BAE Systems have signed a £3.4m contract to create designs for the Royal Navy’s next generation of Frigates, the Portsmouth News reports. Staff at BAE are working on two designs under the Future Surface Combatant Programme, called the C1 and C2.
C1 is larger than the current Type 23 Frigates, and provides air defence for Carrier groups, but also has a small ‘mission dock’ – not unlike the dock on assault ships – for the rapid launching of small, fast boats. The second design, C2, would be more of a general purpose vessel, designed for patrolling and other duties. Plans are said to be taking shape for ten C1’s and eight C2’s.
Project Director Brian Johnson said: ‘Subject to MoD approval at later stages, we’ve got an outline plan that would see the first ship launched in 2016, and then one ship a year enter service from 2020 or 2021. They would be expected to have a 25-year lifespan, so would be in service until 2050.’
It is a much needed boost to the Royal Navy to have this project advancing. It is arguably more important than the planned new Aircraft Carriers, as 95% of the time it is the Destroyers and Frigates that are out around the globe patrolling the seas. While designs are not the same as signed contracts, at least something is happening.
There are a few areas for concern, however. Why is an air-defence Frigate being planned, when we have the Type 45 Destroyers that are supposedly designed for protecting the new Carriers? And why are we only having six of them, wouldn’t it be better to have say 8 or 10, and just have one class of General Purpose Frigate? Or are the C1 Air Defence Frigates a cheaper alternative for the cancelled Type 45’s?
The C2 design sounds encouraging. A smaller, more general purpose Frigate would be far more ideally suited to tackling small and fast suicide boats and Somali Pirates. The mission dock sounds especially capable.