Royal Navy pushing for 5 so-called ‘budget battleships’
With the RN shrinking from what MoD called an “absolute minimum” of 30 surface combatants, they now just have 19, and are looking to replace some long in the tooth frigates, but are coming up short.
Plans for the procurement of the Royal Navy’s new Type 31e frigates were announced by the Minister for Defence Procurement, Harriett Baldwin. These new ships will replace five Type 23 Duke-class frigates and will cost £250m ($327 million) each, which is bargain basement figures for a tin can. Keep in mind that the LCS project ships, which are the lightest of light frigates, cost $636.1 million a pop in the FY17 Pentagon budget.
As part of the new National Shipbuilding Strategy, these could be built in the same way as the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers – in UK shipyards across the country through subassemblies.
One contender for the Type 31e design is the BMT Venator series, a 383-foot, 4,000-ton light frigate with a SAAB integrated combat system, including 9LV CMS, Sea Giraffe AMB, 127mm gun system and both an active and passive variable depth sonar.
Some versions of the Venator show four 3-cell Lockheed Martin VLS quad packed with 48 MBDA Sea Ceptor missiles to provide AAW support while a a single 8-cell Mk41 Strike Length VLS would allow for Tomahawks.
IF they can get that for $327 million (holds breath) where does the USN need to sign up?
However, as the one-sheeter released by the RN states, the Type 31e will have a medium caliber main gun (76mm), large helicopter deck/hangar, and a 80-100 man crew– no mention of ASW, ASuW, strike or AAW capabilities– which in the end could leave the Brits with their own version of the LCS, which is great for asymettric warfare and constabulary duties, not so much for action against a real foe with legit weapons systems.
The first ships are set to be in service by 2023 when he seniormost Duke, HMS Argyll, will be 32-years young.
With the Type 31e to replace five Type 23 frigates, the other eight Type 23s are set to be replaced by the upcoming Type 26 class, a much more muscular design optimized for air defense.