The Plymouth-based Royal Navy warship HMS Argyll has arrived home at Plymouth today (Thursday) after an 11-month extreme ‘make-over’ to be welcomed by families.
Families and loved ones gathered on the jetty in HM Naval Base Devonport to brave thick fog which delayed the arrival and heavy rain. The Type 23 frigate returned to sea on 10 th September after the refit which included 290,000 man-hours of attention to cover modifications, upgrades and improvements.
Two of the vessel’s four diesel generators and one of her gas turbine engines have been replaced, the main 4.5 inch gun has been upgraded and the ship’s hull received intensive attention with a new paint-job to improve the ship’s efficiency through the water.
Commander Paul Stroude, HMS Argyll’s commanding officer, of Winchester, .was greeted by his wife Keri and their daughter Phoebe (aged 18 months). Cdr Stroude said: “It is great to be back home in Plymouth where we will all enjoy getting the well-earned opportunity to spend more time with their families. Our return to our base port also signals the next step in our regeneration where we will put to the test and prove the variety of new systems in place. This will secure HMS Argyll’s status as a flexible and potent fighting force, ready to face many more years of worldwide tasking after she returns to the Fleet at the end of the year.
.“I cannot emphasise enough how much of an achievement it has been for the partnership to get HMS Argyll back to sea – the complexity of the work package is extraordinary but we have delivered. The ship is in superb condition, which was recognised when we passed our ready-for-sea-date inspection. We sailed with a whole host of new and exciting capabilities that has made HMS Argyll a potent fighting force, able to support and protect UK interests worldwide for many years to come.” Cdr Stroude said the crew earned a long weekend of leave for the next few days because they had been worked hard putting the ship through its paces.
Between 2005 and 2009 HMS Argyll had spent long periods at sea on operations worldwide. The imperative was to get the ship into a dry dock away from operational pressures for a deep overhaul. HMS Argyll is the first Type 23 to complete a second major refit. HMS Argyll has performed a number of different roles including counter-piracy and counter-terrorism roles East of Suez, and drugs seizures in UK waters in recent times.
Along with new paint to the upper decks she has been covered with specially-coated paint below the waterline to prevent the build-up of sea-life which would slow the ship. This also makes her more fuel-efficient.
Internally, a new command system, the most advanced afloat in the Royal Navy today, means the ship has enhanced capability against air, surface and underwater threats. The ventilation system has also been improved to allow living and working on board more comfortably during even the warmest climates.
The Sea Wolf missile system has received upgrades which improve HMS Argyll’s ability to counter evolving anti-ship missile threats. Mounts for new small calibre guns means she will is better equipped to deal with threats from small boats and perform anti-piracy operations.
Lieutenant Commander Patrick Hunt, the ship’s weapon engineer officer, said: “The upgrading of the ship’s fighting systems has been phenomenal with a new point defence-missile system, new medium-range gun, new boat-launching equipment and a new command-and-control system all installed at the same time. Previously many of these upgrades have been completed in isolation given their complexity, but they are sufficiently mature to do them together. This means Argyll leaves Rosyth docks, where she was refitted, more capable across the full range of her capabilities. ”
While this refit has taken the best part of a year, thanks to the hard work, determination and team work of the partnership, the project has met every deadline set. The crew were able to move back onboard ten days ahead of schedule allowing them extra time to build up familiarity with the new systems and better prepare them for the rigours of the following ship’s trials.
The refit of ships is a major contract for Babcock and sustains a considerable workforce in the Rosyth dockyard. With the departure of Argyll, the skilled men and women, including several apprentices, will prepare for the arrival of the next customer from the Royal Navy. Babcock project manager George White said: “The project although challenging at times has been a good one to be involved in and has shown that through successful partnering between all stakeholders we can drive a diverse and complex project to a successful conclusion, achieving major milestones early and passing on the benefit to the Royal Navy.”
The ship will undergo further trials and operational sea training next year for any future deployments.