By Christian Le Mière, IISS Research Fellow for Naval Forces and Maritime Security
Britain is trying to get other countries involved in the construction of the Royal Navy’s ‘Type 26′ future frigate, UK Secretary of state for Defence Liam Fox revealed at the Shangri-La Dialogue. Fox even went so far as to call the Type 26 ‘the maritime equivalent’ of the US-led, multinational F-35 Joint Strike Fighter programme. Although it’s a bold comparison, given the frigate programme’s relatively small size, it shows the Ministry of Defence’s desire to pursue a collaborative approach to the construction of these boats (although design will probably remain in the UK).
The principal nations being courted for involvement in the Type 26 programme seem to be Australia, Brazil, Canada and Chile.
Although other allies might also be involved, it is clear that defence ties with Australia in particular are a priority for the current UK government. The recent sale of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary’s Largs Bay landing ship dock to the Royal Australian Navy could mean a greater probability of Canberra’s involvement in the Type 26.
In front of his Australian counterpart, Stephen Smith, at the third Shangri-La plenary session, Fox outlined ‘greater plans’ for the Five-Powers Defence Arrangement including Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore and the UK. He also said the UK and Australia would conclude a bilateral defence agreement by 2012.