UPDATE: BAE systems' Engineering Manager, Bob Clarke, will speak at a conference organized by IET Solent Network Isle of Wight Section, January 26, 2012. The conference is about the Type 26 Global Combat Ship and it will outline where the Type 26 Global Combat Ship is in it's design programme and consider some of the key technical challenges associated with delivering it, such as manning, propulsion, combat system architecture, international partnering and operational flexibility.
In this occasion we will finally be updated in hopefully great detail about the concepts and design options selected for the new frigate last November.
It would appear that the planned November decision point for the Type 26 frigate was respected, even though to this day there has not been any great announcement or report. The BAE systems' page about the Global Combat Ship has been slightly updated to include a tiny bit of additional details, which are, in themselves, juicy. At the voice "Key Facts" now appears the statement that the data shown is based on the reference design dated November 2011: the current chosen design guideline. Previously, the slightly different data was signaled being based on "a proposed design".
The ships will be 148 meters long and 19 wide (up from 141) and displace around 5400 tons with a 60 days endurance at sea before needing replenishment, a 130 men crew (according to some BAE documents, the actual ship crew would be around 110/115, plus 15/20 men for the embarked Ship Flight) and an Embarked Force of 36. Speed is expected superior to 28 knots, which suggests that an All-Diesel solution (considered cheaper) was not taken, with a combination of diesel and gas chosen instead. An integrated all-electric solution such as that of the Type 45 has been considered, but already from some time it was not considered adequate to meet the stringent requirement for quietness of an hull which will have ASW mission as core task. Range is 7000 naval miles at 15 knots. Endurance and range are thus going to be two big good points of the new vessels.
The most interesting update is however the description of the Mission Bay in the back: it is now described as sized to accomodate 4 12-meters long boats (which will be launched and recovered at speeds of up to 15 knots) or a mix of manned and unmanned surface, air and subsurface vehicles. It will be, it seems, a quite large mission bay, because the description also states that it will be possible to house in it up to 11 TEU 20' containers/mission modules. Learning about the configuration of the mission bay will be very interesting: will there be a RoRo access ramp? It would appear wise to have it, with such an ample cargo area being available. Vehicles up to the size of the RM Viking could be parked inside, after all. In one previous presentation it was also indicated that the Mission Bay could be reconfigured to provide an additional 84 berths. Modular hospital and medical care facilities will also be probably a possible fit.
The bit about air vehicles is also suggestive: will there be a lift from the mission bay to the flight deck or hangar? It would appear necessary if the air drones are to be stowed down in the mission deck, and wise for a whole range of other reasons, as it would ease the usage of any kind of equipment and cargo carried in the mission bay.
The Hangar bit in the interactive picture is unchanged, and speaks about one light or one medium helicopter: it is actually expected that the hangar will be very similar to the Type 45's one, so it will be able to take 2 Wildcats or a Merlin, even though normally only one helicopter will be carried.
According to news reports, the 127 mm gun option has also emerged strenghtened by the Naval Gunfire Support experience in Libya, which means that, possibly, the Type 26 will be succesful in what the Type 45 tried to do but failed: bringing the RN into a new "gun era" with the demise of the MK8. Whatever gun is chosen for the Type 26 (if the 127 mm solution is adopted, the choice is between the BAE-United Defense MK45 and the Babcock-Oto Melara 127/64 LW, the latter being the favorite) it will have to be retrofittable to Type 45. Both guns meet this requirement. The BAE page mentions Loitering Ammunitions as well, and it must be noted that Fire Shadow, which will debut next year in Afghanistan, has the Navy's eye and is being marketed for use at sea. It is compatible with the Sylver VLS cells, so one day we might have a Fire Shadow variant vertically launched from the missile silos of Type 45 (first ship for which this possibility was mentioned) and Type 26.
A catapult for the launch of Boeing ScanEagle minidrones (tested by the Royal Navy on a Type 23 frigate already in 2001) is also shown in many images and videos, even though the Royal Navy is actually now more interested in a helicopter-drone, with a project for experimental conversion of ex-army Gazelle helos into drones having been proposed at DSEI.
This interesting video is also worth a look: even though it is outdated in some aspects, it should still be valid in many others.
I hope that there will soon be more solid information coming out, though, including images, hopefully.
But the Type 26 frigate has just gotten more interesting.