Type 23 frigate

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HMS Sutherland (F81) MoD.jpg
HMS Sutherland (F81), December 2012
Class overview
NameType 23 frigate
BuildersYarrow Shipbuilders and Swan Hunter
Preceded byType 22 frigate
Succeeded by
Cost£130M per ship
In commission24 November 1987
Active13 Royal Navy, 3 Chilean Navy
General characteristics
TypeAnti-submarine warfare
Displacement4,900 t (4,800 long tons; 5,400 short tons)[1]
Length133 m (436 ft 4 in)
Beam16.1 m (52 ft 10 in)
Draught7.3 m (23 ft 9 in)
SpeedIn excess of 28 kn (52 km/h; 32 mph) (HMS Sutherland achieved 34.4 knots during high-speed trials in November 2008)
Range7,500 nautical miles (14,000 km) at 15 kn (28 km/h)
Complement185 (accommodation for up to 205)
Electronic warfare
& decoys
Aircraft carried
Aviation facilities

The Type 23 frigate or Duke-class is a class of frigate built for the United Kingdom's Royal Navy. The ships are named after British Dukes, thus leading to the class being commonly known as the Duke-class. The first Type 23 was commissioned in 1989, and the sixteenth, HMS St Albans was commissioned in June 2002. They form the core of the Royal Navy's destroyer and frigate fleet and serve alongside the Type 45 destroyers. Originally designed for anti-submarine warfare in the North Atlantic, the Royal Navy’s Type 23 frigates have proven their versatility in warfighting, peace-keeping and maritime security operations around the globe.[3] Thirteen Type 23 frigates remain in service with the Royal Navy, with three vessels having been sold to Chile and handed over to the Chilean Navy.

The Royal Navy’s current Type 23 frigates will be replaced by the Type 26 Global Combat Ship starting from 2021, and later the proposed Type 31e frigate.[4] As of 2012 it is planned that HMS Argyll will be the first Type 23 to retire from the Royal Navy in 2023 while HMS St Albans will be the last, in 2036.[5][6]


When first conceived in the late 1970s, the Type 23 was intended to be a light anti-submarine frigate to counter Soviet nuclear submarines operating in the North Atlantic. The Type 23 would be replacing the Leander class frigates (which had entered service in the 1960s) and the Type 21 frigate (a general purpose design that recently entered service) as "the backbone of the Royal Navy's surface ship anti-submarine force". Although not intended to replace the Type 22 frigate, reductions in the size of the Navy due to the 1998 Strategic Defence Review led to HMS St Albans replacing HMS Coventry, a Type 22 frigate.[7]

Overhead view of HMS Richmond in August 2013

The ships were intended to carry a towed array sonar to detect Soviet submarines in the North Atlantic and carry a Westland Lynx or EHI Merlin helicopter to attack them.[8] It was initially proposed that the frigates would not mount defensive armament. Instead the Sea Wolf missile system was to be carried by Fort Victoria class replenishment oilers, one of which was to support typically four Type 23s. The Fort class oilers would also provide servicing facilities for the force's helicopters; the Type 23 would have facilities only for rearming and refuelling them.

As a result of lessons learned from the Falklands War, the design grew in size and complexity to encompass the Vertical Launch Sea Wolf (VLS) system with an extra tracking system as a defence against low-flying aircraft and sea-skimming anti-ship missiles such as Exocet.[8] With the addition of Harpoon surface-to-surface missiles and a medium calibre gun for naval gunfire support, the Type 23 had evolved into a more complex and balanced vessel optimised for general warfare, which introduced a host of new technologies and concepts to the Royal Navy. These included extensive radar cross-section reduction design measures, automation to substantially reduce crew size, a combined diesel-electric and gas (CODLAG) propulsion system providing very quiet running for anti-submarine operations along with excellent range, vertical launch missile technology and a fully distributed combat management system.

The Vertical Launch Sea Wolf surface-to-air missile system was designed for and first deployed on the Type 23. Unlike conventional Sea Wolf, the missile is boosted vertically until it clears the ship's superstructure and then turns to fly directly to the target. Consequently, the ship's structure does not cause no-fire zones that would delay or inhibit missile firing in a conventionally launched system.

Although the Type 23 is officially the "Duke" class, and includes such famous names as HMS Iron Duke (which had been the name of the battleship HMS Iron Duke, Admiral Jellicoe's flagship at the Battle of Jutland), five of the names had previously been used on classes known as the "County class": Kent and Norfolk were names given both to 1960s guided missile destroyers and Second World War-era County class heavy cruisers, while Monmouth, Lancaster, Kent and Argyll revived names carried by First World War-era Monmouth class armoured cruisers. This use of Ducal and County names broke a tradition of alphabetical names for escort ships which had run in two – not unbroken – cycles from the L-class destroyers of 1913 to the Daring-class destroyers of 1950; this progression was revived with the Amazon-class Type 21 frigates of 1972–75, and continued with B and C names for most of the Type 22 frigates of 1976–89. However, the D names have since been used for the new Type 45 Daring-class destroyers, the first of which entered service in 2009.

It is stated that: "Type 23 frigates achieved approximately 85–89 per cent average availability for operational service in each of the last five years with the exception of 1996 when the figure dropped to just over 80 per cent due to a number of ships experiencing a particular defect. This discounts time spent in planned maintenance."[9]

Unlike the Type 45 destroyer, the "Type 23 frigate does not have the capability or configuration to act as flagship and is not tasked in this way."[10]

Programme costs

Prior to the Falklands War the cost of the Type 23 frigates was estimated at £75 million each (September 1980 prices)[11] Changes following the experiences in the Falklands, including improved damage control and fire precautions,[12] led to an increased cost estimated at £110 million (1984–85 prices)[11] By 2001, the Ministry of Defence said the cost of HMS Norfolk was £135.449 million and the remaining ships would have a final cost between £60 million and £96 million each. The Ministry of Defence said in 1998 that the Merlin ASW helicopter was costing them £97M each (this was for an order for 44 airframes), and that this was 57% of the cost of Type 23.[13] From this it can be calculated that the cost of Type 23 was £170.1M each. The Government's declared policy for construction contracts for Type 23 was "...competition, the aim being to secure best value for money for the defence budget." while maintaining "sufficient warship-building capacity to meet likely future defence requirements and a competitive base"[14]

HMS Norfolk was the first of the class to enter service, commissioned into the Fleet on 1 June 1990 at a cost of £135.449 million GBP, later vessels cost £60–96 million GBP.[15]

Upgrades and future technologies

The Type 23's propeller is specially designed to reduce underwater noise during anti-submarine operations.
Type 997 Artisan 3D radar on HMS Argyll following her 2010 refit

Mid-life refit

The class are currently[when?] going through mid-life refits which last 12–18 months and cost £15-20m. Aside from refurbishment of the mess decks and drive train, the ships are being fitted with a transom flap which can add up to 1 knot to the top speed[16] and reduce fuel consumption by 13%, and Intersleek anti-fouling paint which added 2 knots to the top speed of Ark Royal.[17] Although the top speed of the Duke class is commonly quoted as 28 knots, the caption of an official Navy photo suggests that Lancaster was capable of 32 knots even before her mid-life refit.[18][19] The Sea Wolf Mid Life Update (SWMLU) improves the sensors and guidance of the missiles, point defences are further improved with new remotely operated 30mm guns, and Mod 1 of the Mk8 main gun has an all-electric loading system and a smaller radar cross-section. The communications and command systems are also upgraded.

A further refit is expected, with HMS Argyll being the first to receive this Life Extension (LIFEX) Upkeep. Amongst the upgrades will be the replacement of the Sea Wolf missiles with the new Sea Ceptor anti-air defence missiles;[20] these were first test-fired from HMS Argyll on 4 September 2017.[21]

Sonar 2087

Sonar 2087 is described by its manufacturer as "a towed-array system that enables Type 23 frigates to hunt the latest submarines at considerable distances and locate them beyond the range at which they [submarines] can launch an attack."[22] Sonar 2087 was fitted to eight Type 23 frigates in mid-life refits between 2004 and 2012; the five oldest Type 23 frigates, HMS Montrose, Monmouth, Iron Duke, Lancaster and Argyll are not scheduled to receive Sonar 2087. These ships will instead continue to be employed across the normal range of standing Royal Navy deployments. The Chilean Navy is procuring a number of Sonar 2087 towed arrays from Thales Underwater Systems to equip its multipurpose frigates.[23]

Artisan 3D radar

The Type 23's medium-range radar will be replaced by BAE Systems Insyte Type 997 Artisan 3D radar. It is a medium-range radar designed to be extremely modular and highly configurable to provide a cost-effective high-performance radar, capable of operating effectively in littoral zones and improving air-defence, anti-surface (anti-ship) and air traffic management capabilities of the Type 23 frigates. Protection measures are also added to maintain detection ranges even when attacked by complex jammers.[24][25] HMS Iron Duke is the first Type 23 frigate to have received the Type 997 Artisan 3D radar during her refit in 2012–13.[26] It will be fitted to all T23's as well as the assault platforms (LPD) - HMS Albion & HMS Bulwark, the Helicopter Platform (LPH) - HMS Ocean and the two future Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers are also planned to be equipped with the same radar. The project was worth £100 Million and the contract was announced on 4 August 2008.[27]

HMS Iron Duke received her new Type 997 Artisan 3D radar in 2013. It is claimed the radar is 5 times more capable than the Type 996 radar it replaces.[28][29]

Common Anti-Air Modular Missile

CAMM(M), the maritime variant of the Common Anti-Air Modular Missile, is intended to replace the current Sea Wolf missile currently equipped on the Type 23 frigates starting from 2016. CAMM(M) has a longer range of 1–25+ km compared to the 1–10 km offered by the Sea Wolf missile. An option exists to give the missile a surface-attack capability, though it is currently understood the Royal Navy will not take that option, due to budget reasons.[30] Like Sea Wolf, CAMM(M) will be VLS launched; however due to its design, CAMM(M) can be packed much more tightly into the VLS, with up to four CAMM(M) fitting into the space occupied by one Sea Wolf missile.[31] CAMM(M) is known as Sea Ceptor in Royal Navy service.

Weapons, countermeasures, capabilities and sensors

HMS Montrose fires her Sea Wolf missiles.
HMS Richmond firing a Harpoon anti-ship missile.
HMS Northumberland fires her 4.5 inch Mark 8 naval gun.
Anti-air warfare

A 32-cell Sea Wolf GWS.26 VLS canisters for up to 32:

The Type 996 Mod 1, 3D surveillance and target indication radar is being replaced on all Type 23 frigates by the more capable Type 997 Artisan 3D radar.

Anti-ship warfare

An embarked helicopter is equipped with its own dipping sonar, sonobuoys and radars.

Anti-submarine warfare
  • The Seagnat decoy system allows for the seduction and distraction of radar guided weapons, through active and passive means.
  • Type 182 towed torpedo decoys.
  • Type 2070 towed torpedo decoy system.
  • Thales defence Scorpion Electronic Counter Measures/UAF-1 ESM Jammer. Used to confuse or block enemy radar making the Type 23 frigate harder to detect and or locked onto by enemy radar/sonar guided weapons.
Electronic systems
Additional capabilities
  • The Type 23 frigates have sufficient space to embark a small detachment of Royal Marines and their equipment.


On 21 July 2004, in the Delivering Security in a Changing World review of defence spending, Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon announced that HMS Norfolk, Marlborough and Grafton were to be paid off. In 2005 it was announced that these three vessels would be sold to the Chilean Navy, to be delivered in 2008. In September 2005 BAE Systems was awarded a £134 million GBP contract to prepare the frigates for transfer. ex-Marlborough, ex-Norfolk and ex-Grafton were sold to Chile for a total of £134 million. The letter of intent for purchase was signed in December 2004, followed by a formal contract on 7 September 2005.[33] ex-Norfolk was handed over by the Defence Logistics Organisation and BAE Systems and commissioned into the Chilean Navy on 22 November 2006, and named Almirante Cochrane (FF-05) (after Lord Cochrane, a naval hero to both the British and Chileans). Ex-Grafton was delivered to Chilean Navy on 28 March 2007 at Portsmouth and renamed Almirante Lynch (FF-07). Ex-Marlborough was delivered to Chilean Navy on 28 May 2008 at Portsmouth and renamed Almirante Condell (FF-06).

Name Pennant No. Builder Laid down Launched Commissioned Status
Norfolk F230 Marconi Marine (YSL), Scotstoun 14 December 1985[34][35] 10 July 1987[34][35] 1 June 1990[34][35] To Chile as Almirante Cochrane
Marlborough F233 Swan Hunter, Wallsend 22 October 1987[34][36] 21 January 1989[34][36] 14 June 1991[34][36] To Chile as Almirante Condell
Argyll F231 Marconi Marine (YSL), Scotstoun 20 March 1987[34][35] 8 April 1989[34][35] 31 May 1991[34][35] In active service, expected to be decommissioned in 2023[37]
Lancaster F229 Marconi Marine (YSL), Scotstoun 18 December 1987[34][35] 24 May 1990[34][35] 1 May 1992[35] In active service, expected to be decommissioned in 2024[37]
Iron Duke F234 Marconi Marine (YSL), Scotstoun 12 December 1988[34][35] 2 March 1991[34][35] 20 May 1993[34][35] In active service, expected to be decommissioned in 2025[37]
Monmouth F235 Marconi Marine (YSL), Scotstoun 1 June 1989[34][35] 23 November 1991[34][35] 24 September 1993[34][35] In active service, expected to be decommissioned in 2026[37]
Montrose F236 Marconi Marine (YSL), Scotstoun 1 November 1989[34][35] 31 July 1992[34][35] 2 June 1994[35] In active service, expected to be decommissioned in 2027[37]
Westminster F237 Swan Hunter, Wallsend 18 January 1991[34][35] 4 February 1992[35] 13 May 1994[34][35] In active service, expected to be decommissioned in 2028[37]
Northumberland F238 Swan Hunter, Wallsend 4 April 1991[34][35] 4 April 1992[34][35] 29 November 1994[35] In active service, expected to be decommissioned in 2029[37]
Richmond F239 Swan Hunter, Wallsend 16 February 1992[35] 6 April 1993[34][35] 22 June 1995[35] In active service, expected to be decommissioned in 2030[37]
Somerset F82 Marconi Marine (YSL), Scotstoun 12 October 1992[34][35] 25 June 1994[34][35] 20 September 1996[35] In active service, expected to be decommissioned in 2031[37]
Grafton F80 Marconi Marine (YSL), Scotstoun 13 May 1993[34][36] 5 November 1994[34][36] 29 May 1997[34][36] To Chile as Almirante Lynch
Sutherland F81 Marconi Marine (YSL), Scotstoun 14 October 1993[34][35] 9 March 1996[34][35] 4 July 1997[35] In active service, expected to be decommissioned in 2032[37]
Kent F78 Marconi Marine (YSL), Scotstoun 16 April 1997[35] 27 May 1998[35] 8 June 2000[35] In active service, expected to be decommissioned in 2033[37]
Portland F79 Marconi Marine (YSL), Scotstoun 14 January 1998[35] 15 May 1999[35] 3 May 2001[35] In active service, expected to be decommissioned in 2034[37]
St Albans F83 Marconi Marine (YSL), Scotstoun 18 April 1999[35] 6 May 2000[35] 6 June 2002[35] In active service, expected to be decommissioned in 2035[37]
 Chilean Navy
Almirante Cochrane FF05 Marconi Marine (YSL), Scotstoun 14 December 1985[34][35] 10 July 1987[34][35] 22 November 2006 In active service, former HMS Norfolk (F230)
Almirante Condell FF06 Swan Hunter, Wallsend 22 October 1987[34][36] 21 January 1989[34][36] 28 May 2008 In active service, former HMS Marlborough (F233)
Almirante Lynch FF07 Marconi Marine (YSL), Scotstoun 13 May 1993[34][36] 5 November 1994[34][36] 28 March 2007 In active service, former HMS Grafton (F80)

In fiction

See also


  1. Royal Navy Frigates: Type 23 Frigate, royalnavy.mod.uk
  2. Peruzzi, Luca. "Royal Navy unveiled Sea Ceptor and launched first user group at DSEI 2017". European Defence Review. Retrieved 21 June 2021.
  3. BAE Systems: Type 23 Frigate, baesystems.com
  4. "Royal Navy Future Ships: Type 26 Global Combat Ship". Royal Navy.
  5. "Daily Hansard - Written Answers to Questions". UK Parliament. 6 September 2012.
  6. "Navy unveils latest design of future frigate". Royal Navy. 20 August 2012.
  7. Hansard 11 Jul 2000: Column: 449W Question to the Secretary of State for Defence when he planned to withdraw the Type 22 Batch II frigates from service. His answer was:
    • "HMS Sheffield 2012 – to be superseded by a T45 Destroyer
    • HMS Coventry 2001 – to be superseded by HMS St. Albans, a T23 Frigate".
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Defence;Where's the cache?". The Economist. 10 July 1982. p. 21. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  9. Hansard 10 Feb 1998: Column: 195, 10 Feb 1998 : Column: 196 Questions to the Secretary of State for Defence about the manning and availability of warships, 10 February 1998.
  10. "House of Commons Hansard Written Answers for 17 Mar 2011 (pt 0001)". Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  11. 11.0 11.1 HC Deb 11 January 1985 vol 70 c561W Questions to the Secretary of State for Defence about Type 23 frigates, 11 January 1985.
  12. "Defence Estimates (Hansard, 19 July 1983)". Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  13. Warship World, Spring 1998, pub Maritime Books, page 13. This figure of £97 million each included research and development costs.
  14. Hansard HC Deb 2 November 1989 vol 159 cc333-4W Questions to Secretary of State for Defence, 2 November 1989.
  15. "House of Commons Hansard Written Answers for 5 Jul 2001". Hansard (Official Report). HM Government. 5 July 2001. Retrieved 23 July 2007.
  16. "A Forth for good". Navy News. September 2008. p. 6.
  17. "The Royal Navy's Fleet" (PDF). Royal Navy Matters. Royal Navy. 2010. p. 52. Retrieved 16 October 2011.
  18. http://www.defenceimagedatabase.mod.uk/ image 45139105.jpg (taken 12 September 1999) is captioned "DUKE CLASS TYPE 23 FRIGATE F229 HMS LANCASTER STEAMING AT 32 KNOTS."
  19. "HMS Sutherland - More About The Ship". Royal Navy. Retrieved 16 October 2011.
  20. "ADS Advance - HMS Argyll upkeep marks start of Type 23 life extension". Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  21. "New missiles tested off Scottish coast". Retrieved 4 September 2017.
  22. http://www2.thalesgroup.com/blogs/farnborough2010/files/2010/07/HMS-Sutherlands-Sonar-Impresses-on-First-Major-Test.pdf
  23. "Type 23 Frigates (Sonar 2087): 17 Jul 2006: Hansard Written Answers - TheyWorkForYou". Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  24. "Error Page - BAE Systems - International". Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  25. "Error Page - BAE Systems - International". Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  26. "New Royal Navy Type 997 radar is put through its paces on the Isle of Wight". 13 September 2011. Retrieved 16 October 2011.
  27. http://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/server/show/ConWebDoc.13459/changeNav/6568 Royal Navy News and Events:Navy to Get New Radar Archived 5 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  28. "Navy's new Type 23 frigate radar 'five times more efficient'". Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  29. "Iron Duke Back At Sea After Major Upgrade". 26 June 2013.
  30. "Press Information - CAMM" (PDF). MBDA Systems. June 2011. Retrieved 16 October 2011.
  31. Sweetman, Bill (23 May 2011). "CAMM On Path To Replace Seawolf". Retrieved 16 October 2011.
  32. "Windows for Warships™ reaches Royal Navy frigates". Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  33. Saunders, Stephen Jane's Fighting Ships 2008–2009, pub Jane's Information Group, 2008, ISBN 978-0-7106-2845-9-page 111.
  34. 34.00 34.01 34.02 34.03 34.04 34.05 34.06 34.07 34.08 34.09 34.10 34.11 34.12 34.13 34.14 34.15 34.16 34.17 34.18 34.19 34.20 34.21 34.22 34.23 34.24 34.25 34.26 34.27 34.28 34.29 34.30 34.31 34.32 34.33 34.34 34.35 34.36 Gardiner, Robert Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1947–1995, pub Conway Maritime Press, 1995, ISBN 0-85177-605-1-page 525.
  35. 35.00 35.01 35.02 35.03 35.04 35.05 35.06 35.07 35.08 35.09 35.10 35.11 35.12 35.13 35.14 35.15 35.16 35.17 35.18 35.19 35.20 35.21 35.22 35.23 35.24 35.25 35.26 35.27 35.28 35.29 35.30 35.31 35.32 35.33 35.34 35.35 35.36 35.37 35.38 35.39 35.40 35.41 35.42 35.43 Saunders, Stephen Jane's Fighting Ships 2008–2009, pub Jane's Information Group, 2008, ISBN 978-0-7106-2845-9-page 862.
  36. 36.0 36.1 36.2 36.3 36.4 36.5 36.6 36.7 36.8 36.9 Saunders, Stephen Jane's Fighting Ships 2002–2003, pub Jane's Information group, 2002, ISBN 0-7106-2432-8-page 776.
  37. 37.00 37.01 37.02 37.03 37.04 37.05 37.06 37.07 37.08 37.09 37.10 37.11 37.12 "Type 23 Frigates:Written question - 28004". Retrieved 3 August 2016.
  38. "Command Approved". 1 January 2000. Retrieved 3 August 2016 – via IMDb.


  • The Encyclopedia of Warships, From World War Two to the Present Day, General Editor Robert Jackson

External links