"We are working with the MoD to agree a revised program baseline following the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), including the next contracting phases for the Type 26 program," BAE said in a statement March 2.
After a five-year assessment phase ended early last year, BAE signed a 12-month, £859 million demonstration deal with the MoD to continue to mature detailed design work on the Type 26 program. Building shore-based testing facilities and funding for long-lead item procurement on the first three frigates was also part of the arrangement, which runs to the end of the first quarter this year.
To fill the gap left in the Royal Navy's already under-strength surface combatant fleet, the Conservative government said it would build at least five smaller, cheaper, general purpose frigates, as well as a further two offshore patrol vessels to add to the three already under construction at BAE's two shipyards on the Clyde, Scotland.
"We committed in the SDSR 2015 to building eight Type 26 ships and are carrying out detailed work to take forward the program. We will announce our plans for progressing the program in due course," said an MoD spokeswoman.
A joint MoD/industry team is already conducting early work on the Type 31 program, including looking at potential designs to fulfill the likely requirement as well as possible production schedules. One option could be a cut-down version of the 7,200-ton Type 26.
British naval architects like BMT Defence also have light frigate designs available.
The government could publish their new national shipbuilding strategy around the September/October time and ministers have already said the two warship types will form the core of the plan to sustain and grow Britain's maritime industry.
Whatever the outcome of the deliberations over the national shipbuilding strategy, BAE maintains there is still good momentum behind the Type 26 program.
"We continue work with the MoD and our partners to mature the design and build strategy for the ships. Our joint focus is to deliver a well-founded program that ensures the Royal Navy has the capability it needs, while ensuring the best value for UK taxpayers and sustaining our strategic national shipbuilding industry in the UK," the company said.
About this time last year, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told Parliament the manufacturing phase for the Type 26 would start in 2016 with delivery of the new capability to the Royal Navy in 2022.
Late last year though in the wake of the SDSR announcement, Defence Minister Earl Howe told the House of Lords that construction of the Type 26 program would be "preceded" by the addition of the two additional OPVs .
"We have begun detailed work to take forward the program outlined by the prime minister [in his SDSR announcement]. The impact of building the two additional OPVs on the Type 26 program schedule, including the timing of the award of the contract to build the ships and their build schedule, will be central to this work. In due course, a revised program will be produced and be considered through the normal investment approvals process," said Howe.
A deal between BAE and the MoD to start building the two new OPVs has yet to be announced. All three of the OPVs ordered in 2014 in a £348 million deal are under construction on the Clyde. The first of the vessels is scheduled for delivery in 2017 with the final ship being handed over the following year.
Few in the Royal Navy will be cheering their arrival too loudly.
The key reason for building all five of the 2,000-ton ships is not because they are on the RN's capability priority list; far from it. It's more to do with helping retain shipbuilding skills on the Clyde to bridge the gap between the fast-completing aircraft carrier build program and the ramp up of frigate construction. Where all of this leaves a revised delivery schedule for the Type 26 is unclear.
Royal Navy officers and industry executives have previously said the delivery schedule for the Type 26 was dictated by the pressing need to start taking aging Type 23 frigates out of service starting in 2023. The early warships in the class have already been extended in service well beyond their original intended design life.
A parliamentary answer from the MoD on March 2 stuck to the longstanding schedule for standing down the Type 23 fleet.