Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy traveled to the UK for a visit this week, where he visited Britain’s newest aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales and visited Downing Street.
Zelenskiy told Ukrainian media on Wednesday that a memorandum of understanding for the loan and subsequent vessels would be signed during the visit. The UK has yet to confirm whether the money will be spent on warships.
A UK government spokesperson told Naval Technology: “Ukraine and the UK have a long history of defense cooperation and we look forward to strengthening this relationship.
“As part of the UK government’s ambition to boost trade globally, UK Export Finance (UKEF) has increased its national coverage limit for Ukraine by £ 1.25 billion. This is available for all sectors, not just defense, and does not constitute a commitment of funds for any particular project. ”
As part of the deal, Ukraine is likely to purchase eight Barzan-class rapid attack craft, a ship design originally built in the UK for Qatar in the 1990s. At the time, the ships were built by Vosper Thornycroft; the company’s shipbuilding wing was later acquired by BAE Systems, which gave it ownership of the ship design.
During a visit to Portsmouth, representatives of the UK defense industry met Zelenskiy. However, Naval Technology understands that representatives from BAE Systems were not present at the meeting.
The Guardian also reported that in remarks to the Chatham House think tank, Zelenskiy’s senior aide Andriy Yermak said the UK was “willing” to provide Ukraine with arms in addition to the loan for cover the costs of the vessels.
As part of the proposed deal, it is understood that the first two ships will be built in the UK and the next six ships will be built in Ukraine.
The deal would be a boost for British shipbuilding and comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke of a “concerted national shipbuilding strategy” at the Conservative Party conference.
Ukraine’s naval capabilities were weakened when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, the UK supported the country’s development of new naval capabilities through several initiatives, including the Maritime Training Initiative.
Unions welcomed the reported loan and possible sale, telling Naval Technology it was a vote of confidence in UK shipbuilding, but added the UK government must go further to support the industry .
Shipbuilding and Engineering Confederation General Secretary Ian Waddell said: “This is a vote of confidence in UK shipbuilding, demonstrating our world-class skills and capabilities. However, it underscores the need for our own government to support our industry by continuing the UK construction of the Carrier Fleet Support Vessels.
“Highly skilled jobs are at risk due to a shortage of jobs now that the aircraft carriers have been launched, a gap that the government could immediately fill with the FSS contract ready to go.”
During the visit, the UK and Ukraine also signed a Political, Free Trade and Strategic Partnership Agreement and Memorandum of Intent covering future defense collaboration.
Commenting on the partnership agreement, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “The UK is Ukraine’s strongest supporter. Whether it is our defense support, our stabilization efforts, our humanitarian aid or close cooperation on political issues, our message is clear: we are fully committed to upholding sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
“The strategic partnership agreement we signed today marks the next chapter in our relationship. It is a chapter that will bring increased security and prosperity to both the people of the UK and the Ukraine. ”
In the memorandum of intent, the British Ministry of Defense said the two countries would work together to develop Ukraine’s naval capabilities.
Commenting on the memorandum, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said: “Defense is at the heart of the UK’s special partnership with Ukraine. I have been fortunate enough to visit Ukraine twice in the past year, where I have broadened our commitment to support the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
“Now, I am delighted to be able to welcome President Zelenskyy and Defense Minister Taran to explore how we can further strengthen this relationship.”