The Royal Navy’s New Type 26 Frigate
'Global Combat Ship' will have a common hull to be adapted and optimized for ASW, air defense or multi-mission roles
The Royal Navy’s new class of frigate, the Type 26, will be capable and flexible. With a common hull that can be adapted for ASW, air defense or multi-mission roles, this versatile ship can participate as a member of a battle group or steam independently far from home for long periods of time.
The Type 26 design was unveiled by the U.K. Ministry of Defense in August.
Originally named the “Future Surface Combatant,” it was later renamed the “Global Combat Ship.”
“The Type 26 Global Combat Ship will be the backbone of the Royal Navy for decades to come,” said Peter Luff, who was the Minister for Defense Equipment, Support and Technology at the time of the August announcement.
The Type 26 will replace the Type 23 frigate. The first of the 16 Type 23s for the Royal Navy were commissioned in 1990, and the last joined the fleet in 2002.
The new 5,400-ton frigate must be able to deploy for extended periods with minimal support, so it must have large storerooms and carry plenty of fuel so it can operate without tanker support. The Type 26 endurance of 60 days is twice that of a Type 23 frigate, which has 30 days endurance.
The common hull can end up being several different kinds of ships. “There will be no more destroyers or frigates,” said Cmdr. Ken Houlberg of the Royal Navy, who until recently was responsible for surface combat capability with the Ministry of Defense. “There will be combat ships.”
The Type 26 will have a core crew of 118, with accommodations for up to 190. Mission experts will fill the other 72 spaces onboard.
Another flexible feature is the room to carry containers. The new frigate will have space for 11.5 TEUs, referring to the “twenty-foot equivalent unit” standard shipping containers. Similar to mission modules aboard the littoral combat ship, they can carry humanitarian assistance and disaster relief supplies, a field hospital, or even a command and control facility for a battle staff.
The combined diesel electric or gas turbine (CODLOG) Propulsion will be capable of supporting new energy weapons like lasers and railguns. “Future energy weapons don’t need vast amounts of electrical generation. They need electrical storage,” Houlberg said.
“Our Type 23s have met their limit,” said Brian Johnson, Type 26 project director for BAE Systems in Bournemouth, UK. “They have no margin for more capability.”
The current in-service plan is to get the first ship to sea in the early 2020s. One Type 26 would be built each year until the Type 23s are replaced.
“For 13 years we’ll have a mixed fleet of frigates,” Johnson said.
In the meantime, the Royal Navy will keep the existing Type 23s running with a comprehensive capability sustainment program.
World-class ASW Platform
“We set out to build a world-class ASW platform,” said Johnson. “The ship was absolutely designed to task, but also to fit budget.”
The original plan was to create a single hull that could be optimized for different missions, from ASW to hydrographic survey. Today, the plan is to produce two variants; with eight ships built for ASW and five as “general purpose” frigates.
“The new ship had to meet the operational requirements; be buildable, be sustainable, and be affordable,” said Johnson.
The ship will be well armed to meet a variety of threats. The Type 26 will carry 48 “Sea Ceptor” naval variants of the Common Anti-Air Modular Missile (CAMM) for ship self defense, which will be “soft launched” with compressed air. A vertical launch system (VLS) with 24 cells for anti-ship and land attack missiles, CIWS forward and aft, a 5-inch/127 mm gun, a pair of anti-surface 30 mm chain guns; four general purpose machine guns, two miniguns, a Merlin or Wildcat helicopter, two torpedo launchers, and up to four 11.5 meter boats.
The Type 26 effort represents a long-term commitment, Houlberg said. “This project forces us to think to 2060.”
“These ships will be the spine of the Royal Navy,” Houlberg said.
But, he cautioned , the Type 26 cost must not spiral upwards. “The day we make our escorts so expensive that they become strategic assets is the day I suggest we got it wrong.”