Britain Upgrading Her Dukes [Type 23 Frigates]
Britain’s Type 23 Duke Class frigates were originally envisioned as pure anti-submarine vessels, to the extent of being planned with no other armament. The 1982 Falklands War quickly put paid to that idea, however, and the Type 23s would end up being commissioned from 1989-2001 and fitted with a main gun, Sea Wolf short range anti-air missiles, and Harpoon anti-ship missiles to accompany her torpedoes, decoys, et. al. These changes turned the frigates from specialized sub-hunters into versatile multi-role combatants that play a key role in the British fleet. The Royal Navy is set to continue shrinking in size (see esp. diagram) due to rising ship costs, and even though key platforms like aircraft carriers and amphibious ships may be more capable, the mid-tier combat role filled by frigates is not slated for new construction any time soon. As such, upgrading the Navy’s 13 remaining Type 23s to keep them in service is vitally important to Britain’s future force.
As part of those operational upgrade efforts, the Type 23 frigates will receive: Sonar 2087 towed sonars, the Royal Navy’s latest and most sophisticated submarine hunting system (Thales UK, GBP 166 million for machines that go ‘ping!’); Upgraded vertical-launch Sea Wolf Block 2 air defense missiles to help counter supersonic anti-ship missiles (BAE Systems Insyte with MBDA, GBP 300 million); an improved 114mm Vickers Mk 8 Mod 1 main gun, capable of firing long-range ammunition; and a reshaped stern to cut fuel use. Upgrades are also being performed during maintenance periods, some of which are significant to the ship’s overall capabilities. This article covers a number of upgrade efforts, from 2005-2011.
Events & Milestones
Work is scheduled to be completed by spring 2012, to be followed by sea trials and a return to the fleet by the summer. MoD.
Sept 17/10: HMS Argyll is ready for sea again after her refit. The Royal Navy says that the GBP 20 million upgrade:
“…includes her short range missile system Sea Wolf, her 4.5″ Gun which is sporting a new angular turret (otherwise known as Kryten’s Head in honour of the Red Dwarf character) and her new automated small calibre cannons. From a structural perspective large sections of the hull have been replaced and her wooden flight deck has been removed to be replaced by a new composite material deck. Internally Argyll has been the recipient of 3 new engines, her living quarters have undergone a facelift to improve habitability and all of this is now protected by a new fire and flood monitoring system.”
Oct 9/09: BBC News reports that HMS Argyll has just arrived in Rosyth for a GBP 19 million, year-long overhaul by 120 Babcock staff. Upgrades will include the set noted above, as well as upgraded living quarters.
Dec 30/08: Manufacturing Business Technology covers improvements to HMS Montrose, which has come into Babcock’s dockyard for GBP 15 million in refits. These include the first fitting of the Royal Navy’s newest DNA (2) command and combat system, based on the system being fitted to the Royal Navy’s new Type 45 Destroyers. The GBP 30 million Fleet Wide Management Systems program to develop a common command system across the fleet was contracted to BAE Systems in 2006.
Among other updates, BAE Systems will install the Sea Wolf Mid Life Update (SWMLU), upgraded small calibre guns, and a new IT system that will involve 12 miles of installed cabling.
Nov 14/08: HMS Sutherland leaves Rosyth to embark on 2 months of sea trials after her refit, which included the first ship upgrade to Seawolf Bock 2 missiles. The system will be rolled out across the Type 22 and Type 23 classes by 2017 under a GBP 300 million supply contract with BAE Systems. UK MoD release.
Aug 4/08: A new radar upgrade. BAE Systems announces a GBP 100 million contract (about $195 million) to develop the ARTISAN 3D (Advanced Radar Target Indication Situational Awareness and Navigation) radar, for deployment on a variety of ships. Between 2011-2015, it will also be refitted to Britain’s Type 23 “Duke Class” frigates, the amphibious assault ships HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark, and the helicopter carrier HMS Ocean. It will also be built into Britian’s new Queen Elizabeth Class of full size aircraft carriers. BAE Systems, QinetiQ and Roke Manor Research will form the Artisan 3D team.
Artisan will be a medium range radar used for “volume search”, which means it can quickly scan large areas and pass potential targets to the ship’s fire control radar. It will also have secondary navigation functions, and is being designed to operate effectively in the clutter produced by near-shore littoral environments. BAE has confirmed with DID that Artisan will use a passive phased array design. UK MoD release | BAE release.
July 16/08: BAE Systems announces a GBP 141 million through-life support agreement for the VL-Seawolf missiles on board the Royal Navy’s Type 23 frigates, which will last until 2017. This includes support for the Seawolf Mid-Life Update version that has been added to HMS Sutherland, and the new missiles will be refitted to other Duke Class warships. See “Britain Signs Through-Life Support Deal for Seawolf Missiles” for more.
May 30/08: Following a year long refit, HMS St Albans completes inspections and is ready to begin sea trials. The GBP 10 million contract with Babcock Marine in Rosyth included Sonar 2087 installation, the addition of a new 30mm gun for small threat defense, a new defense-grade communications system, radial filters and vent system upgrades, and converting the ship’s helicopter berth, flight deck, et. al. to accommodate the new EH101 Merlin helicopters. UK MoD release.
A UK MoD follow-on announcement on Aug 7/08 reveals that the ship passed its trials, and has been cleared to rejoin the operational fleet.
May 28/08: Chile officially welcomes the former-HMS Marlborough into the Chilean fleet as Almirante Condell in a Portsmouth, UK ceremony, under her new commanding officer, Captain Jorge Cruz. The ship is expected to arrive in Chile by year end.
The vessel is the last of 3 former Royal Navy Type-23 frigates to be handed over to Chile, under a GBP 134 million pound sales agreement signed in September 2005, with conversions and refits performed by BAE Systems. She joins the former HMS Norfolk (Almirante Cochrane, November 2006) and former HMS Grafton (Almirante Lynch, March 2007). This completes Chile’s renovation of its surface fleet under Project Puente, which included refitted Dutch M-Class and L-Class frigates as well. UK MoD release | Mercopress report.
Dec 17/07: The UK MoD announces that Work to install the first fit of a new, upgraded NATO Radial Chemical, Biological, Radioactive, Nuclear (CBRN) filter system to HMS Iron Duke has been completed as part of the ship’s 10-month maintenance period in Portsmouth, UK. The system will enable more cost effective through-life support through less frequent requirement for filter changes, and may end up being retrofitted to all ships in class. Installation wasn’t easy, however, requiring new installations to the ship’s superstructure as well as a considerable revamp to existing in-board fittings.
Fleet Support Limited (FSL) worked with the Marine Environment Survivability and Habitability and Frigates Integrated Project Teams, and the frigate’s maintenance program saw 40% growth in workload over its 10 months. Externally, the frigate was fitted with a new transom flap to improve fuel economy, a considerable number of sea tubes were replaced, radar trackers were removed and overhauled, and finally an extensive painting package was completed. Internal work included improvements to the ship’s machinery, particularly the gearbox, a new aircraft handling system that lets the ship operate large EH101 Merlin helicopter, and enhanced accommodation for the crew.
Dec 6/07: Britain’s MoD announced that the F81 HMS Sutherland would be the latest to receive these refits, at a cost of GBP 35 million (about $71.6 million). New equipment valued at GBP 18 million will be installed as part of a general overhaul of the ship under a GBP 17 million contract with Babcock Marine at their Rosyth dockyard in Scotland.
Aug 11/05: The Type 23 frigate HMS Northumberland begins her journey back to Devonport, following a year-long, GBP 20 million (USD $36.1 million) refit at Babcock’s dockyard in Rosyth. That refit added a number of combat enhancements.
The frigate is also the first Royal Navy ship to have a revolutionary silicone paint called Intersleek 700 applied to its hull. See “No Barnacles On Us, Thanks to UK Type 23 Frigate’s New Coating” for more.
- DID (Aug 22/05) – No Barnacles On Us, Thanks to UK Type 23 Frigate’s New Coating. The trials appear to have been successful; a new paint was discussed in the November 2008 release re: HMS Sutherland.
- Naval Technology: Duke Class