Ministry of Defence: Type 45 Destroyer - Public Accounts Committee Contents

1  The Type 45 Destroyer capability

1. The Ministry of Defence (the Department) is procuring a fleet of six Type 45 Destroyers, fitted with the new Principal Anti-Air Missile System (PAAMS), which are intended to form the backbone of the Royal Navy's air defence capability for the next 30 years.[2] They will replace the ageing Type 42s, which have been in service since the 1970s and are now coming to the end of their lives. The first of class, Daring, is due to enter service in November 2010, three years later than originally planned, although the Department is working to an earlier 'target' date of December 2009. (To avoid confusion, we refer to the earlier target date throughout this report.) The remaining five destroyers will come into service at regular intervals over the following three to four years. The current forecast cost of the project is £6.46 billion, an increase of 29% (£1.5 billion) on the original budgeted cost when the main investment decision was taken.[3]

2. The Type 45 will provide a superior capability to the Type 42s, and is a sophisticated piece of technology, with new gas turbines, engines, radar and weapons. The Committee visited both types of ship, and was particularly impressed with the manoeuvrability, speed and ability to accelerate and stop of the Type 45 Destroyer, and by the accommodation provided for the ship's crew.[4] The Type 45 is designed so it can be upgraded and updated with new capabilities throughout its 30-year life. In particular, the amount of space, installed power, and operating systems should make it easier to add upgrades and new equipments at a later date.[5]

3. As a result of the delays to the Type 45, the Department has had to extend the life of some of the Type 42 Destroyers past their original planned retirement dates, at a cost of £195 million. This figure would be higher were it not for the Department's cost cutting measures, most notably retiring three Type 42s up to two years early in 2005, saving £119 million, and using spare parts from other retired destroyers.[6] The Department does not consider that £195 million is the net additional cost of running on these ships for longer, as it needs to be set against the support costs not yet being incurred for the Type 45. The Department is aiming to achieve continued capability as the Type 45 Destroyers enter service progressively.[7]

4. The five Type 42s still in active service are increasingly expensive to run and maintain, and their declining effectiveness means that they offer a much more limited capability than the Type 45. The Committee was deeply concerned about the potential impact on the UK's air defence capability of relying on just five ageing Type 42s, in particular, their greater vulnerability to sea-skimming missiles and their ability to deal with the most up to date threats from a modern sophisticated enemy. The Department did not share these concerns and considers that the Type 42s are still competent ships, which will cope with most of the military scenarios except the most operationally demanding. However, they will not cope well into the future, which is why the Type 45 Destroyers are badly needed.[8] An additional three Type 42s were removed from active service in 2008, and could be made available if required, although only at considerable cost and not within any short period of time.[9]

5. The Department is now only procuring half of the 12 ships that it originally planned to when the project was first approved in 2000. The requirement for 12 ships was reduced to eight in 2004 because of changes in the perceived threat, revised planning assumptions, and improvements in network enabled capability, and finally down to six ships in 2008.[10] The Committee remains deeply concerned that the reduction to six ships will make it very challenging for the Department to meet its operational requirement to have five ships at sea at any one time. This requirement remains unchanged despite the cut in numbers to six. The Department cannot commit to always maintaining this level of availability. It told the Committee that it will be able to maintain four ships at sea, and while there is very high probability of maintaining five, there is a small risk it will not.[11]

6. The Department judges this to be a manageable risk and is looking to mitigate it through the support arrangements it agrees for the ship, through other elements of air defence, and through capabilities on other ships such as the Future Surface Combatant, although the Committee notes this will not enter service until at least 2018. Should only four ships be available, the Department will have to "juggle and hope". The Navy would adapt its tactics and techniques accordingly to reduce the risk of a successful attack to an absolute minimum.[12]

2   C&AG's Report, para 1.1 Back

3   C&AG's Report, para 2 Back

4   Qq 1, 15, 75-76 Back

5   Q 53 Back

6   Q 40; C&AG's Report, paras 1.5-1.8 Back

7   Qq 39-41 Back

8   Qq 7-9, 58, 76 Back

9   Q 57 Back

10   Qq 3-5, 62; C&AG's Report, para 1.21 Back

11   Q 6 Back

12   Qq 6, 62, 88-93 Back

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Prepared 22 June 2009