Babcock announces new Arrowhead 140 design for the Type 31e frigate competition

Today Babcock unveiled the Arrowhead 140, a revised design as their candidate for the Type 31e frigate competition. This new concept reduces some of the potential programme risks as it is based on the Iver Huitfeldt hull form, currently in-service with the Royal Danish Navy.

The Babcock-led “Team 31” consortium now includes Thales, OMT, BMT, Harland and Wolff and Ferguson Marine and are in a very competitive fight with The BAE Sytems/Cammel Laird “Leander”. The tight deadlines and ambition of the Type 31e project carries considerable risk, BAE Systems experience and existing intellectual property put them in a leading position. By selecting the proven Iver Huitfeldt design as a baseline, this reduces the unknowns attached to the Team 31 bid.

The previous Babcock Arrowhead 120 concept was only a very basic outline design, perhaps a placeholder until the new design had been refined. Arrowhead 140 is entirely different and considerably larger than other Type 31 options at almost 140m in length with a displacement of approximately 5,700 tonnes. Babcock says the wide beam ship is easier to design, build and easier to maintain. Going big does not add dramatically to construction costs but improves platform stability, facilitates better helicopter operations in bad weather, whilst enhancing crew comfort.

The Iver Huitfeldt class using the Danish Navy’s StanFlex modular mission payload system and has space for up to 6 interchangeable “modules”. It is assumed Arrowhead will not be equipped with Stanflex modules but there is plenty of space available and can be configured to customer requirements. The Iver Huitfeldt class are primarily air defence ships and are propelled by 4 diesel engines in a CODAD configuration. Cheap and simple to maintain but rather noisy and not ideal for ASW, although there is probably space to available add silencing measures. The Type 31e is intended as a general purpose platform, but many would like the RN version offer some ASW capability, potentially using off-board USVs and UUVs.

The detailed configuration for the Arrowhead 140 is unclear at this stage but there is space for 4 mission boat/bays with VLS missile silo amidships between the bays. A large hangar would be capable of housing an embarked a Merlin.

Arrowhead 140

Thales will provide their Tacticos combat management system which has fully open architecture, it has been in service for 25 years and exported to 24 navies globally. Tacticos and its in-service support package can be tailored to customers’ needs over the lifetime of the platform, although would be an entirely new system in Royal Navy service. The ship will incorporate iFrigate™ technology which offers digitally-enabled maintenance and self-diagnosis.

Team 31 say construction will be done using 4 collaborating shipyards, blocks will be built at Babcock Appledore in North Devon, Ferguson Marine on the Clyde, Harland & Wolff in Belfast with the final assembly and integration done at Rosyth. This is in line with the National Shipbuilding Strategy’s goal to generate a genuine resurgence in shipbuilding across the UK but also ensures there would still be capacity for parallel programmes such as the FSS project. More than 100 companies that could be involved in the supply chain for Arrowhead 140 have already attended a suppliers’ conference.