Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon told shipyard workers in Glasgow today that the government was exploring export opportunities for a new fleet of vessels.
Sir Michael pushed a button to start production of the first of the Type 26 global combat ships for the Royal Navy which he named Glasgow.
The ceremonial event follows the UK Government’s recent award of a contract worth £3.7 billion for the first three ships to be built at BAE Systems’ sites in Glasgow.
This builds on the work already under way to construct five River Class offshore patrol vessels and provides a foundation for two decades of shipbuilding in Scotland, securing more than 4,000 jobs.
Sir Michael said: “Today marks yet another historic milestone for the Royal Navy, Scottish shipbuilding and UK Defence more widely Glasgow will protect our powerful new aircraft carriers and nuclear deterrent, keeping British interests safe across the world.
“The Type 26 is a cutting-edge warship that will maintain our naval power with a truly global reach. Designed for a service life of at least 25 years, the Type 26 Frigates will form a backbone of the future Royal Navy surface fleet into the 2060s.
“The Type 26 Global Combat Ship will be a world-class anti-submarine warfare ship, replacing the Type 23 anti submarine variant frigates, with the first ship due to be delivered to the Royal Navy in the mid 2020s.
“We are exploring potential export opportunities where we have strong interest from international customers.”
Iain Stevenson, managing director, BAE Systems Naval Ships, said: “Providing our customers with next generation platforms and technologies that give them an essential edge is what inspires us.
“Working with the Ministry of Defence and the Royal Navy we have designed the Type 26 in a fully digital environment and have now seen her through the eyes of her crew in a 3D environment. Through this approach we have a mature ship design that is ready for manufacture.”
Former shipyard worker Paul Sweeney, now shadow Scotland Office Minister, said: “I’m delighted my former colleagues at the Govan and Scotstoun shipyards on Clydeside are today cutting steel and starting work on the Type 26 Frigates for the Royal Navy and wish them the very best of luck. It is particularly fitting that the first ship to be built will be called HMS Glasgow, reflecting our city’s world class shipbuilding heritage.
“Just under three years ago, I stood on a stage with former Prime Minister Gordon Brown on behalf of fellow young shipyard workers on the Clyde, urging Scots to vote to remain in the United Kingdom to protect jobs in the defence and shipbuilding industries here in Scotland and today shows we were right to do so as we now see a secure programme of work that will secure highly skilled shipyard jobs till the 2030s.
“I am proud to have played a part in this milestone myself in my previous role in the shipyards and will always use my position as a Labour MP in Glasgow to stand up for the future of shipyard workers and the defence industry in Scotland.
Douglas Chapman, SNP Spokesperson for Defence Procurement, said: “While we welcome today’s long awaited start to cut steel for three frigates, three is clearly not the thirteen promised to the workforce on the Clyde.
“Following repeated questioning yesterday the UK government could not confirm the date for the publication of their much vaunted National Shipbuilding Strategy due last year, which would help bring security and clarity to the future of naval Shipbuilding both on the Clyde and at Rosyth.
“A key component of a steady stream of work for Scottish Shipbuilding is the new T31e smaller frigate and again yesterday the UK Minister could only say it was still ‘at the design stage’ – where it has been for the best part of two years.
“It is welcome that the workforce on the Clyde will push ahead of the Type 26 frigate programme. It is absolutely essential that the Clyde retains the skills and experience it has as a world centre of shipbuilding expertise.”