The first of the Royal Navy’s Type 26 City Class frigates, HMS Glasgow, has begun a very slow launch at BAE Systems’ Govan shipyard in Scotland. Rather than sliding into the water with a dramatic splash, the 6,000-tonne warship will be shifted through a complex series of maneuvers onto a special barge that will be towed downriver for several days before being slowly lowered into the water over a number of hours.
At one time, a ship launch could be a spectacular event that would draw a crowd of thousands. With the crash of a Champagne bottle against the bow by a dignitary, the great wedges that fastened a giant hull on the slipway would crash away and, trailing a garland of chains, the new ship would roll backwards or sideways to hit the water with a tremendous splash.
It’s a splendid show, but it’s also inefficient and potentially dangerous. It also requires all the hull components to be solidly in place and essentially complete so it can withstand the sudden shock, which is a problem with modern warships where the bow probably includes delicate apparatus like a sonar array that doesn’t enjoy rough handling.
Instead of a traditional launch, BAE Systems opted for a method used previously to launch five Offshore Patrol Vessels built by the company in Glasgow. Replacing a quick splash, the vessel is set on a barge that can alter its buoyancy. It then takes several days to reach deep water off the west of Scotland and is slowly submerged before the future HMS Glasgow is moved to BAE Systems’ Scotstoun shipyard further along the Clyde river. During this time, the entire process will be monitored by BAE Systems engineers who have trained on a digital twin of the frigate, as well as engineers from Defence Equipment & Support, the MOD delivery agent, and members of the Royal Navy.
The first of eight Type 26 frigates ordered by the Navy, HMS Glasgow began construction in 2017. It is an advanced anti-submarine warfare ship designed to defend the Navy’s ballistic missile submarines and Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers. It will be powered by a Rolls-Royce MT30 gas turbine and four MTU diesel generators driving two electric motors, propelling the ship to a top speed of over 26 kn (48 km/h, 30 mph). It will have a range of over 7,000 nm (8,000 miles, 13,000 km) and the flight deck will be large enough to handle a Chinook helicopter as well as its standard complement of two Merlins or Wildcats.
In addition to the Royal Navy, the Type 26 has been ordered by the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal Australian Navy, and it may be sold to Brazil as well. HMS Glasgow is scheduled to be commissioned sometime in the mid-2020s. Meanwhile, the second and third ships in the class, HMS Cardiff and HMS Belfast, are under construction in Govan.
“HMS Glasgow entering the water for the first time marks a major milestone for the Type 26 program which supports thousands of highly skilled jobs in Scotland and more across the wider UK supply chain,” said Ben Wallace, Secretary of State for Defence. “We’re continuing to invest in the British shipbuilding industry to maintain the Royal Navy’s cutting-edge ability to defend our nation, while strengthening our partnership with allies.”
Source: BAE Systems