Royal Navy: Contract Signed for the Five Frigates Type 31

The programme General Purpose Frigate (GPFF) or Type 31 resulted in the signing of a contract between the British Ministry of Defense and the consortium led by Babcok this November 15, 2019. The industrialization phase of the program begins with the aim of delivering five frigates between 2023 and 2028.

Frigates Type 23 or class Duke were originally sixteen but three were ceded to the Chilean navy. It is remarkable that these frigates benefited and still benefit from major work including a mid-life overhaul, a modernization of their anti-submarine warfare suite, culminating in the embarkation of the sound 2087 (CAPTS-4 of Thales) for eight of the thirteen and a replacement of their anti-aircraft system Sea Wolf by Common Anti-Air Modular Missile (CAMM).

Recently, a system combining a remotely operated 30 mm cannon with five missiles Martlet Lightweight Multirole Missile (8 km, Mach 1,5) of which the United Kingdom ordered 1000 examples in 2011, called MMP (Medium Range Missile) in France, was seen testing in July 2019 aboard HMS Sutherland. The Royal Navy would attempt to equip all frigates of the class with it Duke in order to strengthen their defensive capabilities against swarms.

Since the beginning of the 2010s, it has been a matter of providing for the replacement of the thirteen Type 23. The Strategic Defense Review 2010 was in favor of launching the program Global Combat Ship (GCS) Or Type 26 for this purpose. Two versions of future frigates were planned, namely:

  • eight anti-submarine frigates to replace all Type 23s (HMS Westminster (1994 – 2028), HMS Northumberland (1994 – 2029), HMS Richmond (1995 – 2030), HMS Somerset (1996 – 2031), HMS Sutherland (1997 – 2032), HMS Kent (2000 – 2033), HMS Portland (2001 – 2034) and HMS St Albans (2002 – 2035) provided with sonar 2087;
  • five general employment frigates to succeed the Type 23 (HMS Argyll (1991 – 2023), HMS Lancaster (1992 – 2024), HMS Iron Duke (1993 – 2025), HMS Monmouth (1993 – 2025) and HMS Montrose (1994 – 2027) lacking the sonar 20187.

The industrialization phase was to begin in 2016. Turnaround in Strategic Defense Review 2015 who confirms the program Global Combat Ship (GCS). Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed the only eight Type 26s in the anti-submarine version but the general use version is unrelated to the program. He was now looking for an entirely new class. The program General Purpose Frigate (GPFF) Or Type 31 was launched.

Martlet Lightweight Multirole Missile Defense News | Industrial consolidation Defense | Military naval constructions
HMS Sutherland in July 2019, tested an assembly allowing a remotely operated 30 mm cannon to be coupled with five missiles Martlet Lightweight Multirole (Medium Range Missiles (MMP) in France) from MBDA. They make it possible to strengthen asymmetrical and swarm control capabilities. The system could equip all Type 23 frigates and then Type 31 frigates.

The maneuver in the strategy of British naval assets should make it possible, according to its designers, to lower the cost of the replacement program for the five Type 23 frigates to the point of hoping to order more than five in a context of the emerging debate on the Inadequate number of destroyers and frigates in the British Navy. The targeted tonnage was of the order of 4000 tonnes.

Two additional constraints are added following the publication of the National Shipbuilding Strategy (September 6, 2017): the design of the future frigate should allow it to be exported and supplement the workload of British design offices and shipyards. On the other hand, and subsequently, the unit cost of construction of future frigates is set at 250 million pounds sterling (or 278,37 million euros (2015).

For London, it is a question of revitalizing its naval industry by requiring the national design and construction of its combat and auxiliary ships, which constitutes a turnaround after the class Tide of four tankers was built in South Korea but completed in the United Kingdom. The program Carrier Vessel Future (CVF) was already serving to restructure the British naval industry.

A first call for tenders procedure was launched for the benefit of the program General Purpose Frigate (GPFF) in 2017. Four industrial consortia responded between October and November 2017: BMT proposed the frigate Venator 110, Babcock with theArrowhead 120, BAE Systems partners with Cammell Laird because its load plan is full (Type 26, offshore patrol vessels River batch 2) to propose the Leander.

Finally, BMT got closer to Babcock between November 2017 and May 2018.Arrowhead 120 was retained as common proposal and transformed into Arrowhead 140. In addition, Ferguson Marine (Glasgow), Harland & Wolff (Belfast), Odense (Denmark), Thales UK, joined the consortium. This is the resumption of the plans for the Danish frigates of the class Iver Huitfeldt, fully loaded 6600-ton air defense frigates, designed by Odense.

Type 31 second procedure Defense News | Industrial consolidation Defense | Military naval constructions
The programme General Purpose Frigate (GPFF) launched in 2015 aimed at an intermediate-sized frigate of the order of 4000 tonnes and it was ultimately the proposal with the largest displacement which won on September 12 with 5800 tonnes fully loaded.

The first call for tenders procedure was canceled on July 25, 2018 because, according to the Ministry of Defense, the conditions were not met, with manufacturers not officially proposing offers acceptable to the objectives of the program. The competition was relaunched in November 2018 with the consortium of Babcock proposing theArrowhead 140, BAE Systems/Cammell Laird la Leander et Atlas Electronics UK/Thyssenkrup Marine Systems joined the competition with the MEKO A-200.

On September 12, 2019, the Ministry of Defense announced that it was retaining the proposal from the consortium led by Babcock based on theArrowhead 140. The two parties then entered into exclusive negotiations and these were concluded on November 15, 2019. The general design of the frigate was refined and modified (front of the bridge block, reconfigurable mission area, aeronautical installations). The unit production cost was still set at 1250 million pounds sterling (1468,61 million euros (2019) for five frigates. The cost of the total program including the shares of the other members of the consortium and therefore part of the equipment It amounted to 2000 million pounds sterling (2349,78 million euros (2019), which values ​​the Type 31 frigate at 469,95 million euros.

The addition of costs cannot be complete without specifying that the future construction sites of the five frigates will be financed by the Government-Furnished Equipment (GFE). Part of the weapon systems will be unloaded frigates Type 23 like the Be Acceptor (CAMM). It would be logical for the same to be true for systems combining a remotely operated 30 mm cannon with five missiles Martlet Lightweight Multirole Missile (8 km, Mach 1,5) to equip the Type 23. It is also hoped that the sound 2087, after having equipped eight frigates Type 23 then as many frigates Type 26, is installed on the five frigates Type 31 when it is replaced, probably by an ultra-low frequency sonar suite on the Type 26.

The final unit cost of the Type 31 would then be rather close to 600 million euros, far from the image of “ low cost frigate » stuck to its hull compared to Type 26 (1000 million pounds sterling or 1173,79 million euros per frigate (2019).

Type 31 architecture Defense News | Industrial consolidation Defense | Military naval construction
The architecture of the Type 31 presents three main interesting points: 1) naval artillery oriented towards anti-aircraft defense with high rates of fire and the possibility of crossfire on all sectors; 2) two configuration zones which are the four side bays and the area under the flight deck and 3) CODAD propulsion rather than CODOG.

La Type 31 based on theArrowhead 140 will be a frigate approximately 138,7 meters long with a main beam (greatest width) of 19,75 meters. The draft should be 4,8 meters. The displacement at full load would be of the order of 5800 tonnes. The maximum speed would be 28 knots, the autonomy should be 9000 nautical miles at 12 knots and the food capacity 28 days. It will be manned by a crew of 100 sailors with accommodation capacity to accommodate 60 additional passengers.

The propulsion will be of the type Combined Diesel And Diesel (CODAD) with four diesel engines grouped two by two in two separate compartments driving two shaft lines with variable pitch propeller. Very particular attention will be paid to the choice of diesel engines because the destroyers Type 45 have suffered numerous setbacks with their diesel generators in tropical waters, to the point of imposing a replacement program.

The combat system of future buildings will be the Tacticos baseline 2 de Thales. The choice of air surveillance radar fell on the NS100 proposed by Thales. It is a three-dimensional radar with active antenna and electronic scanning (active electronically scanned array (TO THAT) working in S band. It is reputed to have a range of approximately 280 km radius. It would be superior in its characteristics to radar Artisan of the Type 23 and Type 26. When the frigates are launched, a hull sonar UMS 4110 Kingklip could be present but the doubt remains. A sound 2087 towed with variable immersion (Variable Depth Sonar (VDS) active at very low frequency could be added during the operational life of the vessels when they are unloaded from the Type 26.

The main artillery piece on the foredeck will be the 57mm Mk 110 Mod 0 de Bofors with 1000 shells in store. The rate of fire is 240 shells/minute for a useful range of 17 meters. This will involve observing whether the shell Programmable and Proximity-fused (3P) is retained because it caused a sensation in France with regard to its anti-aircraft but also anti-surface capabilities against multiple light boats.

The secondary artillery will include two pieces of 40mm Mk4 de Bofors, in place of the 20mm system Phalanx CIWS previously desired. The first turret of 40mm Mk4 will be integrated on a roof dominating room 57 while the second turret will be installed above the aircraft hangar. Ideal configuration allowing you to beat the front and rear sectors and cross fire on the port and starboard sectors with only two pieces. Two remotely operated 30 mm cannons could be fitted to the rear of the wings of the navigation bridge. It remains to be seen whether these will be systems combining a remotely operated 30 mm cannon with five missiles. Martlet Lightweight Multirole Missile (8 km, Mach 1,5) Type 23.

Type 31 configuration Royal Navy foredeck Defense News | Industrial consolidation Defense | Military naval construction
This front view of the Type 31 model with the configuration adopted by the Royal Navy (October 2019) allows us to appreciate the presence of light artillery. It is suspected that the two wings of the bridge each receive a remotely operated 30 mm cannon coupled with five Martlet Lightweight Multirole Missiles.

The vertical launch system Be Acceptor (24 x CAMM) will be integrated into the superstructure, between the bridge block and the rear mast, and will therefore be taken each time a frigate is disarmed Type 23. The reserves planned in the architecture of the frigate would make it possible to accommodate launch containers of 8 Surface Ship Guided Weapon (SSGW), the interim anti-ship missiles which will make the connection between the Harpoon Block 1C et the Future Cruise/Anti-Ship Weapon (FC/ASW) and therefore deliveries are planned from 2022 to 2024. It would also be possible to complete the vertical launch system with four octuple launchers Mk 41. But this would clearly require disembarkation on Be Acceptor and welcome its missiles CAMM in new launchers. As a reminder, these anti-aircraft missiles CAMM can be stacked in fours (“ quad-pack ") in launchers Mk 41 ou SYLVER A43 et A50.

The Royal Navy has not yet commented on the relevance of a capability to fire cruise missiles for its surface fleet, and more particularly to join the naval component of anti-ballistic missile capabilities with its destroyers Type 45. The choice of missiles for these two operational capabilities will probably determine the choice of launchers between American solutions (Mk 41 Strike Length (RIM-161 Standard Missile 3 et RGM-109E Tomahawk Land Attack Missile Block IV) and Franco-Italian (SYLVER A50 (ASTER Block 1 NT) and A70 (Naval Cruise Missile (MdCNMore).

In the center of the frigate are four multipurpose bays that can accommodate as many semi-rigid boats as surface drones (Unmanned Surface Vehicle (UPS) or submarines (Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV). Containers hosting mission modules can be loaded in dedicated spaces under the helicopter deck over an area of ​​119 m² and a volume of six Twenty-Foot Equivalent containers (EVP ou Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit (TEU). This raises the question of the choice of these complementary missions.

Mine warfare can be a hypothesis because its architectural choices seem to make it possible to accommodate a droneized suite of mine warfare. The hypotheses relating to British choices for the Franco-British Maritime Mine CounterMeasures program (MMCM) as for the existence of a dedicated building will be relaunched, the French Navy is moving towards such a building. There Type 31 will perhaps be able to project a mine warfare capability far and for a long time while London is committed to basing a frigate Type 23 in the Persian Gulf and that a mine warfare capability is permanently deployed there.

The aircraft hangar is designed to accommodate a heavy Merlin HM.1 helicopter for anti-submarine warfare. The helicopter platform is designed to support landings of Chinook HC Mk4 à Mk6/6A.

With a certain paradox, the Type 26 frigates of batch 1 (HMS Glasgow, HMS Cardiff, HMS Belfast) and batch 2 (HMS Birmingham, HMS Sheffield, HMS Newcastle, HMS Edinburgh and HMS London) built by BAE Systems in Glasgow will still be in production (2017 – 2033) while the five frigates Type 31 whose industrialization will begin at the Rosyth shipyard in 2021, will have already all been delivered, no later than 2028. The first Type 31 should be admitted in 2023, the same year as the first French Defense and Intervention Frigate. There Royal Navy has not yet named the buildings of this class.

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