Yesterday’s Royal Navy today handed the torch to tomorrow’s Fleet as work began on its newest frigate, HMS Active.
Veterans from the last ship to bear the name were invited to Rosyth to help Defence Minister Alex Chalk, Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral Martin Connell and shipwrights start work on the second of five Type 31 frigates which will become the backbone of the Fleet’s global operations by the decade’s end.
They set the cutters running on the first plates of steel for the 5,700-tonne warship which, with her four Inspiration-class sisters, will perform general duties alongside submarine-hunting Type 26 frigates, collectively replacing the existing Type 23s flotilla.
The 31s will be longer and larger than their predecessors, equipped with a 57mm and two 40mm Bofors guns, the Sea Ceptor air defence system, a 4D radar, a large flight deck and hangar, and mission bays to fit equipment – such as diving, minehunting kit, drones or disaster relief supplies – to perform a variety of missions: maritime security operations, humanitarian aid, air defence, gunfire support, board and search.
“It is truly a pleasure to be invited today, not only to speak and engage with those involved with HMS Active’s past and future, but to witness the outcomes of this world-class frigate programme that will be at the heart of the Royal Navy for generations to come,” Vice Admiral Connell said.
Work begins on HMS Active 16 months after Defence Secretary Ben Wallace started steel cutting HMS Venturer.
No veterans from her predecessor – a WW2 submarine which left service in 1946 – attended that ceremony.
But with Active serving until 1994, former crew are aplenty and five who served in the ship in the Falklands were invited to the steel cut.
There they presented a plaque – featuring their Type 21 frigate ‘meeting’ her successor – for the crew of the new Active to display on board in due course.
The artwork was commissioned from Plymouth-based artist Melanie Wright by former Leading Radio Operator Mark ‘Joe’ Davis.
He and his fellow shipmates were surprised when Active’s name was resurrected – especially the names of her sisters lost in the Falklands, Ardent and Antelope, are arguably more famous.
Guests at the cutting ceremony in Babcock’s yard learned about the deeds of the previous Active courtesy of a multimedia presentation.
“As soon as we heard that a new ship was to be named Active, we thought it would be great to be involved,” said Mr Davis, from Plymouth.
“It’s not very often that a ship you served on is given to a future ship in your lifetime. We are so proud that Active’s name lives on and hope that her crew will add to the history. And we cannot wait to one day spend a day at sea on her.”
Work on her successor, plus HMS Venturer and the three ships still to be built – Formidable, Bulldog and Campbeltown – will support around 1,250 highly-skilled jobs at Babcock and see the creation of an additional 150 apprenticeships. A further 1,250 roles in the UK supply chain are also expected to be supported by the programme.