Type 31 frigate

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Class overview
Name: Type 31 frigate
Builders: Babcock International[1]
Operators:  Royal Navy
Preceded by: Type 23 frigate
Cost: £250M per ship (2017 est.)[2]
In service: 2023 (planned)
Planned: First batch of 5 vessels[3]
General characteristics
Type: General purpose frigate
Displacement: Possibly 6600 tonnes (7275 Short tons , 6495 long tons )
Length: 138.7 m (455 ft)[citation needed]
Installed power: 4x 8.2MW Diesel Engines
Propulsion: Two shafts, CODAD
Complement: 100 (accommodation for up to 160)[citation needed]
Aircraft carried: 1 x helicopter

The Type 31 frigate, also formerly known as the Type 31e frigate or General Purpose Frigate (GPFF), is a planned class of frigate for the United Kingdom's Royal Navy intended to enter service in the 2020s alongside the more capable Type 26 frigate.[4]

It is intended that the Type 31 frigate will replace some of the Type 23 frigates. The Type 31 is part of the British government's "National Shipbuilding Strategy".


Global Combat Ship[edit]

The origins of the Type 31 frigate are found in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review. The review authorised a replacement programme, known as the Global Combat Ship (GCS), to replace the Royal Navy's thirteen Type 23 frigates. Earlier that year, BAE Systems was awarded a four-year, £127 million contract by the Ministry of Defence to design the new class.[5][6] It was planned that two variants of the class would be built: five general purpose frigates and eight anti-submarine warfare frigates. There was to be little difference between the two variants, except for the Sonar 2087. Initial expectations were that all thirteen of the Global Combat Ships would be built starting in 2016, and gradually replace the Type 23 frigates one for one out to the mid-2030s. This planning assumption would not last, and during the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review, the then Prime minister David Cameron announced that only the eight anti-submarine warfare versions, the Type 26 frigate, would be ordered. The five general purpose frigates would be of a different design altogether.[7]

General Purpose Frigate[edit]

Although the 2015 defence review resulted in a cut in the planned number of Global Combat Ships to eight, it also announced that the five remaining Type 23 frigates would be replaced by a new programme; the General Purpose Frigate (GPFF). The new class is intended to be a lighter, flexible and more affordable general purpose frigate.[8][9] According to the 2015 defence review, and then Prime Minister David Cameron, the lower cost of these frigates could lead to the Royal Navy acquiring more than five of them, thus increasing its overall numbers of frigates and destroyers.[10][11] During a defence and security lecture in July 2016, GPFF was referred to as the Type 31 frigate by the First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Jones.[10] Admiral Jones further stated that Type 31 frigates could permanently operate East of Suez; from the Persian Gulf region to the Asia-Pacific.[10] During the same month, BAE Systems revealed two general purpose frigate designs, namely the Avenger class (based on the "Amazonas-class/River-class Batch 2 offshore patrol vessel") and the Cutlass class (described as a "significantly stretched and enhanced derivation of the Al Shamikh-class corvette design").[12] An August news article in The Sunday Times stated that Babcock International and BMT also submitted one design each.[13][14]

Breaking BAE's hold on UK shipbuilding[edit]

An article in the Financial Times on 18 October 2017 quoted Francis Tusa, editor of Defence Analysis, saying that the competition appeared to be designed to break BAE's hold on naval shipbuilding. Many officials inside the Ministry of Defence, the Treasury and Royal Navy have long resented the obligation, set a decade ago, to maintain skills and shipbuilding capacity at BAE's shipyards on the Clyde regardless of naval needs. “Were they to have bid as BAE Systems, they wouldn’t win,” he said. “That is absolutely obvious. The fact is that the Type 31e is slanted probably to exclude any bid that includes BAE.” MOD officials stated that the competition is designed to improve speed of delivery and reduce cost.[15]

National Shipbuilding Strategy[edit]

In order to maintain national shipbuilding capacity, the 2017 national shipbuilding strategy proposes ordering an initial batch of five Type 31e Frigates with an initial in-service date in 2023, intended for export with their cost limited to a maximum £250m each, to be followed by a second batch order of Type 31 for the Royal Navy.[16] The Type 31 is projected to be built in modular form as with the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers at several commercial shipyards, and assembled in one central yard.[17]

Design tenders[edit]

The 'Leander' concept by BAE for the Type 31e frigate class. It is based heavily on the Khareef-class corvettes for the Omani Navy, previously built by BAE in the early 2010s.

Throughout 2017 several designs from different companies were suggested as contenders for the Type 31. BAE submitted two designs, "Avenger", essentially an improved Batch 3 River-class OPV,[18] and "Cutlass", a significantly stretched and enhanced derivation of the Al Shamikh-class corvette.[19] BMT submitted a design called "Venator 110",[20][21] with Steller Systems putting forward project "Spartan" [22][23] and Babcock offered a design named "Arrowhead 120".[24][25]

In October 2017, BAE Systems announced its intention to withdraw from the Type 31e competition as a main contractor, citing the capacity constraints of its shipyards on the Clyde, which are full with the work on the new River-class patrol vessels and Type 26 frigates. Instead, BAE announced a partnership with Cammell Laird, whereby BAE would provide its expertise in design and systems integration, while Cammell Laird would be the prime contractor and be responsible for the assembly of the ships at its yard at Birkenhead.[26] The planned design has been named "Leander", a reference to three previous major classes of ship in the Royal Navy.[27]

The 'Arrowhead 140' concept by Babcock and BMT for the Type 31e frigate class. It is based heavily on the Iver Huitfeldt-class frigates for the Royal Danish Navy, previously built by Odense Shipyard in 2008.

In November 2017, it was announced that BMT Defence Services and Babcock signed a co-operation agreement for the Type 31. They did not choose between their respective "Venator 110" or "Arrowhead 120" designs, but instead would explore their designs to determine the best possible option.[28] In late May 2018, Babcock, partnered with BMT and Thales Group announced the "Arrowhead 140" design, based on the hull of the Danish Iver Huitfeldt-class frigates.[29]

Competition suspended and restarted[edit]

An article in The Times on 25 July 2018 stated that the government competition for the Type 31e was suspended amid a funding crisis. Sources warned that the Type 31e frigate may never materialise.[30] The next day, the UK Defence Journal reported that the program was to be restarted due to ‘insufficient compliant bids’ and the Ministry of Defence insisted the program ‘has not been cancelled’.[31] As of November 2018, the plan was to award contracts by December 2019.[32]

Competitive Design Phase selection[edit]

On 10 December 2018, three groups were selected for the competitive design phase:

  • BAE Systems/Cammell Laird with their planned Leander design
  • Babcock/BMT/Thales with their Arrowhead 140 design
  • Atlas Elektronik UK/Thyssenkrup Marine Systems, which was likely to be based on the MEKO A-200 design

Both the BAE Systems and Babcock led entrants had already been put forward when the competition was temporarily suspended in July 2018. The third bid, led by Atlas Elektronik UK, was likely to use the MEKO A-200 platform as its basis, currently in use with the Algerian and South African Navies. Under both the Babcock and Atlas proposals the ships would be constructed using Ferguson Marine on the Clyde and Harland & Wolff in Belfast.[33][34][35] By August 2019 both Ferguson Marine and Harland & Wolff had announced that they were in financial difficulties.[36][37]

Selected design[edit]

It was announced on 12 September 2019 that the Arrowhead 140 design had been selected for the Type 31 Frigate.[38][39][40] A contract award was formally awarded to Babcock Group on 15 November 2019, for an average production cost of £250 million per ship and an overall program cost set to be £2 billion with £1.25 billion value to prime contractor Babcock.[41]


During a July 2016 Defence Select Committee hearing, First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Jones described the GPFF as "to be a much less high-end ship. It is still a complex warship, and it is still able to protect and defend and to exert influence around the world, but it is deliberately shaped with lessons from wider industry and off-the-shelf technology to make it... more appealing to operate at a slightly lower end of Royal Navy operations."[4] IHS Janes described it as a "credible frigate" that will cover "maritime security, maritime counter-terrorism and counter-piracy operations, escort duties, and naval fire support... [sitting] between the high-end capability delivered by the Type 26 and Type 45, and the constabulary-oriented outputs to be delivered by the five planned River-class Batch 2 OPVs."[42].[43]

A 7 September 2017 graphic released by the Royal Navy stressed modular adaptability and flexible construction of the design for export opportunities. Core requirements of the Type 31e frigate include a medium calibre gun, point defence systems, hangar and a flight deck for Wildcat or ten tonne helicopter operated by a crew of around 100 with space for 40 more personnel.[44] The British government released a Request for information (RFI) in September 2017, detailing the desired characteristics of the Type 31e. The RFI provides greater details such as a Medium Calibre Gun ≥ 57mm, a point defence anti-air missile system and the optional ability to launch and recover unmanned aerial vehicles.[45] Forces News reported that the design will contain Sea Ceptor missiles, an advanced air and surface surveillance and target indication radar and be able to operate either a Wildcat HMA2 or a Merlin HM2.[46] The exact configuration will be adaptable and the ships may form as part of the Queen Elizabeth-class carrier strike group.[47]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Babcock Team 31 selected as preferred bidder for UK Type 31 frigate programme". babcockinternational. 12 September 2019. Retrieved 14 September 2019.
  2. ^ "National Shipbuilding Strategy Factsheet" (PDF). gov.uk. 7 September 2017. Retrieved 7 September 2017.
  3. ^ "Ambitious future for Naval Shipbuilding in the UK". gov.uk. 7 September 2017. Retrieved 7 September 2017.
  4. ^ a b "Oral evidence: Naval Procurement: Type 26 and Type 45 HC 221". UK House of Commons Defence Select Committee. 21 July 2016. Retrieved 21 July 2016.
  5. ^ "Clyde shipyard jobs secured as BAE Systems land £127m contract to help design new frigate for Royal Navy". Daily Record. Glasgow. 25 March 2010. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  6. ^ "BAE wins £127m contract to design Navy warship". BBC. 25 March 2010. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  7. ^ National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015, www.gov.uk
  8. ^ "UK looks to outline requirement for new General Purpose Frigate". IHS Janes'. 20 April 2016. Retrieved 20 April 2016.
  9. ^ Chuter, Andrew (12 February 2016). "New Royal Navy general purpose frigate to be known as Type 31". DefenseNews. Retrieved 18 March 2016.[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ a b c "First Sea Lord's defence and security lecture to the City of London". UK Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 24 July 2016.
  11. ^ "National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015: A Secure and Prosperous United Kingdom" (PDF). Government of the United Kingdom. November 2015. Retrieved 18 March 2016.
  12. ^ "BAE unveils General Purpose Frigate concepts". IHS Janes. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
  13. ^ "Defence in the Media: 7 August 2016". UK Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 8 August 2016.
  14. ^ "New frigate order will keep shipyards afloat". www.thetimes.co.uk. The Sunday Times. 7 August 2016. Retrieved 8 August 2016.
  15. ^ "BAE Systems takes below-deck role on UK's Type 31 frigate". www.ft.com. Financial Times. 25 July 2018. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  16. ^ "National Shipbuilding Strategy: the future of naval shipbuilding in the UK" (PDF). gov.uk. British Ministry of Defence. 6 September 2017. Retrieved 26 August 2019. We have set a maximum £250 million per ship price for the Type 31e
  17. ^ "UK shipyards: Five frigates at centre of new strategy". BBC News. BBC. 29 November 2016. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  18. ^ Allison, George (6 September 2017). "The Avenger, a possible yet unpopular contender for the Type 31 Frigate".
  19. ^ Allison, George (5 September 2017). "The BAE Cutlass, could this be the new Type 31 Frigate?".
  20. ^ http://www.bmtdsl.co.uk/bmt-design-portfolio/warships/bmt-venator-110-frigate/
  21. ^ Allison, George (6 September 2017). "BMT tout Venator-110 as the 'natural design choice' for the Type 31 Frigate".
  22. ^ http://www.stellersystems.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2017/09/PR63-NA-2-Project-SPARTAN-O-Final-Editable-Version-For-Public-Release.pdf
  23. ^ Allison, George (5 July 2017). "Spartan – A contender for the Type 31 Frigate?".
  24. ^ "Arrowhead". Babcock International.
  25. ^ Allison, George (8 September 2017). "Babcock unveil Arrowhead 120, a contender for the Type 31 Frigate".
  26. ^ "BAE and Cammell Laird to bid for UK's £1.25bn Type 31 frigate programme". Naval Technology. 23 October 2017. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  27. ^ "BAE Systems teams with Cammell Laird for UK Type 31 frigate build". Naval Today. 18 October 2017. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  28. ^ George Allison (9 November 2017). "Babcock and BMT team up on Type 31e Frigate bid". UK Defence Journal. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  29. ^ https://ukdefencejournal.org.uk/babcock-launches-team-31-selects-arrowhead-140-design-for-type-31e-frigate-competition/
  30. ^ "Contest to build a 'budget frigate' on hold as MoD runs out of funds". www.thetimes.co.uk. The Times. 25 July 2018. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  31. ^ "Type 31e Frigate programme to be restarted".
  32. ^ "Shipping: Procurement:Written question - 188742". Hansard. UK Parliament. 12 November 2018.
  33. ^ "Type 31e Frigate". Hansard. UK Parliament. 10 December 2018.
  34. ^ "Three bids for the Royal Navy Type 31e frigate competition formally accepted by the MoD". Save the Royal Navy. 10 December 2018. Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  35. ^ Richard Scott (26 June 2019). "Bids in for UK's Type 31e frigate competition". janes.com. IHS Janes. Retrieved 28 June 2019.
  36. ^ "Clyde shipyard Ferguson set to go into administration". BBC News. 9 August 2019. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  37. ^ "Iconic Belfast shipyard Harland & Wolff enters administration after 160 years". Belfast Telegraph Digital. 15 August 2019. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  38. ^ Tovey, Alan (24 August 2019). "Babcock set to build new cut-price frigates and weaken BAE shipbuilding monopoly". Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 26 August 2019.
  39. ^ Pfeifer, Sylvia; Payne, Sebastian; Dickie, Mure (12 September 2019). "Babcock group wins contract to build Royal Navy frigates". Financial Times. London and Edinburgh. Retrieved 12 September 2019.
  40. ^ "Design of new Type 31 frigates selected". Royal Navy. London. 12 September 2019. Retrieved 12 September 2019.
  41. ^ Vavasseur, Xavier (15 November 2019). "UK MoD Formally Awards Type 31 Frigate Contract To Babcock". Naval News. Retrieved 16 November 2019.
  42. ^ "Credible choices UK General Purpose Frigate programme" (PDF). IHS Janes. Retrieved 24 July 2016.
  43. ^ "Hansard – Written Answers – Column 561W". www.publications.parliament.uk. 12 November 2013.
  44. ^ "Type 31e launch folder" (PDF). Retrieved 7 September 2017.
  45. ^ "Request for information to support Type 31e market testing". gov.uk. Retrieved 24 October 2018.
  46. ^ "Babcock Set For Type 31 Contract To 'Bring Shipbuilding Home'". Forces News. London. 12 September 2019. Retrieved 12 September 2019.
  47. ^ "Oral evidence: Evidence from the new Defence Secretary, HC 179". data.parliament.uk/. Defence Committee. 23 October 2019. Retrieved 24 October 2019. Could the Type 31 undertake escort duties for the carrier? Mr Wallace: Yes—the whole point of the Type 31 is its versatility.