Britain gears up for groundbreaking Type 26 frigates in ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’

BAE Systems is building the first batch of eight Type 26 frigates at its Govan shipyard on the River Clyde site. The construction of these warships, also known as the City Class frigates, is a “generational” opportunity, according to Steve Timms, BAE’s head of naval ships, as their design is one of the most advanced in the world. Mr Timms added: “The Type 26 is the first significant warship programme to depart from the tradition to design ships with drawings.” 

Their military ability and the digital technology used to build these frigates are what are attracting customers across the world.

Canada and BAE System have already agreed a local company across the pond will build 15 of these frigates under licence, while BAE will construct nine vessels in Australia.

The technology behind the Type 26 has been long used in other sectors, and allows engineers to walk through a digital version of the vessel by simply wearing 3D glasses.

This makes easier for engineers and designers to find problems and solve them before the ships go to production. 

It also lets future crews virtually hop on the frigate to get accustomed to it and suggest any improvements.

And shipyard workers can plan how they will physically build the vessels, getting to know each detail and component by simply navigating the virtual ship.

Mr Timms said: “This system has played a big part in selling the design abroad.

“We’ve had visits from foreign navies and they can see the benefits of being able to change things quickly and to their own specifications.” 

The frigates won’t be in service until mid-2020s, but work is already underway on the HMS Glasgow.

Peter Sandman, founder of lobby group Save the Royal Navy, claimed this helps to spare the cash-strapped Ministry of Defence (MoD)’s budget and preserving jobs.

He said: “The MoD and BAE say that the first Type 26 will be ready in the mid-2020s but it’s not going to be in service until 2027.

“They could be done faster but this way protects jobs and spreads the cost.”

Type 26 programme director Nadia Savage revealed the design of the ship is three-quarters complete.

As much as 50 percent of its components has been committed to manufacturing and 35 percent of the ship is in construction on the site’s huge riverside halls, Ms Savage said. 

She also said the 3D model sold the vessels as, unlike a paper model, it allows customers to have a realistic idea of what they are to buy.

She said: “This isn’t a paper ship with lots of ramifications still to happen, this is a mature digital model that allows us and our customers to move forward with confidence.”

The Govan shipyard counts approximately 3,000 members of staff and takes on about 100 apprentices a year – with many young people considering a start to their career at BAE a once in a lifetime opportunity.

One said: “My dad and grandfather worked here.

“This is 20 years’ work and whatever follows on from that.” 

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