This is a computer-generated image of the basic specification of the Type 26 Global Combat Ship (T26 GCS). The multi-mission warship, which is due to come into service after 2020, will be used by the British Royal Navy in combat and counter-piracy operations and to support humanitarian and disaster relief work around the world. (BAE Systems via British Ministry of Defence)
LONDON — A nod of approval by the British Ministry of Defence of the baseline design for the Royal Navy’s next generation of frigates has triggered the start of a series of competitions to equip the warship. Prime contractor BAE Systems said it has already gotten the process underway by inviting companies to bid for the propulsion system.
BAE Program Director Geoff Searle said the company has begun issuing invitations to tender (ITT) to potential suppliers on the Type 26 frigate program, most significantly in the propulsion sector.
The Royal Navy is planning to purchase 13 Type 26s to replace the in-service Type 23 anti-submarine warfare vessel.
The MoD announced Aug 20 that the baseline design and capabilities of the multi-mission warship, due in service after 2020, had been endorsed. That enabled the shipbuilder to move on to defining the detailed specifications of the vessel.
The schedule includes an MoD decision on a development and manufacturing phase by early 2014, with construction work on the first vessel expected to get underway by early 2016.
The design was approved in April, but the MoD has only just announced the decision.
“Now we have agreed with MoD on the overall capability, we have just started the process of engaging the supply chain. We have issued the first few invitations to tender, predominantly in the propulsion area,” Searle said.
The executive said the propulsion ITTs covered gas turbine, diesel engine, gearbox and electric motor systems.
“We intend to downselect the suppliers of the main elements around the end of this year or early next year,” Searle said.
BAE declined to name the companies sent bid invitations.
Local supplier Rolls-Royce said it received the tender documents.
“We can confirm that we have received the ITTs for the major items of propulsion equipment covered and will be responding ahead of the next design gate,” a spokesman said.
The British-based company is a longtime supplier to the Royal Navy of maritime equipment, including gas turbines.
It strengthened its hand in the maritime diesels sector last year when, along with partner Daimler, it purchased German manufacturer Tognum.
R-R is the gas-turbine supplier on the Royal Navy’s two latest warship programs; building two aircraft carriers and six Type 45 anti-air destroyers.
The MT30 gas turbine being supplied for the Queen Elizabeth carrier program recently secured its first frigate contract in a deal with the South Korean Navy.
Earlier this year, the company completed a repackaging effort on the MT30 to enable it to fit into the confined space of a frigate.
Finland’s Wartsila was the diesel engine provider for both Royal Navy vessel types.
General Electric Aviation is also expected to respond in the gas turbine and electric motor elements of the requirement.
The U.S. company recently acquired French-based electric motor supplier Converteam, which provided the electric drive elements of the carrier and Type 45s.
Searle said the baseline design includes a propulsion configuration involving four main diesel generators driving two electric motors, one on each shaft, for lower speed requirements, and a single gas turbine generator driving both shafts through a split gearbox on higher speed requirements.
Some of the key systems for the warship have already been decided without competition.
Principal among these is the Sea Ceptor vertical launch air defense system being developed by MBDA and BAE’s Artisan 3D search radar.
Some of the systems will be incorporated into an upcoming Type 23 capability sustainment program and derisked ahead of being used on the new frigate.
“There is an intention to use proven systems and equipment. So the Type 26 will benefit from the Type 23 sustainment program,” Searle said.
“We are also looking at something similar on the combat management system where we have a new system called a shared computing environment, which a number of the software packages that make up the whole combat management system sit on,” he said.
The BAE executive said some of the systems inherited from the updated Type 23 could be cross decked to the Type 26 as the old vessels are decommissioned.
The warship is predominantly an anti-submarine but with general purpose capabilities. The baseline design of the Type 26 will see the frigate weigh in at around 5,400 tons and have a length of around 148 meters.
Vertical missile silos will be able to carry a range of weapons, including surface-to-surface and surface-to-land missiles, and the ship will carry a medium-caliber gun.
One of the key features of the design is a mission bay adjoining the helicopter hanger capable of carrying a large range of payloads. These could be additional boats for special forces, containers for disaster relief or unmanned air, surface or underwater vehicles, Searle said.
The Type 26 will form the spine of a Royal Navy frigate/destroyer fleet that numbers just 19 vessels. Six of those will be Type 45s and the remainder, Type 26s.
The British have so far failed to attract an overseas partner to the program, known in its export guise as the Global Combat Ship, despite having had talks with navies across four continents about joining the program at an early stage.
Searle said international interest in the program remains high, but that will likely only firm up once potential buyers can see the flexibility of the final design.