Type 31 frigate

The Type 31 frigate or Inspiration class, and formerly known as the Type 31e frigate or General Purpose Frigate (GPF), is a planned class of frigate, based on the hull of the Iver Huitfeldt-class frigate, for the United Kingdom's Royal Navy intended to enter service in the 2020s alongside the Type 32 frigate, and the submarine hunting Type 26 frigate.[10]

The winning design submitted by Babcock which is based on the Iver Huitfeldt-class frigates
Class overview
NameType 31 frigate
BuildersBabcock International[5]
Operators Royal Navy
Preceded byType 23 frigate
CostGB£268 million (2019)[1] per unit (est.)
In service2027[2][3]
General characteristics
TypeGeneral purpose frigate
Displacement5,700 t (5,600 long tons)
Length138.7 m (455 ft 1 in)
Installed power4 × Rolls Royce/MTU 20V 8000 M71 (8.2 MW) diesel engines[9] 4 × Rolls Royce/MTU 16V 2000 M41B (900 kW) generators
PropulsionMAN Alpha VBS Mk 5 CP propeller, two shafts, CODAD[6]
SpeedIn excess of 28 knots (52 km/h; 32 mph)
Endurance9,000 nmi (17,000 km; 10,000 mi)
Complement80–100 (accommodation for up to 160)
Sensors and
processing systems
TACTICOS combat management system, Thales NS110 3D radar, Raytheon Warship Integrated Navigation and Bridge System, Terma Scanter and Raytheon NSX navigation radars, 2 Mirador Mk2 EOS, Viasat Ultrahigh-frequency satellite communications[7]
Electronic warfare
& decoys
Vigile-D ESM
Aircraft carried
Aviation facilitiesHelicopter hangar and flight deck
  • Mission bay under flight deck for 6 TEUs
  • Three boat bays for RHIBs and USVs/UUVs

It is intended that the Type 31 frigate will replace some of the general-purpose Type 23 frigates. The Type 31 is part of the British government's "National Shipbuilding Strategy".



The 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) authorised the Global Combat Ship (GCS) programme which would replace the Royal Navy's thirteen Type 23 frigates. Earlier that year, BAE Systems was awarded a four-year, £127 million contract by the Ministry of Defence to design the new class.[11] It was planned that two variants of the class would be built: five general purpose frigates and eight anti-submarine warfare frigates. There was to be little difference between the two variants, except for the Sonar 2087. Initial expectations were that construction would start in 2016 and the ships would gradually replace the Type 23 frigates by the mid-2030s. The 2015 Defence Review decided that only the eight anti-submarine warfare Type 26 frigates would be ordered and five general purpose frigates to an altogether different design would be ordered to give at least 13 frigates in RN service.[12]

General Purpose Frigate

The resultant General Purpose Frigate (GPFF) was to be a lighter, flexible and more affordable general purpose frigate class.[13][14] According to the 2015 SDSR, the lower cost of these frigates could lead to the Royal Navy acquiring more than five, therefore increasing its overall numbers of frigates and destroyers.[15] During a defence and security lecture in July 2016, GPFF was referred to as the Type 31 frigate by the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Philip Jones,.[16] who also stated that Type 31 frigates could permanently operate "East of Suez"; from the Persian Gulf region to the Asia-Pacific.[16] During the same month, BAE Systems revealed two general purpose frigate designs: the "Avenger class" which was based on the "Amazonas-class/River-class Batch 2 offshore patrol vessel" and the "Cutlass class" that was described as a "significantly stretched and enhanced derivation of the Al Shamikh-class corvette design".[17] The Sunday Times stated that Babcock International and BMT had also submitted one design each.[18][19]

National Shipbuilding Strategy

In October 2017 the Financial Times stated that "..officials inside the Ministry of Defence, the Treasury and Royal Navy have long resented the obligation, set a decade ago, to maintain skills and shipbuilding capacity at BAE's shipyards on the Clyde regardless of naval needs." It quoted Francis Tusa, a defence analyst, who argued that the competition appeared to be designed to break BAE's hold on naval shipbuilding; "Were they to have bid as BAE Systems, they wouldn't win. That is absolutely obvious. The fact is that the Type 31 is slanted probably to exclude any bid that includes BAE."[20] However, this was denied by the MoD which stated that the competition was designed to improve speed of delivery and reduce cost.[20]

In order to maintain national shipbuilding capacity, the 2017 national shipbuilding strategy proposed ordering an initial batch of five Type 31e frigates with an initial in-service date in 2023, with their cost limited to a maximum of £250m each, to be followed by a second batch order of Type 31 for the Royal Navy.[21] The Type 31 is projected to be built in modular form as with the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers at several commercial shipyards, and assembled in one central yard.[22]

Design tenders

Throughout 2017 several designs from different companies were suggested as contenders for the Type 31. BAE submitted two designs, "Avenger", essentially an improved Batch 3 River-class OPV,[23] and "Cutlass", a significantly stretched and enhanced derivation of the Al Shamikh-class corvette.[24] BMT submitted a design called "Venator 110",[25] with Steller Systems putting forward project "Spartan"[26] and Babcock offered a design named "Arrowhead 120".[27]

In October 2017, BAE Systems announced that it would withdraw from the Type 31e competition as a main contractor, citing the capacity constraints of its shipyards on the Clyde, which were full with the work on the new River-class patrol vessels and Type 26 frigates. Instead, BAE announced a partnership with Cammell Laird, whereby BAE would provide its expertise in design and systems integration, while Cammell Laird would be the prime contractor and be responsible for the assembly of the ships at its yard at Birkenhead.[28] The planned design was named "Leander", a reference to three previous classes of ship in the Royal Navy.[29]

In November 2017, it was announced that BMT and Babcock signed a co-operation agreement for the Type 31. They did not choose between their respective "Venator 110" or "Arrowhead 120" designs, but instead would explore their designs to determine the best possible option.[30] In late May 2018, Babcock, partnered with BMT and Thales Group announced the "Arrowhead 140" design, based on the hull of the Danish Iver Huitfeldt-class frigates.[31]

The competition was suspended on 20 July 2018 due to 'insufficient compliant bids' being received, however The Times claimed this was due to a "funding crisis".[32] The competition was restarted in August 2018.[33]

Competitive Design Phase selection

SAS Spioenkop, a MEKO A-200 similar to the proposed Atlas Elektronik design

On 10 December 2018, three groups were selected for the competitive design phase:

Both the BAE Systems and Babcock led entrants had already been put forward when the competition was temporarily suspended. The third bid was submitted by the Atlas Elektronik UK-led team. Both the Babcock and Atlas proposals included Ferguson Marine on the Clyde and Harland & Wolff in Belfast.[34] By August 2019 both of these companies announced that they were in financial difficulties.[35][36]

It was announced on 12 September 2019 that the Arrowhead 140 design had been selected for the Type 31 frigate.[37] A contract was formally awarded to Babcock on 15 November 2019, for an average production cost of £250 million per ship and an overall program cost set to be £2 billion with £1.25 billion value to Babcock.[38]

On 20 January 2020, the Public Accounts Committee was informed by the Permanent Secretary for Defence that the first ship will be launched by 2023 but the in-service date will be in 2027.[39] This is in contrast to earlier statements that the in-service date would be in 2023.[40]


During a July 2016 Defence Select Committee hearing, First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Jones described the GPFF as "to be a much less high-end ship. It is still a complex warship, and it is still able to protect and defend and to exert influence around the world, but it is deliberately shaped with lessons from wider industry and off-the-shelf technology to make it... more appealing to operate at a slightly lower end of Royal Navy operations."[10] IHS Janes described it as a "credible frigate" that will cover "maritime security, maritime counter-terrorism and counter-piracy operations, escort duties, and naval fire support... [sitting] between the high-end capability delivered by the Type 26 and Type 45, and the constabulary-oriented outputs to be delivered by the five planned River-class Batch 2 OPVs."[41]

A September 2017 graphic released by the Royal Navy stressed modular adaptability and flexible construction of the design for export opportunities. Core requirements of the Type 31e frigate include a medium calibre gun, point defence systems, hangar and a flight deck for Wildcat or ten tonne helicopter operated by a crew of around 100 with space for 40 more personnel.[42] The British government released a Request for information (RFI) in September 2017, detailing the desired characteristics of the Type 31e. The RFI provides greater details such as a "Medium Calibre Gun" of greater than 57 mm (2.2 in), a point defence anti-air missile system and the optional ability to launch and recover unmanned aerial vehicles.[43] Forces News reported that the design will contain Sea Ceptor missiles, an advanced air and surface surveillance and target indication radar such as the Thales NS100[44] and be able to operate either an AgustaWestland Wildcat HMA2 or an AgustaWestland Merlin HM2.[45] On 1 October 2020, BAE Systems announced it was under contract to supply five Bofors 57 Mk3 medium calibre guns and ten Bofors 40 Mk4 small calibre guns to the Royal Navy for the first five Type 31 frigates.[46]

Other potential operators

On 30 June 2021, it was reported that Babcock was in discussions with Greece, Indonesia, Poland and two other countries about potential Type 31 contracts.[47]

Ships of the class

Together, the five ships will be known as the "Inspiration class". In May 2021, the names of the five Type 31 ships were announced by the First Sea Lord; these were selected to represent key themes of the future plans of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines.[48]

Active, named after the Type 21 frigate which served in the Falklands War and in support of Britain’s Overseas Territories, symbolising forward deployment of ships overseas. Bulldog, named after the World War II B-class destroyer HMS Bulldog, which escorted shipping convoys in the Atlantic, was chosen to represent operations in the North Atlantic. Bulldog captured the German submarine U-110 and its top-secret Enigma machine. Formidable, named after the World War II-era aircraft carrier HMS Formidable, represents carrier operations. Formidable took part in the war in the Mediterranean, Atlantic and Pacific. Venturer, named after the World War II submarine HMS Venturer, which while underwater, destroyed an enemy submarine, symbolising technology and innovation. Campbeltown, named after HMS Campbeltown, which was involved in the daring St Nazaire raid was chosen to symbolize the Future Commando Force.[49]

As of 2021, all ships are planned to be service by February 2030.[50]

List of ships

Name Pennant No. Builder Ordered Laid down Launched Commissioned Status
Venturer[51] Babcock International, Rosyth 15 November 2019 Announced; first steel cut planned for September 2021[50][52]
Bulldog Announced
Campbeltown Announced
Formidable Announced
Active Announced

See also



  1. ^ "Royal Navy frigate programme update" .
  2. ^ Allison, George (7 February 2020). "Type 31 Frigate in-service date slips by four years" .
  3. ^ "Only seven years to wait until the Royal Navy gets a new frigate | Save the Royal Navy" .
  4. ^ "Ambitious future for Naval Shipbuilding in the UK" . 7 September 2017. Retrieved 7 September 2017.
  5. ^ "Babcock Team 31 selected as preferred bidder for UK Type 31 frigate programme" . babcockinternational. 12 September 2019. Retrieved 14 September 2019.
  6. ^ "MAN to supply propulsion for Royal Navy frigates" . 27 April 2020. Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  7. ^ Chuter, Andrew (3 November 2020). "Viasat to supply Britain's future frigate with satellite communications tech" . Retrieved 4 November 2020.
  8. ^ Childs, Nick (7 October 2019). "UK's naval balancing act: getting the Type-31 frigate right" . IISS. Retrieved 1 October 2020. as well as up to 24 MBDA Sea Ceptor local-area air-defence missiles
  9. ^ "Rolls-Royce Seals Propulsion Systems Contract For Royal Navy's Type 31 Frigates" . 29 May 2020. Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  10. ^ a b "Oral evidence: Naval Procurement: Type 26 and Type 45 HC 221" . UK House of Commons Defence Select Committee. 21 July 2016. Retrieved 21 July 2016.
  11. ^ "BAE wins £127m contract to design Navy warship" . BBC. 25 March 2010. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  12. ^ National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015 ,
  13. ^ Collingridge, John (7 August 2016). "New frigate order will keep shipyards afloat". The Times.
  14. ^ "Restoring the Fleet: Naval Procurement and the National Shipbuilding Strategy" (PDF). House of Commons Defence Committee. 21 November 2016. Retrieved 30 May 2020.
  15. ^ "National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015: A Secure and Prosperous United Kingdom" (PDF). Government of the United Kingdom. November 2015. Retrieved 18 March 2016.
  16. ^ a b "First Sea Lord's defence and security lecture to the City of London" . UK Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 24 July 2016.
  17. ^ "BAE unveils General Purpose Frigate concepts" . IHS Janes. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
  18. ^ "Defence in the Media: 7 August 2016" . UK Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 8 August 2016.
  19. ^ "New frigate order will keep shipyards afloat" . The Sunday Times. 7 August 2016. Retrieved 8 August 2016.
  20. ^ a b "BAE Systems takes below-deck role on UK's Type 31 frigate" . Financial Times. 25 July 2018. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  21. ^ "National Shipbuilding Strategy: the future of naval shipbuilding in the UK" (PDF). British Ministry of Defence. 6 September 2017. Retrieved 26 August 2019. We have set a maximum £250 million per ship price for the Type 31e
  22. ^ "UK shipyards: Five frigates at centre of new strategy" . BBC News. BBC. 29 November 2016. Retrieved 8 September 2017.
  23. ^ Allison, George (6 September 2017). "The Avenger, a possible yet unpopular contender for the Type 31 Frigate" .
  24. ^ Allison, George (5 September 2017). "The BAE Cutlass, could this be the new Type 31 Frigate?" .
  25. ^ Allison, George (6 September 2017). "BMT tout Venator-110 as the 'natural design choice' for the Type 31 Frigate" .
  26. ^ Allison, George (5 July 2017). "Spartan – A contender for the Type 31 Frigate?" .
  27. ^ Allison, George (8 September 2017). "Babcock unveil Arrowhead 120, a contender for the Type 31 Frigate" .
  28. ^ "BAE and Cammell Laird to bid for UK's £1.25bn Type 31 frigate programme" . Naval Technology. 23 October 2017. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  29. ^ "BAE Systems teams with Cammell Laird for UK Type 31 frigate build" . Naval Today. 18 October 2017. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  30. ^ George Allison (9 November 2017). "Babcock and BMT team up on Type 31e Frigate bid" . UK Defence Journal. Retrieved 9 November 2017.
  31. ^ Allison, George (31 May 2018). "Babcock launches 'Team 31', selects Arrowhead 140 design for Type 31e frigate competition" .
  32. ^ "Contest to build a 'budget frigate' on hold as MoD runs out of funds" . The Times. 25 July 2018. Retrieved 25 July 2018.
  33. ^ Gleeson, Bill (23 August 2018). "Laird's bids for £1.25bn Navy ships contract". Liverpool Echo.
  34. ^ "Three bids for the Royal Navy Type 31e frigate competition formally accepted by the MoD" . Save the Royal Navy. 10 December 2018. Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  35. ^ "Clyde shipyard Ferguson set to go into administration" . BBC News. 9 August 2019. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  36. ^ "Iconic Belfast shipyard Harland & Wolff enters administration after 160 years" . Belfast Telegraph Digital. 15 August 2019. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  37. ^ Tovey, Alan (24 August 2019). "Babcock set to build new cut-price frigates and weaken BAE shipbuilding monopoly" . Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 26 August 2019.
  38. ^ Vavasseur, Xavier (15 November 2019). "UK MoD Formally Awards Type 31 Frigate Contract To Babcock" . Naval News. Retrieved 16 November 2019.
  39. ^ Lovegrove, Stephen (20 January 2020). "Type 31 Programme Accounting Officer Assessment" (PDF). UK Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 6 February 2020.
  40. ^ Brooke-Holland, Louise (5 February 2020). "Naval shipbuilding: February 2020 update" . UK parliament library. Retrieved 6 February 2020.
  41. ^ "Credible choices UK General Purpose Frigate programme" (PDF). IHS Janes. Retrieved 24 July 2016.
  42. ^ "Type 31e launch folder" (PDF). Retrieved 7 September 2017.
  43. ^ "Request for information to support Type 31e market testing" . Retrieved 24 October 2018.
  44. ^ Thomas, Richard (27 December 2019). "Naval review 2019: The never-ending Year of the (Royal) Navy" . Shephard News. London. Retrieved 31 December 2019.
  45. ^ "Babcock Set For Type 31 Contract To 'Bring Shipbuilding Home'" . Forces News. London. 12 September 2019. Retrieved 12 September 2019.
  46. ^ "BAE Systems awarded naval guns contract for U.K.'s Type 31 frigate program" . BAE Systems International. 1 October 2020. Retrieved 1 October 2020.
  47. ^ Tovey, Alan (30 June 2021). "Babcock in talks to sell 'budget frigates' to five countries" . The Telegraph.
  48. ^ "Ships to inspire – names of Type 31 frigates revealed" . Royal Navy. 19 May 2021. Retrieved 19 May 2021.
  49. ^ "Royal Navy's Type 31 frigates have names; HMS Active recalls her predecessor and Falklands liberation" . MercoPress South Atlantic. 19 June 2021. Retrieved 20 June 2021.
  50. ^ a b "Royal Navy formally announces the names of the 'inspiration class' Type 31 frigates" . Navy Lookout. 19 May 2021. Retrieved 19 May 2021.
  51. ^
  52. ^


  • Osborne, Richard (August 2021). Osborne, Richard (ed.). "Type 31 Frigates". Warships: Marine News Supplement. 75 (8): 434–440. ISSN 0966-6958 .


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