Intended to replace the UK Royal Navy’s Type 23 frigates as the workhorse of the fleet, undertaking the three core roles warfighting, maritime security and international engagement the Type 26 will also be the first Royal Navy vessel to be developed with an anti-submarine warfare capability in more than 30 years.
Following the UK government’s commitment in the Strategic Defence and Security Review to buy eight of the advanced anti-submarine warfare ships, the new contract is the latest in a series funding BAE Systems to develop the design of the new vessels and enable the company to continue with the development phase of the project.
The announcement continues the UK government’s investment in Type 26, reflecting its commitment to the UK’s strategic warship building industry and the programme to deliver the Royal Navy’s next generation warships. Effective from April 2016, the 15-month contract extends the current demonstration phase ensuring continued momentum to further mature the detailed design of the Type 26 ships and to manufacture key equipment for the first three ships.
Speaking at the time that the contract was announced, UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said: “These highly advanced ships will help keep Britain safe and support our shipbuilding industry. Investing in them is part of our plan to increase defence spending so our armed forces have the most modern equipment they need.”
Geoff Searle, Type 26 programme director at BAE Systems, said: “This is a significant investment in the programme and an endorsement of the government’s commitment to sustain this important national capability. The Type 26 programme is progressing well and over the coming months more of our partners in the supply chain will start to manufacture equipment for the first three ships as we continue to progress towards the manufacturing phase. We are committed to working with the Ministry of Defence [MoD] and wider industry to ensure the Royal Navy has the capability it needs to protect national interests, whilst ensuring value for money for UK taxpayers. Through the Type 26 programme, we are transforming the way we design and manufacture warships with innovative new technologies, systems and processes to ensure we continue to deliver the highest quality equipment at the lowest possible cost.”
To date, there are 27 companies across the maritime supply chain working with BAE Systems to deliver the Type 26 ships, including seven firms with contracts underway to manufacture key equipment for the first three ships. This includes manufacturing contracts with Babcock for the ships’ air weapons handling systems, GE Power Conversion for the electric propulsion motor and drive systems and Rolls-Royce for the gas turbines, the first of which passed its factory acceptance test in January.
Under the extended demonstration phase, BAE Systems expects to award manufacturing contracts to a total of approximately 50 companies, helping to support the maritime industry in the UK. Key equipment to be delivered includes the Combat Management System and the Shared Infrastructure IT system developed by BAE Systems. This innovative hardware solution will allow the crew to access all software, such as navigation, communications and sonar needed to operate a ship’s combat systems through a single console.
As previously highlighted in Warship Technology, the Type 26 has a length of 149m and displacement of around 6,000tonnes. It will be powered by a Combined Diesel Electric or Gas (CODLOG) propulsion machinery arrangement and have a range of 7,000nm and a maximum speed of at least 26knots. Accommodation on board will provide for up to 208. This will encompass berthing and recreation for the core crew, specialist mission teams, and/or an embarked military force. Key features of the Type 26 design include: acoustic stealth and hullform optimisation to reduce underwater radiated noise (to be at least the equal of the Type 23 in terms of quietening); a flexible mission bay (to host boats, unmanned vehicles and disaster relief stores); and a large flight deck (capable of hosting helicopters and unmanned air vehicles up to Chinook size).
The Type 26 design has also been developed to take full advantage of modular design and open systems architecture to facilitate through-life support and upgrades as new technology develops. This is intended to ‘future proof’ the design through-life, ensuring that the Global Combat Ship remains relevant to future maritime requirements, and allowing for the accommodation of different sub-systems and equipment suited to potential overseas customer needs.
Earlier in the programme the MoD selected BAE Systems’ Mk 45 Mod 4 5in/62-calibre gun system to meet the Maritime Indirect Fire System (MIFS) requirement associated with Type 26. This covers the provision of an off-the-shelf medium-calibre gun system and associated magazine ammunition-handling system.
Although the Mk 45 Mod 4 was designed with GPS-enabled, extended-range precision ammunition in mind, the MIFS programme does not itself include the acquisition of such munitions. However, it is anticipated that the Royal Navy will in due course procure an extended-range guided projectile, and is closely following US Navy activity in this area. It is understood that the MoD and BAE Systems also selected Lockheed Martin’s Mk 41 vertical launcher system (VLS) to meet the Type 26 requirement for a 24-cell ‘Flexible Strike Silo.’ The choice of weapons to go into the silo remains undecided, but the Mk 41 VLS will allow for the launch of land attack, anti-surface and anti-submarine guided weapons.