Sutherland leaves Babcock’s Devonport dockyard for sea trials

Type 23 frigate HMS Sutherland left Babcock’s Devonport Royal Dockyard for sea trials today (24 March) with increased structural sustainability and fighting capability, as part of a significant upgrade and substantial maintenance programme by Babcock, including extensive improvements.

HMS Sutherland’s refit, undertaken under the Surface Ship Support Alliance (an alliance between Ministry of Defence, Babcock and BAE Systems) Class Output Management (COM) arrangements, has seen industry take the lead on the content and optimisation of the package to provide the necessary through-life availability and capability.  The ship’s departure for sea trials today marks a major milestsone in the refit, before she is returned to the fleet in the spring.

HMS Sutherland has undergone a full structural repair and strengthening programme following a structural survey of the ship and an unprecedented dry blast ‘back to bare’ programme for the superstructure and upper deck.  This has included new sections and steel upgrades to the hull and superstructure which has significantly de-risked the platform for future operation. 

Upgrades to the ship have included installation of the DNA(2) Command System (central to the ship’s capability against air, surface and underwater threats), and the Artisan (Advanced Radar Target Indication Situational Awareness and Navigation) 3D Radar Type 997 (improving the ship’s air-defence, anti-ship and air traffic management capabilities), as well as the chloropac system (improving performance in the ship’s sea water cooling systems by preventing or reducing marine growth) including modification to the underwater inlets and outlets to reduce corrosion, an upgrade to the high pressure air system pipework (providing safe, reliable and flexible isolation when required), and a galley equipment upgrade, among others.

The deep maintenance programme has also included removal of rudders and stabilisers along with a programme of maintenance on the propeller shafts and associated bearings, overhaul of the helicopter handling system (PRISM), a complete overhaul or renewal of all underwater and shipside valves and numerous pumps and motors from various ship systems, replacement of laundry equipment and of the sonar bow dome, and overhaul of refrigeration and fresh water systems.  A programme of maintenance and minor upgrades on weapons systems including the 4.5 inch gun has also been included, as well as full renewal of the ship’s paint coatings from the water line up following the extensive blast programme.

Babcock Surface Combatant Programme Manager, Gary Simpson, said: “HMS Sutherland has left Devonport for sea trials in significantly better condition with improved sustainability and fighting capability, following what has been a challenging programme, including the emergent structural repair requirement involving considerable planning and management.  This upkeep has enabled valuable experience to be gained, which will in turn form an important contribution in meeting the challenge of delivering extended operating life for the rest of the class, as the Type 23 life extension upkeep programme starts later this year.  The delivery of HMS Sutherland ready to fight long into her extended life will also add to the continuing development of knowledge and experience in undertaking Type 23 upkeeps at Devonport.”

Having now left Devonport to undergo several weeks sea trials as the next phase in the upkeep period, HMS Sutherland is scheduled to return the fleet in late spring, marking completion of the upkeep.