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Insight: How rising tensions have fuelled the Type 26 frigate's development

12th September 2023 - 18:00 GMT | by Giovanni Rasio in London


A total of eight Type 26 City-class frigates has been procured in two batches. (Image: UK MoD/Crown Copyright)

Slated to enter service in the late 2020s, the Type 26 frigate addresses the pressing need for enhanced ASW capabilities, particularly in light of heightened tensions with Russia. Shephard Defence Insight analyses the design and its equipment fit.


The Type 26 City-class frigate is designed for the UK RN to meet an urgent requirement to replace the existing fleet of ageing Type 23 Duke-class ASW frigates. The Type 26 design is marketed internationally as the Global Combat Ship. It has been selected by the Royal Australian Navy as its Hunter-class frigate and the Royal Canadian Navy for its Canadian Surface Combatant requirement. The first vessel is due to enter service in the late 2020s.


Additional information

What requirement does the Type 26 meet?

The Type 26 design and manufacture programme is known as the Global Combat Ship, created by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD). The Type 26 (or City-class) frigate is designed by BAE Systems Naval Ships, with eight vessels being built by the company at its shipyards in the UK for the RN. 

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It started as the Future Surface Combatant (FSC) programme in the late 1990s that was to replace all 13 remaining Type 23 frigates, but under Britain’s 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review, this has been curtailed at eight, with the remaining five Type 23s instead replaced by the new Type 31 frigate programme.

The requirement for a replacement ASW frigate for the RN has become more pressing since the renewal of tensions with Russia following the latter’s invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine in 2014. The Russian Navy has prioritised submarine development and increased its operations. Therefore, the Type 26 design is optimised with acoustic quietening for ASW operations to improve performance compared to the previous Type 23s.

A £3.7 billion contract to manufacture the first batch of three Type 26 frigates was awarded in July 2017, and the total cost for eight ships was slated at £8 billion. The UK government initially awarded contracts for the construction of three units, although a total of eight ships were planned. The MoD approved an engine order contract for the second batch of Type 26 frigates for General Electric's Rugby site in May 2019.

A contract worth £4.2 billion ($5.63 billion) for the second batch of five was awarded on 15 November 2022. The total value of all eight ships is £7.9 billion ($10.58 billion) over the manufacturing phase.

What is the unit cost of the Type 26?

Given the cost of the first contract, the unit cost has been estimated on average at $1.59 billion each. This is for construction only. The construction value of the first ships sits at $4.77 billion.

On average, the $5.63 billion contract for the last five frigates gives an estimated unit cost of $1.126 billion.

The total value of all eight ships is £7.9 billion ($10.58 billion) over the manufacturing phase. This means that the eight Type 26 frigates have been procured for an average unit cost of $1.3 billion.

How far advanced is the Type 26 construction schedule?

Vessel NameShipyardConstruction start | Keel laid downLaunchedCommissionedNotes
HMS GlasgowBAE GlasgowJuly 201728 November 2022Expected 2027IOC scheduled for 2028
HMS CardiffBAE GlasgowAugust 2019Expected 2028
HMS BelfastBAE Glasgow29 June 2021Expected 2030
HMS BirminghamBAE Glasgow4 April 2023Expected 2031
HMS SheffieldBAE GlasgowExpected 2032
HMS NewcastleBAE GlasgowExpected 2033
HMS EdinburghBAE GlasgowExpected 2034
HMS LondonBAE GlasgowExpected 2035

Work began on the first Type 26 frigate in mid-July 2017. HMS Glasgow began to take shape at BAE Systems' yard in Govan, Glasgow, as announced in April 2019. The ship is not due to begin sea trials before 2025 and will not enter service before 2027. In November 2022, then UK Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace confirmed that the first of class's initial operating capability (IOC) has slipped by one year to October 2028.

The second ship, HMS Cardiff, began construction in August 2019 when BAE Systems cut the first steel. This was followed by the third frigate HMS Belfast on 29 June 2021, when the first steel was cut.

On 4 April 2023, BAE Systems cut the first steel of the future HMS Birmingham.

Equipment specifications

The Type 26 frigates will feature an integrated mission bay and hangar capable of supporting multiple helicopters, such as two Wildcat or Merlin aircraft, as well as UUVs, boats, mission loads and disaster relief stores. A launcher can also be provided for fixed-wing UAVs, and the flight deck is capable of landing a Chinook helicopter.

In September 2013, MTU and Rolls-Royce were jointly been awarded the contract to design the diesel generator sets for the Type 26 Global Combat Ship. The propulsion system consists of a combination of four MTU diesel gensets powered by Type 20V 4000 M53B engines and a Rolls-Royce Type MT30 gas turbine.

In December 2022, Plasan announced that it signed a contract with BAE Systems for the armouring of Type 26 Batch 2. The new Batch 2 contract includes composite armour for five Type 26 frigates.

What weapons will the Type 26 carry?

Armaments include the Sea Ceptor anti-air vertical launch system (VLS) with 48 cells that can fire CAMM missiles and a 24-cell Mk41 VLS that can fire the Tomahawk land-attack cruise missile, anti-submarine rockets (ASROC) and the LRASM. The ships will also be fitted with BAE's Mk 45 Mod 4.5-inch/62-calibre main gun, two 30mm DS30M Mk2 cannon, two 20mm Phalanx close-in-weapon systems (CIWS) and two miniguns.

The MoD confirmed in July 2021 that the RN's Type 26 frigates would be fitted with the in-development Future Cruise/Anti-Ship Weapon (FC/ASW) from MBDA. This will equip the RN's City-class frigates and the RAF Typhoon aircraft from 2028 and 2030, respectively. From the vessels, the FC/ASW will be launched via the Lockheed Martin-built Mk41 VLS, which is also compatible with the French Sylver A-70 VLS.

The decoy systems include the Outfit DLH Sea Gnat fixed decoy launch system, the Naval Passive Off-Board Decoy (N-POD) system, and the Ultra Sea Sentor Surface Ship Torpedo Defence (SSTD) kit.

What is the Type 26's sensor fit?

To reduce costs, a large amount of equipment is being moved across from the Type 23 frigates along with the installation of new systems that are also fitted to the RN’s Type 45 Daring-class destroyer. Sensors include the Type 997 Artisan 3D search radar, SharpEye navigation radar, Scanter 6000 2D X-Band navigation radar, and the Chess Dynamics Sea Eagle FCEO system.

Regarding the EW capabilities, the frigates are likely to be fitted with systems developed as part of the RN's Maritime Electronic Warfare Integrated Capability (MEWSIC) programme.

The sonar fit comprises a Sonar 2087 towed array sonar and the Type 2150 bow sonar. Other equipment includes the SCOT-5 Satcom system for communications, the Rhode & Schwarz NAVICS communication system, and the ECPINS navigation system.

What are the specifications of the Type 26?

The City-class vessels will have a displacement of 6,900t, measuring 149.9m in length and have a beam of 20.8m. Fitted with one MT30 gas turbine, an electric motor and four high-speed diesel generators, the ships use a CODLOG hybrid propulsion arrangement and can reach a top speed of more than 26kt and have a range of 7,000nm in Electric-Motor drive. The ships are also to have a core crew complement of 157 but provide accommodation and health and recreation services for 208, including embarked forces.

This article was created using data and analysis from Shephard's Defence Insight market intelligence tool. For more information or to request a demo, visit our information page here.

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Giovanni Rasio


Giovanni Rasio

Giovanni Rasio is a Senior Naval Analyst at Shephard’s Defence Insight business intelligence service. Before …

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