Nigel Pittaway | Glasgow
The United Kingdom’s Type 26 frigate program passed a milestone last week, with the cutting of the first steel at BAE System’s Govan shipyard on the River Clyde.
The plate steel, which will form part of the frigate’s keel, was cut on a plasma cutting machine operated by UK Secretary of State for Defence, Sir Michael Fallon on July 20, signalling the beginning of construction of the first batch of three vessels.
For the purpose of protecting against submarines, this is the most advanced ship available
Construction of the first of what the Royal Navy now calls the ‘City Class’ frigates follows the signing of a £3.7 billion contract on July 2. During the steel cutting ceremony, Fallon announced that the first vessel will be named HMS Glasgow, the eighth Royal Navy vessel to bear the name over the past 250 years.
HMS Glasgow is due to enter the water in the 2019/2020 timeframe and will be delivered to the Royal Navy in the middle of the next decade. A UK Government decision on the second batch of five ships is expected around the time that the first ship enters the water.
“The Type 26 is a cutting edge warship that will maintain our naval power with a truly global reach,” Fallon said. “Designed for a service life of at least 25 years, the frigates will form the backbone of the future Royal Navy surface fleet into the 2060s.”
The design is one of three contenders for Australia’s Future Frigate program being delivered under project Sea 5000, competing against the Fincantieri FREMM vessel and an evolved F-105 design from Navantia, with the local project timeline roughly following that of the Type 26 by five years.
Rear Admiral (Ret.) Henry Parker, Director Ship Acquisition for the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) said that the design has been optimised for Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) as its primary role, describing it as the quietest ship in the world.
“We basically transferred most of the technology that we used in our submarines onto this ship and so it will be critically quiet in a way that no other surface ship is,” he explained. “I’m an ex-Submariner and as well I know with the previous (Type 23) frigate, if the surface ship is quiet it is very dangerous for a submarine, you just do not know where it is.”
Sir Michael Fallon is in Sydney this week for the regular AUKMIN talks and at last weeks’ ceremony he said that he would be using the opportunity to discuss the ship with Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne.
“For the purpose of protecting against submarines, this is the most advanced ship available. There is no other ship that has the ability and the quietness,” he told ADM. “It’s way ahead of its rivals for that essential task of Anti-Submarine Warfare.”
Fallon also said he was sure Minister Pyne would be raising the issue of Australian defence industry participation in the UK program.
“That is one of the things we learn; that these supply chains are increasingly interconnected. Of course there should be opportunities for Australian companies to bid into our supply chain, just as our companies want to get into the Australian supply chain,” he said.
“The closer our Royal Navies work together, the more likely it is that we will see Australian and British equipment together, side by side.”
A detailed analysis of the Type 26 frigate and its implications for Sea 5000 will appear in the October issue of ADM.
Disclaimer: The writer travelled to the UK as a guest of BAE Systems.