The announcement comes as the Royal Navy has revealed that the first ships to be developed under the Future Surface Combatant programme will be known as the Type 26 class. Designed to replace the existing Type 22 and Type 23 frigates, Type 26 will deliver a versatile, affordable capability that can be easily upgraded to ensure it remains at the cutting-edge throughout its service life. Under the contract, BAE Systems will work in a joint team with the MOD to assess options from the initial concept design in order to develop a detailed specification ready for manufacture.
Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth said: “Planning for future Defence is crucial. It is our duty to provide key equipment that will ensure the UK is properly prepared to meet its own Defence needs in an ever changing world, and continue to play an important role in maintaining global security. Programmes like the Type 26 not only ensure the Royal Navy continues to have cutting edge capability but also sustain the industry that supports them. The commitments the MOD has made will protect skills and employment, and preserve the industrial capability needed to carry out future programmes efficiently, in a way that represents value for money.”
First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope said: "These programme announcements are welcome news for the Navy. You simply cannot have an effective Navy without capable Frigates, and the Type 26 combat ship will form the future backbone of the Royal Navy’s surface combatant force, alongside the new Type 45 Destroyers. These ships will be highly versatile, able to operate across the full spectrum of operations, from war fighting to disaster relief.”
Alan Johnston, Managing Director of BAE Systems Surface Ships, said: “This is an exciting step in a programme that is hugely important not only for the Royal Navy but for the whole of the UK maritime industry.
“Type 26 is a key component in sustaining a surface warship capability in UK industry as agreed under the Terms of Business Agreement we signed with the MOD last year. Working in close partnership with the MOD and industry will help to reduce risk and deliver better value for UK taxpayers. It represents a real step change in procurement for defence.”
An 80 strong joint MOD and BAE Systems team has already been established out of Bristol and this will rise to 300 over the next four years, bringing together expertise in all aspects of warship engineering to complete the assessment phase. The first task of the team is to evaluate the main options including capability, operational availability of the ships, exportability features and support optimisation. The programme is also timed to address outputs from the forthcoming Strategic Defence Review so that changes to policy will be reflected in the final ship design, ensuring that Type 26 delivers the right capability to support future UK defence.
Type 26 is the first of two classes of ships to be built under the Future Surface Combatant programme, delivering enhanced anti-submarine warfare capability and enabling a more agile response to a wide range of threats and emergency situations. Both variants will be developed with their potential for export factored into the design from the outset, with the aim of securing overseas orders to spread non-recurring costs and reduce the cost per ship to deliver better value for the MOD and UK taxpayers. This approach will also provide a platform to showcase the capability within the UK maritime supply chain, helping to secure the UK’s long-term future at the forefront of the global maritime industry.
The first of the new class is due to enter service around the start of the next decade and by the 2030s around half of frontline Royal Navy personnel are expected to operate on a either a Type 26 or the second variant to be developed under this programme.
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