HMS Sutherland is surrounded by a mass of scaffolding and sheeting as she’s part-way through a massive revamp in her home base of Devonport. Her paintwork has been stripped off, bow sonar removed and interior gutted during an 11-month refit in the imposing frigate shed.
This gift-wrapped beauty is one of Britain’s ultimate submarine hunters as you’ve probably never seen her before.
Covered in tenting, sheets and an impressive lattice of scaffolding, this is HMS Sutherland in the midst of a massive overhaul.
After spending most of 2013 as the UK’s duty towed array patrol ship – on-call to respond to any submarine activity – the Type 23 frigate bowed out of the active fleet in October, ready to begin an 11-month revamp in her Devonport home.
Five months on and the ship sits in the gigantic ‘frigate shed’ which dominates the Hamoaze waterfront near the Torpoint ferry crossing – a shed which has shielded her from the strong winds and terrible weather which have buffeted the West Country for much of the winter.
Inside the refit complex, her paintwork is being stripped, primed and repainted ready for her unveiling later this year. The repainting is not merely a cosmetic touch, for the new coat is more resistant to marine organisms attaching themselves to the hull – and slowing Sutherland’s progress.
As well as an external revamp, the Fighting Clan’s innards are being ripped out and replaced.
A new sonar dome on the bow will be installed (the old one has already been removed), the new Artisan radar system will be fitted as Sutherland’s ‘eyes and ears’, giving her operations room team a far more detailed view of the surrounding area.
Also putting the command team in a better position to make key decisions on front-line operations is the DNA(2) computer system which processes a wealth of information from radars, sonars and weapon systems better than Sutherland’s existing wizardry.
The work is being carried out jointly by defence firm Babcock and a kernel of the ship’s company who’ll stay with the frigate throughout the refit.
“It is a new type of ship for me, so it is nice to see her from scratch – and see her re-built,” said LET(WE) Matthew ‘Basher’ Bates.
“It is helping me build my knowledge of how the ship fits together. It will be good to get the ship to sea and put her through its paces.”
Overseeing the overhaul from the ship’s standpoint is her Senior Naval Officer, Lt Cdr Pete Brotton.
“When Sutherland emerges from this refit, she’ll will be one of the Royal Navy’s most capable ships,” he said.
“The upgrades will increase our ability and accomplish any operations or tasks that we are set.
“The refit has been a good example of the Royal Navy working with Babcock and I am proud of the way our people are delivering this project.”
Sutherland will emerge from her refit later this year, after which she’ll undergo extensive trials and training before rejoining the Royal Navy’s order of battle.
Press Release, March 13, 2014, 2014; Image: Royal Navy