In an earlier article, we examined the slow build and delivery schedule for the first Type 26 frigates. With this infographic, we attempt to assess how the projected construction schedule fits with the decommissioning of the Type 23 frigates.
This is very much an outline projection using elements of guesswork, based on the limited information available today and is likely to change. There are several important assumptions made in the timeline. Type 31s will be laid down in a drumbeat of approximately 1 per year and as simpler ships, their trials and introduction into service should be much faster than the Type 26. It has been stated that the first three Type 26s will be under construction for about 8 years with first of class trials and work up lasting almost 2 years. The first three ships are being laid down at around 18-24 month intervals. It is assumed the later ships will be laid down at about the same rate but constructed and brought into service slightly faster, although this would appear to be imperative, it is uncertain at this time.
Each of the five Type 31e frigates will have to be constructed, complete sea trials and worked up in around 4 years (the contract will be awarded in early 2019) if they are to be ready to replace the first five Type 23s on time. This is very demanding and does not provide any slack, should any significant construction snags or technical problems arise.
If everything goes to plan, there will be a less taught period in the late 2020s when there will be a few Type 26s delivered in advance of out of service dates for the Type 23s they are replacing.
Unless the rate of laying of down ships and/or the construction time of the later Type 26s is considerably reduced, there will be problems replacing the last of the Type 23s on time. Either frigate numbers will dip below 13 or some Type 23s will have to carry on serving past their 33rd birthdays.
If the latter part of the Type 26 programme is not sped up, there will also be potential capacity issues in building the Type 45 destroyer replacements. (Assuming BAE Systems in Glasgow remains the only yard capable of high-end complex warship construction).