Cull BAE fat cats, not Clyde shipyards

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The inflated cost of the Type 26 frigates is neither down to the shipyard workers in Glasgow (who represent excellent value for money) nor any issue with the quality of their work (your report, 13 November.

Rather, the problem is over-specification of these ships (in terms of the weaponry and equipment they will carry) and excessive mark-up and overheads associated with bloated inefficiency in BAE Systems hierarchy. “Fat cats”, management bonuses, flashy offices in Farnborough and London, business trips and jobs for the boys all represent a millstone around the necks of the shipyard workers, in terms of the affordability of the ships they produce.

Similar levels of over-charging by English-based equipment suppliers (whose kit will go on the ships whether they are built in Glasgow or abroad!) is also a concern.

The absurd price that the MoD is paying for the Batch II “River” class patrol vessels ordered last November is ample proof of all this, and the MoD should not be surprised that things are heading a similar way on Type 26.

The reality is that the Type 26 frigate programme represents poor value for money and something of an extravagant (and over-specified) luxury in this era of tight defence spending.

The existing Type 23 frigate fleet could be replaced much more affordably by a combined order for a couple more Type 45 destroyers, a fleet of eight or so lean-manned gun and helicopter-armed patrol ships (more-or-less a simplified Type 26 without missiles and with cheaper engines!), and six or so offshore support vessels (of the type available off-the-shelf in the North Sea oil industry) for deploying towed sonar and minehunting equipment.

Indeed, this would represent an ideal opportunity for the Clyde yards to diversify into building oil industry vessels.

Unfortunately, the Royal Navy continues to thrash around on all this (as it has done since the 1970s) and do everything it can to avoid moving to such a modern, efficient, two-tier fleet.

So my message to Admiral Zambellas is stop holding a gun to the heads of the Clyde shipyard workers, start clamping down on bloated inefficiency in BAE management structures and start reconsidering alternatives to the Type 26 frigate programme.

Meantime, the real worry is that some European yard will trick the government into thinking it can have the ships for cheaper by building abroad, only then to pile on extra costs once the UK yards are closed.

You would hope that our admirals are not foolish enough to fall for this age-old trick, were it not for the fact that they have fallen for such tricks in the past

As I enter my sixth month of unemployment (watching my life savings bleed dry) I feel a sense of irony in all this, that it yet again takes an unemployed (seemingly unemployable) naval architect such as myself to set the record straight on something as fundamental as all this.


Pont Crescent


During the referendum campaign I wrote a number of letters to The Scotsman supporting the fact that a Yes vote would mean that the MoD would not order the Type 26 frigates on the Clyde as the Royal Navy has not ordered warships from foreign yards (which is what the Scottish yards would have been) in peacetime, although it does order Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels abroad.

I supported the comments by Better Together and by the then defence secretary, Philip Hammond. I checked my facts as any good historian, academic and retired reserve naval officer should.

If Admiral Zambellas is being quoted correctly and there is a possibility of foreign yards gaining the order, then I will feel personally betrayed. It may be that this is just a gambit as part of the price negotiations but if it is, it is a highly dangerous one.

Admiral Zambellas has no right making what is, in effect, a highly political statement and one that should be being made in the House of Commons. It would be ironic if he failed to do what Napoleon and Hitler failed to do – break up the UK; ironic because he is one of the men charged with looking after our security.

I have to say that I conclude very reluctantly that the admiral has to go – having interfered in the political process he should resign and if he does not resign he must be sacked as he has betrayed all of us who were led to campaign on the basis of a promise of Type 26 orders.

To those who read my earlier letters, I can only apologise if what the Admiral says is correct – I (and many others) may well have been 

(Dr) Roger Cartwright

Turretbank Place