The Royal Navy Type 23 frigate HMS Richmond today begins an extensive £20M refit at Devonport dockyard, which includes installing the £4M Seawolf missile system.

The Seawolf short range ship defence missile system is a £300M upgrade programme being rolled out across the fleet of Type 23 frigates and is designed to combat the increasing threat of faster, lower flying and more maneuverable missiles. This system can track a target the size of a cricket ball at twice the speed of sound from over 20 miles away and launch two missiles to destroy it.

The MOD signed the contract for the refit in September with Babcock and the work will be carried out at their Devonport facility. The work is expected to last until next spring, with the ship due to return to the Fleet in the summer following sea trials.

In addition to routine maintenance work, the refit contract includes a number of upgrades to better equip the vessel for her worldwide roles. These include installation of a new £800K command system that will be more cost effective to maintain and is compatible with other new ships entering service.

A new ‘brain’ of the ship’s weapons systems and upgraded communications systems are also being installed across the Type 23 Frigate Force to enhance operational capability and interoperability for the future.

An upgrade to the 30 mm automatic guns is also being carried out to extend their effective range and accuracy.

Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology, Peter Luff, said:

“This refit work will see HMS Richmond follow previous Type 23 frigates in benefiting from a range of essential upgrades that will maintain her at peak effectiveness. These frigates continue to form the backbone of the Royal Navy’s ability to deploy worldwide in defence of the UK’s interests.”

Rear Admiral P D Hudson CBE, Chief of Staff Operations Capability, Naval Command Headquarters, said:

“This important work will not only deliver an essential refresh of the ship’s war fighting capabilities in a wide range of operational environments, but will also improve the living conditions for the ship’s company. We look forward to HMS Richmond returning to the Fleet ready for the challenges of warfare in the 21st Century.”

HMS Richmond was the tenth of the Type 23 Duke Class Anti Submarine Warfare Frigates in service with the Royal Navy and the eighth warship to bear the name. She was the last warship to be built by Swan Hunter Shipbuilders on the Tyne and was launched in 1993.