MoD reveals design of Royal Navy future warships

By Jonathan Beale
Defence correspondent, BBC News


The design of the Royal Navy's latest warship has been revealed by the Ministry of Defence.

The announcement on the Type 26 Global Combat Ship has been described by officials as a "significant milestone" in a programme which will support "thousands of UK shipbuilding jobs".

Basic specification images show sleek stealth features, familiar to modern warships, making them harder to detect.

The ship will be 148 metres long with a displacement of 5,400 tonnes.

The MoD has been working with BAE Systems since 2010 to determine the basic design for the ship. Detailed specifications of the vessel will now be examined.

Vertical missile silos for a range of weapons, such as cruise missiles, will be housed on board along with a medium calibre gun.

The hangar on board will house a Merlin or Wildcat helicopter and there will be extra space for unmanned drones, underwater vehicles or other specialist equipment.

Minister for defence equipment, Peter Luff, said: "The Type 26 will be the backbone of the Royal Navy for decades to come.

"It is designed to be adaptable and easily upgraded, reacting to threats as they change."

'Multi-mission warship'

The current plan is to build 13 of the ships, which are due to start coming into service after 2020.

The Type 26 will replace the 13 Type 23 frigates but the MoD is not giving a precise commitment on numbers until they know the unit cost .

The First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, says the ship will be used "across the full spectrum of warfare".

He added: "The T26 GCS will be a multi-mission warship designed for joint and multinational operations... including complex combat operations, maritime security operations such as counter piracy, as well as humanitarian and disaster relief work around the world."

The concept of the Type 26 was born at the end of the 1990s as the Future Surface Combatant.

BAE Systems was awarded a contract of £127m in 2010 to work on the initial design.

Geoff Searle, BAE's programme director, said a team of 350 people have been involved in the work including marine engineers, designers and accountants.

One big change with previous designs is the ship's mission-bay next to the helicopter hangar which will provide extra space for specialist equipment, depending on the operation.

The hangar could house anything from aerial and underwater unmanned drones, to speed boats or containers for humanitarian aid.

The modular design means it will be constructed in sections, possibly at different sites around the UK.

Mr Searle said the design team also ensured the ship was both cost effective and flexible for other navies.

BAE is already working with a number of countries and Brazil is thought to have expressed an interest in the Type 26.

'Broad range of threats'

Richard Scott, a naval consultant at IHS Jane's, the security and defence analysts, said the Type 26 was "hugely important" to the future of the Navy because the Type 23 frigates, which will have served for more than three decades by the time they are decommissioned, need replacing.

He said the Type 26 offered a much more flexible design that could be adapted for different missions, ranging from anti-submarine and land attacks, to anti-piracy patrols or humanitarian relief missions.

The UK had an "enduring need" to "safeguard sea lines and ensure freedom of access in the seas", he said.

"The UK maintains an explicitly 'expeditionary' defence and security policy that requires forces to be deployed at extended reach for long periods of time in potentially hostile waters, as was shown off Libya in 2011," he said.

"Navies are not just about 'warfighting' - they are equally valuable diplomatic tools for demonstrating presence, gathering intelligence, showing resolve to allies, and building long-term regional partnerships."

When asked why the MoD was spending on the Type 26 when cuts were being made as part of the Security and Defence Review, he said defence spending was "akin to a comprehensive insurance cover policy".

"You don't just indemnify against one risk at a given point in time, you have to insure against a broad range of threats over the longer term," he said.

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