HMS Westminster makes Capital Return to Frontline
HMS Westminster is once again powering through the sea after completing one of the longest, most comprehensive and complex revamps in the frigate’s 24-year life.
More than 800 engineers, technicians and shipwrights from BAE Systems have swarmed over the ship in Portsmouth Naval Base to prepare her for the final decade of her life. They were joined by ever-increasing numbers of ship’s company, who have this week taken Westminster to sea on trials, the first step in the long road back to rejoining the front-line Fleet.
When the ‘capital ship’ last sailed her Radar was different radar (996) and her Air Defence system was Seawolf. They been ripped out and replaced respectively by 997 (better known as Artisan 3D) and Sea Ceptor, which has twice the interception range of the old missile system.
The hull was cleaned and repainted – with anti-fouling paint to prevent marine life attaching itself to the ship – the main 4.5in gun serviced, the engines and machinery overhauled, mess and communal areas given a fresh look and the bridge revamped.
Chief Petty Officer Andrew Buckley joined a brand-new Westminster back in 1994 and two decades later, was with her throughout the latest overhaul. “Having taken Westminster out of build, I am proud to be taking her back out to sea after this extensive refit,” said the senior rating who serves in the operations room as an underwater warfare specialist – the frigate’s raison d’être.
“Although many things have changed about the ship materially, the ship’s company is just as proud to be serving on her as they were at day one.”
Like CPO Buckley, some of HMS Westminster’s 180-plus crew has been with her throughout the refit, whilst many others have come straight from training and this will be their first appointment as they regenerate the ship for operations later this year.
Captain of HMS Westminster, Commander Simon Kelly said he was delighted to be in command of the Royal Navy’s most advanced Anti Submarine Warfare Frigate.
“We’ve got a busy few weeks ahead of us now. Conducting some of our own training before putting the Ship through its paces with Flag Officer Sea Training in Devonport. Its always been an aspiration of mine, throughtout my naval career to take command of a Ship, lead a newly formed crew and watch them come together as a team as well as a family, it is the pinnicle of my career.”
Westminster is one of three Type 23s to emerge from similar major overhauls simultaneously. HMS Montrose and Argyll were revamped in their native Devonport. The latter will go on to be trials vessel for Sea Ceptor.