LONDON — Just a few days ago, British Defence Procurement Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan’s opening speech of DSEI was being touted by some as a possible show stopper, as speculation mounted she would name a Babcock International-led team as the winner of a competition to build a new class of general-purpose frigate for the Royal Navy.
The reality, however, turned out to be anti-climactic.
The Type 31e frigate destined for the Royal Navy barely received a mention. Instead, the procurement minister on Sept. 10 discussed a few minor contract awards that were less eye-catching than the long, red, suede leather boots she was wearing during her first keynote speech at the DSEI show in London.
What happened to the Type 31e announcement, no one is saying. Certainly Trevelyan wasn’t about to throw any light on the position — she exited the stage without taking questions.
One line of speculation among industry executives was that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had hijacked the announcement and will say something later this week. Another theory is there won’t be an announcement on the matter during the show, which runs Sept. 10-13.
Babcock and its team that includes Thales UK and various shipyards appear to have been selected by the Ministry of Defence to supply five Danish-designed Iver Huitfeldt-class frigates to meet a requirement to replace aging Type 23 frigates starting 2023. If the deal is cemented, it will be the first time the Royal Navy operated a foreign-designed combat ship in decades.
The Babcock version of the warship, known as the Arrowhead 140, has been competing with rival designs offered by a BAE Systems-led consortium and Atlas Elektronic UK.
Trevelyan, who was appointed to her post July 27 as part of Johnson’s new government, turned to a number of smaller contracts to get the show rolling on a positive note. Among them was a £177 million (U.S. $218 million) deal awarded to five companies to service and support the fleet of small boats operated by the MoD and other government agencies.
Qinetiq scored a £67 million contract to develop a new anti-jam GPS receiver as part of the U.K.’s robust global navigation system program. Elbit UK secured a £31 million deal to deliver a joint fires synthetic trainer.
The Type 31e deal is expected to be worth at least £1.25 billion