UK: St Albans Makes History

St Albans Makes History

HMS St Albans has shot her way into Royal Navy history – bringing an end to 40 years of gunnery with the legendary 4.5in gun.

For four decades the distinctive round Mod 0 gun – fitted to all Type 42 destroyers, Type 23 and later Type 22 frigates – has been the Fleet’s principal weapon against foes on land.

It has pummelled targets with pinpoint precision from the wind-swept Falklands to the sands of Libya and Iraq.

Up to 25 high-explosive shells can leave the barrel every minute, roaring through the heavens at 2,850ft per second – over 1,940 mph or over two and half times the speed of sound – towards targets up to 27,700 yards (over 25km or 15½ miles) away.

Over the past decade, however, the round Mod 0 has been phased out and replaced by the angular Mod 1 (nicknamed Kryten after the Red Dwarf character with similarly-rigid features).

Portsmouth-based St Albans is the last RN warship fitted with the old gun – and it fell to her to fire the final round from the final round gun during training in Norway.

The frigate was making use of the NATO ranges near Bergen and let loose with a final few bursts from the trusty gun – making a total of just over 2,100 rounds fired by the Saint since she entered service 11 years ago.

Overseeing the final shoot was the frigate’s deputy weapon engineer officer Lt David Howe – whose responsibilities include making sure St Albans’ weapon systems are working said.

“Since joining the Royal Navy as an artificer apprentice in 1996 I have always had a keen interest in Naval gunfire.

“I was fortunate enough to be the captain of the gunbay in HMS Norfolk when the first Mod 1 firings took place at sea in 2001. As a stroke of luck I am now the in the last ship to fire the Mod 0 gun. It has been an amazing journey for me and I am just happy to be part of the fine traditions of the RN.”

Originally designed as an anti-air weapon, the Vickers 4.5in Mk8 gun, as it was originally known, was introduced in the early 1970s to replace the twin-barrelled Mk6 gun, which traced its history back to the 1930s.

After successful trials the Mod 0 was first fitted on the Type 82 destroyer HMS Bristol – and subsequently became the gun of choice for the RN.

Its primary role is to provide Naval Gunfire Support against targets ashore, either to wipe out enemy positions, or fire for effect to demoralise the foe, but in its secondary role it can be used against surface ships.

As Britain’s youngest Type 23, St Albans is the last of her class to undergo her mid-life revamp – when she’ll swap her round 4.5in for a Kryten.

The newer gun is an electrical system with hydraulics only for ramming the round into the breach. The angular shape of the Mod 1 reduces its radar cross-section.

Naval Today Staff, March 28, 2013; Image: Royal Navy