On Wednesday, UK defense secretary Sir Michael Fallon unveiled a new National Shipbuilding Strategy focused on plans for the first batch of the Royal Navy’s Type 31e frigates. A price cap has been set of no more than $330 million each for the first batch of five vessels in the class – less than the cost of a U.S. Navy Littoral Combat Ship.
The strategy is designed around an independent report by industrialist Sir John Parker. Parker proposed far-reaching recommendations to transform the UK maritime industry and boost the prosperity of regions, shipyards and maritime supply chains across the country.
The new strategy is intended to show that the UK government accepts his recommendations and will aim for what he called a prospective “renaissance” in British shipbuilding.
The plan also outlines the acquisition of the new frigate class. In line with standing UK policy on warships they will be built in the UK. The strategy suggests that they could be built in a way which could see them shared between yards and assembled at a central hub. The first ships are set to be in service by 2023. Shipyards will be encouraged to work with global partners to ensure the vessel is competitive on the export market.
“I am very impressed by the courage that the Secretary of State has shown – and the Government – in adopting my recommendations, which were very extensive, and will change the shape of naval shipbuilding over the country in the future,” said Sir John Parker. “The next challenge is to come up with a world-leading design; one that can satisfy the needs of the Royal Navy and the export market. We have the capability to do that, the will is there and it is a tremendous opportunity for UK shipbuilding.
The option to build the Type 31e frigates in blocks reflects how the biggest ship ever built for the Royal Navy, the 65,000-tonne HMS Queen Elizabeth, was constructed. The aircraft carrier was built in blocks by over 10,000 people in six main British cities. She was then assembled in Rosyth, before commencing sea trials in June and arriving in her home port of Portsmouth last month.
Her sister ship HMS Prince of Wales, built in the same way, is also now structurally complete and will be officially named in a ceremony on 8 September. This method has also been tried and tested on the UK’s new polar research ship, RRS Sir David Attenborough, with shipyards across the country collaborating in the block build.
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.