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Type 21 Amazon frigate

During the 1980s, the Royal Navy had two major frigate classes in service, the Amazon class (Type 21) and the Broadsword class (Type 22) frigates. The origins of the Amazon class lay in the 1966 decision by the Labour Government to phase out the Royal Navy's aircraft carriers, and the cancellation of CVA-01, and three out of the four Type 82 destroyers. The Royal Navy commissioned eight 'Amazons' in the early 1970s.

The 2,500 ton Amazon Class of ships was designed as a collaborative venture by VosperThomvcroft Ltd. and Yarrow (Shipbuilders) Ltd. They were 384 ft long, with a beam of just over 41 ft. and were powered by Rolls Royce Olympus and Tyne gas turbines. They were fitted with an Exocet surface-to-surface missile system, a Seacat surface-to-air-missile system, and a 4-5 in. Mk 8 gun as well as anti-submarine homing torpedoes. The Wasp helicopter was later replaced bya twin-engined Lynx helicopter. Their living accommodations were of a high standard [for the times], with bunk sleeping, separate dining halls and cafeteria messing. They had air-conditioning. Although they were popular ships to serve in, they lacked the 'growth' potential to accommodate new weapons and sensors.

The Amazon Class frigate were built by private Ship builders. Vosper Thornycroft, (HMS Amazon, Antelope and HMS Active) with the other five by Yarrow's. The Amazon Type 21 Class Frigates HMS Amazon, Antelope, Ardent, Active, Ambuscade, Arrow, Alacrity, and HMS Avenger. were designed with the view to replace the aging Leopard and Salisbury Class Frigates. Initial cost were to be 3.5 million, but HMS Amazon actually cost 14.4 million.

H.M.S. Alacrity, sixth of the Royal Navy's type 21 Amazon class frigates, was launched by Lady McKaig, wife of Admiral Sir Rae McKaig, U.K. representative of NATO's Military Committee, on 18 September at the Glasgow shipyard of Yarrow (Ship-builders) Ltd. H.M.S. Alacrity was the ninth ship of the Navy to bear the name, the first being a sloop of 18 guns built at Newcastle in 1806, and the last also a sloop, launched in 1944, which saw active service during the Korean war, and was scrapped in 1956. The Duchess of Gloucester launched H.M.S. Ardent, the seventh of the Royal Navy's new Type 21 Amazon Class frigates, at the Glasgow shipyard of Yarrow (Ship-builders) Ltd. on Friday. 9th May. The religious ceremony was performed by the Rev. P.E. Bustin. Rector of Barnwell. Northants. H.M.S. Ardent was the ninth ship to bear thename. The first, a third rater, was captured from France in 1746 and the last, a destroyer, was launched in 1929. She was sunk in actiona gainst the German battle-cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau off the Norwecian coast in 1940.

All but HMS Amazon herself served in the Falklands war and (Ardent and Antelope) were lost to Argentine attacks. HMS Antelope was sunk 24 May 1982 after being hit by bombs on 23 May 1982. She blew up while a explosive expert was defusing a unexploded bomb. HMS Ardent was sunk by air rockets and was badly damaged only to sink a few hours later 22nd May 1982. "The Type 21 frigate lies still in the water, listing and drifting. Her lovely, classic lines have been obscenely defaced by some demented giant who has smashed her helicopter hangar and opened up the flight deck edge with a huge tin opener. Deep inside the enormous blackened hole, with its ragged edges, the fires of Hell are burning."

The Atlantic Conveyer, which was carrying three huge Chinook helicopters amongst other vital cargo, was hit by an Exocet missile. The missile did not sink the ship directly but, as with HMS Sheffield, it caused a fire so intense that this ship was lost after some five days. This Exocet, it is believed, was aimed initially at HMS Ambuscade, a type 21 Frigate which successfully diverted the missile by the use of ECM and chaff decoys. The unarmed and unprotected Atlantic Conveyer offered the most lucrative target and was in consequence struck a fatal blow.

Some said the Navy had gone overboard in trying to avoid gold-plating, with dangers of the kind that became evident in the Falklands war. The type 21 frigates, built cheap and light, were extremely vulnerable : the aluminium decks burned and the vessels were not as effective as we had hoped. Aluminium was used in the superstructure of the Type 21 class of frigate and to a small extent in a few other classes, but not in the Type 42 destroyers, such as HMS Sheffield. In addition, aluminium is sometimes used for non-structural minor bulkheads, ladders and ventilation trunking. By use of aluminium it is possible to make significant savings in the weight of ships above the water-line, but it has been recognised that this metal loses strength in fires and therefore its extensive use in the construction of RN warships was discontinued several years ago. Nonetheless, there is no evidence that it has contributed to the loss of any vessel during the Falklands conflict.

The heavy seas of the South Atlantic caused severe cracking in the upper deck, which led to steel inserts being welded to the hulls after the war. Further work was carried out on the hulls of the surviving Type 21s from 1988-92, but today none remain in service. The rest of the class were later sold to Pakistan.





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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:07:17 ZULU