No Barnacles On Us, Thanks to UK Type 23 Frigate’s New Coating
The Type 23 frigate HMS Northumberland began her journey back to Devonport on Aug 11/05, 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, and also made the frigate the first Royal Navy ship to have a revolutionary silicone paint called Intersleek 700 applied to its hull.
Now, why does this matter?
Until now, toxic substances known as anti-foulings have been used to keep the hull of a ship clean and prevent marine growth from attaching. The International Maritime Organisation banned the further application of Tributyltin (TBT) on ships as of Jan. 1/03, however, with a complete prohibition of TBT on ship’s hulls as of Jan 1/08.
TBT alternatives like self-polishing and self-smoothing copper or zinc compounds are unaffected by this ban, but they still rely on deterring marine growth through the release of chemicals into the water.
Instead of taking this approach, Intersleek 700 provides an ultra smooth, slippery, easy clean surface that prevents barnacles et. al. from clinging and does away with the need to use toxic chemicals. Its superior smoothness is also claimed to decreases hull friction whilst the vessel is in motion, potentially promoting enhanced fuel efficiency and speed.
Regular checks by divers will monitor how the trial is progressing, but the full extent of protection won’t be known until HMS Northumberland enters her next docking period in 2009. Defence Talk reports that if and when this trial is deemed successful, the Royal Navy will adopt Intersleek paint throughout the fleet.
Those trials appear to have been successful. A Sept 4/09 BBC article covering upgrades to the escort carrier HMS Ark Royal states that:
“The refit included the fitting of new exhaust systems, an updated IT network and improvements to sewage treatment plants. The gearboxes, main engines and diesel generators have been refurbished and the hull has been painted with new “intersleek” paint to improve fuel consumption.”
The Duke class
HMS Northumberland also received a number of combat improvements during her refit. She has been fitted with the very latest sonar technology, and converted to operate the Merlin (EH-101 derivative) anti-submarine helicopter. These, coupled with the recently introduced S2170 surface ship torpedo defence system, significantly upgrade her anti-submarine capabilities. Her general purpose capabilities also have been enhanced by the fitting of a modified 4.5 inch gun, while reliability has been safeguarded by major overhauls of the ship’s supporting infrastructures.
Type 23 Duke Class frigates were first commissioned in 1989, just a few years after the Falklands War. They are now the mainstay of the Royal Navy’s surface fleet, forming around half of the total frigate/ destroyer force in the Royal Navy. Originally designed for anti-submarine warfare, Type 23s have evolved into multi purpose ships with the addition of the MBDA (formerly Matra BAe Dynamics) Seawolf surface-air missiles and Boeing Harpoon surface-to-surface missiles. The effectiveness of these ships is enhanced by their stealth design, which reduces their radar signature significantly. The last Type 23 frigate was commissioned in 2002.
In July 2004, the UK Ministry of Defence announced that the Royal Navy’s Type 23 fleet was to be reduced to 13. Three Batch 1 vessels (HMS Norfolk, Grafton and Marlborough) will be retired in early 2006, and have been offered to the Chilean Navy.