Ben Wallace on Downing Street 150920 CREDIT PA

Defence Secretary Pledges To Boost UK Shipbuilding With New Support Ships

The Fleet Solid Support ships will be built by UK-led teams and will support the Royal Navy's aircraft carriers.

Ben Wallace on Downing Street 150920 CREDIT PA

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has pledged to boost the UK shipbuilding industry by announcing three new Fleet Solid Support ships will be built by British-led teams.

A competition to build the vessels, which will provide supplies and technical support to the Royal Navy's aircraft carriers, will launch in spring next year.

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) said a "significant proportion of the build and assembly work [was] to be carried out in the UK", with international companies being invited to work in collaboration with UK firms. 

Mr Wallace said: "Shipbuilding has historically been a British success story, and I am determined to revitalise this amazing industry as part of this Government's commitment to build back better.

"The Fleet Solid Support warships competition will be the genesis of a great UK shipbuilding industry, and allow us to develop the skills and expertise for the shipyards of tomorrow."

Mr Wallace said the Fleet Solid Support ship initiative is expected to support hundreds of skilled jobs.

He will use a speech on Wednesday at the Atlantic Future Forum to pledge the UK's commitment to shipbuilding. 

HMS Queen Elizabeth returns to Portsmouth with tugs 151020 CREDIT BFBS
The ships will support the Royal Navy's aircraft carriers, like HMS Queen Elizabeth.

An MOD spokesperson said: "The Fleet Solid Support warships competition will be designed to challenge the shipbuilding industry.

"The goal will be to build ships fit for the future while boosting home-grown skills and leading to a highly competitive shipbuilding industry.

"The warships will incorporate next-generation technology with a purpose-built design and will eventually support HMS Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales as part of the Carrier Strike Group, which will undertake its first operational deployment next year."

Tom Sharpe, who was the UK Defence Secretary's Naval spokesman until 2017, told Forces News: “I think it’s the right decision to get them built in the UK.

“There is wriggle room in what the Secretary of State has said in terms of it being led in the UK. It's not entirely clear what that means.

“Does that mean physically built here or does it mean that the project will be led here and built elsewhere?”

“There was a statement made a few years ago that ‘complex ships would be built in the UK’,”

“I don’t think anybody really knows what defines a complex warship. It’s a blurred definition and I’m not sure it should be the basis of a decision like this,” he added.

Earlier this week, it was announced the UK and Australia signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work together on the next generation of frigates. 

Cover image: Defence Secretary Ben Wallace (Picture: PA).