The Royal Navy may already have identified a possible replacement for its Type 45 destroyers. A version of the new Type 26 frigate, which should enter service with the U.K. fleet in the mid-2020s, ultimately could replace the air-defense-optimized Type 45s beginning in the 2030s.
The prospect of developing an air-defense variant of the Type 26 offers some hope to the United Kingdom’s beleaguered naval shipbuilders that they might be able to build a large number of ships of different classes without a long break in production.
Trade publication U.K. Defense Journal first reported the possible plan for a new destroyer. The magazine cited Paul Sweeney, a member of the U.K. parliament for Glasgow North East in Scotland, where BAE Systems maintains a large naval shipyard. Sweeney himself is former BAE shipbuilder.
“We’ve been told that consideration is already being given to the development of an anti-air warfare variant of the Type 26, a variant that will function as a future replacement for the Type 45 destroyer fleet,” U.K. Defense Journal explained. “The program is currently referred to as T4X.”
The Royal Navy in 2019 possesses just 19 escort ships, including 13 Type 23 frigates and six Type 45s. The Type 23s are general-purpose escorts with an anti-submarine-warfare bent. The Type 45s with their powerful Sampson radars and Sea Viper missiles primarily are air-defense ships.
The U.K. fleet’s two new aircraft carriers each could sail in a battlegroup including a Type 23 and a Type 45.
The Type 45s are not old. The first ships, HMS Daring, entered service in 2009. The sixth and last, HMS Duncan, joined the fleet in 2013. Typically just four of the destroyers actually have crews and are available for deployments. The other two are undergoing refit.
Recently having launched both of its new carriers, the Royal Navy has shifted its focus to acquiring new frigates to replace the 1990s-vintage Type 23s. The plan is to acquire eight new Types 26s and five Type 31s.