Type 42 Sheffield Class Guided Missile Destroyer

HMS Edinburgh, the last of the Royal Navy's Type 42 destroyers, officially bowed out of service 06 June 2013. HMS Edinburgh's White Ensign was lowered for the last time during her decommissioning ceremony at Portsmouth Naval Base, ending an era which began with the launch of HMS Sheffield in 1971. The ageing Type 42s, which have served the Navy across the globe for 40 years, have gradually been phased out to make way for the Type 45s, which are among the most sophisticated and powerful warships in the world. Several of the new class of ship have already deployed operationally to the Middle East and across the Atlantic.

The Type 42 destroyer was developed as a smaller and less expensive alternative to the massive Type 82 destroyer [of which only one was built] that could be built in sufficient numbers to replace the entire Royal Navy destroyer fleet which was heading for block obsolescence in the late 1970's. The role of providing area air defense of the Royal Navy carrier / landing fleet was quite ably filled by the massive Type 82 HMS Bristol. But this ship was too expensive to be procured in sufficient numbers, and for its size was somewhat under-armed, lacking a helicopter, a close range armament system, and ASW torpedoes.

The Type 42 provided a reduced "economy" on the smallest possible hull, with maximum automation for the smallest possible crew, carrying the heaviest possible armament. The GWS-30 Sea Dart - was required as the primary weapon, with a lightweight auto-loading twin railed unit selected. A single Mark 8 114mm automatic gun and a Lynx helicopter were to be carried, the latter with all ASW responsibilities. Also specified were a pair of Type 909 Sea Dart F/C radars, a Type 965 AKE-2 air search and a Type 992Q surface search radars. Subsequently two single 20mm Oerlikon guns and two STWS Mk.2 torpedo launchers were added, the latter freeing the Lynx of all ASW responsibilities, and giving the ship a chance to attack close targets when the helicopter was out of range.

Batch 1 featured a small hull of only 4,100 tons empty displacement, around half that of the Type 82. Otherwise, the primary change from the Type 82 was the deletion of the Ikara ASW missile and the Limbo ASW mortar, and the addition aft hangar flight deck and helicopter. Maximum use of system centralization, a minimum amount of system duplication, economy living spaces and maximum system automation were incorporated to make it possible to fit these capabilities into such a small hull. The Type 22 was the first RN destroyer to use solely gas-turbine propulsion -- Rolls Royce Marine Tynes for cruising and Olympus for full speed [which can be reached in only 30 seconds]. The great problem with this gas-turbine propulsion is the extreme noise it develops, rendering the Type 42 unsuited for long, slow stalking of a quiet submarine [the well silenced diesel electric Type 23 being far more suited for this task]. HMS Sheffield, the lead ship, was originally fitted with exhaust cowls on her funnel, but these did not work and were later replaced. As originally completed a variety of planned systems were omitted, including the STWS Mark 2 torpedo tubes, the SCOT SATCOM system and domes, the ECM antennae below the Type 992Q radar at the masthead and the Corvus countermeasures launchers. Prior to its entry into service, the Type 1022 radar, the heart of the SeaDart system, was not included either, and the venerable Type 965 AKE-2 radar was fitted on the stump-foremast in the interim. Most of the final systems were added by the early 1980's.

Batch 2 was modestly improved in terms of electronics and internal arrangements based on experience with the six Batch 1 ships.

Batch 3 is a much improved design, drawing from experience of the first two batches, whose survivability and update potential was compromised by their small hull. Although with identical weapons, sensors, superstructure and propulsion package, Batch 3 featured a 16.1 meter extension in hull length. About 15 meters was added at the bow, which was raised to improve sea-keeping, while the rest was added to the stern to extend the flight-deck. The extension to the bow allowed the main weapon systems [ SeaDart launcher and Mark 8 gun], which were previously mounted very closely, to be spaced much farther apart. This improved the fire arcs of these weapons and and decreased the risk that both systems might be rendered inoperative by a single hit. The addition of a large amount of strengthening on the forward beam added about 2 feet to the beam. Consisting of 50 tons of structure in the form of a single beam at deck level, this gave a distinctive ledge to the upper forward hull. The extra space is well utilized, with extra or duplicate systems incorporated, and a much smaller crew due to greater automation and more modern systems.

Five Type 42 destroyers sent as part of the Task Force sent to retake the Falkland Islands after invasion by Argentina in 1982. Armed with Sea Dart anti-aircraft missile system, Glasgow along with its sister ships, Sheffield and Coventry were among the first ships to arrive in a 200 nautical mile (370 km) exclusion zone imposed by the British around the islands. Glasgow saw early action in the war when on May 2 her Lynx helicopter badly damaged the Argentine naval vessel Alferez Sobral. On May 3, Glasgow detected an Exocet missile fired at the Task Force and warned the fleet.

The British task force suffered its first major loss on 04 May 1982. HMS Sheffield, while on forward radar picket duty, was hit by an Exocet missile launched from an Argentine Super Etendard aircraft. The missile hit fuel tanks amidships and serious fires started, which filled the central section of the ship with acrid smoke. After nearly four hours, with the fires increasing in intensity, the Captain gave orders to abandon ship. 20 members of her crew died. Down to two Type 42s (Exeter and Cardiff would not arrive until the end of May), Glasgow and Coventry were left to long range defence of the fleet.

The Sea Harriers on combat air patrol provided the outer layer of defence. The second layer was provided by a pair of ships known as the "missile trap," positioned, off the northern entrance to Falkland Sound. These were usually a Type 42 destroyer armed with Sea Dart missiles and a Type 22 frigate with Sea Wolf. On May 12, Glasgow alongside HMS Brilliant were on a "42-22" combo whereby Glasgow's Sea Dart long range missiles would complement Brilliant's short range Sea Wolf missiles on anti-aircraft attacks. The ships attracted the attention of the Argentine Air Force when a wave of Skyhawk jets attacked. Although Glasgow's Sea Dart system failed, Brilliant's Sea Wolf shot down three jets. When a second wave of Skyhawks attacked, Sea Wolf also failed and the jets released three bombs, one of which damaged Glasgow, although it did not explode. The damage inflicted on Glasgow was severe enough for the destroyer to head back to England for repairs, the first ship of the war to return.

On 25 May, Argentina's National Day, the Argentine Air Force made a major effort against the task force. HMS Coventry had been in the "missile trap" to the northwest and had successfully controlled Sea Harriers and shot down three aircraft herself. She was attacked at low level by waves of Skyhawk aircraft which overwhelmed her defences. She capsized quickly. Survivors were rescuedby HMS Broadsword and helicopters; 19 men died.

Following the Falklands conflict, major changes were evidently needed to the Type 42, including an improved close-in weapons fit and improved damage control. A twin 30mm cannon, the GCM-A03, was added. And the 20mm Oerlikon guns were shifted to new platforms, with much improved GAM-B01 guns fitted. Subsequently, many other improvements were implemented, including an updated ECM, a new 3-D search radar (the Type 996) replaced the elderly Type 992 P/Q/R. First Mark 36 super-RBOC and later Sea Gnat counter-measures launchers replaced the Corvus launchers. Additionally, a new navigation radar, additional amidships superstructure, improved ADAWS integrated computing systems and updated SeaDart fire control and fusing systems were added.

The Type 42 Destroyers were fitted with the SeaDart anti air-warfare system which was designed in the 1960s primarily to counter the threat from manned aircraft. SeaDart is constrained by limitations on its firing capacity and reaction times. To minimise the effect of these shortcomings a number of modifications to SeaDart have been made, and others intended to sustain performance against sea-skimming and high diving anti-ship missiles are under development. Allied to the use of existing assets such as airborne early warning systems, carrier-launched aircraft and Type 22 and Type 23 Frigates equipped with the Sea Wolf missile system, these modifications are expected to sustain anti-air warfare performance in the short-term. However, the Ministry of Defense assessed that overall SeaDart system capability will be limited against emerging stressing 21st century threats such as modern sea-skimming missiles and the anti-air warfare capability shortfall is likely to expand in the future.

In early 1997 it was reported that the US Department of Defense was prepared to offer up to four Oliver Hazard Perry (FFG-7) class frigates as "optional extras" to permit the early withdrawal of the oldest Batch 1 Type 42 destroyers from the UK Royal Navy service. The lease or loan would be conditional on the RN purchasing the Aegis weapon direction system and the Standard SM-2 area defence missile for the future air defence ships. After some discussion, nothing came of this offer.

Running on the Type 42 Destroyers will cost the Navy an additional 565 million to run-on, and operate and support, the existing Type 42 Destroyers because of the delay to the original forecast in-service date of the Type 45 replacement. This cost reflects the change required to the schedule for retiring the Type 42 Destroyers and commissioning their Type 45 replacements. The new Type 45 Destroyers are expected to be cheaper to operate and support than the Type 42s, although the cost of individual spares are likely to be slightly higher. For example, the compliment anticipated for each Type 45 is 79 fewer than for the Type 42, an annual cost saving of 2.9 million per vessel.

The Royal Navy lost at least four destroyers in early 2004, taking the number of surface warships to below that of the French navy for the first time since the 17th century. At that point it had only 28 escort ships compared to the French navy's 32. Four Type-42 destroyers were mothballed as part of a series of cuts. The four warships axed were Newcastle, Cardiff, Glasgow and Liverpool. They are the oldest of the surviving Type-42 destroyers but Glasgow and Liverpool were not due to be decommissioned until 2010. Cardiff was due to go in 2008 and Newcastle in 2007 when the first of the Navy's new destroyers, the Type-45, was expected to enter service. It cut the number of destroyers to seven.

The new Type 45 Destroyers were expected to be considerably cheaper to operate and support than the Type 42 Destroyers, the first of which entered service in 1977. The Department estimated that, in net total, it will cost an additional 537 million to operate and support the existing Type 42 Destroyers because of the 57 month delay, assuming that the schedule for retiring the Type 42s and commissioning the Type 45s remains as envisaged when the Department was committed to the collaborative Project Horizon programme. The greatest cost driver is expenditure on spares due to the age of the Type 42 Destroyers. Annual spares costs for each Type 42 are on average some 12 million compared to an average 4 million expected for the Type 45. Operating costs should also be less when the Type 45 enters service. For example, the complement anticipated for each Type 45 is 72 fewer than that for the Type 42, an annual cost saving of 2.3 million per vessel. The net additional support costs are accompanied by a substantial deferral of acquisition expenditure because of the delay in the planned ship order dates.

In September 2010 Hampshire ship builders put the finishing touches on a 17.5m overhaul of the "Fortress of the Seas". The work at the BAE Surface Fleet Yard - a refurbished engine, modifications to her stern and new "intersleek" paint - was designed to slash fuel consumption on HMS Edinburgh, by 15 per cent. At 27 years old, she is the last of the Type 42 destroyers to undergo a major refit, which will extend her operational life.

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