Following a 20 November query MP Kevan Jones, asking “when the Government plans to announce further details of the components of a Type 32 Frigate.” MP Jeremy Quin responded today:
“The programme and procurement strategy for Type 32 will be decided following the concept phase, which has not yet been launched. Further work is required to develop the operational concept however it is envisioned that Type 32 will be a platform for autonomous systems, adding to the Navy’s capabilities for missions such as anti-submarine warfare and mine countermeasures.”
Answering a different question, Quin said “the number of ships in the class will be determined by the requirements placed on Defence by the Government, and the outcome of the development work on the operational concept”.
Reference to Type 32 first surfaced two weeks ago when British Prime Minister announced a large investment in the UK’s Armed Forces.
As we wrote at the time, Naval News learned from a reliable UK source that this is in fact some sort of “pre program” put in place for budgetary reasons in anticipation of a future potential “Type 31 Batch 2”. The source added that this potential “Type 31 Batch 2” may not necessarily be based on the Type 31 design.
Type 32 = mothership for MMCM ?
Today’s statement by Jeremy Quin has to be linked with last week’s £184m contract award for the Maritime Mine Counter Measure (MMCM) program. So far plans for the Royal Navy’s MMCM motherships were not clear. Several sources mentioned to Naval News plans of early retirement for the existing fleet of Hunt-class and Sandown-class MCM vessels.
Until today, rumors made mention of the unmanned systems being (initially) deployed from OSV type vessels of opportunity (this will be tested in the Gulf in the near future) and then from the future Type 26 and Type 31 frigates. It appears that the future “drone mothership” for the MMCM systems will actually be the Type 32 Frigate, acting as Hunt-class and Sandown-class replacement.
Drone mothership concept
This concept of a large vessel acting as a mothership for drones is in line with a global trend that consists in using manned surface vessels (sometimes fully-fledged surface combatants) for the launch, operation and recovery of unmanned maritime systems.
As Naval News has reported in the past, the navies of Singapore (MRCV) and Japan (30FFM) are working on such projects. So are the navies of Belgium and the Netherlands in the field of mine warfare. The Russian Navy recently experimented the same concept from one of its Project 22350 frigate while the U.S. Navy did the same with one of its Spearhead-class EPF. Last but not least, South Korea is actively working on this concept as well.