Arrowhead V Leander – the leading Type 31e frigate candidates compared

The competition for the Type 31e frigate programme is now between two contenders. The BAE Systems/Cammel Laird Leander and the Babcock/Team 31 Arrowhead-140. Here we provide a basic comparison of the two options.

The competitive design phase contracts have been awarded and both designs are likely to evolve further before the Type 31 competition winner is announced in the first quarter of 2019. The chart below shows an overview of the essential characteristics of the two contenders. It should be noted that weapons and sensor fit (in the middle band) are all optional and the final selection may, or may not, include the equipment listed. With a very tight budget of £250M per ship, funding for the weapons fit maybe dependent on how efficiently the hulls can be constructed.

Of course, the all-important price of each design is a sensitive commercial secret and pricing warships is always a very complex calculation. There are multiple variables and some items maybe government-furnished equipment (Eg. Artisan radars and Sea Ceptor systems from retired Type 23s).

The Arrowhead-140 design announced last month has certainly raised the bar. For some time even before the birth of the Type 31e, there have been those advocating the adoption of the successful Danish Stanflex modular system as the basis for cheaper warships. As a proven, in-service and affordable design, it is even being suggested the Arrowhead could be a contender for the US Navy’s FFG(X) competition. It will be interesting to see if BAE Systems responds with a revised Super Leander, given the ‘on-paper’ inferiority of Leander to Arrowhead-140.

Arrowhead-v-Leander-comparison
Prepared using publicly available information, June 2018.
Photo & video essay: The aircraft carrier's main armament, first F-35s arrive in the UK
On Her Majesty's Nuclear Service - Book Review