HMS Westminster starts sea trials after major refit

Royal Navy’s Type 23 frigate HMS Westminster has taken to sea after works on her overhaul were completed in October last year.

The sea trials that started this week are the first step in the long road back to rejoining the front-line fleet.

When the ‘capital ship’ last sailed she had a different radar (996) and a different air defence system (Seawolf).

They have 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 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.

“Although many things have changed about the ship materially, the ship’s company are 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 have been with her throughout the refit, whilst many others have come straight from training and this will be their first time at sea as they regenerate the ship for operations later this year.

“Despite having worked onboard HMS Westminster for the past two years, life at sea is a completely different experience,” said deputy logistics officer Sub Lieutenant Harriet Delbridge.

“Once the ship returns to sea, she becomes a living entity, the noise of the engines, the smells from the galley and pitch and roll as she ploughs through the waves.”

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.