The British Babcock Shipyards presented to build the 5 Type 31 frigates for the Royal Navy

The rumor has been growing for several days, without being in any way denied by the British authorities. Babcock Shipyards, already in charge of the construction of 5 OPV River and 6 Type 26 frigates for the Royal Navy, would have seen their offer based on the Arrowhead 140 model selected for the construction of the 5 Type 31 class frigates Leander intended to support the Type 26 heavy frigates and the Type 45 Destroyers of the British Navy. The British group's offer of £1,3 billion outclassed those of other contenders, notably BAe which, at the same time, sees part of its monopoly on the British defense industry crumbling, even if the British giant will supply numerous systems equipping the new class of frigates. The Thales group is also involved in the program, supplying numerous equipment as well as the ship's TACTICOS combat system.

With this future, and very probable, order, which should be made official during the Defense & Security Equipment International exhibition which will be held in London next month, the Babcock shipyards will establish themselves as one of the main European military shipyards, with a very comfortable order book of 18 units to be built in its British infrastructures. The group has, as such, taken care of the distribution of work concerning the Type 31s, using a modular construction approach distributed throughout the territory, to be assembled by the Rosyth shipyards in Scotland, hitherto threatened with closure, thus saving 450 jobs.

The Type 31e frigates, "e" for Export because the concept is optimized to convince for export, are designed to ensure sovereignty and surveillance missions, with a reception capacity of more than 100 military personnel in addition to the crew, and significant means of personnel transfer, with a helicopter hangar that can accommodate a heavy Merlin helicopter or two medium Wildcat helicopters, and 2 RHIBs for the commandos. The armament of the building was not neglected, with a 76 or 127 mm cannon, 2 30 mm automatic cannons, 8 anti-ship missiles, and 32 short silos, a priori intended to implement the system of CAAM anti-aircraft defense. On the other hand, the ship does not carry, in this version, any advanced anti-submarine capability, with the exception of a hull sonar and ASM Wildcat helicopters potentially used, even if, according to the manufacturer, the Type 31 can quickly be modified to accommodate this equipment.

Arrowhead 140 overhead Defense News | Military Naval Construction | Defense Contracts and Calls for Tenders
close-up on the artillery, integrated mast and CAAM system of Babcock's Arrowhead 140 frigate

The Type 31 program has experienced several twists and turns during its existence. Initially launched in place of 5 Type 26 frigates for budgetary reasons, the call for tenders was canceled in July 2018, the manufacturers' offers being deemed too expensive by the British Ministry of Defense. Relaunched a few months later, it was however criticized by several British think tanks, pointing out the absence of sufficient anti-submarine resources (variable depth sonar, on-board torpedoes), as well as the too small number of ships. However, the facts seem to prove the British officials right, since Babcock's new offer indeed respects the envelope of £250 million per ship desired by the authorities.

On the export market, the Type 31e is positioned between heavy corvettes like the 2500 ton Gowind2500 and the 4500 ton Belh@rra intermediate-sized frigates, in the segment of light frigates like the La Fayette light stealth frigate in service in the French Navy, a segment in which British shipyards had been absent for 2 decades. Building on the success of the Type 26 frigates on the international market, chosen by the Royal Australian and Canadian Navy to constitute the backbone of their offshore fleet, the Babcock group will now be able to position itself on the entire market for ships. surface combatant, ranging from OPVs to destroyers. There is no doubt that British construction once again represents a major competitor for Naval Group on the international scene.

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