The competition to build the Royal Navy's next low-cost frigate moved forward this week as Babcock Team 31 showed off its proposed design for the Type 31e warship. Called the Arrowhead 140, the contender for the £1.25 billion (US$1.63 billion) program is being developed by a Babcock-led consortium that includes Thales, OMT, BMT, Harland and Wolff, and Ferguson Marine, and is based on a design already in service with the Royal Danish Navy.

In order to free up its more specialized Type 26 frigates to serve as escorts for Britain's new strike carriers and nuclear missile submarines, the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) is accepting proposals for a new, low-cost general purpose frigate called the Type 31e. Costing no more than £250 million (US$327 million) each, the hope is by using a general purpose, modular design, it will be possible to quickly expand the fleet with ships capable of handling maritime security, defense engagement, fleet escorts, overseas patrols, and NATO duties.

Babcock's Team 31 contends that the Arrowhead 140's strength lies in its use of a proven baseline hull that will meet both the Navy's needs and be attractive as an export warship. In addition, it would have relatively low through-life costs and its length of 139 m (456 ft) and width of 20 m (66 ft) is claimed to make it easier to design and build.

The current design of the Arrowhead 140 includes the latest Thales TACTICOS combat management system with fully open architecture, which has been in service with 24 navies for 25 years. It carries a medium deck gun of up to 5 in (127 mm), eight small guns in deck emplacements, up to eight surface-to-surface guided missiles in cannisters, up to 32 vertical launch missiles, four dedicated boat launching bays, and a helicopter deck capable of handling an AW-101 Merlin or smaller.

Despite its size, it only requires a crew of 100, yet can handle 150 additional temporary personnel. It has a maximum speed of over 28 knots (32 mph, 52 km/h) and carries enough fuel for extended cruises.

"Arrowhead 140 will provide increased survivability, operability and capability compared to a standard 120-meter design," says Craig Lockhart, Babcock's Managing Director, Naval Marine. "When you consider that this ship can be delivered at no extra cost and that it will support improved radar performance, increase platform stability and facilitate better helicopter operations in bad weather, whilst enhancing crew comfort, we believe it will bring a significant edge to modern naval capability."

The video below outlines the Arrow 140 design.

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