An industry group led by Babcock has been selected as preferred bidder to deliver the UK Royal Navy's Type 31 frigate programme.
Announcing the downselection of the Arrowhead 140 design on 12 September, the company said it will now enter a period of detailed discussions with the Ministry of Defence and supply chain prior to formal contract award expected later this year.
Forming the centrepiece of the government's National Shipbuilding Strategy, the Type 31 programme calls for the acquisition of a class of five globally deployable general-purpose frigates at an average production cost of £250 million per ship. The design, which is geared towards forward-deployed maritime security, presence and defence engagement operations, is also intended to have significant export potential.
Atlas Elektronik UK, Babcock and BAE Systems were in December 2018 each awarded Competitive Design Phase contracts, worth £5 million apiece, to mature their candidate designs, and build strategy and commercial proposals over a seven-month period. Bids for the design and build phase were received by Defence Equipment and Support in late June.
Babcock is leading Team 31, which also includes Thales, OMT and BMT. The company's shipbuilding plan had originally envisaged manufacture activities being shared between Babcock at Rosyth, the Harland and Wolff yard in Belfast, and Ferguson Marine Engineering on the lower Clyde, with assembly taking place at a central integration site at Rosyth.
With Harland and Wolff in administration, and Ferguson being taken into public ownership after suffering significant cost and schedule overruns on a ferry contract, Babcock has now baselined its bid on Rosyth alone. However, the company has confirmed that it will engage with the supply chain in the coming months to assess if there is a value for money case for outsourcing blocks into other yards.
According to Babcock, detailed design work will start immediately, with manufacture to follow from 2021 through to 2027. The first ship is scheduled for launch in 2023, with entry to service expected in 2025. At its height, the programme will employ a workforce of around 1,250 skilled roles in multiple locations throughout the UK, with around 150 new technical apprenticeships likely to be developed. The work is expected to support an additional 1,250 roles within the wider UK supply chain.
Babcock chief executive Archie Bethel said: ''It has been a tough competition and we are absolutely delighted that Arrowhead 140 has been recognised as offering the best design, build and delivery solution.''
Thales will take the role of combat system integrator, and will be responsible for the supply of the combat management system.