The Type 32 Frigate Promises Greater Automation in the Royal Navy

Although the Prime Minister only announced the new Type 32 Frigate in late 2020, we have some vague clues about what it will do. He announced in the same speech that it has not yet begun the concept phase but will promise to shepherd in a new phase for the Royal Navy.

So, what is the Type 32 Frigate, and how will it fit into the wider naval strategy?

Image courtesy UK Defence Journal.

The Type 32 Frigate

The Type 32 will be a General Purpose Frigate, much like the Type 31 that is in production. It will be flexible, including a modular design and incredibly advanced systems and weaponry. Importantly, it will rely on autonomous systems and warfare.

How this will look is unclear. The Type 32 will probably support autonomous anti-submarine technology and facilitate mine countermeasures. A different report described it as the “drone mothership”. As autonomous warfare shapes up to be the next big thing, it makes sense that the Royal Navy would begin integrating it into frigates.

In short, it will be much like what the Tempest aircraft is to the current Typhoon. However, it differs in that it will not be a full replacement but rather a platform through which the Royal Navy can flex its advanced warfare muscles.

What is its Purpose?

The purpose of the Type 32 Frigate should be clear. It will be a support and defence ship capable of utilising the latest advances in sensor technology and weapons systems.

This is why it will feature a modular design, one of the first things announced about the new frigate class. It will enable technology to be swapped out as new versions enter circulation, meaning Type 32s will stay at the forefront of technology. If nothing else, this will improve the frigate’s lifespan and reduce the rate of refits and upgrades.

Type 32s will exist to fulfil a more specialist role than Type 31s. The latter will enter service in 2027 and will replace the Type 23s. It is a general-purpose frigate, but will also exist in anti-submarine models. The Type 32 will support the support frigates by protecting territorial waters and serving as part of the UK’s Littoral Response Group.

Information on Type 32s is still sparse, as they have not yet even entered the concept phase. The only other thing we know is that production will likely happen in Scotland. Babcock and BAE Systems are working on Type 31s and 26s in their Rosyth and Glasgow shipyards, respectively. It makes sense that these yards would then go on to build Type 32s because current information indicates they will be fairly similar in construction and design to the Type 31s.

Advancing our Naval Presence

The Royal Navy’s Type 32 Frigates will usher in the next generation of naval technology. It is unlikely that the type of sensors we will see on these frigates exist yet, as we probably have a long wait ahead. However, it is one we will be watching very closely, and the early designs will likely be of great interest to the UK defence sector.

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