Essex to share in Royal Navy work

DEFENCE Minister Baroness Taylor yesterday announced a £35 million major upgrade to the Royal Navy frigate HMS Sutherland - including new equipment to be manufactured in Essex.

DEFENCE Minister Baroness Taylor yesterday announced a £35 million major upgrade to the Royal Navy frigate HMS Sutherland - including new equipment to be manufactured in Essex.

The Type 23 frigate is to get the Navy's latest and most sophisticated submarine hunting sonar system, capable of identifying submarines at even greater depths, an advanced Seawolf air defence missile system, a new improved main gun capable of firing long-range ammunition, and a reshaped stern to cut fuel use.

The new equipment is valued at £18million, and it will be installed as part of a general overhaul of the ship under a £17million contract with Babcock Marine at its Rosyth dockyard in Scotland.

The Seawolf missile defence system upgrade to enhance the ship's anti-aircraft capabilities is being run by BAE Systems Insyte - as part of a multi-vessel project valued at a total of £300million - with equipment being manufactured at the company's sites in Chelmsford and Portsmouth.

The Sonar installation, marking a step-change in anti-submarine warfare, is part of a £166million project run by Thales Underwater Systems Ltd while the upgrade to the 4.5in main gun is by DML in Devonport.

Baroness Taylor, Minister of State for Defence Equipment and Support, said: “HMS Sutherland is the first of our ships to get this new equipment making her the most powerful frigate in the fleet.

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“With an improved air defence missile system, a new long-range main gun, and our latest and most sophisticated submarine-hunting sonar, she will be a force to be reckoned with, capable of dealing with current and future threats.”

HMS Sutherland entered service into 1997 and has seen service all over the world, from the frozen seas of the Artic and the South Atlantic to the tropical heat of the Caribbean and the Far East.