As the UK undertakes its self-described “radical” National Shipbuilding Strategy, two leading defence primes have joined forces to bid for the Royal Navy’s £1.25 billion ($2.16 billion) Type 31e general purpose light frigate program.
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Babcock International will lead the bid for the team, dubbed as Team 31, in conjunction with Thales. The defence primes have also joined forces with BMT, Harland & Wolff and Ferguson Marine.
Under this group bid, it is understood Babcock will act as the overall program lead, while Thales will develop the mission system solution. Babcock and BMT will work on a design to produce a Type 31 vessel design. Babcock has produced a design known as Arrowhead 120m, while BMT will offer its Venator 110.
BAE Systems will also bid for the project but has partnered with shipbuilder Cammell Laird, which would act as the prime contractor if successful in securing the project. The UK government is expected to launch the official procurement process for the project in February.
Under the Type 31e project, the winning bidder is expected to provide the first batch of five frigates, under a price cap of £250 million each, by 2023. The frigates will replace five of the Royal Navy's Type 23 frigates while the other eight Type 23s will be replaced by the Type 26 frigates, designed by BAE Systems.
The Type 26 frigate is already in the process of becoming a leading export for the UK, with variants of the design being offered for multibillion-dollar contracts, including Australia's $35 billion Future Frigates project. The Type 31e frigates are intended to be available for export.