The Navy today unveiled the latest design of its next-generation warship, the Type 26, which will be the backbone of the Fleet in a decade or so’s time.
The ship, which will replace the existing Type 23 flotilla, will be armed with missiles, a main gun, a Wildcat or Merlin helicopter and robot aircraft, boats or submarines depending on the mission it is dispatched on.
THIS is the latest look at the Navy’s next-generation warship – the fruits of two years of design on the Type 26.
From 2020 onwards, this vessel will begin to replace Britain’s existing frigate fleet as the backbone of the Royal Navy’s worldwide mission.
It will be armed with air defence missiles – the Sea Ceptor system currently being designed – a medium calibre main gun, the latest radar and sonar sensors, a Merlin or Wildcat helicopter, plus what designers call a ‘flexible mission space’ with equipment for its specific mission: sea boats or, more tantalisingly, unmanned air, surface and underwater craft – drones in other words.
With the basic design of the future ships now agreed by Whitehall, the 350-strong RN/MOD/BAE Systems team working on the Type 26 will move on to the detailed specifications.
As things stand, the Type 26 – known as a Global Combat Ship – will be slightly longer than the Type 23 frigates it’s intended to replace (148m to 133m) and slightly heavier (5,400 tonnes to 4,900).
It incorporates many of the features of the similarly futuristic-looking Type 45 destroyers – chiefly angled sides and an enclosed upper deck for increased stealth.
In addition to the weaponry listed above, the vertical missile silos will be able to house “a range of different weapons”.
The Type 26 is expected to do what its predecessors have been doing since the early 90s: everything from front-line combat (such as Iraq) and anti-submarine warfare (the raison d’être of the Type 23, although they proved to be highly-adaptable as general purpose warships), to hunting down pirates and smugglers, and offering relief in the wake of disasters and delivering humanitarian aid.
“The Type 26 will be the backbone of the Royal Navy for decades to come. It is designed to be adaptable and easily upgraded, reacting to threats as they change,” said Peter Luff, the MOD’s minister for equipment.
“I am delighted the programme has been endorsed by the investment approvals committee. The build of these vessels will secure thousands of skilled jobs across the UK, helping to sustain an industrial surface warship capability.”
At present Whitehall intends to order 13 Type 26s – a like-for-like replacement of the remaining Type 23 frigates in service under the White Ensign – but the number will not be confirmed until the main decision is taken to invest in the project.
That is likely to be mid-decade when the detailed design work is completed; the first T26 is due to enter service “after 2020”.
The oldest Type 23, HMS Argyll, is expected to serve until around 2023, while the youngest, St Albans, will be on duty until around 2036.
And if you’re wondering about the Type 24 and 25… the former was a general-purpose frigate, rather like the Leanders, aimed largely at the export market, while the Type 25 was a ‘mini Type 22’ intended to pack the same punch as the Broadswords, but at two thirds of the cost. Neither class ever got off the drawing board.