THE official steel cutting of the third of the new frigates for the Royal Navy now being built by BAE Systems in Glasgow was hailed as a moment of “naval significance” after a ceremony conducted by the Duke of Cambridge.
Minister of State for Defence Baroness Goldie said the move also points to a long-term commitment with the Type 26 programme expected to progress to its next stage with the timetable for five further vessels to be set out around the late 2020s, all of which will be built in Glasgow.
Vice Admiral Chris Gardner, director general, ships, at the Ministry of Defence trading entity Defence Equipment and Support, said the new frigates will be the “backbone” of the Royal Navy force, in particular in anti-submarine warfare.
Baroness Goldie said: “There has been a tangible sense of excitement and a tangible sense of frankly naval significance because what is happening today is really important.
“This is not just good for defence and good for our security it is fantastic for Scottish skills as well.
“It is providing shipbuilders and their workers with a degree of certainty about the forthcoming years and that is very important.
“That is really important if we want to retain skills and frankly important for the MoD if we want to retain access to quality UK shipbuilding.”
The Baroness added: “The current programme, the first three, Glasgow, Cardiff and then Belfast here being cut today, will be into the second half of the 2020s and then the next batch of five will be organised, and so that is providing a future for Clyde shipbuilding.
“To see that Clyde-built is alive well and in evidence here is a very thrilling development for Scotland and for Scottish industry.”
Mr Gardner said: “It (the Type 26) is going to be the backbone of our future high end war fighting capability, particularly around submarine warfare which is becoming increasingly important on a global scale.”
He added: “Equally they will be a vital component of the carrier strike task groups because they will be providing that anti-submarine warfare screen as well as part of the air defence screen.
“It is a great example of British ingenuity, technology and capability from the totality of the maritime enterprise coming together to deliver this capability, and that has been fundamentally demonstrated by the choice of this whole design by Canada and Australia for their future frigate programmes as well.
“Increasingly as technology evolves and we start to employ more autonomous systems that means that these frigates have been designed genuinely to remain on the cutting edge of delivering the capability that the United Kingdom will need for the next 30 to 40 years.”
William, officially known as the Earl of Strathearn in Scotland, spoke movingly of his grandfather the Duke of Edinburgh who served with the Royal Navy during the Second World War, before adding: “Her Majesty the Queen has approved the appointment of my wife Catherine as sponsor of the superb ship we see taking shape outside – HMS Glasgow. I know that Catherine will be delighted to join you here in Glasgow for the naming ceremony in due course.”
He was guided on the tour by third year BAE Systems apprentice Cara Shannon, who said: “It was as bit of a surreal experience. It was a great opportunity, it is not every day that happens in work.
“He was very easy to talk to and very interested in what everybody had to say.
“I was working on the OPVs (offshore patrol vessels) in Scotstoun for a year and a half, Spey, Trent and Tamar, and I’ve been in lots of different placements throughout the yard as well. There’s loads of work coming up in the coming years, I’ve been a part of it previously and I can’t wait to be a part of it in the future.”