Warship Returns To Sea After Major Refit

HMS Iron Duke, the nation’s most advanced frigate, is back at sea for the first time in more than five years.

The Type 23 frigate, known affectionately as the Iron Duck, sailed from Plymouth, supported by Babcock engineers who have been working with the ship’s crew to get her ready for sea at the international defence company’s Devonport facility.

In all, 1.7 million hours of labour from shipwrights, engineers, technicians and experts of the Babcock team, alongside the Royal Navy, contributed to the biggest overhaul of Duke-class ships to date in the life extension programme, including major structural work twice that of any other.

Multiple warfare, communication, navigation and system upgrades have been undertaken to ensure she remains at the cutting edge of naval operations. IT systems onboard have been revamped in line with technological advancements and living spaces have been updated to suit the modern sailor.

The work means that the vessel, originally intended to serve for 20 years since design in the 1970s and early 80s, can continue to undertake front-line duties until the successors of her class, the Type 26 and 31 frigates, start to enter service later this decade.

Gary Simpson, Managing Director of Babcock’s Marine Support business, said:

“We’re proud to work alongside the crew of HMS Iron Duke to ready her for her next mission.

“Our team has shown relentless commitment and passion to get the job done and to deliver significant enhancements to the ship for the men and women who work selflessly to keep our country safe every day.”

“We look forward to continuing to support HMS Iron Duke’s success in future operations and to stand alongside our Royal Navy partner as we support the Type 23 life extensions of her fellow Duke-class ships.”

Commander Charles Wheen, HMS Iron Duke’s Commanding Officer, said:

“HMS Iron Duke is back at sea and ready to start an intensive trials and training programme. She is in great shape following the refit, with some exciting new capabilities, and our challenge now is to sharpen those capabilities and to restore the ship to front-line operations in the shortest time possible.

“Bringing a ship out of refit is no picnic and it puts considerable pressure and relentless demands on a Ship’s Company. Achieving ‘Ready for Sea’ is testament to the months of hard work the team have put in and I am incredibly proud of their efforts. Now the fun work starts.”

Captain Steve Large – DE&S Type 23 Strategic Class Authority Team Leader:

“HMS IRON DUKE’s return to sea at the end of a 5-year period alongside is a remarkable achievement made possible by the mixed Team of our industrial partner Babcock completing the Upkeep, DE&S personnel managing the contract and Royal Navy personnel taking the ship back to sea in preparations for future operations. The regeneration of the ship is an example of the outstanding level of engineering support provided by this mixed Team enabling the Royal Navy to sustain maritime operations across the globe and I am incredibly proud to lead them.”

The warship, the third incarnation of Iron Duke commissioned in 1993 following her predecessors of 1655 and 1912, will now continue rigorous sea trials and testing to ensure she is ready in all respects for operational tasking later in the year.