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UK starts work on 2nd Type 31 frigate as reports on Type 32 axing emerge

HMS Active Type 31 construction start
Royal Navy photo of HMS Active first steel cutting ceremony

The Royal Navy has marked the official start of construction work on the second of its Type 31 frigates, future HMS Active, with a steel-cutting ceremony at Babcock’s Rosyth yard.

Veterans from the last ship to bear the name were invited to Rosyth to help defense minister Alex Chalk, Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral Martin Connell and shipwrights start work on the second of five Type 31 frigates which will become the backbone of the fleet’s global operations by the decade’s end.

They set the cutters running on the first plates of steel for the 5,700-ton warship which will perform general duties alongside submarine-hunting Type 26 frigates. Four more four Inspiration-class ships, as the Type 31 is also referred to, will be built to replace the existing Type 23s flotilla.

Royal Navy Inspiration-class frigates
Photo: Royal Navy

The Type 31s will be longer and larger than their predecessors, equipped with a 57mm and two 40mm Bofors guns, the Sea Ceptor air defense system, a 4D radar, a large flight deck and hangar, and mission bays to fit equipment – such as diving, minehunting kit, drones or disaster relief supplies – to perform a variety of missions: maritime security operations, humanitarian aid, air defense, gunfire support, board and search.

A general-purpose frigate dubbed the Type 32 had also been expected to be part of the future fleet, but recent reports indicate these plans could change. According to a National Audit Office report from November last year, the UK defense ministry dropped the plan to fund Type 32 frigates and multirole support ships (MRSS) after the were deemed unaffordable.

More recent reports out of the UK said the project was endangered by cost issues, with The Times quoting defense ministry insiders that the class is unlikely to be included in the upcoming defense review.

A few days after the reports, Alex Chalk, minister of state in the defense ministry, weighed in on the topic saying the Type 32 frigate program was still “a key part of the future fleet and is currently in the concept phase.”

He did note, however, that “work continues to ensure the program is affordable.”

Trade union Prospect said the withdrawal of £2.5bn in funding for the Type 32 program would be “devastating” to Rosyth and to UK shipbuilding as a whole.

“This government has already sold out UK shipbuilding by giving the bulk of the work for the Fleet Solid Support ships to Spain. If they do withdraw this funding it will demonstrate that they care not one jot for the industry or for the UK’s sovereign defense capability,” Richard Hardy, Prospect’s Scottish National Secretary, said.