After having been tapped as the preferred bidder in the British Ministry of Defense (MoD) competition for the design and build of the Type 31e general purpose (GP) frigates back in September, U.K. shipbuilder Babcock announced it had inked a contract on November 15. The production contract calls for delivery of five Type 31e frigates at the cost of GBP250 million ($320 million) apiece on average.
Babcock is spearheading a collection of partners – termed Team 31 – consisting of Thales UK, OMT, and BMT. Together, Team 31 proposed the Arrowhead 140 design based on the Iver Huitfeldt-class patrol ship operated by the Royal Danish Navy.
The Type 31e frigate forms a core element of the U.K.’s National Shipbuilding Strategy. The 5,700-ton ships are designed with features such as a host of weapons capabilities, including the Sea Ceptor area air defense missile system, a 4D air and surface surveillance and target indication radar, four large vessel boat bays, and a flight deck enabling Merlin or Wildcat helicopters to operate from the ships. The Type 31e’s design calls for a top speed of over 28 knots and a range of 9,000 nautical miles at 12 knots.
Alongside the Type 26 frigate program, the Type 31e frigates will serve as a long-term replacement for the Royal Navy’s current Type 23 frigate fleet. The aim is to build thirteen new frigates – eight Type 26s and five Type 31es – in total. The Type 26s will serve as the anti-submarine warfare (ASW) element, escorting the Royal Navy’s two new Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers. The Type 31e frigates will replace the general purpose Type 23 frigates.
An order for the first three Type 26s has already been placed, with the second batch order for the five additional ships to be negotiated in 2020.
The British MoD is aiming for first delivery of the lead Type 31e by 2023, with all five ships handed over through year-end 2028.