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Two very interesting & well thought out articles. Well done.

Any chance on something similar for the three T31 contenders? There is considerable differences between the three, including what access these areas have to the water etc & size & type of boat bays where fitted & alternatives for those spaces. A repeat of your 6 diagrams for each would really make it clear as to what each could achieve without spending more money on the standard fitout. Counting how many guns or missiles is relatively easy, working out what you can actually do with these sorts of spaces takes a bit of thought & design.


We may have to disagree on the definition of ‘mature’. ‘Almost finalised’, I can live with. BAE may be somewhat punch drunk by the time RAN & RCN are finished with them. Still I think all will be better for it. If you want a ‘global comat ship’, you cannot get much more global than UK, Canada, Australia.

2020 it is then. What really interests me is will we be talking T31 & FFG(X) or will it be one & the same. Perhaps there is more than one option for a ‘global combat ship’.

Congrats again on the two articles.


The T31 and FFG-X have VERY different specs. One is a light patrol escort, the other is the equivalent of the various high-end European frigate designs (with a modified FREMM being a contender for the programme). The chances of them becoming “one in the same” are infinitesimal.


I suggest you look more closely at the present FFG-X known contenders (ie those currently being paid for concept designs). Two are high end European frigates. Two are low end modified LCS. One is unknown. They have said they will open up to other contenders, but these will have to foot the bill themselves. The current contenders vary from 3,000t to 7,000t or thereabouts (sound familiar?)

You need to be looking at the potential export versions of the T31 (the ‘e’ part), not what UK is looking at getting. US are looking to spend way more than UK per ship. A fully specked out A140 is basically a modernised gp version of a IH frigate, which is another high end Euro frigate. Changing things like radars & CMS to suit the customer is nothing unusual.

Phillip Johnson

The budget for the FFG(X) beyond the first couple is US$900mil per ship. Given the US yards are not the most efficient in the world, and there is little money to upgrade them, it will be interesting to see what they can get for the budget. In effect they are asking for a frigate for not much more than they are paying for a Little Crappy Ship.


True, but it’s a hell of a lot more than UK is prepared to spend for much the same thing. It really highlights whats wrong with LCS. That’s not to blame the LCS builders. They delivered what was asked of them. USN was supposed to deliver all these plug in modules to make the whole LCS thing hold together. They did not deliver. They tried to reinvent the wheel in the usual US ‘it was not invented here’ syndrome they are famous for. They spent a fortune trying to deliver things they could have bought off the shelf. Would they have delivered everything that USA said the wanted? Perhaps not, but 50% or something that works is better than 100% of something that doesn’t.

Phillip Johnson

The T31 project will be a real struggle to fit a usable vessel into a very tight budget. Without more money the result will likely be the lowest tender, which is probably the BAe offering. I am not sure the RN wouldn’t be better off with an additional 2 T26’s and keep all 9 OPV’s for the ‘other’ tasks which never seem to go away.
The LCS is an example of ‘be careful what you ask for’ the concept was cruelled by the requirement for 40 knots and it never recovered. If they had specified a more reasonable speed they would not have selected the 2 designs they have ended up with. If you get a basically usable hull with space you can add boxes when they become available.


Um, no (in regards to 2 additional T26). As I have said somewhere on here, hulls matter (preferably usefull ones). Otherwise you risk the German Maus tank (188t). Basically unusable. Only 1 was only ever completed. It’s the classic ‘ too many eggs in the one basket’. You cannot be in two places at once. The UK T31 is about as usefull as a B2 River OPV. Not completely useless, not overly usefull. A T31e (as in export model), regardless of who’s version you pick, is actually a usefull, adding something to the fleet, ship. 5 export model A140 would make short work of 2 T26. As you say, UK has to find a little more money.

Basically, the UK is trying to obtain 5 T31 for the price of 1 T26. If they actually spent the equivalent of 2 T26, it might just be about enough money to make it work. You would think 5 for the price of 2 would be a good idea.

I understand how the mistakes of the LCS were made.
What I don’t understand is why they kept making it over & over. Albert Einstein had it right.

Phillip Johnson

Once a project is rolling, vested interests in Congress have a remarkable ability to keep it rolling whether the administrations asks for it or not. The LCS is a prime example. Th USN seems hopeful that ‘300 ships’ will be reached early next decade on the way to 350 odd but better than 10% will be LCS for quite a while. The project is a disgrace.

On the T31 it is a matter of add money, if you don’t………………………………….


Another great article!

Just wondering if the launch tubes for Sea Ceptor and other cold-launched missiles could be packaged together into an ISO container. It would allow the RN to quickly up-gun Type 26 and Type 31e’s.
How many such missile-carrying ISO containers could be accommodated, given they would need to be positioned in the open with no superstructure blocking launch?


Seems on looking at the T26 design and all the proposed T31 designs, the missile tubes in an ISO container isn’t as option, as the mission bays are all fully enclosed. ?

Glass Half Full

… unless the ISO containers are deck mounted. 🙂

So just for s%^&s and giggles lets consider options.

Leaving aside how the missiles get plugged into the combat system, the first question is how compact can a containerized Sea Ceptor launcher be? Clues might come from the Land Ceptor solutions that showed pallets with originally 2×6 missiles and then 2×4 when the vehicle was formally rolled out. Much more dense packing than the T23 mushroom farm. A similar 2×6 launcher array “might” fit diagonally lengthwise in a 10 foot ISO container (the missiles are too long to lay flat), assuming its acceptable to store missiles on an angle rather than vertical or horizontal. If not acceptable, then 20 foot containers with missiles stored horizontal and rotated vertically for launch might work with 4×6 missile array.

T26 might support 2x 20 foot ISO containers on the flight deck, either side of the hanger door but I’m guessing Merlin helicopter rotor clearance might be an issue but manageable, while Chinook is probably out. There might be other locations, such as on top of the mission bay close to where the other Sea Ceptor missiles are installed, especially for 10 foot containers, but these seem the most obvious and get you an extra 48 missiles.

T31 might actually be easier in the case of Arrowhead 140 as the mid-ships missile launch platform is so large and there seem to also be other potential locations including in front of the bridge where the upper gun position is for the Danish frigates. There’s less space on Leander but if the currently shown ASM canisters behind the mast are removed then space exists there. However a straight vertical Sea Ceptor launch means the missile may pass right in front of Artisan radar on full power which might not be desirable.


On the IH, along with the 4 x mk41 (32 cells), they have 2 x mk56 for 24 ESSM (12x 2). According to Babcock, the ability for A140 to go to full IH spec still exists. While I am unsure of the ability of mk56 to fire CAAM, it should mean that an equivalent CAAM specific mushroom farm could be fitted in the same place. The mk 56 are fitted either side of the 32 mk41 cells.

As to the T26, I am told the Au govt have been assured the RAN T26 can go to 64 cells if required. Where & what length was not disclosed, neither was what might be lost if you did so. (note ESSM & CAAM can be quad packed). This was for the actual T26, not a potential T46 down the track.

Containerised CAAM (most likely 20ft iso), is most useful as an option on opv’s & support ships that already can take topside iso containers. While it is useful if said ship has the CMS & radar capable of firing the missile, the alternative is to utilise the data link (best illistrated on the land based system), to enable firing by an associated ship that can cue & fire the missiles. If you can fit 24 CAAM into a 20ft iso, fired by data link, even a batch 2 River starts to look useful. Navies the world over have been dismissive of missile defences for support ships untill they have had to go into harms way. All of a sudden we see things like army manpad crews on the deck of support ships in places like the Arabian gulf (RAN was one of these). None of these ships were escorted by anything less than a frigate, but the powers that be suddenlly realised they had relatively few support ships in comparison, and without the support ships, the warships were rather constrained.

The advantage of a self contained iso is just that. It’s self contained. Almost like Stanflex, but even more fexable (there are iso’s with built in engines & the CAAM data link is wireless). Even on a tanker full of diesel & avation fuel or a ship full of munitions, CAAM means cold launch & no flames on deck. To be honest, I could never understand why MBDA were not pushing this to the max with every allied navy. ESSM is a better warship missile if you have the radar to back it up. CAMM can be used anywhere, by anyone, even in situations where striking a match may be bad for your health.

I would be more inclined to fit a 35mm cws in the A140 numer 2 positiion. In many ways I think the Phalanx cws has had its day (although still useful as a RAM Launcher). Otherwise a 76mm as per the Italians, but a 4.5 In or 5 in (again as per the Italians) in number 1 position..

Glass Half Full

I mostly agree with your points regarding ISO Sea Ceptor. I suspect Sean’s question on T26/T31 related to “up-gunning” the standard fit outs if WW3 suddenly looked imminent, not using ISO solutions as part of a standard fit. The appeal of such a solution is the ability to fly an ISO from a nice benign maintenance and storage facility to anywhere in the world and immediately increase capability, without having to equip every ship all the time to achieve the same thing. It is of course the basic flexibility and cost efficiency advantage of all ISO based solutions.

I agree that Batch 2 OPV could be a missile truck in extremis, giving up the flight deck to multiple ISO containers and using data link to another controlling ship with CMS and Artisan radar or better, so T45, T26, T31, QEC, and Albion class. It might also be practical to do the same with the Tide class deck ISOs, along with other RFA vessels. The ability to locate ISO CAMM around the fleet is one reason why I don’t subscribe to having missiles on QEC, with the complications and compromises that come with that.

Finally in respect to OPV, it might even be possible to build enough of a picture from the native OPV surveillance radars using the BAES CMS for a limited point defence when operating independently, with an ISO container located adjacent to the crane in order to retain the flight deck. Or the flight deck might be given up to containerized MCMV or littoral ASW functionality. Whatever comes after Hunt and Sandown needs a self defence SAM capability in a world of proliferating shore based ASM, but it could also be an ISO based solution loaded only as and when needed.


There is also the naval rule of 3. Hence, 1 of three should always be available, Two of three will sometimes be available. Three of three will be in maintenance. Hence to supply at least 1 iso CAAM systems to all supported ships that could field it requires In general, 1.5 x number of possible ships. Also, missile wise, 24 CAAM in an iso is half the current load out of a T45. Also, if fired by the data link, the iso carrier is flag agnostic. ie it does not matter if the iso carrier is on one of your own or someone else’s ship or even if it’s a naval vessel. So long as you can deck mount an iso container, & cue the missile, you are in business.


Correction. 1.5 relates to the rule of 3. ie it’s half of 3. So it should read, you only need enough for half of all normally supported ships. Sorry about that.


Sean, you are mistaken. The Leander folks have listed a container location on 02 deck i.e. on the roof of the mission bay next to the hatch.


Thanks for the correction Ron5. I had only been considering the mission bays but if containers can be parked on theirs roofs so much the better. Not a fan of the Leander design but this seems a point in its favour.


Great articles and clearly illustrates the need for more T26’s.

There is a role for the T31’s but they should be primarily aimed at simple maritime security taskings in realitivly low threat environments. The urge to raise the budget of the T31’s should be resisted, the budget should be fixed at £250m or less and instead increase the number of T26’s.

I would like to see a follow on batch of simplified T26’s to act as dedicated escort frigates for the CSG and Amphibious Groups before seamlessly moving forward with another T26 based variant to eventually replace the T45’s.

The U.K. has invested a lot of time and money in designing the best ASW frigate in the world which can also double as a Global Combat Ship if required. The Australian and Canadian orders are a vindication that this investment was worthwhile. We should now push through and build the backbone of the future Royal Navy around this excellent platform for decades to come.

Meirion X

You are Wrong on restricting the capability of the Type 31 Frigates. they have the potential to be air defense escorts for the carriers, if network to a Type 45 destroyer, of which the UK has only six.
Just look how well armed is the Russian frigate Admiral Gorshkov is!! By spending maybe about £350M each on Type 31, and procuring 10, would give you a much more capable frigate fleet. This would also allow Type 26 Frigates to do their job of hunting submarines, or to do stand-alone patrols in contested waters.


What do you propose to do to a T31 for £100m that would make it a credible AAW frigate?

Worth bearing in mind that if each CSG is made up of two Type 45’s and two Type 26’s that’s a maximum of 96x Aster15/30 and 96x CAMM. If more VLS cells are required they should be added to the T45’s.

What the Royal Navy needs is greater numbers of highly credible escort frigates with an optimum blend of ASW, AAW and ASuW capability. If a close in goalkeeper type escort is required within the CSG a simplified Type 26 escort frigate would perform the role perfectly. One of reasons the Type 26’s are currently so expensive is due to an artificially slowed build programme. By ordering more T26’s the speed of build could increase and the average unit cost should reduce.

The future of the Royal Navy should be built in the Type 26 hull with the cut price T31’s filling the low threat maritime security gaps for as economical cost as possible.

Meirion X

The Type 26 Frigate is designed to hunt quiet submarines, or subs. miles away.
The engines of Type 26 sit on dampers and isolaters to stop noise from the engine being transmitted into the water, and being picked up by the warship’s very sensitive towed array sonnar. If a Type23/26 sails too close to a aircraft carrier, the noise coming from the hull will be pick up by the warship’s sonnar and drown out any faint noise coming from subs. not too far away. So a Type23/26 would need to sail some distance ahead of the fleet in order for this ship’s sonnar to function most effectively to hunt submarines. It makes more sense for a aircraft carrier to be escorted close in by air defence destroyers and frigates.


Are you thinking along the lines of an Arrowhead 140 but in a full Iver Huitfieldt specification with Artisan plus Smart-L or S1850M added and a silo of 32/48 CAMM?


If you fit an A140 out to its full mk41 silo spec, you end up with 32 cells that can quad pack either ESSM or CAAM or single pack something else. That’s potentially 128 CAAM. There is also additional space left for a number of ESSM or CAAM only launchers over & above that (where the IH have their ESSM). The ship is big enough for a wide range of radar options, though if networked to a T45, use could be made of its radar. Babcock have explicitly stated that A140 is still capable of the full IH level fitout if required, you just need to bring your chequebook.

Hull count always matters. The T45 is underarmed missile count wise for its size. There is scope for more in the design. But regardless, if hull count is too low, you will be compromised if one or more of your main players takes a hit or simply breaks down. An escort needs to be able to bring something to the fleet as a whole, not just make up the numbers, otherwise it’s just one more ship you have to protect. If a T45 had to drop out & had to be replaced by a T31, I’d like the one with 128 CAAM, thanks very much.


The T45 is certainly underarmed with only 48 Sylver VLS tubes compared to the Arleigh-Burke’s 96 Mark 41 VLS tubes!!


The Australian Hobart class has 48 mk41 cells, & it is only 7,000t. You add another 2,000t & they can’t do better? The T45 has built in margin & space for more cells. They seriously need to look at some quad packed CAAM. Current load out is Aster 15 & 30, one missile per cell. The Hobart class, if it went all ESSM (again quad packed) would be 192 missiles. As Putin said, quantity has its own quality. T45 could easily add 32-64 CAAM (that’s only 8-16 full sized cells), without sacrificing any Aster cells.

Simon m

The problem with this is the manpower requirements for t31 are substantially lower than t26, plus if a war/crisis broke out you would have large numbers of completely ineffective vessels, we already have opvs to perform the level role. Also ships cannot always choose to be in the right place at the right time even less so if all the capable vessels are guarding the carriers. The t31 will not be as capable as t26 but the rn insisted on the gold standard in the latter’s case. Being able to merge the bronze/silver standard with the gold will hopefully give a combat mass. As well as a reasonable capable asset that could join an allied force
With lower manpower and for a country our size 10 t31 should be the aim. The more sensors and shooters available the better for layered defence.
I would love 20+ t26 12 t45 giving the post cold war level of 32. But it isn’t going to happen the t31 needs to provide a capable vessel so we can at least start to approach a decent sized war fighting fleet (the RN’s role not the world’s coastguard/patrol fleet)

Captain Nemo

What great ships, we’ll never have enough of them; your articles really brought the possibilities to life.
Many thanks for taking the time to write this.

El Sid

Launching/recovering a Scan Eagle doesn’t have to be complicated, just use an octocopter called FLARES :


I am surprised by what you say about Scan Eagle and smaller vessels. Was it not originally designed for civilian use on trawlers? Do you know if the RN had trouble with it during the trial period? If it works it seems to have many advantages over helicopter based UAVs.


Good and informative article.

Two comments:

1; Question. Can the mission-bay gantry+crane system go above the 2nd Merlin when it is in the bay?

It look like the high not enough. Because the starbord RHIBs needs the crane, if the crane cannot travel above the 2nd Merlin, the port-side mission bay cannot carry anything needing the crane.

Anyway, I think it will be “good” to add a simple 5-7t crane (for RHIB) on starbored side to handle RHIB, when the main crane is kept on the port-side.

2; It looks like what is needed more is to invest on USV fleet.

Mine counter measure (MCM), patrol (such as Protector or BAE RHIB), and ASW (say, ARCIMS-ASW), all look promising but surely needs good operational research = trials. I’m afraid the “right balance” is not known yet.

For ASW, I personally think if a USV carrying VDS can be there and work as a pinging node of multi-static ASW, T26 can keep her position secret to enemy SSK/SSN and still perform good ASW search.

Alternatively, if the Atlas ACTAS ( can be well-integrated in ARCIMS system as originally planned, carrying 3 of them might enable deploying 2 of the system 24/7, or at least one of them for very long period. It could be very powerful tool, especially in shallow water ASW, in which only active ASW is effective, the detection range is short, and therefore risking T26 itself as a pinger is better to avoid.


If the second Merlin causes a problem, you simply move it out. Problem solved. If sea state & weather is such that you are prepared to launch a rhib, then it’s safe enough to shift the Merlin in the hangar to the flight deck. It’s not like the crane is expected to be in constant usage, neither is the second Merlin, even when carried, always in the mission bay. This sort of shunting, while a pain, is easy compared to what happens in aircraft carrier hangars.


The picture at the head of this article shows there is sufficient headroom above the Merlin for the crane.


The top picture is apparently “not to scale”. ORC and Merlin hight are shown completely wrong. I think it is for “impression”, not correct CG.

Moving the 2nd Merlin is a pain, big pain, so I though it is worth adding a cheap RHIB-only size crane to the starboard. On the other hand, another argument will be T26 will rarely carry 2 Merlin, and such an occasion will be very small fraction. Or, it may even never happen. As such, I agree there could be no need to the “starboard crane”.


In the picture which is from Bae’s computer drawing of the T26, it’s clear that the roof of the hangar is lower than the bottom of the crane.

There are other graphics available from Bae that show the same thing.


Merlin folded is 5.3m high, exactly twice the height of ISO container.

In figures shown in the 1st article, I think it is clear the gantry’s lower clearance is lower than 2 ISO containers?


Actually, Merlins requires about 5.1m headroom (add another 0.5m if you need maintenance clearance) but that height varies over the length of the helo.

The headroom below the crane depends on which attachment is fitted and, of course, that attachment can be maneuvered around high objects.

I’m not sure which picture you mean, I don’t see any with containers stacked. The side doors might foul that arrangement.

I suspect the ability to carry a second Merlin is as a spare/replacement rather than enabling two to be operational at once. Lots of operational problems would have to be solved otherwise.


3: How about a small LCVP?

LCVP Mk.5 is ~15m long and not suitable. But, there are many other options,
– 34 feet (10.5m) version used by US Coast Guard :
– or even larger 38 feet (11.5m) or 40 feet (12.2m) in the same web-sites.

The 10.5 m version could be also useful for River B2, or Littoral Strike Ships, for re-supply mission, HADR mission, and even for EMF (both T26 and River B2 can embark ~50 RM soildiers).


I wonder how many of these could also fit littoral strike ships? Or whether different capabilities will be acquired like safehaven thunderchild


My big fear is that the ability to use the T26/T31 mission bays to deploy containerized mine-hunting and hydrographic systems will result in few-no dedicated replacements for the Hunts, Sandowns and Echos being procured – not the end of the world if the RN had a large and flexible fleet of frigates/destroyers at it’s disposal – but a serious problem with only 20ish vessels and an ever growing list of demands.

I still think it’s a massive lost opportunity to both cap the T26 fleet at 8 when they look to be world beating and we can now tap into a much larger supply chain with Australia and Canada…..whilst at the same time trying to get T31 to be a proper escort vessel that’s built on the cheap.

Would much rather have seen 18-20 high-end T26 (including a replacement for the T45’s when the time comes) and then a large number of T31’s in the MHPC vein to replace multiple classes – around 3,000 tons, a basic defensive weapons fit and big focus on modular/containerized mine-hunting, survey and special forces kit as well as small UAV’s etc.

Best we can hope for now is 10 T31 over the programs life-time and at least some teeth to them – ie Sea Ceptor, a main-gun, bow sonar and torpedo launchers so they aren’t complete lame ducks.

John Clark

Just an observation really, fascinating article and as in depth and thorough as we have come to expect from STRN.

The mission bay is potentially a game changer, it did occur to me that an alternative load out could be up to 4 Wildcats.

That could be an interesting…..

We need 16 T26’s though, not 8.

There was a Cold war requirement for 16 T23’s, Labour sold three of them.

I would augue that today’s requirement is no lessor, with the number of Subs out there and the importance of protecting our new worldwide trade agreements.

Captain Nemo

I suspect we’ll see twelve but that seven through twelve will be AAW variants.
The increased order will be hailed as proof of the governments commitment to the navy and to jobs on The Clyde.
If you look at the build rate then Daring will need replacing by the time the steel for seven is cut, they could have easily accelerated the build rate of T26 for a modest sum and called it regional investment but they chose not to, which suggests they see no actual urgency to address the number of high end warships beyond a certain point.
By the time number twelve is launched it’ll be time to start again, at least on The Clyde.
This puts increased pressure on T31 to impress and to be available in numbers.
Did we ever see a cash number for a dumb T26?


Both UK & Australia seem to be signaling that they see the T26 as a basis for a future T46. Canada may even get there first, considering they want 5 AAW & 8 ASW. Really, if you can’t make some sort of AAW destroyer out of a 8,800t frigate, you should call it a day.


We’ve never seen a cash number for a “smart” Type 26 despite several pointed parliamentary questions aimed at the MoD, so no, there is no cash number for a “dumb” T26 whatever that is. Do you mean the original idea for a general purpose T26?

Captain Nemo

Yes, sorry I’d have thought that would have been the obvious conclusion (as it seems to have been), I just used less words.
Did we ever see a price thrown around for a bare bones general purpose (C2) Type 26.
If Babcock can propose a 5,800 ton contender within base price for Type 31 I was curious whether BAE had initially looked at working down from a Type 26 (perhaps using some of the earlier designs) rather than working up from a Khareef class and if a number existed.
I would presume that a number did exist at some point in the T26 process for the navy to find excessive.


An excellent series, thank you.