The history of the the Type 26 Global Combat Ship that will replace the Type 23 frigate as the workhorse of the Fleet, undertaking the Royal Navy’s three core roles – warfighting, maritime security and international engagement.

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The history of the Type 26 Global Combat Ship starts with what it is replacing, the Type 23 Frigate.

The Type 23 Frigate

Following the Suez Crisis, British military strategy was largely characterised by that of withdrawal from empire and conflict containment, but from the end of the sixties until the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early nineties, NATO issues dominated British military thinking and the Royal Navy simply mirrored this.

Whilst there was still a great deal of debate about the general utility of sea power it was Sir James Eberle, Fleet C In C, that firmly aligned the Royal Navy to the NATO task of anti-submarine warfare support for the US Navy with the intention to contain the Soviet naval threat and enable transatlantic reinforcements to flow into Western Europe in response to a Warsaw Pact invasion through Eastern Europe.

The 1975 Healey Defence Review was not as far-reaching for the Royal Navy as the other two services but the 1981 Nott Review would change that.

The four principal NATO tasks assigned to the Royal Navy were;

  1. Containment of the Soviet surface and submarine fleet in their bases, mostly a task for the submarine fleet;
  2. Reinforcement of Norway using a reorganised 3 CDO brigade with a Dutch amphibious contingent;
  3. Anti-submarine warfare support for US Navy strike fleet;
  4. Defence of shipping from the USA to Europe.

It was the third and fourth task that the Royal Navy saw as a key means of retaining surface fleet numbers and aircraft carrier capability.

Despite the cancellation of CVA-01, by the end of the seventies, the Royal Navy was well on the way to establishing the CVS Invincible Class, each carrying Sea Harrier aircraft. Whilst the Invincible Class was coming into service, HMS Hermes was modified to carry Sea Harrier as a stop-gap. The ‘through deck cruisers’ were intended to provide localised air defence for the surface ASW fleet and maritime patrol aircraft.

John Nott was a decisive minister, much more so than the service chiefs believed was possible. He quickly identified that given the commitment to Trident and the defence of the UK, the only area for significant savings were the maritime NATO missions and BAOR. Defence policy would change, based on an earlier premise that a conflict with the Soviet Union would be short and with little warning. The role of British forces would be to delay Soviet forces in Western Europe enough to either find space for a peace agreement, or time for a decision on nuclear forces.

Reinforcements from the USA were therefore seen as less of a likelihood and not deserving of a high level of funding, one of the four key maritime NATO tasks the Royal Navy was aligned with. It also assumed that Soviet submarines would have been dispersed well in advance of any attack and, therefore, would be unable to be contained within their port areas. This is not to say the mission was no longer required, simply that it was thoughtless likely and subject to prioritisation.

The paper proposed a much-reduced budget percentage for the Royal Navy, down from 29% to 25%, despite it containing the Trident programme.

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Whilst the regular British Army was re-equipped, the Territorial Army increased and a programme that would become the Eurofighter confirmed, the Royal Navy would take the brunt of the cuts. This would mean a much-reduced surface fleet and the cessation of the various upgrade programmes, to the Leander frigates for example. Cuts to the Royal Navy would also include the assault ships and one of the three Invincible Class.

The search for a cheaper frigate was intensified, and one that would not need a ‘Leander scale’ refit.

That cheaper frigate was the Type 23, by then in the concept stage. Type 23 was announced in 1980 as a replacement for the Leander Class.

In a Commons debate in May 1981, the then Secretary of State for Defence, John Nott, said;

Again as I said in my speech, we cannot continue to have frigates costing £130 million a time, excellent though they are. With my right hon. Friend, I repudiate press reports that our modern ships are poor weapons platforms and not properly armed. They are first-class ships, but, frankly, we cannot afford them in the numbers that we need. In the Navy debate last June I advanced the case for the type 23 frigate at half the cost, for the much cheaper minehunter and for seriously considering converting tankers to helicopter carriers for anti-submarine purposes, which is a sensible dual-purpose role for them. All that makes a great deal of sense. Inevitably, the resources that any Secretary of State has are limited. The best being the enemy of the good has all too often been the rack upon which Secretaries of State for Defence have been laid.

A month later, the point about Type 22 cost was reiterated in a Statement to House by John Nott, introducing the 1981 Defence White Paper;

But I believe we must make changes here in a number of ways. First, if we want to build a reasonable number of new ships in the future, we must devise much cheaper and simpler designs than the type 22 frigate. We must accelerate urgently—and I have provided funds in the programme for this—a new type of anti-submarine frigate, the type 23, built with an eye to export as well as Royal Navy needs, for we have not sold a major British warship of Royal Navy design for over a decade.

I intend to pursue as well the possibility of still more cost-effective, smaller ships than the type 23.

Secondly, we can maintain our surface fleet at its present full strength only through a continuous programme of refits and major mid-life modernisations of older ships, requiring a huge and costly dockyard infrastructure. Typically, it can now cost up to £70 million to modernise an old Leander frigate, which is actually more than our target cost for the new type 23 frigate.

If we are to be able to build new ships in our shipyards and fulfil other priority defence tasks, we simply cannot afford to sustain such a policy of refit and modernisation—or, for that matter, maritime air defence at the present level, where the planned forward investment in major equipment for the air defence of warships at sea has been about double that for the air defence of the United Kingdom itself.

There has been much debate about the decisions made by John Nott, not least the implications of them on the Falkland Islands Conflict in 1982, but the Royal Navy was proposing a capital budget far in advance of the ability of the UK to pay for it and pressing threats meant hard decisions. John Nott had the political courage to face down the gold braid and invite the Royal Navy to live within national means.

Although two more Type 22 were ordered and the four of the Batch III designs, only Type 23 was planned to be in production for the medium to long term.

In the early seventies, there had been a number of studies on cheap frigates, the Future Light Frigate for example. The low-end ship was soon rejected, however, but towards the end of the decade, interest was again on the increase. The Type 23 was originally meant to be a towed array ship supported by the Fort Class replenishment ships carrying the new EH101/Merlin helicopters. The Type 23 would be able to embark a helicopter, the maintenance would be carried out onboard the replenishment ship.

An Outline Staff Requirement was issued in 1980 that specified a target cost of £70 million, reduced radar signature, a crew of 150, limited onboard maintenance, high endurance and reduced noise when operating at low to medium speed, specifically for the towed array. The flight deck would need to accommodate the future Sea King replacement, the EH101 Merlin.

Early in the 1970’s a number of research projects in the UK and the USA examined passive and active towed arrays, fixed and floating designs and other means of creating an advanced submarine detection capability. They showed a great deal of promise and would influence Royal Navy shipping design strategies. Following trials success on the Leander class, the new Type 2031Z towed array and its large computing system was installed on the Batch II and Batch III Type 22’s. The new system included the Curtis Processor, a computing system that, for the day, was powerful and power/space-efficient.

Type 2031Z was to be the primary sensor of the Type 23 Frigate.

Maximum towing speed was limited by the onset of propeller cavitation and so to achieve a high towing speed without cavitation, twin large fixed-pitch screws were specified. A higher maximum speed was required to sprint between periods of low noise listening, especially vital when escorting high-value assets. Various design iterations followed the initial concepts until the final submission included a Sea Wolf installation and helicopter hangar.

It was still a specialised ship, however.

In the post-Falklands conflict era of frigate design and rebuilding, the specialist gave way to a series of more rounded general-purpose designs. Type 23 was changed to include vertical launch Seawolf, greater fire compartmentalisation, a 4.5” main gun, Harpoon missiles and other survivability improvements. The final design was larger and obviously, a more general-purpose in nature, Despite this, it still retained a core focus on anti-submarine warfare.

It was claimed they were the quietest combat ships in service with any navy.

Sixteen were ordered, with the first ship entering service in 1990, just as the Cold War was coming to an end. The need for such specialised ASW vessels was lessened and combined with a recognition of the limitation of 2010Z against the latest Soviet submarines, the last six were built without the towed array.

The Type 23 Frigate has been continually upgraded over the years, many of the original systems completely different than when launched.

NATO Frigate Replacement for the Nineties and the Horizon Common New-Generation Frigate (CNGF)

There were a couple of projects worth mentioning to provide additional context for Type 26.

First was the NATO Frigate Replacement for 90’s (NFR-90), a multi-national programme that included France, Germany, Italy, the UK, the United States and Canada.

NFR-90 had the perfectly laudable objective of creating a common ship design that could drive standardisation across the alliance partners, reduce costs and collectively, increase combat strength. The mission needs document was created in 1979 and the outline staff requirement the year after.

Pre-feasibility studies ran until 1982. The project team recognised that the ships would be built locally and individual nations would choose different systems such as anti-ship missiles but by standardising on the basic design and major components, up t0 25% savings could be realised.

The project progressed through a number of milestones until the final study concluded in 1985 with a series of different design variants.

The Baseline (or Atlantic) design was to be a ship of 3,500 tonnes displacement constructed using modular techniques to accommodate different national requirements built in a quantity of 59, the UK planned to take 12.


In parallel with NFR-90, the various partner nations were also involved in one way or another with the anti-aircraft missile issue. There were two systems on the table, the NATO Anti-Air Warfare System (NAAWS) or Family of Air Missiles (FAMS).

In the NAAWS camp were The Netherlands, Spain, UK and the USA. FAMS was a European proposal including France, Italy, Spain and the UK.

Confusing, I know!

France and Italy signed a Letter of Intent in 1987 that agreed to develop the Aster missile system, Aster 15 for the navy and Aster 30 for the Army.

In 1988, despite this source of potential conflict, the UK joined the NFR-90 project definition stage.

Germany had already decided to build the Type 123 Brandenburg class in 1987, thus reducing their NFR-90 requirement. By 1989, with interest waning and costs increasing, the UK, France and Italy, withdrew. A year later, Spain also withdrew.

And that was the end of NFR-90.

An exchange in the House of Commons in January 1990 confirmed the cost of the UK’s participation in NFR-90;

Mr. Lofthouse: What was the Government’s initial expenditure on NATO frigate replacement, and why did they withdraw from the project? Does he think that, whatever the costs were, it was a complete waste of taxpayers’ money? Bearing that in mind, does he have plans to ensure that initial expenditure on future projects is kept to a minimum?

Mr. Neubert: There has been no waste of taxpayers’ money. Our participation in the NFR90 project cost £4.5 million, and the value of that work will be reflected in the work that we do on the type 42 successor, which we plan to have in service at the turn of the century or thereabouts.

The UK then awarded a follow-on contract for an additional three Type 23 Frigates.

On April 26th, 1999, the UK withdrew from Project Horizon, confirming many months of speculation. Instead of the tri-nation collaboration, the UK would go it alone with the Type 45 Destroyer. Project Horizon, or the Common New Generation Frigate, was initiated after the NATO Frigate of the ’90s collapsed. The UK, Italy and France signed the Tri-Partite agreement in early 1992 with the intention of creating a common air defence ship that would meet the needs of all three participants. The simple intention was to achieve some economy of scale by using common systems and enhance European defence credentials.

The common systems would be the Aster missile, a vertical launch silo, a central combat management system and multi-function radar, collectively called the Principal Anti-Air Modular System (PAAMS). PAAMS would be delivered by EUROPAAMS, a joint venture established by EUROSAM comprising Thomson-CSF, Aerospatiale Matra, Alenia Marconi Systems and UKAMS, a subsidiary of Matra BAe Dynamics.

Differing requirements and tensions arising soon emerged but many of these were resolved by the selection of two Multi-Function Radars (MFR), the BAE SAMPSON for the UK and Franco-Italian EMPAR.

Horizon common New-Generation Frigate

By 1996 good progress was being made with PAAMS but the ship design itself continued to be problematical, in service slippage and cost increases seemed to plague the project on a regular basis, with the UK’s Type 42’s becoming increasingly obsolete, this was a serious concern to the MoD. The UK’s workshare was much lower than its intended purchases suggested, another concern.

On top of this, the inability of the partners to agree on a prime contractor structure meant withdrawal was inevitable. The UK withdrew from the platform component but continued with PAAMS. Commenting on the decision, the Secretary of State for Defence, George Robertson, said;

International procurement must follow the same logic as national procurement, defence can only afford projects which are delivered cost-effectively and on time.

A memo to the select committee from British Aerospace Defence Systems in July 1999 described their view of the issues;

The Company is broadly in agreement with the points made by Sir Robert Walmsley in his evidence on CNGF and would like to make some additional comments covering the specification, the need for software and systems integration facilities, the requirement for the alignment of national procurement processes, workshare and difficulties caused by conflicting national interests.


The Horizon Technical Statement of Requirement (TSR) was effectively a “super-set” of all the individual national requirements. This inevitably led to an overly-complex solution and associated high development cost. An example of this is the Command Support System (CSS). For France and the UK, a perfectly adequate solution would have been to take the existing national systems (AIDCOMER and GCSS respectively) and fit them as Government Furnished Equipment. However, there was no indigenous Italian solution and they therefore wished to use the Horizon programme as an opportunity to develop a capability which would have given them joint ownership of a new system while paying only one third of the development cost.


The original plan was for the Combat Management System (CMS) software integration to be carried out in Italy and for Combat System Integration to be carried out in France. The UK, under such a scenario would have been unable to maintain a facility for integration of the UK national variant of the combat system and would therefore have been dependent in the future upon French industry to provide the means of evaluating systems upgrades and changes in configuration throughout the life of the ships. Such a strategy may not have been in the long term interests of the UK and the soundness or otherwise of this approach would benefit from further examination in future collaborative programmes.


Although currently undergoing some change, both French and Italian Government defence procurement methodologies were closer to the pre-Levene era of UK procurement rather than current UK practices either pre or post the introduction of the Smart Procurement Initiative. As a result, the attempt to run a competition on the basis of a level playing field was probably unrealistic. The French and Italian industrial organisations involved in Horizon had different approaches to competition and were not faced with a “winner takes all” situation in an environment where a national workshare deal was inevitable. The enforcement of a best value for money UK-style equipment selection decision was always going to be difficult in such a situation.


Where political, economic or industrial factors dictate a pre-agreed workshare between members of a consortium, there is inevitably a potential for increased risk. This results from the ownership of a particular element for the overall scope of supply by a single member, regardless of whether that member has the best capability to deliver the eventual solution.


In the Horizon procurement, the position of the Direction des Constructionnes Navales—part of the French Ministry of Defence, meant that it was overall customer (working with the Delegation General pour L’Armament), a shareholder in the prime contractor organisation (the International Joint Venture Company) and a subcontractor bidding for equipment supply with its HEPICS system in the combat management area. This, combined with the French Government’s support for its national champion impacted significantly on the prospects for a level playing field competition.

In conclusion, a clear lesson from Horizon is that for collaborative programmes to succeed, there is need not only for harmonisation of requirements, programmes and budgets, but for the reconciliation of national procurement policies, industrial organisations and cultural issues. The United Kingdom based its approach on well proven procurement practices, aimed at ensuring value for money, while the other partners had additional agendas relating to the support of national champions or the acquisition of a national technology capability paid for in part by the other partners in the project.

There were also crossover concerns, the UK’s involvement in the MRAV (Boxer) programme was also causing problems in the same time period.

A 2003 National Audit Office Report on Type 45 provided some details on the UK’s involvement with Horizon. The original approved cost for twelve vessels was circa £6 Billion, as history showed, we still paid circa £6 Billion but got 6 vessels instead of 12.

Although NFR-90 and Horizon are not directly related to the quest for a Type 23 replacement there is a connection, mainly in the industrial capacity and timing areas.  It was also thought that a derivative of PAAMS called SPECTAR might be used on the Future Surface Combatant to increase commonality. This was a proposal for a single face SAMPSON.

Type 23 (R) and Future Escort

In the late eighties, initial research into trimaran vessels at University College London (UCL) was sponsored by the Sea Systems Concepts and Integration Department at the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA).

Four years after the first Type 23 entered service and before the last had been built, the Royal Navy started early concept work on a replacement, in 1994.

This was called Type 23(R) and then Future Escort and was intended to be a like for like replacement for Type 23 and 22.

Before the publication of the 1998 Strategic Defence Review, an extensive 15-month process was completed that took a radical view of the contemporary operating environment and concluded that rapidity and expeditionary intervention were critical to future operations. The Royal Navy was to change from an open ocean ASW focused force to one that could project power at a distance. The centrepiece of the 1998 SDR for the Royal Navy was the intention to purchase two large aircraft carriers, which are now the QE Class. The destroyer/frigate force was cut from 35 ships to 32 and confirmation was that Future Escort would replace the Type 23 and 22 frigates.

In December 1997, Dr John Reid, Secretary of State for Defence, confirmed the Future Escort programme.

Mr. Bill O’Brien: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the Government’s proposals for the provision of new surface ships for the Royal Navy.

Dr. Reid: There are currently 18 surface ships either under construction or completing contractor trials. In the last 12 months two ships, the Type 23 Frigate, HMS Grafton, and the Ocean Survey Vessel, HMS Scott, have been accepted from contractors and will be entering full operational service in the next few months. The next 12 months will see the acceptance of the Type 23 Frigate HMS Sutherland, the naming and acceptance of the helicopter carrier, HMS Ocean, and the launching of the Type 23 Frigate, HMS Kent, and the Single Role Minehunters, HMS Pembroke and HMS Grimsby. A contract was placed in October 1997 for the charter of additional Ro-Ro ships which from May 1998 will increase the heavy-lift capability for the Joint Rapid Deployment Force to two vessels.

Future projects include replacing, early in the next century, the capabilities currently provided by the Type 42 Destroyers with the Horizon frigates, the Type 22 and 23 Frigates with a new class of Future Escort and a new class of Aircraft Carrier to supersede the Invincible class. In addition to these major programmes, a number of other projects including replacements for the Surveying Flotilla, Logistic Landing Ships and new Combat Stores Ship are also under consideration. These projects are, of course, being considered as part of the Strategic Defence Review.

In July 1998, Future Escort was again mentioned in the House of Commons;

Mr. Key: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the progress made by his Department on the Future Escort Project. [51068]

Mr. Spellar: The Future Escort, which will replace the existing Type 22 and 23 frigates, is currently in the pre-feasibility phase, with a Staff Target planned for late 1999. We are examining all aspects of the proposed warship, including her hull design. A number of hull forms are being considered, including the trimaran. A contract is to be let shortly by the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency for a Trimaran Demonstrator vessel which will be used to determine the operational characteristics of this type of hull form through sea-going trials scheduled to be completed by 2002. Initial trials results will be available mid-2001 to enable the MOD to make a decision as to whether the trimaran hull form will be adopted as the basis of the Future Escort design.

In four years, the Royal Navy had progressed from Type 23(R) to Future Escort, this was about to change.

Future Surface Combatant (FSC)

Following the publication of 1998 SDR, Future Escort was recast as the Future Surface Combatant or FSC. FSC was to have a reduced emphasis on ASW and a greater emphasis on joint expeditionary operations in the littoral environment.

FSC was to have a reduced emphasis on ASW and a greater emphasis on joint expeditionary operations in the littoral environment. April 1999 saw the first mention in Hansard;

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what humanitarian roles are being included in the staff target for the future escort planned to replace the Type 23 frigates.

Mr. Spellar: The Staff Target for the Future Surface Combatant, FSC, formerly the Future Escort, is due to be approved in Autumn 1999. It will be derived from the Concept of Operations which is currently being prepared and includes Peace Support and Humanitarian Operations as one of the vessels’ Defence Missions.

This period was marked by an increase in interest in alternative hull forms, particularly the trimaran. A number of concepts and proposals emerged from UK ship designers/builders and the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA), with additional imagery developed by various media outlets.

DERA Future Surface Combatant Concepts (3)


The images above are both from official and non-official sources, but certainly, only initial concepts.

There was even a number of concepts proposed for a trimaran CVF and US Coast Guard vessel.

US Coast Guard

DERA let a contract to Vosper Thornycroft in 1998 for the construction of a research vessel that would validate the theoretical assumptions on stress distribution and handling in different sea conditions, the RV Triton.


The US Navy signed a Memorandum of Understanding with DERA and agreed to fund some of the RV Triton work (file under, not a lot of people know that!). The main advantage of the trimaran concept was said to be a reduced drag compared to a monohull that meant the same speed could be achieved with lower installed power. The outriggers provide high levels of stability and a large deck area for enhanced flight operations.

The US Navy contribution to Triton was the installation of 500 sensors and trials Information Computer System, clearly, there was a great deal of interest. Tom Cannon of the US Naval Sea System Command commented;

The US in general is interested in innovative concepts. The trimaran concept has a lot of potential advantages. The idea is simply too good to pass up

Triton used commercially available systems throughout and took advantage of innovations in electric propulsion and fibre optics for data communications. She was launched in May 2000, with two years of trials following.

RV Triton (2)

RV Triton

Although there was a focus on the trimaran hull form, initial FSC studies also looked at a number of monohull concepts. FSC was planned to be capable of speeds of 40 knots and a 21-day endurance with a reduced crew.

In 2001, with the Triton Phase I trials underway, the initial gate was moved and the programme restructured to reflect its increasing ambition and complexity. The initial gate was now planned to be in 2004 with a year assessment phase culminating in the main gate decision in 2008. The in-service date for FSC was now reported to be 2015 and the initial expectation of 20 vessels was reduced to 18.

Because of the delay, and with ‘out of service’ dates approaching for both the Type 23 and Type 22 frigates, the Interim Capability Frigate study was initiated. Options included a Type 23 Service Life Extension, a new build based on Type 45 and a number of overseas frigate designs. The RAND Study on UK shipbuilding reported, it concluded that shrinking demand for warships and over-capacity meant a strong strategy was required.

In 2002, Triton Phase I trials concluded but the MoD cancelled Phase II trials. The trial report concluded that the trimaran concept had proven the theoretical advantages.

In May, the government responded to a question about FSC;

Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what consideration is being given to the replacement of the Type 23 frigate with the Future Surface Combatant; and if he will make a statement.

Dr. Moonie: We currently plan for the Future Surface Combatant (FSC) to succeed the current Type 22 and Type 23 classes of frigate. The assumption is that FSC will be an operationally versatile, affordable warship that can be deployed through life across the full spectrum of defence missions. The project has already begun.

Things got moving again in 2003, the FSC IPT was re-established and a draft user requirements document was shared with the industry partners.

It was now planned that the four-year Assessment Phase would commence in 2005 with an Initial Gate decision in 2009, a year’s slippage from the previous position. In-service date was quoted as being ‘in the middle of next decade’

The slippage was to allow the results of the Triton Phase I trials to be analysed.

Initial FSC Concepts

The by now planned Assessment Phase was to examine trimaran and monohull forms, a perceived low-risk solution using the Type 45 design and a radical approach using motherships and a small vessel called the Light Coastal Warfare Ship.


BAE proposed their Fast Modular Concept Ship (FMCS), BMT the Fast Flexible Frigate and VT, their Cerberus stealth corvette.

BAE Fast Modular Concept Ship (FMCS)

The Fast Modular Concept Ship proposed a trimaran hull form with a high degree of modularity to support role changing. It had a length of 149m and a beam of 32m, with a displacement of 9,500 tonnes.

BAE Trimaran FSC Concept

BMT Fast Flexible Frigate

The BMT Fast Flexible Frigate took the trimaran form a stage further and proposed a pentamaran, the F5. This was a large vessel, over 6,500 tonnes displacement and 180m long, with a very high top speed of 50 knots powered by three Rolls Royce MT30 gas turbines and a number of generators in a COGLAG configuration.

BMT f5 Frigate

VT Cerberus Stealth Vessel

The VT Cerberus was a proposal to evolve the Triton hull form to create a stable ASW platform 116m long and 25m beam. With a displacement of 2,000 tonnes, its top speed was 28 knots, powered by three diesel generators, driving four Rolls Royce Ulstein ‘Azipull’ podded propulsion units.

VT Cerberus

BMT Mothership

The BMT mothership concept carried four smaller vessels, each up to 1,500 tonnes displacement.

BMT Mothership

All the proposals used various combinations of in-service and planned weapons, sensors and other equipment. Debates ranged from whether it would be best with Sylver or Mk41 silos, Aster or Evolved Sea Sparrow missiles and Tomahawk or SCALP.

None of these radical proposals by manufacturers went anywhere, but the MoD did fund study work and contracts were let, regardless of whether the requirement was stable or not.

With DERA sold, RV Triton’s new owners (QinetiQ) started looking for ways to generate revenue, including corporate hospitality trips and as a launch platform for the QinetiQ 1 high altitude balloon.

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Meanwhile, the MoD had contracted with Vosper Thornycroft for three Offshore Patrol Vessels, the River Class. These would be owned by VT and leased to the MoD.

The following year, 2004, the MoD recognised that a 2005 Main Gate for FSC was looking increasingly unlikely. The working assumption was that the previous FSC proposals were no longer appropriate and the likely future fleet would consist of a Hi-Lo mix of ten Type 45 derived designs supplemented by ten enlarged River Class vessels.

The FSC Integrated Project Team (IPT) let four scoping study contracts inform the programme.

VT proposed their Global Corvette design for the Lo part of the Hi-Lo mix.

The Alternative Platform (Type 45) retained the SAMPSON radar but deleted the S1850 search radar, replaced the Sylver VLS with an Mk41 installation for Tactical Tomahawk cruise missiles, a new medium calibre gun, Sonar 2087 and a revised low noise propulsion system.

Triton was put up for sale by QinetiQ.

A Parliamentary Question asked how much Triton and FSC had cost

Mr. Robathan: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the total cost to public funds has been to date of the Future Surface Combatant assessment studies, broken down by (a) the Triton Trimaran project, (b) the integrated project team and (c) other costs.

Mr. Ingram [holding answer 29 November 2004]: At outturn prices, the total estimated cost of the Future Surface Combatant studies from inception to date is £17 million. This figure is comprised of £6.2 million for Trimaran trials, £5.7 million for the Defence Procurement Agency’s project team costs and £5.1 million for additional concept studies.

BMT was awarded a study contract to investigate fast ship enabling technologies.

By the end of 2004, the Royal Navy was seemingly no closer to finding a steady-state design or even an agreed concept. The industry had been encouraged to create radical proposals and significant funds (for the time) had been spent exploring alternative hull-forms.

Maritime Coherence Study

The Maritime Coherence Study was initiated to try and make sense of the confused and confusing situation. The de-facto cancellation of the FCS project was questioned by Gerald Howarth MP in December 2004.

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence following the decision to cancel the Future Surface Combatant; what plans he has to procure a variant of the Type 45 Destroyer; how many ships he expects to be involved; what he estimates the cost to be; and when he expects these vessels to enter service.

Mr. Ingram: The Future Surface Combatant (FSC) programme has not been cancelled. However, the project is being reviewed together with all other military maritime programmes as part of the Maritime Coherence study, and a range of options is being considered. The project is still in its concept phase and no decision has yet been taken about the time scale for delivering the FSC capability, nor about the platform solution.

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether there remains a requirement for the Future Surface Combatant.

Mr. Ingram: The Future Surface Combatant (FSC) will be needed to replace the capability currently provided by the Type 22 and Type 23 Frigates as they progressively leave service from around the middle of the next decade. The FSC project is being reviewed together with all other military maritime programmes as part of the Maritime Coherence study, and a range of options is being considered. The project is still in its concept phase and no decision has yet been taken about the timescale for delivering the FSC capability, nor about the platform solution.

Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what effect the coherency package for British shipyards has had on the decision to reassess the requirement for the Future Surface Combatant.

Mr. Ingram: The Future Surface Combatant (FSC) project is being reviewed together with all other military maritime programmes as part of the Maritime Coherence study, and a range of options is being considered. The project is, in any case, still in its concept phase. As such no decisions have yet been taken about the timescale for delivering the FSC capability, nor about the platform solution

Everyone thought FSC had been cancelled but in February 2005, the government again confirmed it had not.

Mr. Soames: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the reasons were for the cancellation of the Future Surface Combatant project. [216106]

Mr. Ingram: The Future Surface Combatant (FSC) programme has not been cancelled. Some of the assumptions associated with this project, which is still at the concept stage, have changed as a result of the MOD’s recent planning rounds. As a result, it was decided to disband the FSC Integrated Project Team and transfer the programme to the DPA Future Business Group.

Assumptions from planning rounds i.e. cash meant that the programme was transferred to the Defence Procurement Agency’s Future Business Group, otherwise known as the long grass. The inability of industry to agree on a long-term warship building strategy and maturity of proposed technologies were also cited.

QinetiQ found a buyer for Triton, Gardline, and BAE proposed a replacement for the 4.5″ Mark 8 gun that would use 155mm AS90 barrels.

Two years after the trials were completed Triton was transferred to Gardline Marine who operated her as a hydrographic survey vessel on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) until late 2006 when Gardline Australia leased her to the Australian Customs Service.

ACS Triton Christmas Island 2015

To try and get to the bottom of what the Coherence Study was, Andrew Robathan asked a question in the House of Commons in March 2005.

Andrew Robathan; To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what the purpose is of the Maritime Coherence Baseline concept; when it will be implemented; and if he will make a statement.

Adam Ingram; The Maritime Coherence Study Baseline is the core programme emerging from the Maritime Coherence Study. It will provide the basis on which further work and refinement is undertaken. The Maritime Coherence Study is intended to produce a balanced, coherent and more affordable programme to address our capability priorities and provide an industrial programme with stable and balanced loading, and will be implemented over the next two decades.

Err, crystal.

At the end of 2005, the Government published the Defence Industrial Strategy

It expected the industry to restructure itself around an analysis of skills and workload created within 6 months of publication. The key industrial partners were BAE, VT, DML, Babcock and Thales.

The requirement was stated thus;

We require a capability in UK industry to engineer complex surface ships at systems level, with enough familiarity with the manufacturing process to be able to fulfil that function. We have in recent years operated a system of competition in stages by project. However, again there is more capacity in the industry than will be required in a few years, and the systems engineering capability is likely to be duplicated and sub-optimised across several companies. Nor are potential synergies with support business being realised, despite largely the same companies being involved. The systems engineering capability needs, along with the rest of the industrial capability in this sector, to be refocused to maximise the relationship between in-service support and upgrade, and sized based on MOD’s future needs and a realistic assessment of military export potential, if it is to maximise productivity.

On FSC, it made clear that the current approach was based on a two platform solution.

A Future Surface Combatant (FSC) study is looking at how the capability currently provided by the Type 22 and Type 23 frigates might be met in the future. No decisions have been taken, but our current assumption for planning purposes is a two class platform solution. The Future Mine Counter Measures Capability is also being examined

Whilst the Coherence Study was running, the working assumption was that those two platform solutions mentioned above would be called;

Versatile Surface Combatant (VSC), entering service in 2023

Medium Sized Vessel Derivative (MSVD), entering service in 2016.

The Coherence Study concluded that there was a need for another study, proposing the Sustained Surface Combatant Capability, or S2C2.

Sustained Surface Combatant Capability (S2C2)

S2C2 was established in late 2006 and lasted for 18 months, with representatives from the MoD and industry.

It concluded that FSC should not be delivered by the two-class (VSC and MSVD) solution at all, but a new two-class solution, with an additional vessel that would replace the hydrographic, mine countermeasures and patrol ships.

Two became three;

C1; Force Anti-Submarine Warfare Combatant, a large multi-mission combat vessel for ASW and land-attack missions.

C2; Stabilisation Combatant,  a less well-equipped vessel for chokepoint escort and protection of sea lines of communication (SLOC).

C3; ocean capable patrol vessel

This change in emphasis from a high end to a high-low mix was reportedly prompted by the then 1SL, Sir Jonathon Band.

Cue another round of speculation, design studies and proposals from industry, with much criticism from everyone else. Much like the British Army with FRES, it seemed the Royal Navy was having trouble deciding what it wanted, and calling each successive round of ideas something new only added to the mirth.

The Sustained Surface Combatant Capability project highlighted a need for up to ten C1 and eight C2. C1 and C2 would use the same hull form but have different equipment levels. C1 would be built at one per year, followed by the C2’s.

The proposed C3 variant was seen by many as a way of replacing the existing, and relatively numerous mines countermeasures vessel, with a less specialised and more general-purpose fighting vessel, hoping that this approach would both retain MCM capability whilst bolstering surface fleet numbers.

In 2003, BMT started to examine the requirements for an Auxiliary Surface Combatant, comparable to the C3, but one that sat astride the C3 and C2 boundaries. The MoD even funded a small-scale feasibility study that examined the potential to combine the smaller vessel with heavy lift ships for global deployments.

The naval design company BMT, self-funded the 2007 Project Venator in response to the Royal Navy’s Sustained Surface Combatant Capability (S2C2) ‘Pathfinder’ initiative. The study programme was intended to inform the design of the C3 Ocean Capable Patrol Vessel (OCPV) which was to be part of the S2C2’s projected three-tier Future Surface Combatant solution.

One of the principal design objectives of Project Venator was to demonstrate that role reconfiguration was possible. A balance between roles could be made, determined by current requirements. The resultant design was a globally deployable minor warship that would be able to execute mine countermeasures (MCM) using the rapidly maturing off-board unmanned autonomous systems, MCM support, hydrographic survey, maritime security operations (MSO) and offshore patrol.

Venator had the following characteristics (from BMT);

Mission modules would be tailored to the specific tasking and included (again, directly from BMT);

MCM (Crew 59): largely based on off-board systems including minesweeping unmanned surface vehicles (USVs), reconnaissance unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), one-shot mine disposal vehicles, self-defence fit (air/surface search radar, guns, and obstacle avoidance sonar)

MCM Support (Crew 79): MCM Tasking Authority and (limited) Forward Support Capability with logistics office, planning space, spares, workshops, diver support, and recompression

MSO (Crew 78): two (manned) 11m Rigid Inflatable Boats (RIBs), USV, helicopter, EW/surveillance, unmanned aerial vehicle, self-defence fit (air/surface search radar, guns and obstacle avoidance sonar)

Survey (Crew 48 plus temporary personnel): survey UUVs, survey launches, laboratories/offices

The project concluded that standard ISO containers could be used for many of the mission modules but a much improved and flexible solution would use task-specific sub ISO sized containers (Bicon’s, Tricon’s and Quadcon’s for example).

The design study was submitted to the MoD but it did not progress.

Thales also proposed a C2 vessel called the Modular General Purpose Frigate and VT, another concept based on their earlier Global Corvette for the C3 requirement, called the Ocean Capable Patrol Vessel (OCPV)

VT C3 Concept

The VT design was based on its design for the Royal Navy of Oman but with more equipment space, taking its displacement up to 3,000 tonnes. The design could travel at a top speed of 25 knots, accommodate a crew of 76 and carry a number of ISO containers underneath the Merlin capable flight deck.

One of the other outcomes of S2C2 was that the Type 23 could be life extended owing to them having a much less structurally arduous service career than expected.

The Maritime Surface Effects (MSE) programme started to look at a number of themes including naval gunfire support and unmanned surface vessels in support of defensive and offensive surface warfare.

In mid-2007, after completion of their study, the S2C2 IPT was stood down.

In 2008, the Government confirmed that no more orders would be placed for type 45 Destroyers, the class being pegged at six.

As compensation, the FSC project was to be brought forward.

It has been a difficult decision, but to ensure our future naval capability and maintain the tempo of work for industry, we are bringing forward the future surface combatant programme, which is the long-term replacement programme for the Type 22 and Type 23 frigates. That decision will result in a steady rhythm of building in our yards—from the six Type 45s, through the future carrier programme and into the surface combatant programme.

In a 2008 submission to the Select Committee of Scottish Affairs, BAE was clear on the implications for workload and build location.

Indications are that there will be three different classes of FSC, ranging both in size and complexity, from complex warships through to simple patrol vessels.

The business is currently anticipating an overall demand for FSC equivalent to a single Type 23 sized vessel every year. Such a rate is about a third of the current build rate of Type 45; ie a 3,500 tonne vessel every year compared to an 8,000 tonne vessel every nine months. This workload would be insufficient to maintain shipbuilding capacity at both Glasgow and Portsmouth.

It should be noted that FSC will need to commence within the next two years if it is to sustain key industrial capabilities in design. Combat system engineering skills in particular are a critical resource that need careful management and which are not easy to sustain (eg by CVF or MARS). BAE SFS looks forward to exploring FSC opportunities with MoD as soon as possible.

It is encouraging that in the case of FSC, MoD appears willing to consider adopting “export friendly” characteristics in the design. However, because the concept design will make use of a new Naval Design Partnership concept, in effect a UK wide industry design club, there is not yet clarity over whether the main UK contractors would have full design rights to exploit FSC in international markets.

Later in 2008, BAE and VT merged to form BVT Surface Fleet.

CORDA, BAE’s consulting division, and BAE Land Systems were awarded a £4m contract to develop elements of the 155mm AS90 system for use in a maritime environment. This would later be cancelled.

Initial Gate for FSC, previously intended to be 2008, was again moved, to 2009.

The In-Service date was also slipped, from mid-decade to late in the decade.

In May 2008, QinetiQ announced an 11-month contract;

QinetiQ has signed an initial 11 month contract with the MOD as part of a £2m pilot study which will see a new joint MOD / industry naval ship design office established in Bristol, to be tasked with the design of complex naval ships for the Royal Navy, such as the Future Surface Combatant.

The Naval Design Partnership (NDP), with its ‘rainbow team’ of talent, which includes Thales, BAE Systems, VT Group, Babcock and BMT, will allow greater innovation and pull-though of new technology and will cost effectively manage the translation of maritime capability requirements into warship product specifications. It will also enable MOD to reinforce in house Naval Architecture and related specialisms through a collaborative design approach.

“We are delighted that our maritime team will be contributing to the future of naval ship design, which is fundamentally important to the future naval capability of this country,” stated Neville Salkeld, Managing Director of QinetiQ’s Consulting sector. “The Maritime Industrial Strategy (MIS) identified a need for the UK to sustain the ability to design complex naval vessels, from concept to the point of build, so in consultation with industry, the Frigates Integrated Project Team (FIPT), on behalf of DG Ships, has defined the requirements for the NDP.”

The NDP team will be collocated at QinetiQ’s Bristol office, close to MOD Abbey Wood, under the leadership of a MOD Chief Engineer. The dedicated facilities can accommodate up to 25 people, drawn from the best that UK industry and MOD currently have to offer.

The team will be initially tasked with a series of concept studies to develop the high level product specification for the Future Surface Combatant (FSC) C1 programme with the objective of ensuring that it successfully clears Initial Gate in late 2008. It is envisaged that this output may be further extended to address future MARS and other future FSC platforms and be adapted to provide appropriate designs for any future vessel classes that may be required.

In 2009, BAE was awarded a design contract for the C1 and C2 element of FSC, the image below shows one of the early C2 designs, much reminiscent of the early Type 26

BAE C2 Design

The Terms of Business Agreement (TOBA) were finalised in 2009 which were to form the basis of a new industrial capability that was to be underpinned by commitments from both the MoD and industry.

Ship delivery was defined by a number of stages;

Stage 0; Concept Design

Stage 1; System Design

Stage 2; Detail Design and Spatial Integration

Stage 3/4/5; Manufacturing Outputs and Production

Stage 6; Integration and Trials

A new commercial entity was to be formed called BVT comprising BAE (65%) and VTG (55%). In the Exclusivity schedule, it stated for Designated Naval Vessels – Frigates and Destroyers;

BVT shall be the exclusive lead contractor, without competition

A RUSI Paper from Commodore Steve Brunton described the C1/C2 concept in some detail.

Early in 2010, the C3 variant was dropped in favour of a new programme, the Mine Countermeasures Hydrographic and Patrol Capability (MHPC).

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In March 2010, the C1 progressed to Initial Gate, five or six years later than envisaged. Recognising the impending SDSR, no commitment was made to quantities, given that policy may be changed by the review, although the expectation was still for ten vessels.

After all the studies, contracts and concepts, the replacement for Type 23/22 was finally to be a single vessel with two different equipment role fits.

In essence, a modern Type 23, and this would go on to be called the Type 26.

SDSR 2010 and the Type 26 Global Combat Ship

BAE Surface Ships were awarded a four-year, £127m, Assessment Phase contract in March 2010 to design the Type 26 Global Combat Ship.

The baseline design suggests a 141m long vessel, displacing 6,850 tonnes equipped with a towed low frequency sonar array and two launchers for the Future Local Area Air Defence (Maritime) system firing the Common Anti Air Modular Missile.

Other options include a vertical launch system for Tomahawk, SCALP or a modified GMLRS. Harpoon and a main gun also remain options, a choice of 127mm, 155mm or even a refurbished 114mm weapon.

Aviation facilities include a Chinook flight deck and hangar for a Merlin and UAV, the UAV possibly housed in a supplementary ‘dog kennel’ hangar.

Beneath the flight deck will be a large mission bay and stern dock to hold 4 9m RHIB’s, a torpedo system and a wide variety of mission modules.

It is also anticipated that the Type 26 will have an either all electric or hybrid electric propulsion system providing a range of 7000nm at 18 knots. The ship’s complement is expected to be in the region of 150 plus an embarked force of over 30.

Commenting on the award, 1SL, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope said;

These programme announcements are welcome news for the Royal Navy. You simply cannot have an effective Navy without capable frigates, and the Type 26 combat ship will form the future backbone of the Royal Navy’s surface combatant force, alongside the new Type 45 destroyers.

These ships will be highly versatile, able to operate across the full spectrum of operations, from war-fighting to disaster relief.

The Astute Class submarine gives us a real edge, exploiting stealth and covert presence to offer enormous utility across a wide range of military tasks, everything from anti-submarine warfare, through intelligence-gathering, to striking targets far inland.

Janes also reported;

Officials expect the so-called ‘combat ship’ – the larger of two Future Surface Combatant (FSC) designs for the RN – to pass the MoD’s main gate milestone towards the end of 2013, ready for production to start. The lead ship is scheduled to enter service in 2021.

The assessment phase is broken down into two parts: an 18-month assessment of options (AOO) followed by a detailed design period. Brian Johnson, the FSC project director at BAE Systems, told Jane’s that the AOO will determine the capabilities of the Type 26 frigate from a list of some 50 options including weapon, sensor and propulsion systems, and the size of the crew and embarked force.

An agreed concept design will go before the MoD’s Investment Approvals Board in the second half of 2010 for consideration – and possible amendment – as part of a wider UK Strategic Defence Review. In the first half of February 2011, the detailed design stage will mature the agreed concept design into a production-ready model ready for main gate.

According to a timetable set out by the FSC Team at the MoD’s Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) organisation, steel for the first vessel will be cut in late 2015 or early 2016, a keel-laying ceremony will be held later in 2016, launch is scheduled for April 2018, and the likely in-service date will be towards the end of 2021.

The FSC C1 baseline design suggests a ship 141 m-long and displacing 6,850 tonnes. It will be equipped with a low-frequency active variable depth sonar and two launchers for the Futue Local Area Air Defence System (Maritime), firing the Common Anti-air Modular Missile.

Options include a vertical launch system for Tomahawk or Storm Shadow land-attack missiles, or alternatively a modified M270 guided multiple-launch rocket system. The Harpoon anti-ship missile system is also an option, while the main gun will be a 127 mm, 155 mm or refurbished 4.5 inch (114 mm) Mk 8 mount. Aviation facilities include a flight deck capable of supporting a Chinook helicopter, a hangar for a Merlin-sized helicopter and a smaller hangar for unmanned aerial vehicles. Type 26 will become the lead platform for unmanned vehicles but will not be responsible for their development and procurement.

Below the flight deck, a mission bay and stern dock will hold four 9 m rigid-hull inflatable boats, the towed array sonar and a surface ship torpedo defence system. Alternative options for the mission bay will be examined as this feature is considered a design driver. The frigate will have an all-electric propulsion system or a hybrid propulsion drive, giving a range of 7,000 n miles at 18 kt. Early concepts indicate a ship’s company of 150 personnel plus an embarked maritime force of 36.

Current assumptions call for the construction of up to 10 Type 26 ships, designed as a versatile combatant to protect expeditionary task forces and provide anti-submarine warfare defence.

SDSR 2010 subsequently merged the C1 and C2 Future Surface Combatant (FSC) requirements into a single acoustically quiet class of vessel, the Type 26 Global Combat Ship, subject of the earlier Assessment Phase contract with BAE.

Imagery released in 2011 showed the expected configuration of Type 26

Early Type 26 Image 1

Eight would be designated Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) variants and five, General Purpose (GP). This was a change from the C1 and C2 concept being envisaged as different vessels, they would now be the same, but with different equipment fits, i.e. the ASW variant would have the Thales 2087 towed sonar array and the GP variant, would not.

Early Type 26 Image 2

Early Type 26 Image 4

These models showed a stern ramp and small ‘dog kennel’ hangar for uncrewed air vehicles.

Early Type 26 Image 3

Approval was to be split into two parts, Main Gate 1 and Main Gate 2. MG1 would endorse the concept at the end of the Assessment Phase and the main investment decision would be at Main Gate 2. Planned entry into service was still expected to be as soon as possible after 2020. Maritime Indirect Fires System was brought under the Type 26 umbrella in 2010.

An article in The Engineer described the risk approach;

For the first few Type 26s entering service, much of the equipment on board will be transferred from Type 23s as they go out of service. ’This is equipment that isn’t even on the 23s yet; it’s what we’re calling “future legacy”,’ Johnson explained. ’It means that the new hull will be a smaller step change in the frigate capability still a very significant one, but the systems will be common with the older hulls, which reduces the risk of the project.’

Frigate numbers were reduced to 13, the Type 22’s being withdrawn.

A Parliamentary Debate in early 2011 revealed ongoing discussions with a number of nations on export and collaboration opportunities;

31 Jan 2011 : Column 575

Mr Howarth: The global combat ship frigate programme does indeed present a tremendous opportunity for the United Kingdom to put the policy into practice. I am delighted to say that we are in close discussion with the Canadians. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has just returned from an extremely profitable visit to Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand and Turkey. All those countries have expressed interest in joining the United Kingdom in a collaborative programme that would have the benefit of bringing together not only members of the Commonwealth but some of our key allies, while also driving down costs for the Royal Navy.

A Desider article provided additional information on Type 26.

BAE released a Type 26 concept video in September 2011

The National Audit Office Major Projects Report 2011, published in November 2011, confirmed;

Main Gate 1, an endorsement of the requirements to be delivered by Type 26 GCS

Main Gate 2, the main investment decision following in Quarter 4 2013.

As the design progressed, BAE released a number of images and a video to demonstrate how it had changed.

It showed various changes, silo details, deletion of the stern ramp and ‘UAV dog kennel’, the location of the mission bay being the main changes from earlier iterations.




It was reported that this design change was significant, self evidently.

In 2012, the MoD confirmed that a single class of 13 vessels was the planning assumption

I can confirm that the Ministry of Defence’s current planning assumption is for the construction of 13 Type 26 Global Combat Ships (GCS). The Type 26 GCS programme is in its Assessment Phase, with the results of this phase expected by the middle of this decade. As usual with equipment projects, the In Service Date will not be set until the Main Gate investment decision has been taken. No decision has been made on the base porting of the Type 26 GCS.

After much speculation, BAE released the results of their shipbuilding study in November 2013, click here to read;

BAE Systems has reached agreement in principle with HM Government on measures to enable the implementation of a restructuring of its UK naval ships business.

The agreement will result in:

Restructuring of the contract for the Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carrier programme.

Provision of additional shipbuilding work prior to the start of the Type 26 Global Combat Ships programme.

Rationalisation of the UK naval ship business to match future capacity requirements.

In 2009, BAE Systems entered into a Terms of Business Agreement (ToBA) with the Ministry of Defence that provided an overarching framework for significant naval shipbuilding efficiency improvements in exchange for commitments to fund rationalisation and sustainment of capability in the sector.  The agreements announced today, together with an anticipated contract for the design and manufacture of the Type 26 Global Combat Ships programme, will progressively replace that ToBA.

Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carrier

BAE Systems, with the other participants in the Aircraft Carrier Alliance, has agreed changes to the Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carrier contract.  Under the revised terms, the contract will be amended to accommodate programme changes and activities previously excluded from the contract.

Under the new Target Cost contract the industrial participants’ fee will move to a 50:50 risk share arrangement providing greater cost performance incentives.  The maximum risk to the industrial participants will continue to be limited to the loss of their profit opportunity.

The revised contract reflects the increased maturity of the programme, with structural assembly of the first of class vessel now substantially complete.

Interim shipbuilding workload

A significant reduction in workload will follow the peak of activity on the Aircraft Carrier programme, the six Type 45 destroyers and two export contracts.  The anticipated Type 26 programme will, in future years, address some of that workload reduction.  In the interim period, a proposed contract for the manufacture of three Offshore Patrol Vessels, announced today, will provide additional capability for the Royal Navy and sustain key shipbuilding skills.

Restructuring of the Naval Shipbuilding business

Following detailed discussions about how best to sustain the long-term capability to deliver complex warships, BAE Systems has agreed with the UK Ministry of Defence that Glasgow would be the most effective location for the manufacture of the future Type 26 ships. Consequently, and subject to consultation with trade union representatives, the Company proposes to consolidate its shipbuilding operations in Glasgow with investments in facilities to create a world-class capability, positioning it to deliver an affordable Type 26 programme for the Royal Navy.

Under these proposals, shipbuilding operations at Portsmouth will cease in the second half of 2014.  Subject to consultation, Lower Block 05 and Upper Blocks 07 and 14 of the second Queen Elizabeth Class Aircraft Carrier will be allocated to Glasgow.

The Company remains committed to continued investment in the Portsmouth area as the centre of its Maritime Services and high-end naval equipment and combat systems business.

Consultation will commence on a total employee reduction of 1,775 that is expected to result from these restructuring proposals, including 940 in Portsmouth in 2014 and 835 across Filton, Glasgow and Rosyth, progressively through to 2016.

The cost of the restructuring will be borne by the Ministry of Defence.

The implementation of these restructuring activities will sustain BAE Systems’ capability to deliver complex warships for the Royal Navy and secure the employment of thousands of highly skilled employees across the UK.

Issued by: BAE Systems plc, London

Additional notes:


The company has extensive high end naval engineering operations in the Portsmouth area. After the proposed reductions announced today, BAE Systems will still employ approximately 3,200 people across its sites at HM Naval Base Portsmouth, Portsdown Hill, Broad Oak, Cowes, and HMS Collingwood.

Portsmouth based engineers will be retained to support the design and development of the Type 26 frigate programme. The Company’s Maritime Services business, based in Portsmouth, manages the running of HM Naval Base on behalf of the Ministry of Defence. The Queen Elizabeth Class carriers are expected to be based in the Portsmouth from 2017.  The business also provides support services to the Royal Navy’s Portsmouth flotilla, including the six Type 45 destroyers, which accounts for around 50% of the surface fleet.


BAE Systems operates two shipyards in Glasgow, Govan and Scotstoun, currently employing 3,200 people. These sites are supporting the manufacture of the Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers and design of the Type 26 Global Combat Ship.

Type 26 Global Combat Ship:

The assessment phase for the Type 26 programme started in March 2010. A combined Ministry of Defence and BAE Systems team of approximately 550 engineers in Bristol, Glasgow and Portsmouth are currently working to develop the detailed specification for the vessel, with a manufacturing contract expected to be awarded at the end of 2014

Three Offshore Patrol Vessels OPV’s were to be built to cover the gap between the end of QE Class construction and commencement of Type 26 work.

There was a great deal of commentary at the time that the Royal Navy did not really want these ‘make work’ ships, directly because of delays in Type 26 but this is immaterial, the TOBA was designed to retain shipbuilding skills and if the Royal Navy and MoD had decided what it wanted from a Type 22/23 replacement sooner, construction would have immediately followed QE work.

In June 2014, BAE let a number of design and development contracts;

Six Design Development Agreements have been awarded covering key areas such as propulsion, ventilation and electrical equipment, as well as combat and navigation systems. The design contracts have been awarded to the following companies:

Babcock for the ship’s Air Weapons Handling System

DCNS for work on the vessel’s propulsion shaftlines

GE Energy Power Conversion for the Electric Propulsion Motor and Drive System

Imtech for the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning System, and the Low Voltage Electrical equipment

Raytheon to develop the Integrated Navigation and Bridge Systems

Tyco Fire & Integrated Solutions for the ship’s Fixed Firefighting Systems

The latest contract awards build on the first four suppliers to the programme announced in September 2013. Covering propulsion and communications equipment for the ship, the initial Design Development Agreements were awarded to Rolls Royce, MTU, David Brown Gear Systems and Rohde & Schwarz. It is expected that a total of 25 agreements will be placed this year

The approved cost for the Type 26 Assessment Phase was £158 million and as of 31st March 2014, the actual costs were £173m, some £15m over. This against a contract award in March 2010 to BAE (leading the Naval Design Partnership) of £127m.

The design life for the Type 26 is 25 years.

A month later, in August 2014, the contract for the River Batch III Offshore Patrol Vessels was announced.

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will estimate (a) the total cost of the contract for the three offshore patrol vessels, (b) the unit cost of the vessels and (c) when each vessel will enter service. [175045]

Mr Dunne: Based on a firm price offer, and subject to main gate approval and contractual agreement, the cost of the contract for the three offshore patrol vessels, including initial spares and support, is expected to be £348 million. A unit cost for these vessels has not yet been calculated. On current plans, the contract will be signed in 2014, with the three vessels entering service between 2017 and 2018.

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether ocean patrol vessels will be equipped with (a) Scanter 4100 air search radar and (b) a hanger capable of housing a Merlin helicopter. [175046]

Mr Dunne: As the Secretary of State for Defence announced in the House on 6 November 2013, Official Report, column 252, the Ministry of Defence has signed an Agreement in Principle with BAE Systems to order three new Offshore Patrol Vessels for the Royal Navy, based on a more capable variant of the River Class, including a landing deck able to take a Merlin helicopter. This project will be subject to Main Gate approval in the coming months and, as is the standard practice with equipment projects, the final design, equipment fit and build programme will not finally be set until this main investment decision has been taken

A few months later, BAE released the first imagery for the River Batch II Offshore Patrol Vessels.

River Class Batch 2

The design was the lowest risk and quickest into production, the entire point of the order. They were to be named HMS Forth, HMS Medway and HMS Trent (in build order). Details on whether these would replace or supplement the existing Batch I vessels was unclear at the time and questions tabled in the House of Commons declared that this question would be considered in the 2015 SDSR.

At the end of 2014, the First Sea Lord, Sir George Zambellas, put the cat among the pigeons in an interview with Defense News by suggesting that Type 26 might not be built in the UK.

The acquisition process looks for a solution… to be able to give us what we need. The affordability question that comes from that depends on the best that industry can deliver. You’ll notice, I haven’t necessarily said that that’s the British industry, because the decision has not been made as to exactly what that solution to the requirement will be, and we wait to see what comes of it

The article is no longer on the Defense News website but the reaction in Scotland was entirely predictable and understandable, it was an uncharacteristic mistake from the 1SL.

The interview prompted a swift put down by the MoD;

As the Defence Secretary has made very clear, complex UK warships are only built in UK shipyards and we have no plans to change this. And while this contract has not yet been awarded, we have also been clear that from 2015 the Clyde will be the UK’s only shipyard that builds complex warships.

The MoD confirmed that the Ships’ Names and Badges Committee had noted the proposal to use names of UK cities and the Secretary of State for Defence provided additional information on Type 26 in the form of a letter.

In February 2015, the MoD awarded an £859 million demonstration phase contract to BAE

The Prime Minister has today announced a major boost to the UK’s shipbuilding industry as the Ministry of Defence signs a contract with BAE Systems worth £859million. The new contract will include investment in essential long lead items for the ships, shore testing facilities. There will also be investment in key equipment for the first three ships – such as gas turbines, diesel generators and steering gear – allowing suppliers to plan, invest and secure their workforce on the project.

Earlier aspirations for a build cost of between £250 and £350 million seem to have fallen by the wayside as news began filtering out of problems in the design phase.

As of mid-2015, the intention was that Type 26 would replace all 13 Type 23’s on a one for one basis, starting in the early 2020’s

In various public appearances, 1SL and other Royal Navy Very Senior Officers would insist that only a one-for-one replacement of Type 23 with Type 26 would deliver the credibility and capability the UK needed. They were uniformly emphatic and anecdotally, any suggestion of a two-tier fleet or more OPV’s/Corvettes would be extremely unwelcome.

At the end of September 2015, Defense News reported a comment by Rear Admiral Alex Burton, Assistant Chief of Naval Staff (Ships);

Burton put a price tag of £12 billion on what is currently a 13 frigate program aimed at replacing the Royal Navy’s aging Type 23 anti-submarine/general purpose fleet starting 2023 when HMS Argyll is retired. The figure is not the exact cost for the program but was meant to give the audience a feel for the size of the program versus other projects, said a MoD source. The figure had been rounded up by Burton and the true cost was closer to £11.5 billion, they said. The source said the figure was an outturn price for a program expected to run into the 2030’s and not the cost at current prices.

This, of course, set the hares and hounds running with extrapolations made to get unit cost.

A financial consultancy services contract was advertised to provide additional support to the decision-making process;

To contract for external consultancy support  to conduct an in depth Equipment Procurement Programme (EPP) and Equipment Support Programme (ESP) independent cost review to establish baselines for negotiations with Industry and to provide specialised strategic advice, analysis and support to the development and execution of the commercial negotiation strategy for the Type 26 (T26) Global Combat Ship (GCS) Programme

The Assessment Phase contract with BAE expired in March 2016 and this package of consultancy support was to inform the next stage, manufacture and support.

This next stage was indicated as a 3 ship batch, commencing April 2016.

The 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) was published on the 23rd of November.

It described YET ANOTHER change of plan;

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.

The news on Type 26 was arguably the most unexpected, Type 26 would be truncated at eight vessels, a direct replacement for the Sonar 2087 equipped Type 23’s, and, a new design, in unspecified quantities.

Another two River Class OPV’s would also be purchased, more vessels to cover the by now, extending delays to Type 26. A December 2015 Parliamentary Question and Answer confirmed the situation in respect of the final numbers of OPV’s.

Asked by Lord West of Spithead, Asked on: 25 November 2015, Ministry of Defence, Patrol Craft, HL3909.

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Earl Howe on 20 October (HL2592), whether the new offshore patrol vessels Forth, Medway, and Trent will operate in addition to the current four vessels.

Answered by: Earl Howe Answered on: 03 December 2015

The three Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) currently under construction will enter service as replacements for three of the four in-service OPVs. As announced in the Strategic Defence and Security Review [Cm9161], two further River Class OPVs will be built, resulting in a more modern and more capable fleet of up to six OPVs in the Royal Navy.

Despite its openly articulated aversion to more OPV’s, the Royal Navy was getting more OPV’s.

Subsequent news reports indicated the ‘general purpose frigate’ would displace in the order of 5,000 tonnes and be used for maritime security, littoral manoeuver, defence engagement and other tasks.

In March 2016, a Demonstration Phase contract extension was awarded to BAE for Type 26;

My hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence Procurement (Mr Philip Dunne) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

Today I am providing an update on our plans for the next stage of the Type 26 Global Combat Ship (T26 GCS) programme.

The 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR15) set out the Government’s clear commitment to build eight Anti-Submarine Type 26 Global Combat Ships, preceded by two additional Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs), and to launch a concept study and then design and build a new class of lighter, flexible general purpose frigates.

Alongside work on the National Shipbuilding Strategy, we are working with industry to develop an optimised schedule for the Type 26 and OPV programmes. As part of this, we have agreed a contract with BAE Systems valued at £472 million to extend the T26 Demonstration Phase to June 2017.

This will enable us to mature further the detailed ship design, ahead of the start of manufacture, including investing in Shore Testing Facilities, and extend our investment in the wider supply chain in parallel with the re-baselining work which is continuing.

The investment in shore based testing facilities will test key parts of the ships’ Power and Propulsion system and the Combat System to de-risk their future integration into the Class.

Investment in the wider supply chain will cover further key equipment purchases for the first three Type 26 Global Combat Ships including the Diesel Generators, Sonar Domes, helicopter handling equipment, Mission Bay side doors and the stabiliser and steering gear systems, and demonstrates our on-going commitment to invest in the UK’s ability to design, develop and deliver complex warships to meet the Royal Navy’s future capability needs

The 20th of July 2016 saw a minor bombshell dropped in the form of a relatively obscure Defence Select Committee evidence session. Witnesses were Harriett Baldwin MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence, Admiral Sir Philip Jones, First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff, and Tony Douglas, Chief Executive of Defence Equipment and Support, Ministry of Defence.

Q140       Mr Gray: So when will we know the production schedule for the Type 26?

Harriett Baldwin: You have heard from previous witnesses that it is a subject for ongoing negotiations. At the moment, we are unfortunately not really in a position to share with the Committee how the commercial aspects of those negotiations are going. That would involve sharing things about that.

Q141       Mr Gray: Obviously I wouldn’t want you to share commercially sensitive information. That was not the question. But quite plainly, the capabilities of the Royal Navy depend on knowing when the Type 26 will be available. The question is, when will we know the production schedule for the Type 26? We are talking about Type 45s and Type 23s, and we need to know when the Type 26s will be built in order to think about that. Just saying that it is commercially sensitive does not answer the question. When will the production schedule for the Type 26s be available?

Harriett Baldwin: Obviously the discussions involve optimising the timing of that schedule. Tony, do you want to talk a little bit more about the precise timings?

Tony Douglas: Understandably, this is a key question that is very much at the heart of the work that I am undertaking on behalf of Her Majesty’s Royal Navy. I understand your point that you cannot hide behind the veil of a commercial negotiation. None the less, the schedule component of this is at the heart of closing out an appropriate deal that maps the requirements of Her Majesty’s Royal Navy, maps into the requirement of the Type 23, optimises value for money, and delivers a build schedule that drives performance with BAE Systems. We are right in the middle of that at the moment

Q142       Mr Gray: I am terribly sorry, Mr Douglas—I hope you don’t mind me interrupting—but that sort of language is straight out of a management consultant’s logbook. The question is, when will we know when the Type 26s are going to be built?

Tony Douglas: That is a very clear closed question. Avoiding management speak, as you described it, I cannot give you a precise date because it is subject to a commercial negotiation. However, I do not believe that we are talking about this being drawn out for any long period of time. We are now committed to closing out a build schedule with BAE Systems. Industry has a big part to play, because it has to step up to the plate in driving performance through value and lead time compression. I believe that we will be able to bring a definitive set of dates in the relative short term. I cannot give you a time and date at this point.

Q143       Mr Gray: Okay, but if that is not announced by the time of the national shipbuilding strategy at the time of the autumn statement, surely that blows a pretty big hole in the national shipbuilding strategy. How can Sir John bring forward a sensible strategy for national shipbuilding if he does not know whether and when the Type 26 can be built?

Tony Douglas: I do not believe that risk will play out by the autumn statement.

The upshot of that exchange is that at the end of July, no agreement had been reached between the MoD and BAE for the build schedule.

Given the impending out of service sequence for Type 23, it was obviously critical that the MoD and BAE reach an agreement.

The SNP predictably made a lot of noise about ‘betrayals’ but I think the reality is more mundane money.

The Secretary of State for Defence (Michael Fallon) responded to the SNP

These are ships likely to cost between half a billion and £1bn each, and I am not going to sign a contract for these ships until I am satisfied that they represent good value for our navy and good value for the taxpayer

That is a pretty broad cost envelope, especially at this stage of the process and it was widely reported that the MoD was seeking significant cost reductions to the programme.

The MoD awarded a £183 million contract to BAE Systems at the end of July 2016 for three Mk 45 Mod 4 five inch (127mm) main guns and one trainer for the Type 26.

Under the contract, the Company will manufacture three MIFS Integrated Gunnery Systems (IGS) and one trainer system for the UK Royal Navy. The MIFS IGS includes the 5-inch, 62-caliber Mk 45 Mod 4 Naval Gun System, along with an automated ammunition handling system, gun fire control system, and qualified ammunition. The contract includes an option for five additional systems for the remainder of the UK Royal Navy’s Type 26 fleet.

The contract included options for the additional five needed to make up the full eight vessel fleet. Work continues to mature the design and obtain an agreement between the MoD and BAE. The envisaged out of service date for Type 26 is 2060. It was then assumed that the First Type 26 will not enter service until 2025, three years after the first planned Type 23 OSD.

On the 1st of September 2016, BAE announced they had received a contract to mature the Type 26 design for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN)

BAE Systems has signed a contract with the Commonwealth Government to further refine its design of the Type 26 Global Combat Ship (GCS) for the Royal Australian Navy under the SEA 5000 (Future Frigate) program. AE Systems Australia Chief Executive, Glynn Phillips, said: “We look forward to demonstrating the adaptability and maturity of the Global Combat Ship design to meet Australia’s requirements for an Anti-Submarine Warship frigate. The Global Combat Ship design is the most modern, adaptable and flexible of all possible options available today, and I am confident that we will be able to demonstrate that it is the best able to meet the requirements of the Royal Australian Navy.” In coming months, a team of BAE Systems’ Australian engineers will be deployed to the UK to join the Company’s established design team. Being embedded into the one of the most advanced warship building teams in the world will allow these engineers to acquire the skills and knowledge required to effectively transfer the technology to Australia.

Fincantieri also received a similar contract.

Type 26 Australia RAN

BAE Systems Canada also started to market the Type 26 design for the Halifax class frigates.

Images were released of the gearbox test facilities under construction in September 2016, funded as part of the Assessment Phase


BAE Systems and MoD announced in early November 2016 that the manufacture of Type 26 would commence in Summer 2017.

BAE Systems has confirmed that the first steel will be cut on the Royal Navy’s Type 26 Global Combat Ships in Glasgow in summer 2017, subject to final contract negotiations with the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD).

As part of the Type 23’s Power Generation and Machinery Control and Surveillance Update (PGMU), BAE were awarded a £3.6m contract for integration services.

In December 2016, BAE Systems also announced further supply chain details, six additional contracts. Also in December 2016, the MoD announced a £287 million contract for additional OPV’s, to be named HMS Tamar and HMS Spey.

Harriett Baldwin said;

This contract will deliver two more modern Offshore Patrol Vessels for the Royal Navy and safeguard vital shipbuilding skills and hundreds of jobs in Scotland. Protected by a rising Defence budget, the OPV programme is an important part of the Government’s £178 billion plan to ensure our armed forces have the equipment they need

On the 27th of February 2017, an evidence session on the National Shipbuilding Strategy took place at the House of Commons.

Sir John Parker: It is very important that the Treasury appreciates what I am trying to say; from the conversations we have had, I believe it does.

First, if you are messing about with a programme every 12 months in an arbitrary way and pushing it to the right—you just have to look at table 1 in my report, which shows the lead time from concept to actual contract for a series of ships. From concept start to contract—conceptual to contract—it took two years for Type 21; six years for Type 23; and 19 for Type 26. None of us can be proud of that.

The answer is that the issue has to be addressed. Every year you push contracts back, you have massively added to the cost. In this case, you have a double-whammy because you have kept on the old ships for much longer. Keeping ships to 34 years of age, in my view, is just not a sensible commercial budgetary use of cash. There are many reasons for that.

On the 2nd of July 2017, the Ministry of Defence issued a £3.7billion contract for the manufacture of the first three Type 26 Global Combat Ships. The manufacturing contract also covered the build of the first three Type 26 Frigates through to sea trials and vessel acceptance by the Royal Navy, as well as the remaining development costs for the class. The contract also includes the procurement of the medium calibre gun for the first three ships and the modifications needed to the Clyde shipyards at Govan and Scotstoun to enable the manufacture of Type 26.

BAE showed an evolved model of their Type 26 proposal in July 2017.

In the same month, the first steel was cut for Type 26 and it was announced they would be known as the City Class.

It was announced all Type 26 vessels would be base ported in HM Naval Base Devonport in Plymouth in October 2018. In the same month, Type 26 was selected as the preferred bidder for the Royal Canadian Navy Canada Surface Combatant (CSC) requirement.

BAE Type 26 was selected as the preferred bidder for the Royal Australian Navy SEA5000 requirement in late June 2019.

The first steel for second Type 26, HMS Cardiff, was cut in August 2019

BAE released a number of images of HMS Glasgow in build throughout 2020.

A March 2021 House of Lords Written Answer provided additional detail on launch and in-service dates for HMS Glasgow, the first of class.

The £3.7 billion contract to manufacture the first batch of three Type 26 Frigates was awarded in June 2017 and steel cut on the first ship, HMS GLASGOW, in July 2017. I have interpreted the Noble Lord’s use of the term ‘launch date’ to mean when HMS GLASGOW will be in the water. On current plans, HMS GLASGOW will be floated-up in BAE System’s Govan shipyard in the second half of 2022 and then transferred to its Scotstoun shipyard. There, she will be fitted-out with complex weapons and other systems. After completion of sea trials and Royal Navy training and preparations, she is currently expected to enter service in 2027.

May 2021 saw the rollout of HMS Glasgow

Build continues

Summary and Costs

The programme has supported the sovereign design and build capability and a number of additional programmes have enabled investment of over £100m in facilities at Govan and Scotstoun, will result in a world-class ship class being in service with the Royal Navy, and led to two significant export wins with Canada and Australia.

By any measure, it is a success.

However, the timescales have been long. Concept studies started in the late nineties but took a decade to progress to the Assessment Stage. It took another seven years to place a Manufacture Stage contract, and this was only for the first three of the class.

As of mid-July 2021, no manufacture contract for the remaining five ships has been placed.

Costs have included;

Item Cost
Pre concept including Triton prior to 2008 £17 million
155mm TMF £4 million
2009 BAE design study £3.4 million
2010 Assessment Phase £127 million
2014 McKinsey cost review £1.9 million
2015 Demonstration Phase £859 million
2015 Financial Consultancy £1.8 million
2016 Demonstration Phase Extension £472 million
2017 Manufacture Phase (Batch 1) £3,700 million
TOTAL £5,186 million


And that does not include the River Batch 2 contract that might arguably have not been placed of the MoD and industry had arrived at a mature Type 26 design and cost in a more timely manner. 

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Change Status

Change Date Change Record
 01/03/2017 Initial issue
15/07/2021 Update and reformat

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