LONDON — The Royal Navy is to receive five anti-submarine warfare frigates in a £4.2 billion ($5 billion) deal between the Ministry of Defence and warship builder BAE Systems announced on Tueday.
BAE already has three of the Type 26 warships in construction at its yards in Govan and Scotstoun, Scotland, and the new contract fulfills a longtime government commitment to field a fleet of eight ASW warships.
The first of the new class of frigates, HMS Glasgow, is expected to enter service by the end of 2028 and the delivery of all eight vessels should be completed by the mid-2030s.
The frigates will replace the bulk of a fleet of long-serving Type 23 warships.
Some of the Type 23 fleet is being replaced by Type 31 general-purpose frigates built by BAE rival Babcock at its Rosyth yard in Scotland.
Prime minister Rishi Sunak announced the new Type 26 deal during the G20 summit of world leaders currently being held in Bali, Indonesia.
The contract signing for the second batch of frigates had been expected, with the government recently confirming to Parliament that money for the additional five frigates had been ring-fenced.
The move effectively protects the program from defense cuts expected to result from a budget statement by the chancellor on Nov 17.
Media speculation here is the MoD is likely to see spending levels maintained but with no allowance for additional money to combat inflation levels in excess of 10%.
Long-lead items for this second batch of Type 26s, like engines and gearboxes, are already under contract.
In a statement Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “We are investing in our fleet to ensure our Royal Navy maintains its world-leading capability to protect and defend our nation at sea. This design has already been successfully exported to Australia and Canada, it’s already proved itself as a world-class maritime capability, securing thousands of UK jobs and strengthening alliances with our allies.”
The first Type 26 is due to enter the water at Govan by the end of this year ahead of being moved to Scotstoun for fitting out.
The construction contract for the initial batch of Type 26s was awarded to BAE in 2017 at a cost to the government of £3.7 billion, or $4.4 billion.
The program has run into difficulties, though, with a recent announcement by Wallace confirming the first of class was late and over budget.
In a written statement to Parliament on Nov. 2 Wallace attributed the delay to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, along with design and supply-chain problems.
The delay will add an additional £223 million ($265 million) to the overall cost of the program.
“Due to the impact of COVID-19, where the Govan yard was required to shut down for a number of weeks, and challenges typical of those experienced with the first-of-class ship, including finalizing the ship design and timely delivery of key new to service equipment, the department is forecasting a twelve-month delay to the Type 26 initial operating capability from October 2027 to October 2028,” the defense secretary said in the statement.
BAE Systems CEO Charles Woodburn said the contract secures the future of a critical U.K. industry.
“It underpins the ongoing investments we’re making in the skills, infrastructure and technologies needed to stay at the forefront of the maritime sector and to support the U.K. government’s national shipbuilding strategy,” said Woodburn.
One of those investments is the planned construction of a shipbuilding hall at Govan.
The company has submitted a planning application with local authorities to build a 175 meter long covered hall costing in excess of £100 million ($119 million).
The hall will allow two frigates being built in it simultaneously.
Subject to planning permission the third warship in the initial batch of vessels could be assembled in the new hall, said BAE officials.
The investment will be a major factor in the final five ships costing less and being delivered faster than previous vessels, the MoD said.
Andrew Chuter is the United Kingdom correspondent for Defense News.