Faster, punchier, and more efficient, HMS Lancaster has put to sea again after a 16-month overhaul in her home port.
The Portsmouth-based frigate has emerged from a £22m refit with increased firepower and improved kit from bow to stern and is now being put through her paces off the South Coast.
Pictures: LA(Phot) Gaz Weatherston, FRPU East and HMS Lancaster
GREY skies, grey-green seas, but a red rose – and a distinctive gold and red standard.
This is the first sight of the Queen’s ship, HMS Lancaster, sailing under her own steam after a 16-month refit in her home base of Portsmouth.
On a sullen winter’s day on the South Coast, she slipped her moorings to begin sea trials, the first time she’s sailed since September 2010.
In the intervening period, the ship’s company and engineers, technicians and shipwrights at BAE Systems have carried out £22m improvements and upgrades to the 21-year-old warship.
On the ‘crunchy’ side of things, Lancaster’s received several major upgrades to her weapon systems and sensors, including new, fully automatic 30mm close-range guns on either side of the ship, the latest version of the Seawolf air defence missile system – effectively doubling its range – and a new ship’s brain, the command system which deals with the masses of information from the frigate’s myriad sensors.
On the engineering side, the warship’s received four new diesel generators, while all four turbine engines have been overhauled, anti-fouling paint applied to the keel and the addition of a transom flap on the stern – an underwater spoiler, for want of a better description, which makes her cut through the sea faster and hence more efficiently.
And most importantly of all… the ship’s shop, better known as the NAAFI, has received its first revamp in two decades. Billed as a ‘mobile mini supermarket’, it sells everyday items from sweets and crisps to duty-free cigarettes and toiletries.
“It is a vital component of the morale of the ship’s company,” say WO1 Matt Fisher, the ship’s Executive Warrant Officer.
“The importance of a successful canteen cannot be over-emphasised and the enhancements achieved today will do much to ensure a little of our home comforts travel with us.”
During the refit period, a little under one quarter of the normal ship’s company of 180 souls remained with Lancaster to work to ensure that sufficient ship-based knowledge was on tap, among them WO2(ME) ‘Judge’ Duery.
“It has been a very busy refit period which has seen some dramatic changes to the ship, although the biggest change is in the ship’s company as we have over 80 per cent brand new to Lancaster,” he said.
“We have trained very hard to be ready for sailing and are keen to show what we can do.”
Lancaster’s Commanding Officer, Cdr Steve Moorhouse, added:
“I feel extremely privileged to command Lancaster as we emerge from an extended refit period with state of the art weapon technologies, powerful engines and a Ship’s Company that are well trained and highly motivated.
“I am extremely grateful to BAE Systems for their hard work in returning the ship to me ready for our departure and I look forward to putting Lancaster to the test during our forthcoming period of sea trials.”
As with all her sisters in the 13-strong class of Type 23 frigates, Lancaster is named after a duke: the Duke of Lancaster, a title which has been held by the monarch since the days of Henry IV at the end of the 14th Century.
To mark the ship’s association with the Queen, HMS Lancaster departed on her sea trials with a new flag flying from her mast – that of the Duchy of Lancaster, donated by Paul Clarke, the Chief Executive Officer of the Duchy and his wife, Vanessa.