Horizon delay may mean costly refits

Frigates could have to last longer to counter late project

Delays to the pan-European Horizon frigate project are forcing the Government to consider expensive extra refits to eight of the ships the new frigates will replace. The refits could together cost up to around £250m.

The Project Horizon common new generation frigate will be built by Britain, France and Italy and the first ship is supposed to be ready by 2004 – assuming an order is placed soon.

The UK is formally committed to building a dozen Horizon frigates to replace 12 Type 42 destroyers, which were completed in three batches of four ships each between 1976 and 1985.

The Ministry of Defence said this week: ‘On current plans the Batch 1 Type 42s will remain in service until early next century and the Batch 2 and 3 would remain in service until 2010. The caveat is that these plans will be subject to the outcome of the strategic defence review.’

However, the MoD is believed to be thinking about giving the eight Batch 2 and 3 ships another refit in 10 years to extend their lives as a result of the delays to the Horizon programme.

All Type 42s have had at least one major refit and all will have two. These refits are supposed to provide eight to 10 years’ extra life.

Rosyth dockyard is now giving second refits to the Batch 2 ships Exeter and Southampton, enabling them to last until 2008-2010.

Devonport dockyard is refitting the Batch 1 ship Glasgow and will begin refitting the Batch 2 ship Nottingham next year, giving them the theoretical ability to last to 2009. But Glasgow and the other three Batch 1s will probably be let go between 2000 and 2004.