The British Ministry of Defence has awarded BAE Systems a GBP4.2 billion ($4.97 billion) contract for a second batch of Type 26 frigates destined for the Royal Navy. The new Type 26 ships – referred to as the City class by the Royal Navy – will serve to partially replace the legacy fleet of venerable Type 23 frigates that began entering British naval service in the 1990s.
The Type 26 will fill the anti-submarine warfare role and replace the eight ASW-mission Type 23s on a one-for-one basis, while the remaining five Type 23s will be replaced by five Type 31 general purpose frigates referred to as the Inspiration class.
The first batch of three Type 26s was ordered on July 1, 2017, with first steel on the lead frigate, HMS Glasgow, cut several weeks later, on July 20, 2017. This ship was originally expected to enter service by 2027 but is now delayed by 12 months and rescheduled for commissioning near the end of 2028. The entire eight-ship fleet is planned for completion in the mid-2030s. Work on these vessels is being undertaken at BAE Systems’ two shipyards on the River Clyde in Glasgow, Scotland.
We have been awarded £4.2bn by the Ministry of Defence to manufacture the next five City Class Type 26 frigates for the @RoyalNavy, securing 4,000 UK jobs and work at our Glasgow facilities into the 2030s. @DefenceHQ https://t.co/vCrSBUtufL pic.twitter.com/yH2EPvZq89
— BAE Systems Maritime (@BAES_Maritime) November 15, 2022
Though the core design function of the Type 26 is focused on the ASW mission, it also is capable of high-intensity air defense. At just under 150 meters in length and capable of a top speed exceeding 26 knots, the ships are armed with a 5-inch BAE Mk 45 medium-caliber gun, the Sea Ceptor missile air defense system, the Phalanx air/surface defense weapon system, three eight-cell Lockheed Martin Mk 41 vertical launch systems (VLS), the Artisan 997 medium-range radar, a sonar system for detecting submarines, and a flight deck capable of embarking a multirole helicopter.
The new Type 26s are intended to serve as escorts for the Royal Navy’s two new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers. They will also be used to protect the nuclear submarine fleet as they enter and depart from Clyde naval base in Faslane, Scotland. Because of their array of weaponry and capabilities, the ships will also be able to serve in counter-piracy, humanitarian aid, and disaster relief roles.
The latest order in the face of economic and inflationary headwinds not only ensures the Royal Navy will receive all eight planned frigates but also that the British maritime industrial sector has a steady drumbeat of workshare – key to supporting the U.K. government’s National Shipbuilding Strategy.
Under the latest contract, BAE Systems will invest GBP1.2 billion ($1.4 billion) in the U.K. supply chain, thereby supporting local jobs and their attendant skill sets as well as more than 120 multi-tier providers from across Britain.
For all the negative news surrounding the current U.K. economic and political environment, the latest contract also demonstrates that at least some core elements of the 2021 Defence Command Paper are continuing to move forward as overall national security strategy gets set for a re-examination and update.
Moreover, it safeguards an element crucial to the “Global Britain” aims of the current Integrated Review, which is a viable Royal Navy capable of deploying a carrier task force as far as the Indo-Pacific in order to preserve freedom of navigation, persistently engage with regional partners to counter threats and ensure maritime security, and protect British interests worldwide.