7. What progress has been made on the design and development of the Type 26 global combat ship. (903949)
The Type 26 global combat ship programme is in its assessment phase; its basic capabilities and design were announced in August 2012. My hon. Friend is a keen student of this planned state-of-the-art frigate, so he knows that it is being designed for flexibility in mission and capability for the Royal Navy. The final design, equipment fit and build programme will not be set until the main investment decision has been taken when the design has been fully matured. That decision is now expected towards the end of this year.
It has been said that a ship can be in only one place at a time, and the same applies to the helicopter on board. Given the increased reliance on rotor systems at sea, which significantly widen the footprint of influence on operations, ranging from humanitarian to kinetic, will the Minister look seriously at increasing the deck space to accommodate not one but two Merlins, or indeed four Wildcat helicopters, to give Britain’s next ship greater flexibility?
I can assure my hon. Friend that the Type 26’s flexible mission bay is just that: it will accommodate a broad range of manned and unmanned surface, air and underwater vehicles, and be adapted on a tailored mission basis to the changing needs of its deployment. The use of both the hangar and the large flight deck will enable the platform to operate the Wildcat, Merlin or Chinook helicopter, in addition to the ship’s permanently embarked helicopter.