UK unveils future naval shipbuilding strategy

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UK Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon has unveiled an ambitious new national shipbuilding strategy designed to meet the challenge set by Sir John Parker last November, and which sets out plans for the first batch of Type 31e frigates.

Sir John Parker’s independent report into British naval shipbuilding proposed far-reaching recommendations to transform the UK maritime industry and boost the prosperity of regions, shipyards and maritime supply chains across the country.

The strategy sees the government accept Sir John’s recommendations and step up to what he called a prospective “renaissance” in British shipbuilding. It outlines an ambition to transform the procurement of naval ships, make the UK’s maritime industry more competitive, grow the Royal Navy fleet by the 2030s, export British ships overseas, and boost innovation, skills, jobs, and productivity across the UK.

It included the government’s plan to procure new Type 31e general-purpose frigates. A price cap has been set of no more than £250 million (US$330 million) each for the first batch of five frigates. In line with standing UK policy on warships they will be built in the UK, in a way which could see them shared between yards and assembled at a central hub.

The first ships are set to be in service by 2023. Shipyards will be encouraged to work with global partners to ensure the vessel is competitive on the export market.

The option to build the Type 31e frigates in blocks reflects how the biggest ship ever built for the Royal Navy, the 65,000-tonne HMS Queen Elizabeth, was constructed. The aircraft carrier was built in blocks by over 10,000 people in six main British cities. She was then assembled in Rosyth, before commencing sea trials in June and arriving in her home port of Portsmouth last month.

Her sister ship HMS Prince of Wales, built in the same way, is also now structurally complete and will be officially named in a ceremony on September 8. This method has also been tried and tested on the UK’s new polar research ship, Sir David Attenborough, with shipyards across the country collaborating in the block build.

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