UK defence secretary Michael Fallon announced the signing of a contract worth £3.7 billion to start building the Royal Navy’s Type 26 Frigates.
Fallon said manufacture of the first three of the new warships would secure 1,700 shipbuilding jobs in Scotland and 1,700 jobs throughout the supply chain across Britain until 2035.
The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) said a contract for a second batch of five ships is expected to be negotiated in the early 2020s, “paving the way to sustain further jobs in Scotland and across the wider supply chain for many years to come.”
Union leaders in Scotland welcomed the news about the first three warships and urged the UK government to confirm the order for the next five as soon as possible.
Fallon said: “The Type 26 Frigate is a cutting-edge warship, combining the expertise of the British shipbuilding industry with the excellence of the Royal Navy.
“We will cut steel on the first ship later this month – a hugely significant milestone that delivers on our commitment to maintain our global naval power.
“These ships will be a force to be reckoned with, there to protect our powerful new carriers and helping keep British interests safe across the world.
“Backed by a rising defence budget and a £178 billion Equipment Plan, the Type 26 programme will bring vast economic benefits to Scotland and the wider UK.
“The contract is structured to ensure value for taxpayers’ money and, importantly, now designed to protect them from extra bills from project overrun.
“The investment will secure hundreds of skilled jobs at BAE Systems on the Clyde for the next twenty years, and thousands of jobs in the supply chain across Britain.”
The MoD said the warships “will protect the nation’s nuclear deterrent and the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers, the first of which, HMS Queen Elizabeth, has recently taken to sea for the first time.”
It said the deal also reaffirmed the commitment made by the UK government in the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR15) to build eight Type 26 ships.
The MoD added: “The Type 26 programme will secure the long term future of the Scottish shipbuilding industry.”
Admiral Philip Jones, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff, said: “For an island nation, dependent on maritime trade, a strong Royal Navy is essential for our national security and economic prosperity.
“Today there are over 500 submarines in the world operated by 40 navies.
“As one of the quietest and most potent submarine-hunters of any Navy, the Type 26 will have a crucial role to play to protect the nuclear deterrent and our two new aircraft carriers.
“Although designed to fight and win in the most demanding scenarios, they will also work alongside our international partners to protect and promote the United Kingdom’s interests around the world.”
The MoD said the Type 26 will be the most advanced anti-submarine warfare ship in its class around the world and that it is “exploring potential export opportunities where there is strong interest from international customers.”
The MoD added: “The contract is specifically structured to motivate both sides to deliver to a successful outcome where both parties share in the pain and gain in the delivery of the programme.
“This will deliver better value for money for the UK taxpayer.
“The MoD spent £1.5 billion with Scottish businesses last year and supports 9,700 jobs across Scotland.
“The Royal Navy’s new Queen Elizabeth Carriers are being built in Rosyth and the new Offshore Patrol Vessels are under construction in Govan and Scotstoun ahead of this summer’s Type 26 Frigate steel cut.”
Ross Murdoch, GMB national officer, said: “It is fantastic news that the defence secretary has finally confirmed and signed the contract for the first batch of Type 26 Frigates.
“Whilst we understand that it was always going to be announced in batches we look forward to future confirmation on the other five ships.
“It is a particularly significant announcement in terms of the timing given the Queen Elizabeth Carrier going out from Rosyth last week to commence sea trials, as it once again reinforces the world class reputation of our UK shipyard workers.
“This is tremendous news for GMB members in Scotland in particular, but also in the wider context of the supply chain across the UK.”
Ian Waddell, national officer with trade union Unite, said: “We welcome the long awaited news that the Type 26 programme has been given the go ahead.
“These first three ships will secure thousands of highly skilled jobs on the Clyde and across the UK supply chain.
“The contract is testament to the world class skills of the BAE Systems workforce on the Clyde and we urge the Government to sign on the dotted line for the next five ships as soon as possible.”