangars or defensive weapons, such nonsense was dropped well before the Falklands.

November 27, 2015 5:18 pm


Far too often forgotten, T23/Merlin actually represented a near revolution in RN frigate ASW ops. For the first time (with the exception of the County class destroyers) RN escorts would have the ability to deploy ASW hunting helicopters rather than just using them to deliver Torpedos against targets located by the ships sonars. This came with a whole different approach to the support infrastructure required for rotorcraft at sea (and how many choppers were required to maintain one on station etc) and that became the main driver behind the Fort concept (in addition to being able to keep the Frigates on the GIUK line for longer).

November 27, 2015 5:19 pm


The rear views of this concept (not a design) are more pleasing as just about everything fitted is for remote operation
– don’t look at the front, there’s hardly anything there.

And, yes, it is a tad small to be bobbing up and down on the oceans for any longer than transits to station.

November 27, 2015 5:26 pm

What’s wrong with an eighties design? The Dk Blue Brethren seem to be happy with the T23. So How much has ordinary hull design changed in 30 years?, engineering and systems have changed, as have the manpower requirements for such systems. But hull forms seem to have plateaued, unless you count Zumwalt, and where’s that going?

There might be small adjustments in hull form, but the cost of development won’t be anywhere near what it would be to bring on an absolutely new design… Saving time and money.

However, I suspect really what you’re asking for is a revolutionary design like Triton scaled up… With all the risk that entails…

Rocket Banana
November 27, 2015 5:29 pm

By the time the 8th T26 rolls off the production line the 9th and 10th could well be the first of a series of 8 T45 replacements. The first two augmenting the T45s. Hopefully we’ll then end up with 8 AAW + 8 ASW destroyers/frigates/cruisers, whatever we want to call them.

Building 6 T45 was a mistake, should have had 8 minimum.

At the same time it seems sensible to me that we have a series of 2nd rate ships for MHPC duties. Basically a ship optimised to operate a Wildcat rather than a Merlin. Something a little more than a River and less than a T23.

November 27, 2015 5:53 pm
Reply to  Pedant

Agreed. Should follow on from Type 81 (Tribal class) to differentiate from ASW frigates. Although, that being said, the Type 21 (Amazon class) was a GP frigate, not an ASW frigate.

November 27, 2015 6:12 pm

We shouldn’t waste time and budgets reinventing the wheel. There are existing off-the-shelf designs, such as BAE’s 99m corvette, and ready-to-develop concepts, such as BMT’s Venator multi-mission corvette/MCM/survey. The Third Sea Lord (or whatever he’s called these days) should push ahead with feasibility studies on those. It would be churlish not to look at foreign designs, either with a view to building aboard (already done with the Tide-class tankers) or brought to a British yard for a partnership build. The DCNS Gowind 1000 & 2500 are worth considering for the light GP role, as are the HII 4501 & 4921 patrol frigates.

November 27, 2015 6:14 pm
By the time the 8th T26 rolls off the production line the 9th and 10th could well be the first of a series of 8 T45 replacements

– that’s what I’ve been saying for a good while now… forget if it was here or “the new place”

The only rationale for the size is that continuity that can be afforded by it.

November 27, 2015 6:16 pm

Why can’t the OPV’s be better armed ? One deck gun is pathetic. Like everything it comes down to cost, but the ships are large enough to support something that would help out in a fight. The Americans managed to beef up the Cyclones with the Griffoin ASM and stingers. Why couldn’t we do something similar. Doesn’t seem like rocket science to make the most out of our limited number of hulls !

November 27, 2015 6:33 pm

@jonesey – “If we are building T26’s and are commited to the ‘unmanned revolution’ as much as we say we are its hard to see how the answer is anything other than a tail-less, CODAD, Type25.9!”

Agreed, what i used to call a “choke-point frigate”.

November 27, 2015 6:36 pm

Just give the light frigate project to anyone but BAE Systems Surface Ships and it’ll be fine. They are among the worst big defence firms in the world.

A billion quid spent on the T26 gravy train and no ship in sight. If they get the light frigate deal expect a very similar result. Endless designs, endless meetings, endless lazy, British middle managers trying to justify their ludicrous salaries.

Just buy a job lot of Sigma’s and be done with it.

mike wheatley
mike wheatley
November 27, 2015 6:37 pm

Likewise, what would I know, but:
…I really like that thinking.

Firstly, however, I think it very likely that the unit cost for additional Type-26’s, after #8 is build, will be very low, low enough to itself be the desired low-cost follow-on design.

But if for some reason it isn’t, or if the excess cost (that the RN is trying to escape) is manpower related, then yes, your idea appeals to me.

(1) Build 8 new ASW-only type-27 Frigates. Smaller gun, (Sigma or 76mm?), no mk-41’s, taking the towed-arrays off the Type-26’s, Merlin hanger, Merlins likewise taken off the T26’s. Maybe a smaller mission bay, unless that is useful for ASW in that timeframe? (Two Merlins would be better, or course, but will take a lot of space, drive volume, drive weight, and be expensive to buy & operate.)
– This gives the increase in ship numbers that are desired.

(2) Then re-brand the Type-26’s as Type-83 Pocket Cruisers (because they are). Switch to Lynx, and having given up the towed arrays to the newer ships.

(3) Give the OPVs to allied nations to operate, as per the DFiD goals. (Or would some be useful in the South Atlantic?) The Caribbean would be obvious, and the Philippines would love some, but that would harm our exports to Communist China, and we wouldn’t want that. (?!) Plenty of other places as well.

[(4) One of the T45’s may have broken itself by then, so we may need to convert a T26 into an AAW variant.]

Peter Elliott
November 27, 2015 6:49 pm

I don’t blame BAES for the kerfuffle over designing T26. I blame the customer (MoD) for trying to insist that the requirements could be met by a smaller ship than was in fact the case. Hopefully we are not about to go around the same loop again with T31. And agreed that after 8 x T26 ASW Cruisers we may as well start on AAW Cruisers again.

TBH I’d rather stop trying to design a lightly armed ship in frigate shape. I’d take an updated Bay Class (which is a really useful shape for non fighty tasks) and bolt on a few modular capabilities from there.

November 27, 2015 7:50 pm

Its smoke and mirrors, there will not be 5 more of anything. When the T26’s is launched the extra OPV’s will be sold second hand.

November 27, 2015 7:51 pm
Reply to  Peter Elliott

@PE: Damen have already done it with their CrossOver and Enforcer classes.

November 27, 2015 7:52 pm

It would seem to me that Type 26 is actually the same size as a daring class Destroyer and I would question why we need frigates at the 8k tonne mark. Current Type 23 is around 4500 tonnes and this should be the benchmark with perhaps some point around 6000 tonnes being the optimum.

Given where we are with budget I would commit to 30 units over the next 30 years and replace the T45 and T23’s with a common T26 platform around the 6000 tonne mark. As has been mentioned here that would allow for 3 classes of 10 ships each, 10 ASW, 10 AAW and 10 GP. This to me would have the benefits of a single sleek design, efficiencies of scale, certainty of work for the yards, commonality of asset and ease of repurposing a GP to a AAW or ASW role. Essentially I am stating that we should do away with destroyers (its just a name after all) and really go for the Global Combat ship.

Peter Elliott
November 27, 2015 8:04 pm

Pacman – What this SDSR told us is we can’t afford to build or man a fleet of 30 hard edged combat ships. You or I might disagree for various reasons but that is the political reality we have to accept for the next 5 years.

November 27, 2015 8:14 pm


Fully understand your comment and this in itself is part of the problem, a warship has a 30 year lifespan therefore our procurement “strategy” needs to work around this. THE USN has a 30 year shipbuilding plan and isn’t it so much better on the mindset to be spending £400m per annum on 1 frigate and cycle through these than it is paying more for less (as with the OPV’s) . In the next 10 years we will have spent less and got more than the current plan and with committing to a strategic shipbuilding plan for our navy we have a ready made successor to T45.

If we get the design right – we could do more with less people – but I do take your point on headcount. I suspect ordering 30 ships would make enough savings to hire extra sailors but knowing the MOD they would waste it on something else.

November 27, 2015 8:22 pm

Scrap the Type26. Negotiate with the FREMM consortium and buy 8 ‘Bergamini’ class where necessary changing the radar, possibly the LM2500 for MT30s etc. No point in investing hundreds of millions in a design we seem to be struggling to find an export contract with. Expand the relationship with the Italians with the full version of the Pattugliatore Polivalente d’Altura (PPA). Anglo-Italian co-operation could turn this to our version of the MEKO. It seems that the light version might be a long term OPV variant which might form a basis for the C3 original idea but quickly upgradeable to an almost full variant in time of war. Such a partnership might also encourage the Italians to work with us on and adopt such systems as the CAMM-ER etc.

November 27, 2015 8:22 pm

The BMT Venator 110 design would fit for the 5 + vessels. This could be armed with CAMM SAM’s in front of the bridge and Stanflex modules behind the bridge for different missions. Guns could be 5-inch or 75mm with 2 30mm. Vessels will have a sizable flight deck with mission bay hangers.

November 27, 2015 8:26 pm

So, it’s T45 all over again. First 12, then 8, 6 delivered.

I strongly disagree with most points made re. T26. Sorry, boss.

MoD and the treasury are the wrong culprits when it comes to T26s problems. It’s the common RN (and in fact every else’s service) problem of putting to many eggs into one Baske; mission creep by design.

The simple task was to create a ASW vessel; a simple VDS tug, with a large helo pad, 7k nm range, a gun (3” would suffice), and whatever current local area air defence missile / radar / sonar / helo. In my original T27 concept I called those things “irreducables”, as they are essential for being an effective patrol ship. Later, the same base vessel gets new variants, and be it a naked simple patrol frigate. Build one per year, and we are back in numbers by 2025.

What we ended up with was a 7k nm range ASW cruiser, with TLAM, and containers… many containers, crashing the whole design process. Some moron found it funny to cross Absalon into the design, and this guy should get fired and flogged. The fighty argument falls flat on its arse; in a Falklands 2 scenario, all T26 can do moreover the smaller vessel is throwing TLAMs and containers… at aircraft. And… manpower… those TLAMs and containers require more manpower, which translates into a larger vessel, that requires more manpower.

The thing is, we knew that the T26 would end like this. Deep in out minds, we always knew. The “sensible, intelligent, flexible, well planned and thoroughly practical as could be, it was, and is, a fantastic concept” is a amazing feat of over-engineering, a solution to a non-existent problem (i.e., lobbing Tomahawks, while hunting subs and providing disaster relief; two tasks of which we already have vessels capable of or can easily convert).

Above all, we fell deep into the “modularity trap”. The modules are already there. The gun is modular, the missiles are modular, the sonar is replaceable, boats, helos… all interchangeable. We need no ISO containers on warships. ISO container solutions are vital, if we ever need to commission civil vessels as auxiliaries.

I genuinely tend to think, having TDs final thought was the RNs plan from day one. Prepare for a T26-order, where the transfer of the 2087 sonar will be omitted on cost reasons.

Funny enough, the RN will end up with a T27, much along the lines of my original concept. So, not all is desperate.

Peter Elliott
November 27, 2015 8:26 pm

Even the USN has to contend with politicians and sequestration. In our case we are lucky to have got the budget off a 1 year cycle and onto a 5 year one, accompanied by a 10 year ‘look forward’. Politics being what it is we will struggle to do much better. And even the mighty USN isn’t doing so well with LCS, AB3, GRF and Nimitz refuelling all going off plan for various reasons. Personally I don’t feel the RN is doing too badly in global terms. Albeit there’s still more to do on how we specify and procure bespoke equipment.

Peter Elliott
November 27, 2015 8:31 pm

John are things like BMT 110 anything more than PowerPoint? In terms of the standards and specifications that the RN rightly requires are the dimensions of such a vessel any more than a hopeful aspiration..?

November 27, 2015 8:46 pm
Reply to  Peter Elliott

@PE: All BMT designs are PowerPoint but that didn’t stop us from buying the Aegir tankers. I like the Venator but as a MCHP only.

Peter Elliott
November 27, 2015 8:49 pm

A tanker is a lot different from a combat ship. I think T31 and the Rivers are a lot further apart than a lot of people think. If T31 is to be credible it will be driven inexorably bigger and heavier than many people expect.

November 27, 2015 9:48 pm
Reply to  Peter Elliott

the two aircraft carriers and as mentioned the 4 Aegir vessels are BMT designs. Apparently 4 more Aegir vessels are due to be ordered to replace the Fort George class after the tankers have been delivered. The appearance of the 110 design and the mention of the cheaper alternative to the T26 is coincidental but the 110m fits the bill. River class OPV is a proven design but it is woefully under armed and not having a hanger is a real disadvantage unless it’s for patrolling UK waters or close to a base.

Ideally, 8 anti-sub and 8 general purpose T26 would make sense due to economy of scale to manufacture and commonality of spares. If other navies bought the T26 in price would even be lower. If the 110 could prove to have the same capabilities as the T21 frigates without their design flaws and at a cheaper price to build than the T26 the RN could have more vessels able to maintain the it’s many commitments. Another factor is to renegotiate the contracts with the ship yards to reduce excessive prices.

Peter Elliott
November 27, 2015 10:23 pm

John the T21 got sunk because it was built on the cheap and not to warship standard. No-one is going to open them self to the liability of doing that especially not these days. There is a wodge of standards that have to be complied with to stop that from happening.

BMT may have worked on the QEC project, but that’s not analogous to their marketing concepts being equal to “designs” for RN Combat ships. The Solid Stores ships are no more warships than the tankers are.

Don’t get me wrong I think it’s great that companies like BMT are carving out a niche on the fringes on the UK naval shipbuilding market. But no-one can afford to do the detail R&D on creating a fighting warship design that isn’t going to be ordered. And most of the PowerPoint that is done is aimed at countries with less rigorous standards of survivability etc than ours. So the dimensions and scale of them are not directly applicable to the actual design that T31 may become. Until the actual team sits down to the detailed task against a set of requirements that evidently haven’t been brainstormed yet we won’t know that size, shape can capability a RN mid size frigate of the year 2025 will be.

November 27, 2015 11:10 pm

I think this conversation actually demonstrates the difficulty here. It is exceptionally hard to have something that meets all the requirements. Personally I think the absolon design is very, very good and I also think the BMT Venator can be made into 110m and a 140m designs. I also like the Csword and Visby, one of the things I would say is that the smaller design whilst not being able to fit everything in – can be task configured and therefore we could get 40-50 hulls and include the minesweepers in this number (albeit slightly larger than current stock). Everything is a trade off I am afraid and the Isreali’s have a SAAR with Mk41 strike Tubes in it – so why can’t we. 50 hulls at £150-200m each produced at a rate of 2 per year and a crew of 60 makes sense to me. Now I know this will not be popular on this forum but we can fit more onto a smaller platform if we are selective in role selection and a wildcat is suitable for most helo situations a merlin is great but if we have to make choices we do not need frigate capable of having such massive helps – especially when things are moving to UAV.

November 27, 2015 11:14 pm

As the RN’s manpower declines, the number of hulls that can be manned also declines and hence “general-purpose” ship designs will become the norm as opposed to specialist ASW/AAW designs as you get less hulls for the same number of jobs, thus requiring a ship to do two things at once. One point I do have to stress is that a “general purpose” vessel does not necessarily mean one that is worse than a specialist vessel at doing the job, it just means that it does 2 or more jobs at the same time. Unfortunately, to get such a paragon of good multi-purpose ship utility, it costs money. Lots of money.

It may be a bit of a crystal ball reading from me, so take it for what it is worth, but I see this new “general purpose” frigate program failing before the “lessons learnt” from it will be used for the next generation of “general purpose *destroyers*” that the RN needs as the manpower pool shrinks further, thus concentrating the number of tasks into the limited number of hulls that they can man.

Should be interesting to see how much of what I guess would happen would come true.


Sure, the USN tricked out their Cyclones but without a good radar, there is no point in putting in better missiles. We tried with a missile corvette design (Victory class), but the radar needed to get the maximum utility from the Harpoons was so heavy and needed to be put so high up that there were stability issues. That didn’t stop them from being sent all over the world but it was a point of worry for the design. Griffins and Stingers are also not all that high end, Stinger is literally a MANPAD and a Griffin is even smaller than the Hellfire with a pathetic range and the damage capacity of a firecracker. You want “bolt-on”, your ship must come with the support equipment already fitted for that type of equipment (i.e radar, fire control directors, blast deflectors, target data transfer ports and cables etc).

Peter Elliott
November 27, 2015 11:58 pm

Pacman the Israelis and the Baltics have the advantage that the enemy can be pretty much guaranteed to come to them: so their ships need next to nothing in terms of range and endurance. The RN is the opposite: designed and configured to go out and bring trouble to others all over the globe. That is basically why we build bigger ships: to get more people and more stores of all kinds safely to where we choose to deliver our effects.

Peter Elliott
November 28, 2015 12:02 am

Observer I tend to agree both for the technical reason that they will struggle to achieve the necessary design compromises and also because as Hohum points out the decision to curtail T26 looks to have everything you do with balancing the books and there is no guarantee T31 will actually turn out any cheaper…

November 28, 2015 12:38 am


You might want to look at the Visby’s history before you buy. The Visby was supposed to be a lot more capable than what they got eventually. The fact that the Swedes are having problems funding the Visby class to the point where they cancelled the last ship tells me that they are not as cheap as rumoured to be.

As for UAVs, remember, even UAV needs manpower, 3-4 crew per plane (one controller, one optics operator, one “ground crewman”, per shift. That is about 9-12 men per UAV.

November 28, 2015 4:14 am

8 T26s will be built in the ASW role. But you guys have all forgotten that Boy George told BAE last year that we want a major warship built every 2 years over a 25 year cycle and that they should plan accordingly. I’m afraid this is all smoke and mirrors and we will end up with 14 frigates and destroyers.

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
November 28, 2015 5:38 am

I think this is the first time I can say that I wholeheartedly agree with a proposal or idea posted on this forum. The T-26 will make ideal platforms for the role suggested, and I agree that using them as mainly ASW escorts under utilises there capabilities to a great extent.

For the proposed ASW escort to follow the T-26, whatever it ends up being called, we almost need to blend the old Cold War idea of a dedicated escort with modern ideas of command and control and networking. For example could these platforms leverage situational awareness off the T-45s in the formation, reducing the on board sensor requirement? Should they be solely equipped with Mk41s or even Aster. The former would allow VL ASROC as well as Sea Ceptor, whilst the latter would allow the platforms to act as additional magazines for the T-45 as well as having Sea Ceptor for Self defence. When it come to a AShM (if needed), the choice of launcher would decide whether we follow the US or European route but the replacement of Harpoon will be needed and so some joined up thinking would be required. The carriage of two Merlins I think would prejudice any design too much. A single Merlin should suffice, especially of additional Merlins could be spotted on the RFA to allow additional F-35s to be carried on the Carrier. Even a small Task Group should be able to spot up to seven in this way.

Turning to VL ASROC and/or its successor, I think this would be a real force multiplier, in that it would allow the Merlins to concentrate operating outside its operational range creating an layered defence of greater concentration.

A gun of 76mm or even 57mm, I am a fan of the Bofors, especially if it is able to act in the CIWS role would be desirable. As has been pointed out, modern high speed AShMs need to be engaged further out than the current 20mm systems are able to . This will also negate the need to install a dedicated CIWS saving cost and weight.

Finally exports. Many are down playing this idea, but there is a healthy market for modern frigates which is growing as many Navies evolve. Choosing the right core systems for this platform, such as the Mk41 and its inherent flexibility would allow the design to compete without major modification. Additional flexibility with open architecture and a somewhat modular approach to major systems would allow the design to evolve in a cost effective manner, replacing systems as technology and/or the threat changes over time. This would also make the design attractive to other navies and even allow the RN to bring in variant(s) down the line if needed. The Key to any design chosen it ensuring it contain what is needed not what we would like, whilst retaining the ability to evolve.

Lord Jim
Lord Jim
November 28, 2015 5:49 am

I have kept this point separate as I believe it is due discussion on its own merit. Why are we fixated on planning to build large classes of surface combatants when the majority of nations do not with the exception of the US. Most countries plan on classes of four to six and have a shorter interval between new designs. More often than not the navies get all six each time. We on the other hand plan classes of say twelve then reduce this to eight and finally actually receive six. This happened on the T-45 and could still happen with the T-26 by design or not. Designing and purchasing smaller classes allows far better continuity and evolution than our way or doing things. We always try to put all our eggs in one basket each time, and the ever growing list of requirements results in the design evolving only on paper rather than producing actual ships. It also results in a stop start culture which creats inefficiency in the design and building process. In the past we sort of got by utilising the batch process, but now we seem to have abandoned this.

Based on the topic we are discussing should the T-26 be simply halted at five or six, to be followed by either an evolved batch 2 or a new design?

November 28, 2015 6:01 am

Great idea TD

Rebadge the T26 as a cruiser (at 8,000 t that’s not hard to do) then start again on a small ASW frigate.

Seems like an imminently sensible idea but so did T26 5 years ago and F35 ten years ago.

I don’t think BAE is capable of building ships in realistic budget’s. Everything they touch turns to s**t. Until we address this issue I think the Type 31 will end up exactly where the T26 is today. Over weight and too expensive to buy in numbers.

Another question will be on escort numbers. With a very good chance of peace with Iran and a reboot in Argentina relations will we still have requirements for so many standing tasks or Long endurance vessels. The T31 you propose certainly seems more in tune with providing ASW cover in the North Atlantic no need for medium caliber gun, VLS disaster relief or special forces support.

Chuck Hill
November 28, 2015 6:15 am

Currently the US Navy assigns four general purpose escorts to each carrier (Ticondarogas and Burkes). The RN apparently intends to assign seven ships to each carrier, thee Type 45 AAW escorts and four type 26 ASW escorts. Sounds like this specialist approach is going to adversely impact total number of personnel required for a carrier strike group.

Chuck Hill
November 28, 2015 6:26 am

If there is a war, I think you will find plenty of useful work for the OPVs. I do think they should be better armed. There is already a variant with a 76 mm and the ships are really large enough to mount a 5″ which would allow them to serve as naval gun fire support specialist. Not that the Type 26s and 45s could not do it, but they are probably going to busy doing other things.

Fluffy Thoughts
Fluffy Thoughts
November 28, 2015 6:32 am
FIVE Type 26 GCS/Cruisers that can go anywhere and do anything joined by EIGHT specialised ASW Frigates whose main job in life is to protect our very large investment in F-35’s, and not much else.

As I read the article one’s mind built a picture; further reading told me that my thoughts were not my own. Only one addition to the ‘light’ option: Can we add a petting-zoo (Accommodation for: Llhamas and such like)…?

November 28, 2015 6:35 am
apparently intends to assign seven ships to each carrier, thee Type 45 AAW escorts and four type 26 ASW escorts

Chuck. in that you take a very gracious view of T45 availability.

I would also invite your views on my next comment, endorsing LJ’s comment on the 57mm (the reason being that both the USN and the USCG seem to share the view… however, I can’t use the quote facility here, midstream, so a new post on it).

November 28, 2015 6:40 am
57mm, I am a fan of the Bofors, especially if it is able to act in the CIWS role would be desirable. As has been pointed out, modern high speed AShMs need to be engaged further out than the current 20mm systems are able to . This will also negate the need to install a dedicated CIWS saving cost and weight.

Me,too. A thousand rounds is 14t vs. 21 for the nearest alternative, the popular 76mm. I quote from a salesman (BAE introducing the gun for the new Polish designs, to compete for their fitting out):
“the main role of the guns on the [Polish] vessels will be sea targets (vessels and asymmetric threats) and air targets (aircraft and anti-ship missiles). However, fighting targets on the ground will be of secondary importance.

When fighting surface and air targets (including approaching missiles), the capabilities of the 57 mm gun as the same compared to the 76 mm, if not better, with additional benefits related to the weight and size of the system and ammunition. The bigger capabilities are due to two reasons: they result from faster shooting (up to 220 rounds per minute), secondly, we have done much more to increase the result in the target (by increasing the amount of explosive in every shell, and constructing programmable ammunition in the right way).”

November 28, 2015 6:47 am

Our navy uses the 76mm as a main gun but during the Iraq reconstruction and OOTW, one of the points brought up was that while the 76mm is an effective killer, a smaller, more accurate weapon was needed to stop ships instead of just blow them out of the water in case of situations like an LPG tanker being hijacked and ran at an objective. You’d want a weapon that is accurate enough to disable specific areas like engine rooms yet weak enough you don’t do excessive collateral damage to either the ship or any hostages. I can see the CIWS being re-roled into this as it has already been used as an anti-small craft weapon at the present time. So while having a 57/76mm may be nice, don’t neglect the utility of the small 20-30mm guns either.

@Chuck Hill

Give them time. Once the manpower crunch hits really bad, they would be forced to combine the 2 roles into one anyway.

November 28, 2015 6:50 am
with modern ideas of command and control and networking. For example could these platforms leverage situational awareness off the T-45s in the formation, reducing the on board sensor requirement?

A couple of Devil’s Advocate points; starting with the above. Yes, certainly networking is a way to multiply the numbers. But reducing onboard sensors too much would make (the. one and only?) T45 into a single point of failure, save for any airborne sensors (starting with Crowsnest and F35).

Not so with this one “When it come to a AShM (if needed), the choice of launcher would decide whether we follow the US or European route but the replacement of Harpoon will be needed and so some joined up thinking would be required. ”
– e.g. the VLS version of JSM is a joint venture between Kongsberg and the silo-maker division of LM (not the division that writes the SW for integrating the same missile, other than for the booster, onto the F35 and definitely not the missiles division that is a direct competitor with LRASM).

Chuck Hill
November 28, 2015 7:18 am

Can a 76 mm (or 5″) be used to forceably stop a vessel without sinking it? Certainly, it is much more difficult to sink a vessel with gun fire than is commonly assumed, but you can specifically use a BL&P (blind, loaded, and plugged or inert) round. The larger gun will be more accurate. It will also be more accurate than a smaller weapon. Plus it can penetrate deeper into the ship, including disabling large diesel engines.

November 28, 2015 7:31 am
Reply to  Chuck Hill

I’d say that available for the 2 CBGs will be a pool of 6 T45s and 8 T26s. Based on the 1:3 rule, this would give @5 escorts.

November 28, 2015 7:34 am
Reply to  Chuck Hill

Completely agree with the use of OPVs, just have a look at previous wars. Even in the Falklands OPVs were deployed and Tugs for MCMs.

Chuck Hill
November 28, 2015 7:35 am

Relative to the 57mm, the USN may be changing their position. While I question the decision, the US Navy is replacing the 57mm on the DDG1000s with 30mm Mk46.

My own feeling is that the 30mm on your OPVs is inadequate because if they every have to stop a medium to large vessel suspected of being used for a terrorist mission I would want to keep the OPV at least 4000 yards away from the vessel in case they have improvised weapons like anti-tank missiles or AA or anti-tank guns hidden on the ship. The 30 mm has an effective range of about 2200 yards. And they are really not very effective at stopping a ship with a suicidal crew.

November 28, 2015 7:57 am

I have to agree with the comment that the RN (and USN) design ships for global roles whereas everyone else builds for a regional (even if they are sometimes deployed out of region). Also, the RN still remembers the impact of “cheap” design – although you’d argue with proper layered defence it wouldn’t of been such an impact.

One thing I do object to is the self fulfilling belief that the number of ships have to constantly decline to a position where a few Dreadnoughts will there be left. The fewer hulls you have, the more they must do, the more they need to have & do, the more they cost, the fewer you can afford…

November 28, 2015 8:17 am

Assuming that the RN is not going to leap on the FF/LPD hybrid and wanted cheaper CBG ASW escorts, then perhaps modelling on something like a Nansen-class frigate wouldn’t be bad.

Fluffy Thoughts
Fluffy Thoughts
November 28, 2015 8:39 am

A ‘light’ cruiser should have a 6″ gun. Can we not call T26 summinck else…?

November 28, 2015 8:46 am

Thanks Chuck, very informative reading (through the link to the discussion on your site). One of your commentators points out that the gun choices may have nothing to do with performance, but are dictated by changed economics brought about by platform decision u-turns:

“The WMSL was going to be 9-ships, but 8 was probably always the best case scenario. With seven for sure, this [USCG] cutter program looks to be the most-successful design of the three programs [the other two being LCS and Zumwalts].

By my count, the Mk.110 requirement (and original development cost planning) was based on around 127 systems. Now, it looks like, the true number is closer to 40. At what point does the 57mm gun program not look financially supportable? ”
– noting that having to have a US manufacturing facility for it is what destroys the economics; would still probably look OK if bought from BAE Bofors direct?

November 28, 2015 8:46 am

I think someone on the SDSR thread suggested the ‘light frigate’ could turn out to be the Khareef. He may not be wrong.

November 28, 2015 9:39 am

For a ship design that is not due for service for another 15 years should we not be looking toward laser/energy based weapons instead of 30mm guns. If it’s gonna have aesa radar should we not give the radar ew attack capability like we’re doing with much smaller fighter radars.

November 28, 2015 9:54 am

“Assuming that the RN is not going to leap on the FF/LPD hybrid and wanted cheaper CBG ASW escorts, then perhaps modelling on something like a Nansen-class frigate wouldn’t be bad.” Yes a very fair starting basis in my view (although clearly we will have to let BAE design one) – around 5,000t. swap out SPY / ESSM for Artisan / CAMM, don’t gold plate the ASW kit (but keep the TAS), space for one helo and stop at Merlin capable flight deck, no mission bay. 5″ gun (for commonality and NGFS), a couple of 30mm, FFBNW 1 CIWS over the hanger perhaps and 8 SSMs – in essence a refreshed T23. Save the 100-110m vessel ideas for MHPC. I’m not getting hung up on which escort the carrier, which act as global cruiser – key is there is flexibility to chose right ship for right role. An aspiration for 6 T45s, 8 T26s and 8 ‘T31s’ with 4-6 OPVs is in my view a modest and achievable target for a decent sized RN to work with the carriers and our other commitments. On guns – I think we should select a gun for MHPC / future OPVs – low deck penetration but more utility . stopping power than a 30mm for reasons given above – 57mm or 76mm options probably (although BAE 40mm might be a modest enhancement that fits the bill)

November 28, 2015 10:15 am
Reply to  Observer

Observer, if the OPV’s could be better armed would you have any suggestions, was wondering about something like Searam, gives a self contained system to shoot down air threats and a limited surface capability.

November 28, 2015 10:24 am

It would seem to me that an 8000 tonne Frigate is unnecessary and that a Frigate around the 120-140m with 24/48 Mk41 tubes would be sufficient. The variables to consider are: Cost per base unit, cost per fit out, manpower per fit out, volume of units v cost ratio.

Now if as discussed numerous times on this forum steel is cheap and in the end does not inflate the cost disproportionately then we can have a larger ship in the absolon mould (note I am not stating an absolon) these ships would have room for additional components should they need to but would have the basic gun, defences and silo common across all. The other thing to say is that we really need to get crews to the 60-80 mark through automation in order to run more of these ships – all said I would prefer a larger volume of smaller ships that have a defined role (MH/AAW/ASW/GP) than having 8000 tonne ships just to keep up with the USN. I appreciate that Radars etc need structural elements – but as you guys keep stating steel is not the problem.

Building 2 of these each year at £1b would not seem to be out of the realms of fantasy – the problem is we wait and wait until the bill is £11b for 13 and that is the MOD being unprofessional with its budgets. If they did fleet management properly this situation would not have arose in the first place. There are lots of great designs out there we just need to decide which one we will adopt and adapt, but to make it an export success it really has to be highly automated, futuristic and efficiently manned otherwise it will not stand out I am afraid. T26 will not do this.

November 28, 2015 10:30 am


How do you plan for something that is still mostly theoretical? The only lasers around are still experimentals, hardly a benchmark for standard issue. More than that, there is only *one* theorised use for destructive lasers in ships and that is as a replacement CIWS, hardly something that needs a whole ship designed around it like the AGS.

@Chuck Hill

Interesting. Maybe it is from your practical experience that you know what the 76mm can do, the person who wrote up the recommendations went the other way and recommended the medium calibre guns instead, hence the increased appearance of Typhoon gun mounts on our ships. Or even simpler, not sure if our ships do sail with inert gun rounds (they do with inert missile warheads sometimes though), I can see some possible corner cutting on the ammo storage since they were designed to operate close to home.

November 28, 2015 11:14 am


It’s a theoretical ship not yet designed it’s not like it’s due for service next year. Tech has changed out of all proportion over the last 15 years what’s it gonna be like over the next 15.

Its time to look to new things that reduce crewing significantly, extend range, extend sensor coverage, reduce onboard stores. Its time to get inventive not produce warmed over 1980s designs or type 26 lookalikes in the hope that the total program life cost somehow changes because we used a new calculator. What if the ship just deploys a lot of sono bouy type sensors and all the data is feed back to asw specialists all in the uk for analysis and they order a uav helicopter to take off and fire a torpedo. It might not be possible it may all fall flat on its face but we have a chance to experiment in incremental steps each different tech because we have a very capable type 26 design to fall back on.

Much more advanced than just theory

November 28, 2015 11:50 am

Well, mark put the order in, so here it comes:

“Freeing up multi-billion dollar nuclear submarines and surface combatants for other tasks in a shrinking Navy that has more missions that ever before is an enticing proposition. Some estimates have said that ACTUV could provide a 1-to-10 cost ratio as a countermeasure for diesel submarines. Meaning that if a diesel submarine costs $400M, a operational Sea Hunter should aim for a cost around $40M each. This turns the sub tracking cost equation on its head.”

“Aside from its on-board tracking sensors, the most important electronics suite aboard Sea Hunter will be its satellite and line-of-sight data-links that provide situational awareness to controllers thousands of miles away, as well as connectivity with other sub hunting assets. These include Sea Hunter’s high and long flying semi-autonomous cousin, the Navy’s new MQ-4C Triton, as well as sonobuoy dropping P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and MH-60R Seahawk helicopters.”

PS The laser needs adding, but in 15 years’ time they will be cheap as chips

November 28, 2015 11:57 am


Didn’t know that existed. Wouldn’t go completely unmanned but that sort of thing was were I was going

November 28, 2015 12:11 pm


They used the Ponce as a test bed. If it was really operational it would have been retrofitted on more than one ship.

Singapore is feeling the manpower pinch in a lot more serious ways than the UK, armed forces recruitment is predicted to fall by 30% until 2030, which is why there is a serious drive towards automation in the navy. We found that it is possible to reduce manpower by 50% (+/-) but it comes with a price tag to match. Rumour has it that we paid ~1Bn USD for a frigate. Expensive as hell but the only way to go if you are expecting a massive cut in your manpower. Basically what we are doing is using cash to make up for the manpower shortfall. You want automation, be ready for an eye watering pricetag. I think the QE-class already incorporates some of the manpower saving systems from what I can see of the proposed crew numbers.


I just though of something else with regards to the 30mm/57mm/76mm debate after reading your article. How long does it take to bring the gun from a state of rest to being ready to fire? If the guns are being used as “fire from the hip” emergency weapons, response time might also be a criteria.

November 28, 2015 12:14 pm

Statement in the Lords on Monday – note the jump in crew numbers for QE. It’s always been quoted as 679 but now 733 according to this:

“Earl Howe: First, on the Royal Navy, I would put it to the House—once noble Lords have had an opportunity to read the document, which is in the Printed Paper Office—that the Navy has benefited very considerably from the review. Full crewing of aircraft carriers, new offshore patrol vessels, new fleet solid support ships, 400 extra personnel, and a faster buy of F35 Lightning, to allow the carriers to embark up to 24 operational aircraft, are just examples of that. As for manning, the reorganisation of manpower within the Navy will ensure that sufficient people are trained and available to man and operate both Queen Elizabeth carriers. The requirement for each carrier is, I understand, a crew of 733 sailors. The planned retirement of HMS “Ocean” in 2018, combined with a rationalisation and reprioritisation of personnel across the naval service, plus the uplift of 400 extra personnel, which I mentioned, will ensure that sufficient people are trained and available to man and operate both carriers.

We will maintain our fleet of 19 frigates and destroyers. There has been no moving away from that commitment. We will also design and build a new class of lighter flexible general purpose frigates, as was mentioned in the Statement. I am sure that many noble Lords will welcome the fact that we are now committed to reintroducing maritime patrol aircraft. We will purchase nine Boeing P-8 maritime patrol aircraft—that includes the aircraft we need in the envelope—advanced high-altitude surveillance aircraft, and 138 F35s over the lifetime of the programme. The MPAs will be based at Lossiemouth; that is considered to be the ideal location for the most common maritime patrol areas. Further details will emerge in due course. It is likely that there will be 400 additional personnel for Lossiemouth, to ensure that the MPA capability can be properly serviced.

On the F35, we will bring forward the purchase of nine front-line aircraft, which will allow the second F35 Lightning squadron to stand up in 2023. That is about a 60% increase in front-line aircraft numbers by 2023, compared with our previous plan. We are buying our current tranche of 48 F35 aircraft earlier than originally planned, to maximise our carrier strike capability in the early 2020s. As I have said, we are committed to a total through-life buy of 138 F35 aircraft. Decisions on the precise details of subsequent tranches will be taken at the appropriate time.”

Rocket Banana
November 28, 2015 12:18 pm

I’ll get my head bitten off for suggesting this but why not fit a 105mm naval variant of the L118 (stabilised)? I can imagine that the fact that the only ones that ever existed were WW2 Nazi guns, but all the same?

Common ammo with the RM light guns.

…and keep a couple of 20/30mm for smaller jobs (anti FAC/USV) on each side.

November 28, 2015 12:19 pm

@ TD

I have know doubt, the RN will end up with a stretched Khareef. However I think that a vessel like Damen’s Crossover Concept would be of more use to the RN and to HMG. Although even Damen’s idea is a 5000 Ton Ship. groups/Naval/Crossover/Documents/Leaflet_CrossOver_Range.ashx

November 28, 2015 12:20 pm
Singapore is feeling the manpower pinch in a lot more serious ways than the UK, armed forces recruitment is predicted to fall by 30% until 2030, which is why there is a serious drive towards automation in the navy. We found that it is possible to reduce manpower by 50% (+/-) but it comes with a price tag to match. Rumour has it that we paid ~1Bn USD for a frigate.

Obs, you mean that conscripts intake is falling as the young population cohort numbers are falling? But you start from a million reservists? So you can afford the drop in numbers for 10-15 years… not a long time for respeccing any serious kit, though.
– no wonder you can afford to put CEC on frigates if you pay a bn for each. I think you completely swapped out the types of diesels as well, to put 4 knots on top of the top speed? Interwebs does not seem to know much about that, somehow

It is fun to be Singapore in the run up to the Independence Day; the AF has nowhere else to practise their aerobatics except right above your head!

November 28, 2015 12:30 pm
The requirement for each carrier is, I understand, a crew of 733 sailors. The planned retirement of HMS “Ocean” in 2018

– except for the word “each” in the above, the change could be due to the fact that the flagship is being retired (one of the QEs, at the time, will take on the function?)
– that is a jump of 54, up. But the extra berthing has always been quoted at close to 200 when there has never been a mention of more than a RM company being lifted from the deck. Manning the command facilities + that Coy would total close to 200; must say, though, that the airwings now come in so many varieties that who can account for the numbers required for each flavour.

November 28, 2015 12:47 pm


It’s not about saving manpower what it can do is save having to deploy as many people. It can give more time at home, better accommodation standards for a smaller deployed crew or a smaller ship.

They don’t have to be expensive you can get a reaper system orbit for a lot less than 2 typhoons. Not as high end as typhoon and you still need the manpower but it’s not deployed in quite the same way but then it’s not supposed to be, same thing could apply to this type of concept.

November 28, 2015 12:54 pm
Reply to  Rocket Banana

I think in the 70s according to Browns book the 105 was determined to be the ideal first kill gun for OPVs, but we ended up with 30mm…

November 28, 2015 12:55 pm

I was thinking about the “reason” RN needs the light frigate.

It is T26’s cost over-run.

Below, I am surprisingly pessimistic, but my simple (maybe to simple) calculation tells me as follows:

Assumption: Let’s assume the overhead cost (design etc) amounts to 2 hulls. Thus, total cost for 13 hulls is equivalent to 15 unit. 5 hulls needs a cost for 7 units.

– 25% case: If the cost overrun is by 25%, RN need to reduce the hull number of T26 to 10, since (2+13)/(2+10)=1.25. In other words, 30% loss in hull number.

If you reduce the hull to 8, then you save a resource for 2 units of T26.

If you are to use this resource for 5 light frigates, again with overhead for 2, your light frigate unit cost will be 2/(2+5) = 1/3.5 of T26. This is very near to the (initially announced) cost of Khareef corvettes. (Here I assume 500 MGBP original and 625 MGBP after 25% overrun for 1 T26 unit cost for simplicity).

– 15% case: If the T26 cost overrun is 15%, the reduced hull number become 11, and unit cost for light frigate 42% of that of T26 (or 240 MGBP).

– 7% case: If 7%, then 12 T26 and light frigate be 57% of T26 (305 MGBP). BUT in this case, I think RN will build 12 T26, and let the total escort number be 18.

Thus, in ~15% case, it will be light frigate, very lightly armed, such as VENATOR.

In ~25% case, it will be mod-Khareef. In this case, I think the ship will be “Floreal equivalent in RN”. A gun, a Wildcat, no SAM, 1 or no CIWS, no ASW assets.

I know this is too simple a calculation, and does not take into account the Economy growth nor recession. I know I will be more optimistic tomorrow, but at this moment, these number makes me a bit pessimistic.

John Hartley
John Hartley
November 28, 2015 1:04 pm

Simon. I would be tempted, if we are to keep Challenger 2, to rebarrel 105 light guns & RN 114mm to 120mm. It may not help international standardisation, but at least UK forces could share 120mm shells for rifled guns.

November 28, 2015 1:52 pm

“It’s not about saving manpower what it can do is save having to deploy as many people”

:) Mark, isn’t this the same thing in a different direction? Either way, it still costs a bomb. As for the Reaper vs Typhoon comparison, there is a lot that goes on behind the UAV that people don’t talk a lot about. Like operations in fast changing wind conditions causes a lot of UAV crashes. The system simply can’t react fast enough to sudden change. Think there was a time when the US actually had a 40% loss rate on the RQ-1 in Afganistan. Mountains and strong winds.

I would recommend against trying for “cheap” in this case, you’re stretching the requirements way, way too far for practical usage, close to simply making it a wish and a prayer. And you know what kind of ship wishing and praying will get you. Good for worship, bad for warship.

“the AF has nowhere else to practise their aerobatics except right above your head!”

every freaking 2-hours!!! Closing the windows and turning the air conditioning on helps with the noise but I pity those with babies. For the recruitment problem, the navy only takes those that are on long term contract, no way to train naval crew up to standard as 90 day wonders, so the hardest hit are the air force and navy.

November 28, 2015 2:19 pm
Thus, in ~15% case, it will be light frigate, very lightly armed, such as VENATOR.
In ~25% case, it will be mod-Khareef. In this case, I think the ship will be “Floreal equivalent in RN”

Donald, you have just upset TD readers… because not even a modern-version of Lafayette would be good enough, and the Floreals initially sidelined them, and were built to partly commercial standards as the El Cheapos (Lafayettes followed later, but I guess in a bit shrunken size from the planned “optimal”).
– I am joking, of course!
– a good piece of analysis about the real “cost” of cost overruns

November 28, 2015 2:47 pm

Thanks for response.

My feeling is that,
– the available resource for the light frigate (= how fighty it can be), will not determined from the light frigate design, but the T26’s cost-over-run, which is NOT known to date.
– Thus, we can discuss any kind of light frigate here (as I did with ANZAC-NZ-mod as a template), but it shall also include mod-Khareef.

In addition, following is my speculation:
– In case of mod-Khareef (or “Britain-Floreal”) being the only option (because of resource, not of design), I assume many of the members here will go for “ALL T26 frigate fleet”, even if their number be 10 or so.
– If this is the case, “up to 6” River class OPVs will be of much importance for discussion, such as 3in gun, Wildcat hanger with LMM and so on….

Even I know I am going too far away in the fantasy, in the last case, I will even propose to design the additional 2 OPVs based not on “90m OPV” design, but on “the 99m OPV” design (down-armed-Khareef), with fixed Wildcat hanger and a 30mm gun both with LMM option, but putting big effort in adding a range as long as 6000 nm.

# I know, I know, it is a bad idea for most (if not all) for you, may deserve consideration ONLY in the worst-case scenario I’ve shown….

Good night.. (It is midnight here in Japan … )

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
November 28, 2015 3:04 pm
Reply to  McZ

Sorry but nonsense. For starters in a Falklands type conflict T26 can lob those same TLAMS at the airfields operating the aircraft and reduce the risk of having to fire anything at the aircraft at all.
If that becomes an issue then some could load enough extra seat ceptor into those strike length tubes to make them even more effective.
Then of course in your Falklands 2 scenario you ignore the fact that the 5 inch gun can provide precision fires out to range which your 3 inch cannot or that the mission bay can host UAV capability allowing onboard spotting and adjustment.
Basically the opposite of your “assertion “.

Brian Black
Brian Black
November 28, 2015 3:08 pm

It’s stated on the .gov site that “The River Class Offshore Patrol vessels fleet will be replaced with a modern and more capable variant”, so those first three look definitely set to go for a +2 fleet. Will there still be a requirement for three around the UK and one in the FI?

The MoD and Treasury should perhaps keep in mind the USN’s attempt to build a smaller, cheaper, flexible vessel. After a dozen ships so far, the Americans are turning out LCS seaframes (no weapons included) for about 315 to 330 million GBP this year. Throw in weapons and full program costs over an expected production run of thirty ships, and their light, cheap, flexible frigate actually costs about £600m a pop – and they started off by developing two already existing designs in order to keep costs down.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
November 28, 2015 3:12 pm
Reply to  Brian Black

The issue was the speed and modular requirements. Funnily enough this decision is not a shock to BAE who offered it up as an option.

Rocket Banana
November 28, 2015 3:27 pm

Mad proposal number 2:

Why not buy a dozen Freedom class?

It would bring the unit cost down a fair whack. RR MT30. BAE 57mm gun. Then put almost all the offensive capability on the embarked Wildcat. The perfect module!

Can’t decide what we use instead of RAM… perhaps just some RAM?

Surely the radar too also creates some level of British income/stability through EADS.

Rocket Banana
November 28, 2015 3:28 pm

..sorry, seems that has just been suggested and/or dismissed.

November 28, 2015 4:20 pm

@Donald; that analysis is actually the crux of the issue and the reality will be that neither us fantasy fleet fans nor those with far more technical knowledge of capabilities are going to overrule financial resource constraints. T26 is way too costly. That’s the reason for the change. I am sure it will be an outstanding ship for the RN but if the RN want 19 frigates the other 5 will need to be much cheaper. To maintain equivalent capabilities those 5 need to be c5000t T23 style replacements. I can’t see it going overseas despite their bring a number of in use designs ( even if they don’t meet current RN standards) but the onus is on the RN, MOD and BAE to sort it out. There will have to be compromises, on cost, profit, capabilities and taskings. SDSR has given both the RN and BAE 13 new warships to build and operate. The 8 T26s give us enough to run the carrier groups, the 5 new Rivers may have kept the skills going but unless ‘T31’ is sorted from cost front they may find themselves being given a new gun and an ‘F’ designation. I am hopeful it will be sorted on the lines of a T23 II but your ‘khareef lite’ remains in the wings

A Caribbean Perspective
A Caribbean Perspective
November 28, 2015 5:06 pm

The problem is trying to reconcile the various themes in the PM’s statement. He used the words “capital ship”, “light frigate”, “more ships” and “export” all in the same statement – and I’m not sure that those are all compatible in one hull.

WRT the light frigate part, if you look back to the original idea of the C1/2/3 fleet then, as the T26 is clearly the C1 component, the next step is to acquire the next most capable layer, the C2 component, which is, I suspect, why the rumours about a 5000t ship have started to emerge, as the C2 was expected to be a 4-5000 t vessel (and as NaB has pointed out, changing standards have probably driven it towards the top end of that range).I also suspect that the C3 requirement will re-surface when we start discussing the MCH replacement in a few years time (don’t be surprise to hear about a 3000 t design, with light armament that is configurable for a number of roles (though primarily through off-board systems, rather than by building different configurations). Perhaps this is where the Khareef design gets bulked up a bit (or the Venator becomes an actual design). However, if the C2 design is a long way off, the C3 design is even further off, so it’s all just speculation.

Looking at numbers, the original plan was for 10 C1 and 8 C2, plus a larger number of C3 hulls. So 8 T26 is a fair-ish result and par for the course in recent building programs. However if the budget for the remaining 5 T26 is meant to cover 8 C2 designs, it might be a bit tight, unless there is a lot of fitting “for-but-not-with”. I suspect that the hull size may be correct, but that they will not be particularly capable initially. Getting only 5 would be an admission of failure, as they would be seen as costing the same as the T26s they “replace”, so I think that there actually is political will to build “more than 5”, so hopefully at least 6. C3 numbers? I would guess they are aiming for around 15-16 to replace the (by then) 12 MCM and 3 Survey fleet (the extra one plays to the “more ships” theme).

Can you call a 5000 t ship a “capital ship”? I would think so. Can you call it a light frigate? Only in the RN world – for most of the rest of the world, frigates are more like 2-3000 t. Personally I wouldn’t use “capital ship” and “light frigate” to describe the same vessel.

Exportable? T26 – hmmm. C2 – possible – we might sell/ license a few to NZ/Aus/Canada or possibly to a few far-eastern navies that are trying to seriously upgrade/ need a flagship etc, but I suspect that we will not sell many. C3 – listen to ALL the potential customers (not just the RN) design it right and offer lots of options and I can see us selling quite a lot.

Just my two cents worth

Chuck Hill
November 28, 2015 6:35 pm

The US currently expects to have 65 57mm guns in its inventory. 32 on LCS and 33 on Coast Guard cutters. 5″ Mk45, 76mm, 57mm, and most 30mm gun mounts can be fired with no one at the mount, so if the firecontrol systems are up they can all be fired very quickly. I did a comparison of the main gun options (less the 30mm) from the perspective of stopping a recalcitrant merchant vessel here:

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
November 28, 2015 9:26 pm

…maintaining my unusually up-beat mood, the Air Ministry ordered 310 Spitfires on June 3rd 1936…the number they were then planning for is lost to history (or at least to Wiki!), but I’m pretty sure it was less than the 20,000 plus eventually built. The important thing was that even when appeasement remained the order of the day (at least in public) an order was placed and production established of one of the most advanced fighter aircraft around. So by my reckoning as we sit here we are committed to upgrade a key component of the surface fleet with a big hull and ample space for upgrades, we are building very modern SSNs and we are moving further down the F35 “pipeline” (a truly horrible expression!).

Which puts us in a much better place than we might be if the post-Cold War World continues to go to hell in a handcart at it’s current rate of progress…if we are building stuff at all, we can build both more and faster if we need to; which I quite seriously think we might…

Gloomy, but perhaps on a turning tide.

Fat Bloke on Tour
Fat Bloke on Tour
November 28, 2015 9:59 pm

TD — We have been here before.

Suffering from a design capability that is next to useless trying to fit in a high priced nonsense from a magic circle of chosen suppliers.

Want to make progress — inject some competition into the process.
Accept a £50mill pa cost of a proper design bureaucracy that should support the RN.
Then split them into 2 — Bath vs Glesga and let them get on with it.

Shameful how poor and unworldly our current national capability is in this field.

We are off to a bad start — we cannot be true to ourselves.
Regarding the Rivers — what is the actual build cost?
We have rented them in the past.
We moved on to a batch buy — 3 for £348mill from memory — but no real cost of the ships involved as this figure includes spares, training, logistics, maintenance and the usual BWoS friendly froth.

Clear out the stables — let the sunshine in.
What is the cost of a River from BWoS and what is the state supplied equipment.
It will only be a data point now — contracts have been signed but at least we would have some real figures.

If we are looking at anything north of £50mill each then we are dealing with Dick Turpin.

As for the future — better to start with 2 Tier 2 GP prototypes.
No GT’s and a second hand weapons fit — really need to go to town on low cost.
The current T26 debacle after the last T45 debacle shows that we are well of the pace regarding cost credibility.

Unfortunately we have no commercial shipbuilding experience to fall back on so we are living in CS VFM La La Land. Paint it navy blue and charge three times the normal price and take three times as long to fit it.

Plus get national politics into it.
The Govan / Yarrows combo is on its last chance.
Things are now too important to leave everything to the private sector.

Nationalise as state assets.
Upgrade using SE money and rent out to BWoS on a limited time lease.

Currently we do not have shipbuilders at the yard we have 3000 economic hostages.
The spectre of big redundancies is being used to bleed the MOD dry.
As things stand the shipyards will close just a case of when.

T45’s — Over priced and underwhelming meaning no export potential.
QE class — Over priced and over engineered / 44 ton truck designed by a B car (Fiesta) design team.
T26’s — New hulls for 2nd hand upgraded T23 kit. Smoke and mirrors on the costings and no interest from overseas. Anyone surprised?

It is not all down to the people who are involved it is the system and the ethos they work under.

November 28, 2015 10:22 pm

Good to have FBOT back from tour… did you get elected?

November 29, 2015 2:03 am

Maybe a further crazy idea but what about just rebuilding T23 for the T31 requirement? Swap out the 4.5 gun with the 127mm and buy NSM to replace harpoon, then just cross deck everything else.

Given the ships were produced just 15 years ago for £100 million it would be hard for BAE to charge £ 1 billion for them. If the USN can build Burkes to replace Burkes then why not?

November 29, 2015 2:47 am

Just a thought. A GP frigate is by definition a bit of everything, so it has some AAW, ASuW and ASW capabilities but not to the level as the specialised ships. It should be able to operate on its own or as part of a task force. If I was drafting specs for a GP frigate I would want 7000 nautical mile range, 5in gun, ASW torpedoes, hull mounted sonar, AShM such as NSM, Harpoon etc., 24 cell VLS, crewing of around 100, extra facilities for 50 bods, decent sized mission bay preferably opening astern, good radar etc. Yes it sounds a bit like a Type 26 but it doesn’t have to be guccied as much. That way you have a frigate that can go in and do NGS if needed which frees up your destroyers and ASW frigates to concentrate on their specialised tasks protecting the phat ships. It would be a frigate that could go to the Falklands and keep the Argies in line. Steel is cheap and air is free. Like I say just a thought.

November 29, 2015 5:06 am

An excellent post from TD. Certainly got me thinking. I’m totally onboard with the underlying thinking but not with the conclusions. Let me expand.

If I may paraphrase tha main points: firstly, the Type 31 has to be smaller and therefore cheaper. That means it has to be less flexible and less multi-role than the T26. Secondly, the cheaper ship still will consume considerable amounts of RN financial & human resources, and given the RN history, is more than likely to see action. So the smaller number of purposes must still be done extremely well. Or maybe one extremely well, and a secondary not quite.

Totally onboard. Excellent. But:

Bae & the Navy have fought hard for one order of a sizable batch of t26. To get economy of scale in pricing and to get a mass of top rate ASW assets that have the margins/flexibility that with upgrades will ensure they remain effective for their 30 year lives. It defies any kind of logic to recommend the Navy go back to the Treasury and say “oops, we don’t need so many of them”.

Nor does it make much sense to buy the T26 and not use it to protect the Navies overwhelming most precious asset, the carriers, using its World Class ASW ability from quiet hull, quiet systems, to advanced sonars & best ship helo. To have the T26 sail off into the sunset to leave cheaper, inferior ships providing QE escort is not logical.

So what could the T31 mission be? Most of what I read about and hear being excercised, is defense against mass attacks by swarms of missiles and/or small boats. QE will attract every anti-ship missile in a thousand miles. Air, submarine & land launched. Yet the British fleet seems under equipped to deal with such a threat. None of the larger ships: aircraft carriers, amphibs, RFA have anything more than Phoenix. Sure, the T-45’s have an incredible systmem but I don’t buy that one or two of them can create an effective bubble around a a task group. Sure the carrier will have F-35’s but I don’t think they can do much but force the oppo into launching at stand off ranges.

So my T31 mission #1 is a reprise of the role taken by the type 22’s in the Falklands. Goalkeeper. An excellent radar that can handle mass atacks (sampson) plus dozens of CAMM cells. Or rather CAMM-ER to make best use of the radar. So a kind of asrsenal ship but anti-missile not land attack. Plus enough fast shooting guns to take care of boat attacks plus a coupe of wildcat in a t45 sized hangar with a sizable magazine for the new anti-ship missiles.

Obviously the ship would need enough speed & endurance to keep up with a carrier centered taskforce. I think that could be done with a CODADe.

Secondary mission: land attack in support of amphib ops. The anti-missile & anti-boat weaponary will be vital to operate successfully inshore so I suggest a 5″ gun with extended range ammo and development of a Brimstone/Spear 3 missile that could be fired from the CAMM VLS. Cheapo tomahawk.

Tertiary roles could be constabulary stuff – anti-piracy, showing the flag, disaster recovery etc.

Good news for the Treasury: no accomodation for a significant EMF. No Mk 41 VLS. No hulls sonar & no VDS. No special hull or system silencing. No mission bay. No gas turbine. Hand me down CAMM from retiring t23’s.

Bad news: a more capable radar (than Artisan). Lots of CAMM missiles & VLS. Sea SPEAR 3 development. Extended range 5″ munition. New hull & systems design.

November 29, 2015 5:25 am

“Given the ships were produced just 15 years ago for £100 million it would be hard for BAE to charge £ 1 billion for them. If the USN can build Burkes to replace Burkes then why not?”

Sure thing Martin, they’ll be over 10,000 tons full displacement and after the first few, they’ll settle down to about $2 billion each. How many can I order for you?

November 29, 2015 5:26 am

Talking about the Burkes, not the T23.

November 29, 2015 6:01 am

@RON 5

The flight 1 Burkes were not exactly cheap either. For the US ship building industry $2 billion is a bit of a bargain. That being said the combination of the RN and BAE would probably take the T23 design and optimise it so we ended up with a near 10,000 t $2 billion ship, wait a minute that’s the T26 :-)

November 29, 2015 8:53 am

It seems to me that a reduction in design capability will not do. I am going to think WWII style. Or perhaps I should say Falklands II where we are resident on the islands.

ADD (Air Defence Destroyer). We need at least one for each carrier group, and as pointed out already it would be foolhardy not to have two as it would represent a single point of failure. (2 Daring Class)

ADD are also used to protect the mainland and I believe should provide BMD. With two carrier groups using four Daring class and only two left (presumably some in refit or undergoing replenishment etc.) we appear to lack

1. The capability to provide AD to the British Isles
2. The flexibility to provide AD to a third expeditionary taskforce which could be used to insert forces onto land and if we think Falklands is certainly put into harms way and therefore usually some distance from the carrier.

So do we leave the second carrier in port? I would suggest not, it would represent an obvious target, out in the oceans it has to be found.

Anti Submarine Warfare (ASW) Again we would need at least two for each carrier group and presumably again any separate (or split) task group would need protection. Certainly our LSDs etc. would need protection. We would also need to protect our nuclear assets and the mainland itself.

We are going to have 8 Type 26 so again this looks short. Lacking is

1. The ability to take the hunt to the enemy
2. Much redundancy if ships are in refit

Obviously getting P8s now makes a massive difference.

What are the other requirements? Well the T45 and the T26 need to be able to defend themselves. The T26 ASW does quite well in this respect but I am not sure about the T45. Would a T26 be tied to a T45 in every case where there is a submarine threat?

So what else do we need? Minesweepers, escorts and possibly something to take the fight to the enemies backyard? We also will in future lack a helicopter carrier. Now I believe the QE Class carriers are not a suitable substitute for a helicopter carrier. Any suggestions to the contrary I see as political spin.

We actually need platforms for helicopters and sufficient ability to despatch embarked forces. The T26 can take Chinooks. Talk about redundancy, being able to come from different directions and having lots of flexibility.

So missing is escorts, we need merchant shipping escorts, escorts for the replenishment fleet and patrol ships. My solution and force enhancer is to make sure that the MARS SSS (x4 of) has the following additional capabilities

1. To be able to defend itself
2. Act as a mothership for numerous operations due to it’s size (volume) and flexibility.
3. Act as a mothership for maintenance of helicopters, and the ability to be a hangar is required.
4. Provides a platform for operations and is basically a LSD aka San Antonio that is also a SSS.

If the MARS LSSD (as I am going to call my variant) had a Sampson BMD capability (read even better than a T45 due to the extra height) this would free up a second carrier tasked T45 for other uses. I believe the MARS LSSD would have lots of volume, Mk41 silos and other defensive measures. Submarine defence would be helicopter based only. They would in effective be Cruisers.

Such a force multiplier would reduce the needs of the GP T26s. Would they be needed? Well I think we lack numbers but in my scenario what are they needed for?

Finally, I don’t believe the T26 is over designed, specialist is good but we need the ships to be able to survive contact with more than a submarine.

November 29, 2015 9:53 am

I believe you have just described the Dutch Karel Doorman support ship – it provides everything required and 4 of these would be a game changer.

November 29, 2015 11:45 am

I wonder how much a Kareef class vessel with a main-gun (would the design accommodate something larger than a 76mm?), a couple of Seahawk-Sigma mounts, some CAMM and a medium sized hangar would end up costing?

If the purpose of pursuing a cheaper, general purpose frigate that isn’t based on the T26 is purely to give the design team something to do then obviously an off the shelf solution isn’t an option.

However if it was all about trying to produce a cheap design that offers the chance of being built in greater numbers then i don’t see why something like the Khareef would be a problem.

24-28 kn on diesels, a flight-deck to accommodate a Merlin for ASW if necessary, local area air-defence out to 25km with something like CAMM and you’ve got a perfectly adequate 2nd rate escort which could either offer an additional layer of close protection for a task-group or escort RFA’s and/or merchant shipping along sea-lanes to and from, either way allowing our 14 high-end vessels to focus on the immediate threat.

November 29, 2015 1:16 pm

> I wonder how much a Kareef class vessel with a main-gun (would the design accommodate something larger than a 76mm?), a couple of Seahawk-Sigma mounts, some CAMM and a medium sized hangar would end up costing?

As I am not any naval engineer, following is just my assumption.

At first glance, the cost will look like not so much different from the Khareef itself considering the similar nature of the equipments. It was 400 MGBP for 3 units, but there are some rumor for significant cost over-run. Thus may be 500 MGBP per 3, i.e. 167GBP per unit or so.

However, as many members are saying, it do not have the range, living standard and safety standard required for RN. The hull maybe required to be a bit longer 99 –> 105m and fatter 14.6 –> 15.5 m beam, resulting in15-20 % larger displacement, resulting in 3200 t FL or so. In addition, RN will need to reduce the crew number to, say, 60+7 (Wildcat crews) or so, with significant automation system, which is not cheap, as well.

Then I won’t be surprised to see the “mod-Khareef-level” light frigate to cost as much as 220~250 MGBP per unit, which is, in my point of view, not so bad. Although living standard cannot be easily mitigated, range can be. We all know the T42 destroyers, active till 2013, had a range of only 4200 nm@14 kts. Then I think there will be a chance for 180-200 MGBP per unit.

Please note this is all “fantasy”. But I think I am not so much optimistic…

November 29, 2015 2:06 pm

The Malaysians are doing some fairly good but low key work on their SGPV (Second Generation Patrol Vessel), while it is a work in progress, it does look to be shaping up to be a cheap and versatile frigate.

And of course a comparison to ours.


Have to admit, the French do good work. Frenchie would be proud. :)

November 29, 2015 3:28 pm

On a small hull, compromises to get a good balance can be tricky:
1. a maximum speed of 25 knots and 7,000 nm range endurance.
2. Maximum: 27 knots
Cruising: 18 kn
Range: 4,200 nautical miles

Both relate to the Lafayette hull, Obs will know which is which (the speed difference from swapping out the diesel units for a different optimal working speed has been put at 4 knots in other sources). The point I am trying to make is that to get just a little bit more of A you will have to give up far too much of B (when being dogmatic about the hull size).

November 29, 2015 3:35 pm

Very good point ACC.

November 29, 2015 3:37 pm
six ships will be built [by local shipbuilder Boustead Holdings Berhad for the Royal Malaysian Navy] at a ceiling price of RM9 billion (US$2.8 billion), starting from 2015.[6] The ships will be 111 meters long with a displacement of 3,100 tonnes

– just to add a benchmark from Observer’s other link:
£ 2bn for 6, with ocean-going qualities
– fit-out for weaponry (not sensors) will go into roundation errors, and can be discussed later (in ’30s; even though 2-3 x the Rivers is already included)

November 29, 2015 3:49 pm

I’m curious why you think the Royal Navy doesn’t want the OPVs? Could you elaborate on that fact at all?

November 29, 2015 4:03 pm

No, I’d like four 40k San Antonios (being San Antonios plus 20k stores). These are expensive, but it appears so are T45s and T26s

OPVs are small, small means hitting the rough seas becomes an issue. WWII frigates didn’t have helicopters and maybe there are other reasons why this is more of an issue nowadays

November 29, 2015 4:41 pm


I’m well aware of what a rough sea feels like. Submarines on the surface are horrific. Especially when they start rolling more than 30 degrees as you attempt to get back into UK Coastal waters.

Anyway without getting off topic I shall rephrase my question.

While excellent to see a site that has invested a considerable amount of thought about our armed forces and also one that considers the needs of the Royal Navy the statement in the above article “That the Royal Navy doesn’t want OPV sized vessels or need them” seems to have been made without directly asking the Royal Navy.

So. Did you ask anyone on what the opinion of the Royal Navy might be on this? I’m just curious. Right now with manpower churn being exceptionally high. With billets increasingly to units that deploy for 10 months to the other side of the world with few stops/jollies. With increasingly small numbers of cheap assets for which junior Officers and Senior Rates can experience positions of “command” without high levels of risk. Meh I could go on however the point is. All the equipment and warfighting ships in the world will not matter if the manpower churn due to personnel dissatisfaction due to a lack of harmony time (We don’t get to take our families on any sort of oversea deployment regardless of how safe it is…..well besides a few exceptions to a permanent oversea base).

That is before we consider the maritime security and international engagement tasks that a frigate/destroyer is totally wasted on.

The OPVs are badly needed. Frigates/Destroyers are badly needed but most of all personnel are badly needed. Currently spending, recruitment and tasking do not align. Until they do no amount of equipment will change the fact that the RN is in free fall.

November 29, 2015 5:03 pm


But isn’t the “small” and “long duration” a contradiction in capabilities? The size of the ship determines how far and long you can deploy away from your home port, unless you hop from port to port to your destination. The frigate as I see it is a convenient middle ground.

November 29, 2015 5:28 pm
Reply to  Observer

Yes it is. It is a contradiction the Royal Navy itself suffers. That is that in accordance with British Maritime doctrine the Royal Navy has more than just Warfighting as a key responsibility. Maritime Security and International Engagement are the 2 other critical responsibilities. JDP 0-10 identifies them as “Roles”.

The said document can be found here:

I’d suggest a read if you haven’t. If you have then you will understand that essentially the Royal Navy requires a Hi-Lo force structure and that is why the concept of “A Light frigate” is not a bad thing. In essence the Type 26 changed from “Cheap and Flexible” to a “Powerful Multi-role warfighter”. With the choice looking like Mk.41 for the VLS across the board (as Sea Ceptor can be quad packed even in a Mk.41 SD but so could things like Spear 3), a 127mm gun, Phalanx, 30mm, A large hanger, A mission bay, Towed Array and a decent senor suit.

What the Royal Navy needs now is a number of cheaper warships. These need to be 3000-4000 tonnes. A medium calibre gun, 2 Phalanx, 12-16 Mk.41 SD, Hanger for Wildcat and a mission bay for mine hunting UUVs, UAVs for surveillance or Thor (for Anti-Piracy/Anti-Narcotics) reconfigured as required. Crew of 100. 5-10 of them would be ideal.

Then finally there is the OPVs. Ideal for giving the reserves experience, fishery protection, coastguard work, West Indies guard ship (Now part of the South Atlantic Tasking) during the calm seasons and given the sabre ratling recently in some over sea territories as a continuous presence in Gibraltar/Falklands. A number of those tasks are overkill for even a “light frigate”.

In essence the old C1, C2, C3 concept for our replacement of Type 23, Type 22, Older OPVs. Hell with a mission bay and unmanned technology perhaps UUVs/UAVs could do minehunting from a mission bay of the “C2”. In either event. 4-6 OPVs are really a good thing :). Not least for training.

November 29, 2015 5:39 pm


If the T26 was ready for production, no further orders for OPV’s would have been placed.The latest two, like the three previously are work creation schemes. When the new ships are commisioned, older OPV’s will be sold off for pennies on the pound as soon as they can. The RN doesn’t want or need any more.

November 29, 2015 5:45 pm

Judging by the desperate search for a small multi-purpose ship design, I fear TD’s major point that a cheaper T31 cannot be as flexible and multi-purpose, is being totally missed.

For example, what can a Khareef do very well that can actually make a diffference to a RN campaign? It may be able to defend itself for a short period, it may be able to keep up with the fleet (as long as it doesn’t require refuling, I don’t see any RAS equipment). So what can it do to ruin the day of the guys in the black hats? Damned if I can see anything.

November 29, 2015 6:40 pm

Isn’t a OPV the warship equivalent of a small car for shopping trips. A smartcar (probably with a keel sticker “my other boat is a battleship”)?

November 29, 2015 6:51 pm


I agree with your comments about retention. All of the forces need to offer reasonable opportunities to all those seeking a career. It is unfortunate that we scaled back foreign bases, and I am quite sure using an OPV for Caribbean duties would unpopular with the crews missing out on a summer trip.

However when the chips are down I doubt OPVs would add much to the Royal Navy. If they can be proven escorts for merchant shipping maybe I would have some faith, but they aren’t escorts.

Brian Black
Brian Black
November 29, 2015 8:58 pm

I think the premise of the article is a sound one.

If the Type 31 is going to be flexible and exportable frigate, then it will have the capacity for an ASW variant inherent in its design.

The additional mission bay and weapons capacity of the Type 26 will be largely redundant as a carrier escort, and aircraft carriers have surely been put at the centre of naval strategy.

If ordering eight T26 though, and the Navy can’t eventually afford to keep them as GP frigates, it might be simpler just to sell off the first couple of ships once the T31 begin to be delivered.

Perhaps if the money was there, and the Type 31 design was ready, and there was the shipyard capacity, then could there be a switch of T26 #7 & #8 to the AAW variant?

I still think it will be a tall order to produce a T31 design that gives the Navy what it wants in a frigate while being significantly cheaper than a mature Type 26 with a modest weapon fit and radar. If we must get BAe to design something new and cheap, then get them back onto the MCM/survey/patrol vessel concept. A flexible MHPC vessel rather than a light frigate would give them something worthwhile to do while actually being cheaper than a global combat ship.

It seems to me that the C1,2,3 theory is best suited to a bigger navy. Trying to bring a light frigate into service will just saddle that ship with a whole lot of new and unnecessary design and production costs that will see the likelihood of more than five as incredibly remote – just as the Type 45 & 26 fleets will not have reached their originally expected potential; we’ll then be left with the option of a patrol vessel with ASuW package if we want more ships, so why not just skip the light frigate step?

A Different Gareth
A Different Gareth
November 29, 2015 10:34 pm

Not knowing anything about ship building, would a Type 26 with a Type 23 style superstructure rather than the slopey stealth shape be any cheaper? More adaptable?

November 30, 2015 2:00 am


I take it you have not seen our old corvettes before. :)

November 30, 2015 4:37 am

@ Anthony

I agree with your assessment, the RN’s lack of desire to have these OPV’s has been expressed by several serving RN members on here in the past. To me the lack of an aircraft hangar is the key issue. If the boats had been lengthened as with the Khareef design they could have accommodated a flight deck and hangar capable of carrying a lynx. This would have massively improved their utility and allowed them to stand in for current escort tasking in the Caribbean, south Atlantic and other areas with little difficulty. The omission of the hangar in my mind was for the same reason that our LPD’s and LSD’s don’t have a hangar. In the treasury mind hangar = frigate which equals cuts to the 13.

Without an embarked helicopter it’s going to be difficult to hand over even the Caribbean role to the ship. Leaving them with little do do other than fishery protection in the UK EEZ or immigrant patrols in the Med. All of which we already have decent nearly new vessels to cover.

I think the entire thing is a missed opportunity to produce a Low end vessel to really supplement the navy in its basic security tasks. Others have said the design could not be modified in time to incorporate a hangar however I don’t buy that given that this design has been changed on several occasions to fit export needs and even been used as the basis of the Khareef class that has a medium hangar.

While the current Khareef class is too man power intensive for the RN and not the ship we need, too much in the way of combat and weapons systems for instance. The basic hull form seems very much in line with what we needed for the C3 patrol requirement, indeed the vessel was originally designed to meet something very close to that requirement in the global corvette and BAE only just finished making them. If we had ordered 5 scaled down khareefs instead of 5 up scaled rivers we would be in a much better place with something useful joining the fleet.

Chuck Hill
November 30, 2015 5:10 am

I wonder if the River 2.0s might have room for a collapsible hangar for the Wildcat if it did not also have to have room for the much larger Merlin.

November 30, 2015 6:42 am

I think it would be time well spent, if a little design effort could go into the 2 additional OPVs. The only reason to have these will be to send them on extended patrols outside of the UK EEZ, assuming the other 3 new ships will replace the Batch 1’s in UK waters. Perhaps lessons learnt from HMS Severn’s recent stint as APT(N) could be considered.

I think a hangar (of some form) for both these vessels is needed. And if the quickest (and easiest) route is to go for a stripped down Khareef design, why not… Also, Chuck’s idea of sacrificing the ability to operate Merlin’s and focus on the Lynx is not a bad option either (if possible).

November 30, 2015 7:50 am

: I think you’re missing @TD’s point. The Type 31 won’t be used for long range singleton tasks, we’ll leave that to the Type 26/45’s. It will need a hangar, but only large enough for a single Lynx or a couple of small UAV’s.

If only the Bay’s had a hangar, I suspect they would be the perfect West Indies guardship. A couple of Lynx, a Mk5, relief supplies loaded already and able to supply amphibious training to friendly West Indian nations like Jamaica. But I digress…

November 30, 2015 8:13 am

@ WF – I get the point TD is making about the type 31, my proposal for a stripped down Khareef is not a frigate replacement but simply one to get more utility out of the 5 OPV’s we don’t need.

@ chuck hill

I just don’t know if their is sufficient space in the back of the Batch 2 river to put in a collapsible hangar, when you see the picture of the Merlin onboard it looks very tight and the blades on a lynx are not that much smaller. A telescopic hanger may be more doable but if the RN had wanted a hangar they most likely would have ordered a ship with a hangar. As I said the design was already there in the Khareef class just finished but it looks too much like a frigate to be an OPV and that I believe is the reason we are not ordering them.

November 30, 2015 9:21 am

If the first T26 now enters service in let’s say 2024 and they’re built at one per year the last one will enter service in 2031. Therefore the first T31 (or whatever) will enter service in 2032.

As the Equipment Plan is only vaguely reliable up to 10 years in the future how can the current SDSR be saying that we can’t afford more T26s in 17 years time?

Similarly it can’t be about staffing levels. Just look back 17 years – you can’t seriously be suggesting that in 1998 the MoD could have, with any degree of accuracy, forecast the size of the RN today?

This move has to be about keeping the design teams in work and perhaps the recognition that T26 isn’t exportable.

Thus there’s an inherent design problem from the start. The RN will want a blue ribbon multi-role combat warship which nobody but ourselves and the USN are in the market for!

I fear that this is a doomed enterprise from the start. We can probably assume the design cost alone for the T31 will be up to £1 billion. Split between just 5 ships that’s a start up cost of £200 million each. So just to break even with the option of building more T26s the new ship will have to be at the very least £200 million each cheaper. What are the chances of BAE delivering that?