RogerBW's Blog

Type 26 Global Combat Ship once more 22 July 2017

Construction has begun on the first of the Type 26 frigates. How have things changed since I looked at the design in late 2015?

I should first make clear that as usual I have no inside information; I'm speculating entirely from public sources.

The RN's version of this ship is now just to be the run of eight anti-submarine ships; the five de-sonared "general purpose" ships have been cancelled, and may eventually resurface as the Type 31. (Which will mean that some of the Type 23s' lives have to be extended even further, until those are available.)

It's still CODLOG (diesel or gas propulsion but not both at once). That was probably inevitable at this stage of the design but still seems like a really stupid cost-saving measure. This is an anti-submarine ship, which means potentially taking torpedo hits, and to me that makes IEP (removing the hull-piercing prop shafts) a no-brainer purely on survivability grounds. (Not to mention that the QEs and Type 45s have it already, so you could standardise engineering requirements and spare parts.)

The Mk41 VLS fit has been standardised on 24 cells (three units). It's not at all clear what will be fired from it, though. Harpoon will reach its end of service life before these ships will be afloat, the RN's Tomahawks are all encapsulated for submarine launch, and even Lockheed doesn't dare quote an in-service date for the LRASM when they've only had four successful launches of the airframe. (Not to mention they're building the air-launched version first, and may then convert it for ship launch if there are enough customers.) In theory a missile will be developed to fit it.

The gun is confirmed as a 5" Mk45 /54, as expected. In spite of my patriotic prejudice, this is not a bad choice.

The main self-defence weapon is the Sea Ceptor (CAMM), which is already being planned for the Type 23s' existing launchers as they reach their final upgrades: two silos of 24 each. It's not actually in service yet but seems to be getting close.

Radar is now confirmed as the Type 997 ARTISAN, a decent all-round performer already installed on Type 23s.

The towed array sonar Type 2087 hasn't changed (again, it's on the Type 23s). The bow sonar isn't formally confirmed but rumours suggest a Type 2050, yet again taken from the Type 23s. (But it's getting a new dome. Woo.)

There are no plans for ship-launched torpedoes; the only anti-submarine capability will come from the helicopters. There's an argument to be made for that (to use small shipborne torpedoes against a submarine you need to have survived the submarine's big anti-ship torpedoes), but it's an unusual decision.

The mission bay is retained, and I'm still interested to see how that will get used. The latest rendering shows an exposed gallery aft of the bridge, which at least gives some flexibility even if the midships deck per se is gone.

It's not at all clear why the final cost of the eight ships will be somewhere around 5.6 US-billion pounds (£700m per ship). (That's the "3.7 billion pounds" that's just been announced, plus the 1.9 already spent.) The French variant of the FREMM (Georges Leygues class) is running at €670m, about £580m at current rates, but that has a new radar, Aster 15s and SCALP, not to mention torpedoes; Type 26, in spite of its sexy appearance, is a vastly more conservative design. All the big expensive bits are already in service, some of them for decades, and don't need any new development. Even much of the physical hardware (radar, Sea Ceptor tubes, sonars) will be taken from the Type 23s as they're retired, to fit out the new ships.

So why is this ship so expensive? Because the construction is being split across two yards (Govan and Scotstown)? Or plain old profiteering?

Tags: naval type 26

See also:
Type 26 Global Combat Ship early impressions

  1. Posted by Owen Smith at 10:13pm on 22 July 2017

    Is the French version the same ship with different fit out? I haven't been following this particular disaster.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 12:04am on 23 July 2017

    No, the FREMM is the modern (2012) French/Italian frigate design, which has also been sold to Morocco, Greece, Egypt and Australia. The point is it's a broadly similar class to the Type 26 in size and role (though the FREMM is multi-purpose, having general purpose, anti-submarine and anti-air variants) at a significantly lower cost.

    To be brutally fair, it also doesn't offer an IEP variant, though the Italian one has CODLAG.

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