Type 23 (Duke Class) Frigate (UK)

HMS Norfolk HMS Norfolk HMS Northumberland HMS Northumberland HMS Portland
The Type 22 frigates are among the most successful warships built for the Royal Navy since 1945, but their continued evolution has led to a ship that is probably closer to a cruiser or destroyer (in terms of capability and cost) than a simple frigate, particularly in their weapons fit. What was needed was a smaller more modest design that could back up the Type 22s and provide the numbers required for the Royal Navy to maintain their out-of-area commitments. Initial design work was started in conjunction with the shipbuilders, and the new design would be known as the Type 23. It was originally designed to act as a platform for a towed sonar array, carry light missile system against air attack and have facilities to land and refuel helicopters, although it would not carry a hangar. This was basically to keep the unit cost to around £70 million and in many ways, resembled the philosophy behind the limited capability Type 14 frigates of the 1950s.

As a result of the Falklands conflict the design was recast, lengthening the hull by 15 meters, adding a hangar for helicopter operations, light automatic guns and the Seawolf missile system. The ship now began to approach the Type 22 for cost and complexity and these were not yet the last changes that would be made. Modifications were made to damage control arrangements, and the ship was divided into five self-contained fire control zones, each with their own fire-fighting equipment, escape routes and electrical power supply. New fireproof materials and non-toxic substances were incorporated into the design, and many areas were armoured against shrapnel damage. Length thus increased to 133 meters overall, and displacement (fully loaded) rose to 3,100 tonnes.

Some of these decisions caused a series of political battles, including selection of the surface-to-surface missile system and the choice of the tracking radar for the Seawolf missile system. To this was also added the eventual cancellation of the CACS-4 and the tendering for a new command system, which meant that the early Type 23s were without a computer command system at all. On top of this, the Government was slow to place orders despite the importance of the Type 23 to the Royal Navy. This caused apprehension to among those dockyards that were looking for work and those in political circles seeking a commitment to maintain a 50-ship destroyer and frigate fleet. Despite the various technical and political problems that have surrounded the Type 23 frigate, the final ship is a well balanced design but also an excellent anti-submarine platform.

Ship Names: Norfolk, Argyll, Lancaster, Marlborough, Iron Duke, Monmouth Montrose, Westminster, Northumberland, Richmond, Somerset, Grafton Sutherland, Kent, Portland, St Albans.

How to cite this article: Antill, P. (12 January 2001), Type 23 (Duke Class) Frigate (UK), http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_type23frigate.html l

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