OTTAWA -- Canada signed a design contract for its new surface combatant on Thursday, February 7, and the deal was announced the following day. The award follows a brief 3-month negotiation process that started in October when the Type 26 frigate was selected as Canada's preferred option in the surface combatant competition.
The industry team is led by Lockheed Martin Canada, and also includes BAE Systems, CAE, L3 Technologies, MDA and Ultra Electronics Maritime Systems. The frigates will be built at Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax.
The initial design contract is valued at CAD185 million ($139 million), and the value will increase as design progresses. The program as a whole is valued at around CAD60 billion ($45 billion) for the design and construction of 15 frigates. The design work is expected to take approximately three to four years, and construction will begin in the early 2020s. The bulk of the design work involves modifying the base Type 26 design to incorporate Canadian systems.
The Type 26 beat out a number of other contenders. Alion Canada partnered with Damen Shipbuilding, Atlas Elektronik, and Hensoldt to offer a ship based on the Dutch De Zeven Provincien Air Defense and Command frigate, and Navantia proposed a variant of the Spanish Navy's F-105 frigate with the help of Saab and CEA Technologies. Fincantieri and France's Naval Group attempted to bypass the competition by offering an unsolicited fixed-price deal for 15 FREMM frigates, but the offer was rejected.
The program hit a snag when Alion filed a complaint with Canada's trade body over the selection of the Type 26, but the complaint was recently dismissed.
The contract award is a welcome milestone for the Navy, as the program is running years behind its original schedule. The Type 26 is replacing 12 Halifax class frigates currently in service, plus three Iroquois class destroyers that are no longer operational. The last destroyer was removed from service in 2017, leaving a capability gap in the fleet.