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 2005-2015.