Proposals will be delivered to the UK Ministry of Defence this summer to build a fleet of Royal Navy frigates. (BAE Systems Concept)
LONDON — Six equipment suppliers have been added to BAE Systems’ Type 26 design team as Britain’s naval shipbuilder prepares to put the finishing touches to proposals due to be delivered to the Ministry of Defence this summer to build a new fleet of frigates for the Royal Navy.
BAE announced it had awarded design contracts to British, French, US and Dutch-based suppliers for a range of systems to be fitted to the Type 26 anti-submarine warfare platform set to replace the Royal Navy’s existing Type 23 capability.
Babcock has been awarded the air weapons handling system design; DCNS the warship’s propulsion shaftlines; GE Energy Power Conversion the electric propulsion motor and drive system; Imtech the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system and the low voltage electrical equipment; Raytheon will develop the integrated navigation and bridge system; and Tyco Fire & Integrated Solutions the fixed firefighting systems.
Further supplier contracts are in negotiation. BAE said in a statement that 25 agreements will be placed this year.
Geoff Searle, BAE’s Type 26 Global Combat Ship program director, said contracts for stabilizers, steering gear, helicopter handling and other systems remain outstanding.
The MoD is also expected to officially confirm what’s already widely known, that BAE’s Mk45 Mod4 5-inch gun system has been selected as the main indirect fire weapon.
Last September, BAE announced design development deals with Rolls-Royce, MTU, David Brown Gear Systems and Rohde & Schwarz covering propulsion and communications equipment.
Britain’s only major surface warship builder is putting together proposals to build the first Type 26s after a four-year assessment phase that cost the MoD around £130 million (US $217.7 million).
Searle declined to put a price on the program at this stage.
The detailed bid is due to be handed over to the MoD in the next few weeks. If negotiations go to plan, the two sides hope to establish a build contract around the turn of the year and cut metal on the first of class in 2016.
It’s likely to be the last class of surface warships to be introduced into the Royal Navy surface fleet until a new class of platforms for mine countermeasures, hydrographic and patrol capabilities becomes available around 2028.
The current plan is to hand over the first Type 26 to the Royal Navy in 2021 replacing HMS Argyll, the first of the Type 23s to go out of service in 2023.
Company and MoD program officials said because Britain will be caught up in a general election timed for next May, rapidly followed by a strategic defense and security review, approval of a deal ahead of time is vital if industrial and operational requirements are to be met on time.
Earlier this year, Defence Procurement Minister Philip Dunn said it was the government’s intention to order eight of the warships initially.
Searle told reporters at a briefing June 3 that BAE is “planning a 13-ship proposal to the MoD. There are a number of options being looked at including the best way of phasing the program.”
The BAE executive said he expects a phased commitment and that the initial order will be part of the proposal discussions for later in the year.
BAE said that “under current plans, 13 Type 26 ships will be delivered to the Royal Navy, with manufacturing in Glasgow, Scotland, scheduled to start in 2016. The first vessel is due to enter service as soon as possible after 2020 and the Type 26 class will remain in service until 2060.”
A ‘yes’ vote for Scottish independence could knock the program off schedule both in terms of numbers and timing. A referendum on Scotland breaking away from the rest of the UK is scheduled for September.
Searle said BAE had “no plan B” to build the warships elsewhere in the event of Scottish independence.
The company has a £200 million investment plan on the table to upgrade its Scotstoun yard in Glasgow to build the Type 26 and close a nearby yard at Govan.
Go ahead on that update scheme will be made pretty much in parallel with approval for Type 26 build work.
A second, less favored scheme keeping Govan and Scotstoun open and investing £100 million across the two sites is also being considered.
The Type 26 will weigh about 6,000 tons with a length of 149 meters.
Primarily an anti-submarine warfare vessel, the frigate is also designed as a multipurpose platform with a modular mission bay able to house a variety of loads. The vessels will also be able to handle helicopters as large as the Chinook.
Key systems already contracted for include the MBDA’s Sea Ceptor surface to air missile and BAE’s Artisan surveillance radar.
The warship will also use the Thales 2087 sonar currently fitted to the Type 23s.
Eight sonar systems will be available at any one time allowing other Type 26s to operate in a more multipurpose role.
Vertical launch tubes capable of firing a surface-to-surface missile like the Raytheon Tomahawk or MBDA Scalp Naval are also included in the design but no decision has been made on equipping the warship with the capability. ■