The £8bn pan-European Horizon frigate project has been scrapped. After 15 years of joint studies with Italy and France, the UK is to go it alone in building a replacement for the Royal Navy’s Type 42 destroyers.
It is likely to be designed and built by a Marconi-led team.
The Ministry of Defence is looking to appoint a prime contractor, which will be responsible for designing and building the craft and for `maximising competitive opportunities’ in the wake of the collapse of the Horizon project.
The first ship should enter service five years late in 2007. The likely cost will be £6bn for 12 ships and their main weapon system.
The project had been plagued by years of arguing. Britain wanted a large 6,000 tonne vessel; France and Italy one half that size. There were rows over the capability of the missile system. But what finally sunk Horizon was the lack of a coherent manufacturing structure to deliver the ships.
After nine years of wrangling, the three nations are keen to salvage what they can from the work already done. Work on the Principal Anti-Air Missile System (Paams) – the warships’ main surface-to-air weapon – is to continue. A development contract for this will be placed soon, the MoD said.
UK defence secretary George Robertson and his French and Italian counterparts have also decided to pursue cooperative procurement in equipping the ships, which the three countries will now build separately.
Robertson said that keeping Horizon’s Paams missile system combines the principles of `smart procurement’ and effective European collaboration. `We now have a very good result for the navies and industries of the three nations, and for European defence.’
The new frigate’s likely builder is Marconi Marine’s Scottish yard at Scotstoun on Clydeside.
* Leader comment, p12