Frigate procurement process runs aground

25 July 2018, 07:38

BAE Systems shipbuilding on the clyde

Plans for a fleet of low-cost frigates have hit the rocks, with the Ministry of Defence forced to relaunch the competition to build the five new warships.

The MoD insisted there were no changes to the plans to procure the first batch of five Type 31e vessels and it still wants the first ship delivered in 2023.

But the GMB union said the news was a blow to shipbuilding communities and the Scottish National Party said it was "utterly shocking".

In September 2017, First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Jones said the proposed Type 31e would be a "credible frigate" but come at a cost of £250 million per ship.

But the process to build the new frigates will now be restarted due to "insufficient compliant bids" being received for an "effective and robust competition".

A MoD spokesman said: "There have been no changes in our plans to procure a first batch of five new Type 31e frigates to grow our Royal Navy.

"We still want the first ship delivered by 2023 and are confident that industry will meet the challenge of providing them for the price tag we've set.

"This is an early contract in a wider procurement process, and we will incorporate the lessons learned and begin again as soon as possible so the programme can continue at pace."

Gary Smith, Scottish secretary of the GMB union, said: "This will come as a real blow to shipbuilding communities in Scotland and across the UK.

"We are already losing jobs in yards like Rosyth as the carrier work is completed.

"This news comes after big cuts to the original Type 26 programme, the broken promise to build a state of the art frigate factory on the Clyde, that would have allowed us to compete in global markets for building complex warships and the decision by the Tories to put the tender for the three support vessels for the carriers out to international tender as opposed to putting the work into UK yards.

"It is an utter shambles but this is what happens when you have Treasury dominating decisions over sovereign defence capability."

SNP defence spokesman Stewart McDonald said: "The Ministry of Defence has been unable to answer the most basic questions about the cost of this new Type 31e frigates and today they have had to own up to their own chaotic failures."