MoD awards BAE Systems contract for first three Type 26 Global Combat Ships

Royal Navy BAE Systems Type 26 Global Combat Ship

The Ministry of Defence has awarded BAE Systems a £3.7bn contract to manufacture the first three Type 26 warships for the Royal Navy. Developed under the title “Global Combat Ship”, the Type 26 along with a newer, smaller class of frigate will go on to replace the current Type 23 frigates (Duke-class).

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said:

The Type 26 Frigate is a cutting-edge warship, combining the expertise of the British shipbuilding industry with the excellence of the Royal Navy. We will cut steel on the first ship later this month – a hugely significant milestone that delivers on our commitment to maintain our global naval power. These ships will be a force to be reckoned with, there to protect our powerful new carriers and helping keep British interests safe across the world.

Backed by a rising defence budget and a £178bn Equipment Plan, the Type 26 programme will bring vast economic benefits to Scotland and the wider UK. The contract is structured to ensure value for taxpayers’ money and, importantly, now designed to protect them from extra bills from project overrun. The investment will secure hundreds of skilled jobs at BAE Systems on the Clyde for the next twenty years, and thousands of jobs in the supply chain across Britain.

While the Type 26 will be primarily concerned with escorting the Royal Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, the ships will also be expected to deal with numerous missions across the spectrum of Royal Navy operations. As well as the traditional combat role they will also be capable of undertaking anti-piracy, national security and humanitarian/disaster relief operations.

Armament will consist of a NATO-standard BAE 5 inch, 62-calibre Mark 45 naval gun, Phalanx close-in weapon systems, Sea Ceptor surface-to-air missiles (currently being fitted to the Type 23) and Tomahawk land attack cruise missiles in various mixes. They will also be armed with an as yet unspecified new generation anti-ship missile. A rather large flight deck will allow the vessel to accommodate a wide array of British and NATO helicopter types.

Originally it was planned to acquire thirteen Type 26s but in the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review the decision was taken to reduce the order to eight and to make up the shortfall in hulls with a smaller frigate type currently under development.

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NEWS: Typhoon Phase 2Ea testing begins

Typhoon FGR.4 RAF

RAF Typhoon (commons.wikimedia)

Testing of the Eurofighter Typhoon “Phase 2Ea” by the Royal Air Force has begun at Warton in the UK. An aircraft upgraded to the new standard has been flown by pilots of No. 41(R) Test and Evaluation Suadron at RAF Coningsby, Lincolnshire. The test program will likely continue throughout 2016.

The Phase 2Ea upgrades include enhanced software and avionics systems as well as new features added to the radar, defensive aids systems, situational awareness and targeting pods. These enhancements will improve Typhoon’s targeting capabilities particularly in the air-to-ground arena as the 2019 out-of-service date for the Tornado GR.4 creeps ever closer. From 2019 onwards the Typhoon will have to carry the burden of the strike role as well as the air defence role until the F-35 Lightning II becomes fully operational. To that end the RAF has launched Project Centurion which aims to ensure a painless transition between Typhoon and Tornado duties by 2019.

Wing Commander Steven Berry, Officer Commanding of No.41(R) squadron said to the press;

The enhancements mean as an air-to-surface platform, Typhoon has the simplicity and flexibility in the design to be easily employed in close air support missions or more complex scenarios like convoy over-watch.

NEWS: Battle begins for Challenger II upgrade contract

 

After having been somewhat neglected in the 2010 defence review the Challenger II Main Challenger II MBT updateBattle Tank (MBT) is now one step closer to receiving a major update. Known as the Challenger II Life Extension Program (LEP) the update will see the tank have its service life extended to 2035 instead of the original out-of-service date of 2025. The contract which is said to be worth around £700 million will include logistical support for the tank and will also cover a similar upgrade to Omani Challenger IIs.

The MoD gave prospective companies until January 14th 2016 to produce an initial proposal for their assessment. It has now been revealed that three companies are in the running; BAE Systems (who originally built the tank), Lockheed Martin UK and General Dynamics UK. It was thought that German company Krauss-Maffei Wegmann who build the excellent Leopard 2 tank for a number of European countries would submit a proposal but pulled out after the option of new or second-hand Leopards was ruled out by the British Army.

From a political standpoint, British company BAE Systems has something of an advantage after Prime Minister David Cameron pledged more military contracts for British arms manufacturers in the run up to last year’s election. However, General Dynamics UK already has a large order for new Scout vehicles for the Army and could undercut BAE Systems if they agree to a new combined contract to cut overall costs especially if the American company promises to have the work carried out primarily in the UK.

Planned service entry for the updated tank is currently set as late 2018.

 

NEWS: Industry and government locking horns over Trident replacement costs

HMS Vnegeance Royal Navy

After the brutal cuts that emerged from the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review, the latest review published last month came as a welcome relief to many. However one quite notable issue did arise; the cost of the Successor-class nuclear ballistic missile submarine, the replacement for the four Trident-class submarines currently in service, had risen by £6bn and was going to take longer than expected to get in to service than previously planned.

This has forced the government to take action regarding the two prime contractors in the manufacture of the vessels; BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce. Speaking to the Financial Times Philip Dunne, defence procurement minister hinted that both companies and the government were locking horns over the project.

This is a project where there is no scope for failure. Contractors need to be working as a team, working in partnership with government.

The weakest link in the situation is thought to be Rolls-Royce’s nuclear engineering division which is responsible for developing the nuclear powerplant for the vessel. The division of Rolls-Royce has suffered a number of profit warnings over alleged mismanagement resulting in the loss of skilled nuclear engineers. This has led to rumours of a government takeover of the division if Rolls-Royce want to continue working on the Successor-class contract.

Additionally, the government has looked in to creating a governing body independent of contractors and the Ministry of Defence to handle the project. With the Labour Party, led by committed anti-nuclear activist Jeremy Corbyn, and the Scottish National Party both opposed to the cost of the program the government can ill-afford to let costs and timetables slip any further thus the government will have to take decisive action.