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Leander Type 12 general-purpose frigate

The "Leander" class of general-purpose frigates were an improvement of the Type 12 "Whitby" and "Rothesay" class of anti-submarine ships. The first "Leanders" were commissioned in the early 1960's and by 1973, they were the largest class of major warships in the Royal Navy. In total 26 ships were built for Royal Navy service and the design proved so successful that 4 ship were built for New Zealand and Chile. An additional 14 ships based on this class were constructed by the Australian, Indian and Dutch navies. While most of these ships were eventually scrapped, some are still in service after being sold by the Royal Navy.

British Leander Class frigate of 2500 tons displacement built by the HM Dockyard at Portsmouth and launched in 1967. She was armed with twin 4.5 inch guns and two 40 mm anti- aircraft guns and a Limbo anti-submarine mortar. She carried a Wasp helicopter and was manned by a crew of 251.

These general purpose frigates completed the change from the previous pattern of special purpose frigates which had dominated since the 1951 construction programme, and which had started with the Tribal class. Later however, with the Ikara conversions (A/S - Anti-Submarine) in particular, specialism returned as the Royal Navy's role within NATO became principally an anti-submarine one. They were in commission from the 1960's until the early 1990's. As these ships got older and needs changed to meet new demands and threats from more advanced weaponry, most of these ships had their twin 4.5in Mk. 6 turrets replaced with either Ikara, Exocet or Seawolf missile systems.

Later refits and conversions changed the initial configuration significantly - basic details of changes to main armament only are mentioned. Batch 3 had a 43ft beam. Batches 2 and 3 had Lynx helicopters. The three ships Ajax, Dido, Leander, were planned as the last three of the 'Rothesay' class.

This class of general purpose frigates proved enormously successful, with 26 'Leanders' commissioned at one time by the Royal Navy, Australia, India and the Netherlands built the type under license, and Chile and New Zealand have bought some of the 'Leanders' as they were retired from the Royal Navy. India's indigenous Godavari-class frigate development program, an extension of the construction of the Leander-class frigates in Bombay in collaboration with a British firm, has been a major success. Numerous refits created six discrete sub-groups within the Royal Navy and the foreign 'Leanders' tended to acquire better weapons and sensor fits than the British vessels.

There was an interesting experiment in 1985, when a submarine went to a yard on the Humber for a refit and a Leander class frigate was refitted on the Tyne. Both exercises were regarded as successful, and it was hoped that they would be preliminary to further, similar refits in the future going out to competition. That did not happen.

By 1989 the Royal Navy had in operation one batch 1 Leander, four batch 2 TAS Leanders, three batch 2 Leanders, five batch 3 conversion Leanders and two batch 3 broad beam Leanders--a total of 15--and six type 21s. There was no doubt that the batch 1 and batch 2 ships require replacement very soon. It does not matter how frequently the weapons systems are updated : the hull itself gets tired and noisy and is more vulnerable to submarines. Those ships were, in the view of some, a danger to those who served in them. The capability of the frigate force has suffered because of the extension of the operational lives of the Leander and type 21 vessels--bringing with it additional demands on manpower--and possibly resulting in more applications for premature voluntary release.

By 1991 the number of surface escorts was slated to fall from its present level of around 50 to around 40. This would be done by paying off older, less capable and more manpower- intensive ships while continuing to bring new ships into service. For example, the Navy had already paid off several Leander class frigates, which were all over 20 years old. The Type 23 Frigate was designed to replace the LEANDER Class and Type 21 Frigates. The original requirement (from 1983) was for a ship capable of operating in the North Atlantic, with a primary role of Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), as well as some general purpose capability for operations inside and outside the NATO area. The type 23's complement of about 170 is about 50 fewer than a Leander and 100 less that a type 22. Two more of the new type 23, or Duke class, anti- submarine warfare frigates came into service in the past year. HMS Argyll and HMS Marlborough joined the first of class, HMS Norfolk, which was undergoing trials.

There are no longer any 'Leanders' in service with the Royal Navy. The old Leanders are undoubtedly very costly to maintain and operate. Inevitably there is very heavy maintenance, not just because of their age, but because of their design and the fact that they have an old steam plant and, in particular, a very large crew. The crew of a Leander is 50 percent bigger than that of a replacing type 23, and, as I have already said, the latter is twice as good as the ship it is replacing.

The sale of the last Royal Navy owned Leander Class frigate to the National Marine Aquarium by the DSA was a notable event. The usual route for disposal of military hardware, when the MoD has finished with such equipment, is either its sale to a foreign power for further military use or demilitarisation by scrapping and thereby recovery of materials by recycling. This sale was different, however, as the ship was sold then sanitised of hazardous materials before being consigned to the deep 1km off Whitesand Bay, Cornwall. It is perfectly acceptable for a ship's former company and those closely associated with the ship to perhaps have a tear in theireye when such an event takes place. However, those concerns resulting from fond memories should not be sad ones, because although after many years of sterling service, HMS SCYLLA had come to the end of her service life, there was another opportunity to provide a valuable contribution by becoming the first British artificial reef. In addition to acting as a breakwater and helping reduce the effects of tidal erosion of the coast, she became a home for the prolific marine life that inhabits the area and a recreational scuba diving site

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:07:16 ZULU