The HMS Duncan has entered Royal Navy service four months ahead of schedule. (UK Ministry of Defence)
LONDON — The Royal Navy’s sixth and final Type 45 destroyer has entered service four months ahead of schedule, the Ministry of Defence announced Dec 30.
HMS Duncan’s entry into service marks the end of a 13-year build program to provide Britain with a fleet of anti-air destroyers to replace the old Type 42 vessels, the last of which, HMS Edinburgh, was decommissioned in the summer of 2013.
The 7,500-ton warship was commissioned in September and will be based at Portsmouth along with the other vessels of its class. All of the warships were built by BAE Systems.
The cost of the demonstration and manufacturing phase of the Type 45s was put at £5.5 billion (US $9.1 billion) by the National Audit Office Major Projects Report, published in January of 2013.
The government’s financial watchdog agency is scheduled to publish its report on the progress of major defense projects in 2013 in the coming weeks.
The first of class, HMS Daring, entered service in mid-2009. Originally, the British intended to purchase 12 destroyers but whittled the number down as costs rose and requirements changed.
The entry into service of HMS Duncan brings the Royal Navy’s surface combat fleet up to its full strength of 19 warships — Six Type 45s and 13 Type 23 frigates.
The Type 23s will be gradually replaced by the Type 26 frigate. Design work on that warship is already well advanced and a decision on building the first of the new warships is scheduled for 2016.
The government said it will place a first order with BAE covering eight Type 26s. The MoD remains committed to a fleet of 13 frigates for the time being but the actual number has been clouded slightly by a recent order of three offshore patrol boats capable of operating a Merlin helicopter.
Announcing the OPV order in November, the government said it expects the more capable ships to replace three smaller vessels already in service. It cautioned, though, there wouldn’t be a final decision on the OPVs until the 2015 strategic defense and security review.
That’s left some people wondering whether a future government might retain the smaller, but relatively new, River-class vessels already in service alongside the new, larger OPVs at the expense of a Type 26 frigate or two, at least in the short term.
The first of the new OPVs is scheduled to enter service in 2017.
The OPVs were ordered to help BAE retain shipyard skills as the rundown of the program to build two 65,000-ton aircraft carriers is set to get underway in the next couple of years, leaving a gap until the Type 26 construction work gets underway.
BAE announced the closure of its Portsmouth shipyard and concentration of surface shipbuilding capabilities at two yards on the Clyde in Scotland as part of a wider deal with the government. The company also builds nuclear submarines at Barrow in northwest England.