The three fleet solid support ships (FSS) that the UK defense ministry plans to procure for the Royal Navy will be built by British-led industry teams, the country’s defense secretary Ben Wallace said.
The announcement comes after the government relaunched their undertaking for the procurement after cancelling a previous one in November 2019. The decision to open the tender to international competition caused opposition within industry and unions who urged for the support vessels to be included in the list of surface combatants that are exclusively British-built.
The October 21 announcement appears to attempt to find a common ground by inviting international companies to tender but requiring them to work with British-led teams, with a significant proportion of the build and assembly work to be carried out in the UK.
A competition to build three fleet solid support warships will launch in Spring 2021, the government said.
The defense secretary confirmed the news ahead of his speech at the Atlantic Future Forum, where UK and US leaders have gathered on HMS Queen Elizabeth to discuss cooperation across trade, defense and security.
“The fleet solid support warships competition will be the genesis of a great UK shipbuilding industry, and allow us to develop the skills and expertise for the shipyards of tomorrow,” Wallace said.
The warships will incorporate next-generation technology with a purpose-built design and will eventually support HMS Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales as part of the Carrier Strike Group, which will undertake its first operational deployment next year.
The October 21 announcement follows a period of market engagement and a clearer understanding of how the strike group will operate and will allow the MOD to consider a broader range of ship designs.
As well as setting out requirements for British involvement, the FSS competition will set targets to ensure industry delivers on time and at pace, it was added.