UK May Get New Warships Sooner: BAE Systems Slashes Construction Time for Type 26 Frigates

British shipbuilding giant BAE Systems is supercharging production of Type 26 frigates at its Glasgow facility. A new "Frigate Factory" will cut construction time by a third and allow for building two ships at once, significantly bolstering the Royal Navy's fleet.

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Girish Linganna
Girish Linganna
Girish Linganna is a Defence & Aerospace analyst and is the Director of ADD Engineering Components (India) Pvt Ltd, a subsidiary of ADD Engineering GmbH, Germany with manufacturing units in Russia. He is Consulting Editor Industry and Defense at Frontier India.

BAE Systems Maritime-Naval Ships, a British shipbuilding company, is speeding up the construction of Type 26 frigates at its Glasgow facility.

The UK Defense Journal published the news after attending an open day at the shipyard in Govan.

When asked about the progress in building the new frigates, Sir Simon Lister, the head of BAE Systems Maritime—Naval Ships, noted that they will be built much faster than planned from 2025.

He announced a reduction in construction time from 96 to 60 months, from the first steel cutting to the launch date.

In addition, the interval between ship construction will be shortened from 18 to 12 months, allowing for more efficient laying down of new hulls.

The shipyard in Govan, where BAE Systems MNS is building Type 26 frigates, achieved these results through a large investment package. Firstly, BAE Systems MNS will construct a new hangar adjacent to the main construction site to build two frigates concurrently.

As a result, the procurement program for anti-submarine frigates, which will replace the Type 23 project, will move more quickly from two to four hulls.

The “Frigate Factory” is a new construction acceleration and expansion program. This facility plans to build new multi-purpose destroyers for the Type 83 project and multi-purpose frigates for the Type 32 project.

The Govan shipyard will build eight Type 26 frigates within the initial order. Scotstoun’s dry dock is currently completing the launch of the lead frigate.

One of the project’s ships, the second HMS Cardiff frigate, is preparing for launch and further afloat completion. In addition, two sections of the third HMS Belfast frigate are currently under construction in two hangars.

The plan calls for the acceptance of the first HMS Glasgow frigate in 2026 and the second—HMS Cardiff—in 2028. This will start replacing the aging fleet of Type 23 frigates.

The government has allocated a financial package to enable additional production of relevant steel components at A&P facilities, reducing subcontractor steel sheet production delays.

BAE Systems will receive the first steel products as early as the beginning of 2025, accelerating the construction of HMS Birmingham, the keel of which was laid on April 4, 2023.

Type 26 Global Combat Ship

The Royal Navy of the United Kingdom operates 12 Type 23 frigates. Ships for this project were built in the late 1980s; the lead ship was delivered in 1990, and the last one was delivered in 2002. The fleet initially received 16 vessels, but subsequently, three were sold to Chile, and one ship was decommissioned in 2021 and is scheduled for disposal.

As early as the late 1990s, the Royal Navy began exploring the possibility of creating a prospective frigate capable of replacing the current Type 23. By the mid-next decade, the Royal Navy presented two concepts of such ships, with the potential to enter service by the end of 2010. Subsequently, the plans underwent adjustments and changes, resulting in a shift in the timeline for the future program.

In March 2010, the Ministry of Defense updated such plans and entered into a contract with BAE Systems to develop a new frigate. The overall program was named Global Combat Ship, and the project was designated “Type 26.” The ships of the new type were planned to be named after major cities of the kingdom, which is why the project is also referred to as the City-Class.

The Type 26 GCS is a unified combat ship, a versatile vessel ready to counter new surface ships and submarines and participate in land operations. It is intended to replace the Type 23 and Type 22 frigates currently in service.

The frigate’s flexible and modular design allows it to easily adapt to new weaponry and equipment without compromising the ship’s stealthiness and quickly “reconfigure” into another type of vessel.

Variants of the unified hull include an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) frigate, an Anti-Air Warfare (AAW) frigate, and a general-purpose (GP) frigate.

ASW frigates will feature a standard hull and anti-submarine equipment (active and passive sonars, etc.), the latest fire control system, anti-ship missiles of large or medium range, air defense systems, and radar stations. The ship’s modular system will allow for the installation of missile systems and radar equipment per the customer’s requirements.

The General Purpose (GP) frigate will have a versatile compartment for hosting unmanned surface and underwater vehicles and surface boats. It can also participate in anti-piracy and counter-terrorism operations. The ship can modify its internal space to accommodate up to 84 additional sleeping accommodations for disaster relief, rescue, and humanitarian operations.

Technical Features

The Royal Navy of the United Kingdom developed the initial version of the GCS project, which envisions the construction of a combat ship with a length of 150 meters, a width of approximately 21 meters, and a normal displacement of 6.9 thousand tons, or a full load of over 8 thousand tons. The crew consists of up to 160 personnel, capable of accommodating over 200 on board.

The frigate has a distinctive “low-observable” exterior with maximum flat panels and reduced protruding details. The ship boasts a long, variable-height superstructure supporting a mast pyramid filled with equipment.

The main power plant includes four MTU Type 20V 4000 M53B diesel generators, two propulsion electric motors, and a Rolls-Royce MT30 gas turbine engine. The diesel-electric and gas turbine systems operate intermittently in different modes under the CODLOG scheme. The calculated maximum speed will reach 26 knots.

The primary radar system will be the three-dimensional Type 997 Artisan radar. Additionally, other locators will be installed for situational awareness, fire support, etc. The integrated Type 2150 hydroacoustic station and the towed Sonar 2087 will provide anti-submarine functions. Various communication devices will be used, including satellite communication systems, electronic warfare systems, etc.

The frigate will be outfitted with various guns. The main one is the Mk 45 installation, which has a 127mm gun with a barrel length of 62 calibers. Additionally, two DS30M 30mm installations and two Phalanx CIWS 20mm installations will be used. In addition, the crew will be armed with multiple machine guns.

At the center of the superstructure is a universal Mk 41 vertical launch system with 24 cells. It can use a wide range of existing missiles for various purposes. Moreover, in 2028 or later, the futuristic Anglo-French anti-ship missile FC/ASW is expected to be introduced. It is considered the future main weapon of Type 26. Additionally, the frigate will receive two vertical launch systems for Sea Ceptor anti-aircraft missiles, with 24 cells each.

The stern of the superstructure has a hangar for receiving various helicopters. The frigate will be able to carry all current Royal Navy helicopters and support their operational use. The size of the landing pad will allow even heavy helicopters, up to the CH-47, to land.


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