'County' Class Destroyer

The 'County' class destroyer originates from the GW24 design from 1954, which was for a 3,550 ton vessel armed with a twin Seaslug (the Royal Navy's first guided missile) launcher, twelve missiles (the Seaslug weighed some 4,000lbs), three twin 40mm mountings and two torpedo tubes. In 1955 a proposal was made to take the design of the 'improved' Daring class and fit it with the Seaslug. This became GW54 which formed the basis for the 'County' class destroyers. At this time, the days of the large capital ship were numbered as far as the Admiralty was concerned and they were eager to have the best all-round design possible. By 1956 the design had grown to 5,980 tons, and was armed with Seaslug, two twin 4.5 inch gun turrets, two twin 40mm/L70 guns, eight torpedo tubes and a Limbo anti-submarine mortar. The design was accepted for service, with one major change. The Limbo and torpedo tubes were deleted and a Wessex helicopter added, which meant that the hanger had to be inserted between the aft funnel and Type 901 radar. Two quadruple Seacat launchers were added as the ships were building, replacing the 40mm guns. The ship had a length of 520 feet and its shape was dictated by the storage demands of the Seaslug missiles. It had a combined steam and gas turbine propulsion and a complement of nearly 500. The first two ships, Devonshire and Hampshire, were laid down in 1959 and completed in 1962 and 1963. The second pair, Kent and London, were laid down in 1960 and completed in 1963. The design was modified to take advantage of the Mk 2 Seaslug and advances in electronic warfare and sensor systems. The programme was under pressure however from the tightening of the defence budget and the fact that the 'Leander' frigate programme was underway, and upgrades being carried out on the carriers Ark Royal and Eagle. The next two ships, Glamorgan and Fife were laid down in 1962 and completed in 1964 and the last two ships, Antrim and Norfolk, being laid down in 1966 and completed in 1970. The Batch II 'Counties' were modified during their service lives and had two single 20mm guns added, Corvus chaff launchers, and the Exocet missile system in place of one of the 4.5 inch gun turrets. They also had improvements to the electronic systems, including the Type 278 height-finding radar and the Type 992Q navigation radar. The Batch I ships were disposed of during the late 1970s. Of the Batch II ships, Norfolk was sold to Chile, but Antrim and Glamorgan served during the Falklands War while Fife was undergoing refit. Both Antrim and Glamorgan underwent refits but the ships were suffering with the gradual obsolescence of the Seaslug missile and the remaining three ships were eventually sold to Chile in the mid-to-late 1980s.

Names: Devonshire, Hampshire, Kent, London (Batch I); Fife, Glamorgan, Norfolk, Antrim (Batch II).

How to cite this article: Antill, P. (6 February 2001), 'County' Class Destroyer, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_countyclass.html

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