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So Babcock may have to price in the cost of the outright purchase of the design with total freedom to sell it as they (and HMG) wish. I wonder if currently the Danish government has some ownership of the design?


This is possibly the best news Babcock and Team 31 could’ve hoped for. If we logically assume GFE is everything they can salvage from the T23s, that cuts the cost of PDMS, radar, 30mm cannons, and possibly the hull mounted sonar. That solves part of the standardisation issue the Arrowhead has (who knows, maybe GFE also includes BAES’ CMS-1), and also helps narrow the potential price difference between it and the almost certainly cheaper Leander


Only question now is: what is this potential third offer?


USNI published an article about the T31 competition suspension, and mentioned a third competitor in the form of Atlas Elektronik, but with no detail on if they were still competing, what they bid with (presumably a MEKO derivative), nothing. There’s been no other source to confirm it so far


unlikely to be formally announced until bidding has closed-
The tail is wagging the dog because the MoD is full of commercial types that have been neutered
Minimal opportunity for UKPLC to get involved
MoD used to send out the Advance notices- they stopped about 6 months ago.
Soon as they walk into AW they become civil servants


almost certain then that the type 31e will not get the 5 inch gun it will have the 4.5 from the type 23, since babcock already own those guns it would just be a case of re-renting them to the navy


What’s that? Babcock own the 4.5″ guns on the T23s???


Or BAE one of the two, the royal navy doesn’t own an awful lot these days, it leases equipment and in some cases ships to save money. There was an article a while back about the navy leasing HMS Clyde from vosper thornycroft


I thought the RN was moving to 5 inch ? And is ammunition still produced for the 4.5 inch , I remember seeing a article saying BAE was ceasing production.


The RN is moving to standard NATO 5″, but if theres a cheap option to fit at least the initial batch of T31 with a proper medium calibre gun instead of a 57 mm or 76mm pop gun, its definitely preferable.

4.5″ ammunition production may have ceased, not quite sure, but remember the RN has been using the Mk8 gun since the 60s, and is likely already expecting to be supporting the T45s until the 2040s anyway. The amount of 4.5″ ammunition in storage is probably enough to last until at least 2040, or longer if no war requiring NGS breaks out


Just as long as the ammo has a good best before date unlike Waitrose Brussels sprouts.
I read somewhere our little ankle biter defence secretary is worrying Hammond for a extra £5 billion a year ?
If he is a good terrier I can see him getting a extra cple billion a year and maybe the deterrent replacement costs returned to the Treasury which would be a step in the right direction.


I agree in full , IMHO Arrowhead 140 would only meet cost by making maximum use of GFE, indeed as the Danes did so well with IVH. Artisan, CAMM, hull mounted sonar, Harpoon mountings, 30mm’s AND 4.5 inch gun. If so fitted it would be by far the most capable design. However are any of us confident that Babcock are still in the fight? I , very sadly, am not. 🙁


Reusing old kit would benefit both teams equally so in your opinion Leander would still remain the cheaper option. Correct?


Leander would definitely be cheaper in any circumstance, but the main cause of that is the equipment fits. If you strip it back to basically just the hulls, and anything that you can’t salvage from the T23s, the difference in costs will come down to the hull and construction, both of which will likely be higher for Babcock’s team


Looks like Babcock’s comment does not contradict with throwing away the Arrowhead 140 design (and coming back to Arrowhead 120) ? They say they are committed to the T31e program, not Arrowhead 140. Confirmation of “if there is still Arrowhead 140, or not” is of high-priority, I think.

I myself is very happy with Leander design. Yes, it looks like extended heavy corvette, and “250M GBP per hull” price itself is the same to that of typical heavy corvettes (such as Damen 10514). So, it is exactly T31e is aiming at. No problem there. If Arrowhead 140 can be really built within 250M GBP ave, it is great! But, I feel there is not much hope


I suspect very much that you may be right. In looking at the listed requirements for the vessel (, it does appear that the government is really looking for something closer to a vessel like the 105m long Damen 10514 (or the 114m long Korean Incheon class) rather than a ~5500 to 6000t or so vessel.

When I first heard that the program had been suspended, the wording of the governments announcement suggested that they either only received 1 bid, or possibly no bids, under the GBP 250 limit. And from the limited data available for the Leander and Arrowhead 140 designs, it looked like the 140m Arrowhead (with its four diesel engines) was likely going to be a fair bit more costly a vessel than the 117m Leander (with only two diesel engines).

Right now, based on the government’s listed minimum requirements and seemingly firm cost limits, it would seem to me that a vessel like the Leander, or something similar, is what they are looking for.

As such, I too wouldn’t be surprised in Babcock isn’t reconsidering going back to a smaller vessel, along the lines of their previous Arrowhead 120.


Attempting to build ships to an arbitrary and impossibly low cost and timeframe is an obvious admission that you have no strategy.


Not a fan of BAE , but I think there Leander design is a good design .
Fingers crossed it dose not come with the usual BAE cost overruns.
Mind you most cost overruns are caused by the MOD changing specs or delaying completion times.


Seeing they would be built by Cammell Laird, there seems to be little opportunity of Bae cost overruns.


The design is BAE , have faith in Cammell Laird to build a quality vessel but worry about BAE cost control.


To make it clear, if the GFE inclusive issue is new or not.

Does the requirement in T31RFI and this Contract Notice differ? I am not sure.

For me, the only difference is that T31e RFI notes “minimum GFX”, but no mention in Contract Notice.

See detail below.
1: In T31e RFI, it is written as GFX = “Government Furnished Assets/Information”, and as follows;

– (p.13, “8.1 Commercial Principles”)

“£250M is the maximum average price per ship for an initial order of 5 ships. This includes non-recurring engineering costs, contractor risk and profit, minimal GFX proposed by the contractor, initial training and spares. All costs are at outturn assuming an in service date with the Royal Navy for the first of class of 2023, and a drumbeat of a ship delivered every 12 months thereafter;”

– (p.16, “6 Top Messages”) “2. Meet the price of £250m per ship, including your development costs, risk and profit, whilst minimising the GFX burden and cost of ownership to the MOD;”

## GFX is defines as “Government Furnished Assets/Information”, in p.14.

2: In the Contract Notice,

– (in “3. Contract”)

“a total cost not to exceed £1.25 billion inclusive of Government Furnished Equipment (GFE)”

“Type 31e requirement
The Authority’s high level requirement for Type 31e, in accordance with the NSbS, is for:
• five (5) Type 31e ships with a target of the first ship entering into service in 2023 and the fifth ship entering into service in 2028;
• a cost to the Authority (inclusive of GFE) of £1.25BN;
• an open and adaptable whole ship and combat system design;
• a UK focused Design and Build strategy which maximises UK prosperity and is built in a UK shipyard; and
• a ship design with export potential to the global market.”



Looking at the conditions ,including spares ,risk,development, training ,UK design and timeframe, only a slightly upgraded river class can possibly comply.

Phillip Johnson

‘Inclusive of GFE?’ What exactly does this mean? ‘Inclusive’ generally means included. Taken literally that would leave less than 200mil for he hull.

Me Ko Too

Exactly. The price is the total including GFX and at time of delivery of the last of 5 vessels. Apparently ca. 20mio per vessel is the GFX price tag.

Paul Bestwick

Is there time in the bidding process for the bidders to enquire with the MOD the cost they assign to the GFE so that this can be built into the cost model? Also do the bidders know what is in the MOD stores as opposed to on the Type 23 or River batch 1’s?

Captain Nemo

To be honest, when Australia selected the Type 26 design and with the possibility of Canada getting on-board I had hoped that when the Type 31 stalled it was finished, that HMG had realised they had a winner on their hands and were elbowing their way to the front of the room with a small sherry, a big smile and promises of more City class from a state of the art facility; I was of course wrong.
This project distracts us, the money – if it exists – would get us a ninth Type 26 and put the whole class on the water faster, we should focus our efforts on the success of the Type 26 and ensure we order as many as we can or we could find ourselves in the same position as we did with the Type 45.
Type 31 meanwhile could evolve into MHPC.


It would be nice if the Treasury for once honoured it’s promises to replace the type 23 on a like for like basis .
That was the understanding in the 2010 SDR that 13 type 26 would be ordered .
8 is far to few and I fear that such a small order will lead to cost overruns.
I remember the fiasco of the type 45 programme £6 billion for 12 ships , reduced to 10 then 8 and then 6 to save money end result £6 billion for 6 ships .
Now we have the type 26 programme £8 billion for 8 ships , I can see us getting 5 after the Treasury starts cutting.


I wouldn’t be surprised to see the T26 second batch reduced from 5 to 3, leaving a total of 6 T26: 2 assigned to each carrier (mirroring the carriers deployment cycles) and 2 T26 for TAPs. That is why the T31 needs to have ASW capabilities, at least in the second batch of 3-5 that I suspect will be ordered in place of the 2 cancelled T26.


The more I read into this the more I lean towards leander (excuse the pun.)
I think the amount of yards involved in the Iver build may actually be a problem whereas leander being built by one (CL) will probably be more efficient. Does anyone know if the shed at CL is big enough to be classed as a frigate factory?
I’d be happy if we could try and squeeze abit more out of the leander design though. Ie built To warship standards, bigger hangar acoustically quiet?


No, I don’t think the sheds at CL are big enough to build a compete Type 31. I would imagine the plan is for blocks to be built undercover in the sheds and then assembled outside on the slipways. Then fitted out in the basin after launch. Just a guess.


Are you sure that the inclusive of GFE means what you state in the article?

It seems to me that the cost of the GFE will reduce the cost of the ships themselves (£250m less price of existing gear being used) and appears to be a stealth cut in the form of a re-tender. No wonder there was non compliant bids last time, if they have moved the goal posts downwards.


Any one thought of Names for the Type 31e class apart from Bae’s pitch for glory with Leander?

We had the steam gunboats of the Goose class; so what about the Duck class. ‘If it looks like a……..etc ………… it is a corvette!

But seriously as it looks like old and bad habits die hard and Bae/CL it will be, I suggest :
HMS Spoonbill
HMS Merganser
HMS Diver
HMS Muscovy
HMS Ugly


I think names from Sloop, Corvette, and OPVs will be a good candidate; Flower-class, Loch-class,

I just think Castle class will be a good name.
In WW2, it was a corvette. In Falklands war, it was an OPV.

Or, Flower class, the famous Corvette of WW2.


HMS John B. ??


What about just HMS Duck at least it would offer hilarity to the 5 T26 crews

Phillip Johnson

I think you are right. the term GFE usually refers to equipment that the government provides to the builder free of charge. To express a budget as ‘inclusive of GFE’ is a strange use of the term. There are some possible explanations which get steadily worse:
1. A lot of the equipment is being re-used so the T31e project may have to meet the cost of refurbishment or upgrade
2. There isn’t enough government owned GFE. The example would be the Artisan Radar. Only 8 T23’s are scheduled to be fitted with Artisan but nominally that radar is scheduled on both the T26 and the T31. So the project may have to cover the purchase of 5 additional ‘GFE’ radars out of its budget. That may apply to other items of ‘GFE’ as well. Wouldn’t be the first project that nominated ‘GFE’ items and then found that they were used elsewhere.

In short, the 1.25Bil may be funding more than construction of the 5 ships.


The MoD might supply GFE free to the builder but its not free to the MoD.

The line in the PIN means that the MoD will use the Type 31 1.25b budget to cover their GFE cost and so reduce the amount available for the builders to spend.

Which was Steve’s point.


Why is it that you have to find intel about the UK programs from US websites?
If this is to be a true export success then it needs UK content.
Keeping UK industry at arms length is not helping.
Team 31 has gone quiet, the Arrowhead 140 ’web page has been pulled yet it appears the MEKO 200 is now being considered.
What are the people in the MoD and Abbeywood actually doing?
Is it possible someone can access AW and sabotage the squash courts so we can get some announcements or direction?!
I seem to recall the WW1 saying:
Lions led by Donkeys

Me Ko Too

MEKO is a proven design. Is Arrowhead or Leander? In any case whoever wins from whichever country the ships will be built in the UK. Note the MOD is talking about a UK “Focussed” design.

Tim Peterson

Thinking about the RNs ‘high-low’ policy and the state of the River class OPVs, I have put together some cost figures for small vessels and various frigates. The figures are all in 2018 millions of pounds sterling:

Type 21: 176.5
Type 23: 268.1
Type 31: 250
iver huitfeldt: 263.6
Khareef class: 133.3
River class: 116
Black Swan: 75
Samuel Beckett class: 63.9
Protector-class 84.7

Note that the iver huitfeldt is not that much more expensive than the Type 31 budgeted figure. But this figure is based on using the cheapest possible foreign shipyard and recycling existing equipment.

The 2018 pounds cost of the type 21 frigate is included for comparison. We should not fall into the trap of building such a useless vessel just to keep hull numbers up because it is cheap.

Also note that the River class is more expensive than any of the other OPVs, while lacking the 3 inch gun of the Samuel Beckett class. It is also more expensive than Black Swan or Protector class while lacking their hangar facilities. And the Protector class was made in expensive Australian shipyards!

If the money for OPVs comes out of funds we would have to pay the shipyard to stay idle then we should at least aim for getting value for money. Thats if the shipbuilder doesn’t have the MOD over a barrel, making expensive bids and living off the government payment for being idle if those bids are rejected. This sort of ‘corporate welfare’ should be rooted out by reform of the procurement process.


By rights Bae should be totally excluded from the T31 effort, meaning the so called Leaders. They have abused their position by fielding a poorly constructed, over priced, under specified OPV in the River 2 class.
Nothing more to add except if they are not made an example of, with so inconsequential an effort as the River 2s , they will be encouraged to take liberties ad infinitum, ad nauseam.
Who do they think we are?

Tim Peterson

I think the RN should flog the batch 2 Rivers and use the money to make Black Swans, this time with a proper tendering process. These could function as an OPV with a hangar, cheaply with a unit cost of 75 million pounds. Then as money becomes available they can be loaded up with UAVs, UUVs and USVs. Properly loaded out and they become a valuable asset in symmetrical warfare, working under the defensive bubble of full sized surface combattants.

Tim Peterson

We need to think long and hard about the RNs procurement processes. No one seems to contemplate the ‘o word’: outsourcing. We could save billions by using an international tender process to order our ships. We need to think about the arguments for domestic ship building. These are:

a) Jobs. If the government is interested in creating jobs through Keynesian measures then they might as well cut income tax instead of paying more than the odds for domestically produced ships.

b) exports. Better to boost these through international trade deals. Although it is nice when we get an export order for our warships.

c) War fighting industrial capacity. This is the best argument for maintaining and even expanding our shipbuilding capacity, including both manufacturing tackle and skills. But this is only useful in a particular type of conflict: symmetrical warfare that isn’t all over by Christmas. Most scenarios for future naval conflict are either asymmetrical or short duration. Too short to make an OPV let alone a type 26. And in the event of a long duration symmetrical war we may not be cut off from our allies and their shipyards. The UK bought dozens of US warships under lend-lease in WW2. So war fighting industrial capacity is only useful under certain circumstances. Although one can imagine a scenario like unrestricted submarine warfare in the GIUK gap where every little bit of manufacturing capacity is worth its weight in gold, whether domestic or from allied nations who are also putting massive demands on their own shipbuilders.

If we find those scenarios unlikely, then given budget constraints we may have to destroy the domestic shipbuilding sector to save the Royal Navy! But who knows: maybe international tendering would put a boot up the domestic shipyards and cause them to cut their costs in order to survive!



It would be interesting to see the math behind your numbers. Looking through the internet I see an article that appears to have been the source for many cost estimates for the Iver Huitfeldt ( ). In this article, dated 2008, it lists a cost for three vessels of $997m, which equates to $332.3m per ship, which agrees with this article ( and is very close to the cost listed in Wikipedia ($325m vs $332m).

Using a 3.5% escalation factor to go from 2008 to 2018 would increase these costs by about 41% if I did the math right, which would result in a cost per ship of about $468.7m, or about 356.5 GBP at today’s exchange rate, as opposed to the 263.6m GBP that you reference. In addition, the “Defense Technology” article that I referenced, from 2008 appears to specifically indicate that the $997m cost for three ships was exclusive of weapons.

On the other hand, for the Type 23, looking at Wikipedia it suggests that the cost of HMS Norfolk in 2001 was 135.4m GBP, which if scaled to 2018 using a 3.5% yearly escalation factor would equate to 243m GBP, which is very close to the 268.1m GBP you provided.

As such, it would be very helpful to see a bit more info on the background to some of these cost estimates.


Tim Peterson

Here are some more cost estimates:

Type 21: 176.5
Type 23: 268
Type 31: 250 (*)
iver huitfeldt: 263.6 (#)
FREMM (Italian): 543.4
F105: 806.7
Oliver Hazard Perry: 563.7
Type 26: 1000
ANZAC frigate: 234
Khareef class: 133.3
Braunschweig-class: 427.2
SAAR 6: 577.5 (+)
Kamorta class: 508.4
Kedah class: 320.2
River class: 116
Sirio class: 90
Black Swan: 75 (*)
Samuel Beckett class: 63.9
Protector-class 84.7

(*) projected price. None ordered yet
(+) includes subsidy from the German government
(#) includes cannibalized parts from previous vessels

The costs are calculated as follows. First I get the price/year of completion from Wikipedia. Then I use the CPI data in FRED to calculate the cost inflation factor through to 2018 for the country that it was made in (generally a lot less than 3.5% per year). Then I translate that figure into pounds sterling at the current exchange rate.

The biggest rip off by far would have to be the Malaysian Kedah class OPV . And the best bargain the Khareef class. The iver huitfeldt deserves an honourable mention, although its costs were kept down by recycling stuff from the ships it replaced.

Looking at OPVs the RN should have been able to get one with a hangar and a 3 inch gun for a lot less than 116 million pounds based on the costs of similar vessels. The river class is much worse value than the (hangar equipped) New Zealand Navy Protector-class, build in (expensive shipyards in) Melbourne of all places.

Tim Peterson

Runners up prize for the biggest ripoff goes to the Littoral Combat Ships. 372.8 million 2018 pounds sterling (without any warfighting modules) and air defences limited to a single RAM launcher.

Tim Peterson

Actually maybe the LCS is not such a ripoff. I depends how much the warfighting modules cost. A good ASW fit for less than about 75 million pounds would make the whole thing reasonable value for money. Assuming that it’s quiet at low speeds.

The LCS also pioneers plug and play. New weapons and sensors can be added without needing to install new computers and consoles. Instead they just need to install new software. This should, if anything, result in cheaper ships. Hopefully this technology is installed throughout the USN and RN fleets!

Apart from the air defences which are woefully inadequate, Surely they could have 6*4 ESSM in a six pack short VLS for the amount of money that the bare bones fit has. I guess they would have to have datalinks and tracking radar to do that. But at the cost of 372.8 million pounds, what are they spending money on instead of AAW fit?



Thanks for the feedback.

I believe that since warships are intended to be fairly long lived, cost indices such as the Consumer Price Index (or CPI) are not typically considered goo measures of cost growth over time, since CPIs include a lot of perishable and/or short life items (if I am understanding correctly).

For example, looking at the costs listed for the Type 23, the 268.1m GBP listed for 2018 is about 1.98 x the 135.4 m listed for 2001, which works out to about a 4.1% increase per year.

Similarly, here is some data for US ship building costs from 1939 to 2006, which shows growth in both labor and materials over that time. As you can see from the graphs at the link above, although there have been periods of fluctuation in the curves in general the cost growth has been equivalent to about 4.4% per year over that time frame. ( Although this info is for US yards, I suspect that the UK or Danish governments may be able to supply similar data for those countries as well.

As such, I would suspect that a 3.5% cost growth assumption per year is probably not unreasonable, and may actually be just a bit on the low side of the range.

As for the Iver Huitfeldt, the original article that I posted a link to (from Defense Technology Intl) lists the price for the 1st three ships as 635m Euro (or $997m) in 2008. Looking at the conversion rate for GBP to Euro in July of that year (when the article was written) gives about 1.265 GBP/Euro. As such, 635m Euro about that time would equate to about 803m GBP. Escalating by 3.5% per year again increases this by 41% or 1,133m GBP total (or about 378m GBP per ship).

And finally, in the article that I originally posted the author does specifically state that the cost listed (635m Euro) was “excluding weapons”.

Best regards


PS. In the DTI article there is also a statement that “Many of the blocks that make up the frigates will be manufactured in the OSS-owned Baltija and Loska shipyards in Lithuania and Estonia, resulting in cost savings of up to 46%”. It is not clear if this is just a cost saving for the steel fabrication or the whole ship, and I suspect that it is the former rather than the latter. However, as others have noted, if an Iver Huitfeldt derived Type 31 were to be built in UK yards I’d greatly suspect that you would not see that part of the cost savings, as I suspect that UK yards, like Danish yards, are likely more expensive to build in than the Baltic yards (which is why they original ships were built in part in those Baltic yards).

Tim Peterson

The price of perishables and consumables like food and fuel has gone up by more than the CPI. The price of durables, particularly electronics, has gone up be less than the CPI. You get naval cost inflation above the overall inflation rate due to use of legacy hardware, which gets more and more expensive due to smaller and smaller production runs of things like the T800 transputers in the Type 23 (if they even make them at all nowadays).
What we need is an object oriented open systems architecture that can run on COTS hardware like Raspberry Pi, preferably with Linux.

Tim Peterson

Maybe your figure for the cost of the Iver Huitfeldt includes the value of the parts that were cannibalized from the previous model warship?

Tim Peterson

Also I used euros rather than dollars for the cost of the Iver Huitfeldt and applied the Danish inflation rate to it before converting to pounds sterling. This will give a lower figure as the US dollar has gone up quite a bit against the euro since 2008

David E Flandry

Come on, make it 6 ships for crying out loud.