The Royal Navy now enters the age of the Type 31 as work began on HMS Venturer, the first of five ships ‘at the fulcrum of the future fleet’. UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace cut the first steel for the first Type 31 frigate at Babcock International’s main facility in Rosyth, Scotland, beginning the two-year manufacturing process.
The £250 million HMS Venturer is named after the WW2 submarine, which made history by torpedoing a U-boat while both were submerged – it means Britain’s shipyards are producing two new classes of the frigate for the front-line fleet for the first time in more than 30 years. Scheduled to launch in 2023, it will be joined over the next seven years by sisters Active, Bulldog, Campbeltown, and Formidable.
The Type 31 is a smaller, cheaper frigate than the Type 26 frigates, currently taking shape at the Upper Clyde shipyards. They will replace the five general-purpose submarine-hunting Type 23s coming to the end of their active lives over the next 15 years. The Type 31 will undertake a variety of operational roles, including submarine detection, interception and disruption of illegal activity at sea, intelligence gathering, defense engagement, and providing humanitarian support.
HMS Venturer will be equipped with the Sea Ceptor air defense missile system, a 57mm main gun and two 40mm Bofors, a 4D radar, and carry a helicopter up to Merlin size.
In addition, Venturer will be able to carry the planned Persistent Operational Delivery Systems (PODS), which are at the heart of future Royal Navy operations. Capable of being swapped out even at sea, the PODS are plug-and-play mission modules and can carry drones, autonomous mine-hunting equipment, a command center for commando raiders or humanitarian aid – whatever is needed for a particular mission, all packed into a container-sized box which is easy to deploy and install.
“This is an exciting time for the Royal Navy. The Type 31 represents the very best of British shipbuilding and with its modular design will be configurable to meet the needs of both the Royal Navy and our allies around the world, now and into the future,” said Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral Nick Hine. “Type 31s will operate across the globe with sustained forward presence, further signifying our intent of being a global navy and the foremost naval power in Europe.”
The entire Type 31 fleet is expected to be delivered by the end of 2028 and to enter service with the Royal Navy by the end of 2030, with the first expected in the water in 2023.