The MOD has recently signed a contract with BAE systems for the Assessment Phase of the Royal Navy’s planned Type 26 combat ship, the next generation of British warships.
A joint BAE-MOD team will work on designs for the Type 26 class, which are due to replace the Type 22 and Type 23 Frigates by the end of the decade. The Type 26 nomenclature has been used, as the Type 24 and Type 25 Frigates were projects that never left the drawing board. By giving the project a formal Type name, the MOD is making it seem that much more of a reality.
According to the official MOD press release, the purpose of the Assessment phase will be to ensure ‘…that the necessary capabilities identified during the Strategic Defence Review are incorporated into the Type 26 design’.
The published key design aims for the Type 26 are for a ship that is:
• Versatile – able to undertake a number of roles;
• Flexible – to adapt to the changing needs of defence;
• Affordable – both in build and support through its service life;
• Exportable – designed with the international market in mind.
I have long thought that these ships will be very important to the future of the Royal Navy. The design aims seem to be broadly sensible, and of course affordability will be important in the current economic climate. That the Assessment phase is largely dependant on the Strategic Defence Review may seem worrying, but it is also pragmatic – there is no sense in forging ahead with a project that may be cancelled or radically altered. And ship design and procurement needs to work within the broader strategic context.
The Royal Navy is currently far behind many of its allies where smaller escort ships are concerned – the Danish Absalon and the Swedish Visby classes are examples of this. Its crucial that the Type 26 is delivered.