The Royal Navy and the Next Generation Frigate
Jun 04, 2014
Mark Dannatt

Yesterday, I joined BAE Systems at The Royal Academy of Engineering in London to reveal the latest design developments for the Type 26 Global Combat Ship. This is an incredibly significant programme for the Royal Navy and, by 2020, BAE Systems, together with suppliers including GE Power Conversion, will have built the first of 13 next generation anti-submarine warfare ships for the Royal Navy. The remaining ships will complete at the rate of one per year thereafter.

Replacing the Type 23, the Type 26 will undertake a wide range of roles from high intensity warfare to humanitarian assistance.

Geoff Searle, Programme Director for the Type 26 at BAE Systems, kicked off the event to a room full of press, customers and suppliers, revealing the main features of the ship. One vital element highlighted by Geoff was the underwater noise reduction capabilities of the Type 26; essential in protecting the vessel from detection, and in minimizing disturbance to the ship’s own sonar system.

This is why our role in the delivery of the Type 26 is so crucial: we are supplying the propulsion motors and their associated variable speed drives for the ship. During the event, I had the opportunity to outline how our solution meets BAE Systems’ demanding requirements, which include: 

·         Significant noise reduction through waveform smoothing technology on our drives, good electromagnetic design of the motors and patented anti-vibration technology in the motors

·         A compact design – space on the T26 is of an absolute premium, so creating a power and propulsion system which minimises volume is essential

·         Meeting potential shock requirements; something not usually necessary for our commercial shipping motors


The use of electrification, which is becoming the de facto standard for propulsion and marine services in the Navy, also provides additional energy saving potential, reduced running hours of generators and can provide flexible power reserves for transfer to weapon and sensor systems if necessary.

Electric propulsion is also useful when a ship is required to remain on station at slow or ‘loiter’ speeds for long periods. The motors will operate at very low powers in these conditions only drawing a small amount of power from the ship’s electrical service system providing good overall system efficiency. Saving fuel not only saves money and reduces emissions but it increases range and allows the ship to be more operationally effective.  

When the design and assessment phase is complete, we’ll be moving on to production of the motors at our Rotating Machines factory in Rugby and build of the Variable Speed Drives in Kidsgrove, this should commence later this year. Once we have a shaft set of equipment built, this will undergo string testing at the Electric Ship Technology Demonstrator test site near Leicester with the aim of proving the motor noise and vibration characteristics. 

Understandably there was a lot of competition for this contract, but we have an incredible heritage in this industry. Over the last 25 years we have supplied electrical power and propulsion systems for the majority of the Royal Navy’s surface warships. We are currently building the electrical propulsion system for the four Royal Fleet Auxiliary MARS tankers. The Type 26 Frigate is the latest instalment in the story of our long history with the Navy, and one we are especially proud of.

If you want to hear more, have a listen to my interview with International Business Times yesterday.


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Mark Dannatt

Mark Dannatt is the director for the Naval Business for GE—Power Conversion business, responsible for sales, marketing, design, manufacture and service of specialist Naval Electrical propulsion and automation systems. Prior to GE, Mark was a marine engineer officer for the Royal Navy, where he spent 31 years in total. Mark also held marine power & propulsion and ship safety roles in the Ministry of Defence – Abbey Wood.