Three teams shortlisted for new Type 31e frigate contract

BAE Systems, Babcock and Atlas Elektronik UK have each been awarded £5 million to develop their plans for the new Type 31e frigate, with the winner of the contract to be decided by the end of 2019.

Type 31e frigate
BAE Systems' Type 31e 'Leander' design (Credit: BAE Systems)

Five new Type 31e warships are due to be built under the first part of the contract, worth a total of £1.25 billion. The Ministry of Defence says it wants the first ship to be delivered to the Royal Navy by 2023, just three years after the official commencement of the programme.

This shorter development cycle marks a departure from previous naval programmes and comes on the back of the National Shipbuilding Strategy, which was launched in September 2017 following an independent report written by Sir John Parker. Strategic aims outlined in the plan include enhancing the Royal Navy fleet by the 2030s, exporting British ships overseas, and boosting innovation, skills, jobs and productivity across the UK.

“This is the first frigate competition the UK has run in a generation, and today we are funding three shipbuilding teams with extremely exciting concepts to continue developing their plans,” said Defence Minister Stuart Andrew.

“Next year we will announce the winning bidder, and one of these designs will go on to bolster our future fleet with five new ships, creating UK jobs and ensuring our Royal Navy maintains a truly global presence in an increasingly uncertain world.”

The Type 31e frigate will form a key part of the next generation of the Royal Navy fleet, alongside the two new Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers and eight Type 26 warships due to be delivered from the mid-2020s. The names of all eight Type 26 frigates have now been announced and Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has indicated that they will be homed in Devonport. A home port for the Type 31e frigates has yet to be decided.