Engineering giant Babcock has been confirmed as the preferred bidder for the Type 31 frigate programme which will see the production of five warships based on Babcock’s Arrowhead 140 design at an average cost of £250 million per vessel. The frigates will be built in the UK and the first is set to be in the water by 2023.
Speaking ahead of a visit to a ship on the Thames today, Mr Johnson said: “The UK is an outward-looking island nation and we need a shipbuilding industry and Royal Navy that reflect the importance of the seas to our security and prosperity.
“This is an industry with a deep and visceral connection to so many parts of the UK and to the union itself.
“My Government will do all it can to develop this aspect of our heritage and the men and women who make up its workforce – from apprentices embarking on a long career to those families who have worked in shipyards for generations.”
He continued: “I look forward to the restoration of British influence and excellence across the world’s oceans.
“I am convinced that by working together we will see a renaissance in this industry which is so much part of our island story – so let’s bring shipbuilding home.”The Government has committed to maintaining a fleet of at least 19 frigates and destroyers with the aim of expanding naval capability in the 2030s. The Type 31 programme will replace the Royal Navy’s Type 23 frigates.
Britain is building patrol vessels and new Type 26 frigates at BAE Systems’ Govan shipyard on the Clyde river in Glasgow.
But the country’s shipbuilding industry has suffered a catastrophic decline in the last 40 years, with shipyards in places from Sunderland to Portsmouth closing and Belfast’s Harland and Wolff shipyard, where the Titanic was built, went into administration last month.
The Prime Minster has appointed Defence Secretary Ben Wallace as the Government’s new shipbuilding tsar to enhance the UK’s production.
He will look at how the Government can use further education, skilled apprenticeships and graduates to achieve a sustainable skills base for British shipbuilding across the UK.
Mr Wallace said: “These mighty ships will form the next generation of the Royal Navy fleet.
“The Type 31 frigates will be a fast, agile and versatile warship, projecting power and influence across the globe.
“The ships will be vital to the Royal Navy’s mission to keeping peace, providing life-saving humanitarian aid and safeguarding the economy across the world from the North Atlantic, to the Gulf, and in the Asia Pacific.”
The vessels will be fitted with the world-leading Sea Ceptor missile system, a range of highly advanced weapon and sensor systems and a combat system with a 4D air and surface surveillance and target indication radar.
They will also have capabilities to operate with a Merlin or Wildcat helicopter.
The £1.3 billion programme will support more than 2,500 jobs across the UK, including its supply chain, with all the different parts of the frigates being assembled and built at British shipyards.
Babcock CEO Archie Bethel said: “Driven by innovation and backed by experience and heritage, Arrowhead 140 is a modern warship that will meet the maritime threats of today and tomorrow, with British ingenuity and engineering at its core.
“It provides a flexible, adaptable platform that delivers value for money and supports the UK’s National Shipbuilding Strategy.
“Arrowhead 140 will offer the Royal Navy a new class of ship with a proven ability to deliver a range of peacekeeping, humanitarian and war-fighting capabilities whilst offering communities and supply chains throughout the UK a wide range of economic and employment opportunities.”
The firm said the ships will be assembled at Babcock’s Rosyth facility and involve supply chains throughout the UK, in line with the UK’s shipbuilding strategy.