Leander concept for Royal Navy Type 31e Frigate inspires interest from British industry

Cammell Laird and BAE Systems have teamed up to compete for the Type 31e frigate programme with their ‘Leander’ concept. CL will be the prime contractor with BAES providing the design and systems integration expertise. More details of the Leander design have emerged and it appears CL and its suppliers are determined to make a very credible bid. From the RN’s point of view it is encouraging to note there will evidently be stiff competition between CL/BAES Leander and the BMT/Babcock Arrowhead.

On 20th February, Cammell Laird, BAE Systems and the Society of Maritime of Industries hosted a supplier conference which attracted 200 delegates from potential supply chain companies in the UK and overseas. Demand was so high that a second event for a further 100 companies will be held next month. CL see the overwhelmingly positive response by industry as a strong endorsement of the aims and aspirations of the National Shipbuilding Strategy published by the government last year.

CL project director, Tony Graham said  “In order to win this competition, we must be better, cheaper and faster than anyone else… fundamentally, we recognised that this ship has to work straight out of the box” MoD is expected to award the Type 31e contract in March 2019 and if the Leander bid was successful it could see steel cutting beginning on Merseyside in March 2020.

CL says they have identified opportunities to export the Type 31e to around 20 overseas customers beyond the 5 ships for the Royal Navy and they hope to build an export business based on Leander. BAE Systems has a network of global relationships in regions such as South America and the Gulf which will be a useful asset when marketing Leander overseas. Government is keen to assist in this export drive and work in a partnership, in a way that has been largely absent in UK shipbuilding for several decades.

According to CL, the Leander design will be flexible and could enter production quickly, offering modest ownership costs. The three main through-life costs are manning, fuel and the combat system. Leander has a flexible manning profile, is very fuel-efficient and the BAE Systems combat system that is already in use by the Royal Navy. The design must be low risk with straightforward engineering design.

Khareef class covette

The Leander design is evolved from the 3 Khareef-class corvettes built by BAE Systems in Portsmouth for the navy of Oman under a £400M contract between 2009-2014. This is the Al-Rasikh (US Navy Photo).

The Leander appears to be essentially a ‘stretched’ Khareef with mission bay inserted amidships. Fitted with Sea Ceptor, Phalanx CIWS, medium calibre gun and anti-ship missiles this looks like an attractive armament package. However it is doubtful if all this would be included in the £250M baseline price.

Leander concept for Type 31e frigate

The Flight deck can probably land a Merlin sized helicopter but hangar that can only accommodate Wildcat sized helo. The large mission bay for UAVs, UUVs and USVs is critical for the Type 31e to remain credible platform into the 2030s and 40s

BAE Systems Type 31e Chief Engineer, Gavin Rudgley offered some more detail about the Leander design. The ship is expected to be around 4,000 tonnes and 120 metres in length with a ship’s company of about 120 and capable of operations in the extremes of the Gulf or Arctic. The design has been evolved from the Khareef Corvettes. The Leander design will use mature and proven systems from other ships including the Type 45, Type 26 and the River Class Batch 2 offshore patrol vessels and is designed to be rugged and easy to maintain. The boat bay and mission space a scaled-down version of what has already been designed for the Type 26 frigate. The heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems is based on experience gained with the Khareef and Type 45. It will carry the proven Type 997 Artisan radar and Sea Ceptor anti-air missile system. For the 5 Royal Navy ships, these systems will be removed from the Type 23 frigates as they decommission and fitted to the new ships, helping reduce costs.

The Khareef class are powered by twin diesel engines and it is assumed for simplicity and economy that the Leander will feature all-diesel propulsion.

Leander concept for Type 31e frigate

A ‘dazzle’ camouflage scheme is also available for Leander…  A memorable image appropriate to a project designed to help kick-start British manufacturing industry. Top work by someone in the marketing department.

Although there may be many who wish to see the Type 31e competition won by anyone but BAE Systems, it is clear that the Leander has an advantage over its competitors given their ownership of mature technology and intellectual property together with recent experience of building warships already at sea with the RN. Cammell Laird is also a modern success story and is demonstrating its global competitiveness by securing a string of shipbuilding orders. It is clear that Leander will be a formidable competitor.