Surface Forces: Type 26 Secret Revealed


October 14, 2015: After several years of silence Britain finally revealed the cost of their new Type 26 frigates. Each of the 13 new 8,000 ton ships will cost $1.36 billion. The original (2010) cost per ship estimate was less than half that ($536 million). That explains the reluctance to discuss costs over the last few years.

Construction on the first Type 26 begins in 2016 with the first one entering service in 2021. These ships are 148.5 meters (487 feet) long and have a top speed of 52 kilometers an hour. Range is 13,000 kilometers (at 28 kilometers an hour) before refueling and resupply is necessary. The crew of 118 also operates a large number of electronic and weapons systems including 72 VLS cells, 48 with anti-aircraft missiles and the other 24 with anti-ship or anti-submarine missiles or cruise missiles for land targets. There will be several tubes for anti-submarine torpedoes. There will be one 127mm (5 inch) gun, two 30mm autocannon and two 20mm Phalanx cannon anti-missile systems. There will be two 7.62mm six barrel rotating machine-guns and four medium (7.62mm) machine-guns mounted where needed. One or two helicopters can be carried, each of which can carry four anti-ship missiles or two anti-submarine torpedoes. If one helicopter is carried it is possible to carry two or more smaller UAVs.

There are accommodations for 60 more people (troops, commandos, other specialists or civilians or more sailors) than the crew. Electronics include the usual air search and targeting radar, sonar and fire control systems for a ship of this size. Note that a ship of this displacement would be called a destroyer in the United States (and in Europe a few decades ago) but the less menacing designation “frigate” is now preferred in Europe.

The Type 26 replaces 13 smaller Type 23 frigates. These 4,900 ton ships were armed with eight Harpoon anti-ship missiles, a 114mm (4.5-inch) MK 8 main gun, 30mm close range guns, several types of 7.62mm machine-guns, four torpedo tubes (and 24 anti-submarine torpedoes), and the Sea Wolf anti-aircraft missile system. There was also one helicopter. Adjusting for inflation the Type 23s cost about $300 million each. These ships entered service between 1991 and 2002 and had smaller crews (185) than were normal for a ship that size. What made this work was a new system that provided additional maintenance personnel when the ship returned to port, to get the work done that the smaller crew could not handle at sea. But between when this plan was approved and when the ships entered service the navy budget suffered unexpected cuts and the special maintenance program was one of the items that disappeared. The understaffed crews were ordered to do the best they could, but the Type 23s always suffered from maintenance and crew morale problems. Because of this the Type 26 had more automation and accommodations for more sailors as well as a better thought out program for regular maintenance at sea.





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