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Type 23 Duke Class - Upgrades

Sonar 2087 is a tactical, variable depth, active and passive sonar system which will be stern-mounted on Type 23 Frigates during their refit cycle, replacing Sonar 2031 (passive towed array system), where fitted. Submarines remain one of the main threats to maritime forces and Sonar 2087 will significantly enhance the Royal navy's Anti-Submarine Warfare capability. The new system offers improvements in the ability to detect, classify and track quieter submarines, particularly in littoral waters and at greater ranges.

The Sonar 2087 project was formed in 1993 after the cancellation of the 2057 and 2080 sonar projects. Sonar 2087 is a tactical, variable depth, passive and active sonar system. It significantly improves the Type 23 Frigates' ability to detect, classify and track nuclear and conventional submarines. It was retro-fitted to all Type 23 Frigates during refit replacing the current passive towed array Sonar 2031 (where fitted) and integrating with the existing bow-mounted active sonar.

Following endorsement of the project in April 1994, parallel feasibility study contracts were let with three UK Prime Contractors. Feasibility reports were received in April 1996 and, following six months of risk reduction work, this phase was completed in October 1996. The two competing teams were Thomson Marconi Sonar (TMS) teamded with Thomson Marconi Sonar SAS, and Babcock Defence Systems (BDS) teamded with Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. The two Prime Contractors commenced a competitive, parallel Project Definition (PD) study in April 1997, which completed in February 1999 with the delivery of firm priced bids for the Full Development, Production and Support (FDP&S) phase. Subject to final agreement on how best to meet the requirement, award of the FDP&S contract to the winning contractor was expected in early 2000. The first production set was expected for delivery in 2002, with the Type 23 retrofit program due to be completed in 2011.

Approval was given in January 2001 for up to 16 sets, the total number of Type 23s. A contract for the Demonstration, Manufacture and Support of the first 6 ship sets was awarded to Thomson Marconi Sonar Ltd (now Thales Underwater Systems Ltd) in April 2001. The planned number of ship sets was reduced to 12, then 8, during the 2002 and 2004 planning rounds. The contract has an option price for the remaining ship sets. The program of sea trials started in summer 2002. The first ship-set, using pre-production equipment, began in January 2004. The In-Service Date (ISD) is May 2006, with Initial Operating Capability in January 2007. All 8 ships are planned to be fitted by 2008.

By 2004 Sonar 2087 was more than halfway into its demonstration and manufacture phase and was within its 'most likely' cost and time parameters set at Main Gate approval. This performance reflects extensive assessment phase work involving acceptance of performance trade-offs and a realistic plan for achieving the in-service date. In 2004, the defence capability customer accepted a part delivery of the Key User Requirement relating to active detection in deep water. This was to be delivered at the current forecast in-service date of May 2006, but was delayed by technical difficulties. Had the customer insisted on delivery of the full capability as a condition of formal acceptance of Sonar 2087, there would have been a delay to the in-service date. The remainder of the capability was to be delivered before Sonar 2087 is used operationally, forecast for January 2007.

As of 2006 HM Ships Montrose, Monmouth, Iron Duke, Lancaster and Argyll were not scheduled to receive Sonar 2087. These ships will be employed across the normal range of standing strategic, home and overseas commitments. These include Fleet Ready Escort duties around home waters, operational deployments to the Gulf and Arabian Sea, and standing tasks in the South Atlantic (APT(S)), Caribbean (APT(N)) and within NATO's Standing Maritime Group in the Mediterranean (SNMG2). They will also continue to contribute to the UK's Maritime Joint Rapid Reaction Force (JRRF) held at high readiness for contingent operations, and deploy on pre-planned activities as JRRF elements within a Task Group.

The Department procured the United States' developed Co-operative Engagement Capability (CEC). This project should link the combat systems and sensors on a number of ships to provide a clearer picture of the battle space, and aims to improve the ability of a task force to undertake anti-air warfare operations particularly in coalition with the United States. Discussions on the number of Type 23 frigates to undergo full ship fitment of United Kingdom Co-operative Engagement Capability (CEC) were taken at Main Gate investment decision in 2005. Analysis as of 2003 suggested that fitment to seven Type 23s will provide the most cost-effective way to introduce the UK CEC capability at the earliest opportunity. This will provide a sufficient force to develop the usage and tactics of the system and also to provide a robust network to interact with CEC in the Type 45 Destroyer. CEC will be fitted to all six Type 45 destroyers as well as ten Type 23 Frigates. The enhanced capability provided by CEC mitigates in part the decrease in numbers of Type 45 destroyers.

Cracking in an intricate steel structure such as a warship, subjected to randomly varying sealoads, is not unusual. The cracking itself is not usually a matter for immediate concern, but any occurrence is assessed and kept under review until the next convenient opportunity for repairs. During the construction of HMS Norfolk, the first type 23 frigate, the need for stiffening in part of the deck structure was identified using previously untried techniques. The construction of Norfolk was too far advanced for the full design change to be incorporated at that time but it was done during her first programmed docking period in 1993. All subsequent ships of the class were built with this modification included. The total estimated cost of incorporating this modification into the whole class is about 1 million. By 1996 minor steelwork cracking had occurred in some subsequent type 23 frigates, but this has not been assessed as requiring special action. Repairs have been carried out as part of the normal ship upkeep measures and the costs have not been separately identified. At no time has the safety of any of the type 23 frigates or their crews been at risk.

The UK Secretary of State, Geoff Hoon, announced on 30 March 2001 the decision to refit five Type 23 frigates at Rosyth dockyard. The work, over four years, is likely to be worth around 75 million. Putting the five refits together in a single batch at the dockyard will also allow significant savings to be made on the cost to the taxpayer. These refits are part of the programme of work allocated to dockyard owners, Babcock Rosyth Defence Ltd, when they bought the yard four years ago. However, bringing the five similar refits together in one batch will allow substantial savings to be made through better planning and shared costs. The MOD is in the final stages of negotiating this contract. BRDL can be expected to bid for further naval refitting work. In addition MOD is continuing discussions with BRDL, the other commercial dockyard owners at Devonport and Portsmouth, and the Trades Unions over wider proposals to tackle the problem of over capacity in warship maintenance and repair. These proposals include possible partnership arrangements between BRDL and Clyde Naval Base.

As of 2002 the 4.5 inch (114mm) Mark VIII Mod 1 gun had already been fitted to the Type 22 Batch 3 Frigate, HMS Cumberland and to the Type 23 Frigates, HMS Norfolk and HMS Iron Duke. HMS Marlborough and HMS Monmouth, both Type 23 Frigates, will be fitted with the updated gun during their current upkeep periods. It was planned that the remaining Type 22 Batch 3 and Type 23 Frigates will be fitted with the gun at a rate of two to three per year, during programmed maintenance and repair periods.

Lynx helicopters and close-range guns currently provide anti-ship and close in defence for Type 23 frigates. The project to provide surface vessels, including Type 23 frigates, with an improved capability to deal with the threat presented by small enemy craft, was in its very early stages in 2003. The concepts being assessed included small and medium-calibre guns, rockets and non-lethal means. This assessment phase is expected to complete towards the end of the year.

As of 2006 all Type 23 frigates were capable of operating Lynx helicopters. HMS Norfolk, HMS Marlborough and HMS Grafton all had left naval service by the end of March 2006 and were not therefore have been modified to operate Merlin helicopters. 12 of the remaining 13 Type 23 frigates were included in the modification program and this enabled the military requirement to be met. There was at that time currently no operational requirement to modify HMS Argyll, but this was kept under review.

In 2007 HMS ST ALBANS, the last Type 23 frigate built, underwent an upgrade which will make her one of the Fleet's most advanced multi-purpose frigates. In a 10 million overhaul at Rosyth, the year-long maintenance program included the installation of the new S2087 sonar system and the conversion of her aviation facilities to allow the operation of Merlin helicopters. This was the first major maintenance and upgrade for HMS St Albans and it allowed the ship to undertake a busy operational program for the following five years.

Lord Drayson, Minister for Defence Equipment and Support, said: 'This upgrade will make HMS St Albans one of the most versatile frigates in the Navy. BSSL have important skills and expertise gained from maintenance and update work on other Type 23 ships and we will benefi t from that. We look forward to receiving HMS St Albans back into service next summer.' The upkeep period for HMS St Albans was part of MoD plans to share work in the naval ship support industry between the three dockyard companies, BSSL, Fleet Support Ltd and DML as part of the developing Surface Ship Support Alliance. This is a key element in the Defence Industrial Strategy.

A significant program of capability update is being led by Babcock at Devonport Royal Dockyard to ensure that the Navys Type 23 Frigate Class is able to operate well beyond its original design life-expectancy. Working with the Ministry of Defence and BAE Systems through the Surface Ship Support Alliance (SSSA), Babcock will ensure that the class remains relevant against todays threat, and to de-risk the future transition into service of the Type 26 Class. This includes replacement of the primary weapon system and significant update of marine equipment, along with other major changes to address equipment obsolescence as well as extending the life of the hull and superstructure.

The task to deliver the significant update and upgrade requirements for the Type 23 Frigates is complex. Babcock established a combined systems engineering and programmatic approach, including generating a realistic and achievable Class maintenance operating cycle, technical analysis to ensure the ship can reach its planned out of service date, co-ordinated management of the physical and functional integration activity, and integrated scheduling and management of risk for delivery. The investment in facilities, processes and people to realise efficiencies in delivery of this complex programme of work will ensure that the Type 23 life extension (LIFEX) is a success.

Originally conceived in the late 1970s for anti-submarine warfare in the North Atlantic, the Type 23 Frigate, which first entered service in 1989, has proven itself a highly capable platform. With its replacement the Type 26 Global Combat Ship still some years from operational service, the Type 23 Class must operate well beyond its original design life our commitment and capabilities, working with the other members of the SSSA, will make this aspiration a reality.

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Page last modified: 11-11-2016 19:28:38 ZULU