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Production has begun on the first of the UK Royal Navy’s second batch of Type 26 (City-class) warships following a GBP 4.2 Bn (EUR 4.79 Bn) contract awarded to BAE Systems in November 2022, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on 4 April 2023.

The frigate will be known as HMS Birmingham when it enters service and will be the first of a second batch of five frigates to be built in Govan, Scotland. The other Batch 2 Type 26s will be called Sheffield, Newcastle, Edinburgh and London. The very first Type 26 frigate, Glasgow, was launched on 25 November 2022 and is currently fitting out at BAE Systems’ Scotstoun shipyard, while the other two Batch 1 Type 26s, Cardiff and Belfast, are under construction at Govan.

Attending the steel-cutting ceremony at Govan on 4 April, UK Minister for Defence Procurement Alex Chalk stated, “This is yet another significant milestone for the Type 26 programme, supporting thousands of jobs in Scotland and across the wider UK supply chain.

“Working closely with our industry partners, we are bringing in a cutting-edge class of warships for the Royal Navy, bolstering our maritime capabilities into the coming decades.”

The Type 26s will have a primary anti-submarine warfare role, protecting the UK’s Continuous At-Sea Deterrent and Maritime Strike Group. Just under 150 m long and displacing 6,900 tonnes, they will have a top speed of more than 26 kts and a range of more than 7,000 n miles (13,000 km). The Type 26s will be armed with Sea Ceptor air defence missiles; additional anti-ship/anti-surface missiles; a five-inch, 62 calibre Mk 45 Mod 4 naval gun; two Phalanx close-in weapon systems; and other machine guns for self-protection, including two 30 mm DS30M Mk2 automated cannons.

UK Minister for Defence Procurement Alex Chalk (right) and Simon Lister, Managing Director of BAE Systems’ Naval Ships, applaud as the first steel is cut for HMS Birmingham in Govan on 4 April 2023, formally marking the start of production of the UK’s second batch of Type 26 frigates. (Photo: Crown Copyright)

The Type 26’s primary sensors will be a Type 997 Artisan 3D radar, a SharpEye navigation radar, a 2D X-band navigation radar, a Sonar 2087 towed-array sonar and a Type 2150 bow-mounted sonar. The ship will also be able to accommodate two AW159 Wildcat helicopters.

The eight Type 26s will partially replace the Royal Navy’s fleet of Type 23 frigates, 12 of which currently remain in service, with the rest of the RN’s future frigate fleet consisting of five Type 31 general-purpose frigates built by Babcock International.

According to the UK MoD’s 4 April press release, “Construction of all of the City-class frigates is expected to be completed by the mid-2030s, with HMS Glasgow, the first in class, entering service by the end of 2028.”

The MoD added that the Type 26 class was designed for a service life of at least 25 years and will serve in the future Royal Navy surface fleet into the 2060s.

Peter Felstead