Portland ahoy! Frigate back at sea after massive revamp

Topic: Operational activityTraining

The open waters of the Channel crash against the hull of HMS Portland for the first time in four years after she returned to sea today following a major overhaul.

The frigate sailed from Devonport this afternoon for sea trials as the latest Type 23 warship to complete the ‘life extension’ programme for the class – a massive undertaking which is now drawing to a close.

The revamp of the flotilla, which began in 2014, sees a total bow-to-stern mast-to-keel overhaul of the backbone ships of the Fleet to ensure the 23s can serve into the middle of the next decade, keeping pace with the latest threats and tech.

The Royal Navy’s second-youngest frigate has been busy since emerging from Devonport’s Frigate Support Centre late last year, and working alongside Babcock, completed her next phase before returning her to the Fleet, ready to deploy this year.

After completing her last deployment in 2017 – to the North and South Atlantic – the ship was handed over to Babcock in 2018 to start her refit in the frigate sheds on the Devonport waterfront.

In the three years which since passed, in the first for her class, two electric propulsion motors were removed, rewired and replaced, the Sea Wolf missile system has been ripped out and Sea Ceptor installed in its place, the 997 surveillance and 1084 navigational radars added, and the new to Royal Navy 2150 hull mounted sonar to sharpen her anti-submarine warfare teeth.

For good measure, machinery, computer and IT systems onboard have been overhauled, as have mess decks which were designed in the 1980s so they can meet the needs and expectations of 21st Century sailors.

“I cannot express, with justice, the pride I feel sailing in command of such an incredible team and in such a fine vessel,” said Commander Tim Leeder, HMS Portland’s Commanding Officer.

“There is no greater privilege than working with sailors as they develop and grow into their roles. Taking HMS Portland back to sea today after her refit gives me a front-row seat from which to follow their development as they generate Portland from engineering project into a front line operational asset.

“There have been many challenges, continuing to deliver to tight timelines despite the global pandemic is a credit to the tight working relationship with Babcock and to the resilience and hard work from the sailors.”

Gary Simpson, Babcock’s Managing Director (Warships) said Portland’s departure marked another key milestone in the Type 23 programme.

He continued: “The last 12 months have seen our teams face very challenging measures, but we’re incredibly proud to be able to continue to support and work collaboratively with the Royal Navy and celebrate the end of this important project following completion of the commissioning phases.”

Grant Steven, Babcok’s Delivery Director (Warships) added: “It has been a true team effort and its success can be attributed to a great deal of hard work. In line with Government guidelines we’ve introduced new ways of working at the site to protect the health and wellbeing of our colleagues who have continued to support this defence priority during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

HMS Somerset will be the next frigate to complete her life extension, while HMS Iron Duke and St Albans are mid-overhauls and HMS Sutherland becomes the last Type 23 to undergo the work, entering the refit complex next week.

I cannot express, with justice, the pride I feel sailing in command of such an incredible team and in such a fine vessel.

Commander Tim Leeder