The remaining five of eight Type 26 Frigates have finally been ordered, bringing the total number of Type 26 Frigates being built on the Clyde up to eight and the total number of frigates being built in Scotland up to 13.
The Prime Minister is attending the G20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, where he announced that BAE Systems has been awarded a £4.2bn contract to build five more Type 26 frigates for the Royal Navy, on top of the three already under construction.
According to the Government in a press statement:
“The UK and allies are taking steps to bolster their security in the face of increased Russian threats. Today the Prime Minister has announced the next phase in the Type 26 frigate programme, with a £4.2bn contract awarded to BAE Systems to build five more ships for the Royal Navy – in addition to the three already under construction.
“The project will support 1,700 jobs at the BAE systems sites in Govan and Scotstoun, Glasgow, over the next decade. 2,300 additional jobs will be supported in the supply chain across the UK.”
The Prime Minister said:
“There can be no normalisation of Putin’s behaviour, which has no place in the international community. Russia’s actions put all of us at risk. As we give the Ukrainian people the support they need, we are also harnessing the breadth and depth of UK expertise to protect ourselves and our allies. This includes building the next generation of British warships.
“Putin and his proxies will never have a legitimate seat at the table until they end their illegal war in Ukraine. At the G20, the Putin regime – which has stifled domestic dissent and fabricated a veneer of validity only through violence – will hear the chorus of global opposition to its actions.”
Long-lead items were ordered previously
The Ministry of Defence had earlier confirmed that resources have been allocated for the next batch of five Type 26 Frigates to be ordered on the Clyde. A significant number of long-lead items had also been ordered for the last five of eight Type 26 Frigates.
The information came to light in response to a written question submitted in the House of Lords. Former First Sea Lord, Lord West of Spithead, asked:
“To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to ring fence money for the next five Type 26 frigates in the forthcoming spending review.”
Baroness Goldie, Minister of State for the Ministry of Defence, responded:
“Resources have been allocated by the Ministry of Defence to build and support the next five Type 26 Frigates. Funding lines are continually reviewed as part of routine programme management to ensure value for money is maximised for the taxpayer, drive the schedule and manage risk and opportunity.”
There is now a steady drumbeat of orders
Even just ten years ago shipbuilding in Scotland was described as a ‘feast and famine’ industry with effectively one or two shipyards hiring large numbers of new staff to work on a small number of new ships. This would then be followed by the ‘famine’ stage, with layoffs and uncertainty over whether-or-not there will be any future orders and whether-or-not the yard would have to close.
Now, I believe, the industry is facing a much-improved situation. Shipbuilding in Scotland is, primarily, structured to be able to meet the capability demands of the Royal Navy. However, the National Shipbuilding Strategy aimed to encourage the shipbuilding side of the defence industry to reduce its dependence on the Ministry of Defence as a sole customer and concentrate effort in securing a wider potential share of the international market.
With the success of the Type 26 and Type 31 designs in the export market, this aim of reducing dependence on the Ministry of Defence is being achieved to a small degree. Additionally, another aim of the National Shipbuilding Strategy was to reduce reliance of the Ministry of Defence on one provider for the UK’s surface warships, namely BAE currently building the Type 26 Frigate and eventually, it is expected, the Type 83 Destroyer. This shift in strategy has allowed Babcock at Rosyth to enter the business of complex warship construction in Scotland with the Type 31 Frigate and to sustain this down the line with the planned Type 32 Frigate.
There is now a steady ‘drumbeat’ of orders at two shipyards and plans for future classes are well known in the industry. This allows for certainty, the retention of skills and greater investment. All of this contributes to bring down the cost of the vessels in the longer term. In short, there’s now more work for more people at more yards than in previous decades.
A growing sector
The UK Government also recently launched a refreshed National Shipbuilding Strategy to “revitalise” the UK’s shipbuilding industry. The strategy, they claim, will deliver a pipeline of more than 150 new naval and civil vessels for the UK Government and for the devolved administrations over the next 30 years.
The military vessels outlined in the plan include the following ‘big ticket’ items, the Type 26 Frigates, the Type 31 Frigates, the Type 32 Frigates, the Multi Role Support Ships, the Fleet Solid Support Ships, the future Auxiliary Oilers, an Ice Patrol Ship and the Future Offshore Patrol Vessels. There are also a range of smaller support craft planned. Not all of these vessels will be built in Scotland, but Scottish industry could potentially benefit from taking part, in varying degrees, in the work. In short, the shipyards on both coasts now have work or are planning for work up to the 2040s.
With regards to growth expected in the sector, it is important to note that according to the Ministry of Defence, due to increased regional expenditure in the Shipbuilding and Repairing industry, Scotland and the northwest of England now account for 62% of all MOD supported employment in the shipbuilding sector with the bulk of that present in Scotland.
The document states that the rise in direct jobs supported from MOD expenditure in Scotland since 2018/19 was 22%. This rise is attributed to “increased expenditure on Construction and Shipbuilding in Scotland helped to boost total direct jobs supported in the region in 2019/20”.
In 2019/20, £3.8bn was spent in the UK-wide shipbuilding industry, which supported 27,100 direct jobs in the same industry group and a further 19,400 indirect jobs across all industry sectors, this effectively means that every three jobs in shipbuilding and repair are generating two indirect jobs elsewhere.
It is my belief, based on the data, that with the continued and steady drumbeat of work the sector will grow not only in direct jobs but also indirect jobs, as demonstrated by the figures above.
Batch builds are common
Eight Type 26 Frigates will be built in total, alongside the three in the first batch.
Ordering in batches is common for projects of this size around the world and was last seen with the Royal Navy for the Type 45 Destroyers and recent Offshore Patrol Vessels. The Type 45s first batch order was for three vessels. Last year, for example, the next batch of Type 26 Frigate propulsion motors were ordered.
The Type 26 Frigates will be named Glasgow, Cardiff, Belfast, Birmingham, Sheffield, Newcastle, Edinburgh and London.
Work recently started on ship three of eight, you can read more about that by clicking here.
HMS Glasgow, the first of eight, will be in the water before Christmas
Photos and videos captured by a drone show how HMS Glasgow looks as the warship prepares for launch later this month.
HMS Glasgow will be moved onto a barge soon before being transported to Glen Mallan to be lowered into the water. She will then be brought back upriver to Scotstoun to continue fitting out. Not quite a conventional launch, but a launch nonetheless.