UK to retire two Type 23 frigates saving £100M to boost future fleet

The Royal Navy will retire two Type 23 frigates, HMS Monmouth and HMS Montrose, saving around £100 million ($133 million), according to written evidence submitted by Admiral Tony Radakin to the Defence Select Committee, UK.

Type-23 frigate HMS Monmouth. Photo: UK MOD

As informed, the report provides insights into how removing two frigate hulls can lead to increased frigate availability. Following the House of Commons Defence Committee (HCDC) background briefing session in July and the HCDC session with the Minister for Defence Procurement on 2 November, Radakin decided to comment on ship availability more generally.

“There is clearly a relationship between the number of ships in the Royal Navy and how many days of availability for operations we can deliver. That relationship is, however, a complex one, driven by how much resource, in both people and money, is available to crew and support those ships and how much time they must spend in deep maintenance,” according to Admiral Radakin.

Initially, the two frigates were scheduled for lengthy retrofits, from 2021 until 2024, before retiring in 2026/2027, so their retirement has only removed 51 months of availability. Furthermore, older Type 23 refits are increasingly costly, whereas sustaining a Type 23 on operations post refit is significantly cheaper.

Additionally, as stated by Admiral Radakin, extending three ships in service (HMS Argyll, Lancaster and Iron Duke) to get maximum value from their funded or completed refits generates an additional 135 months of availability. All in all, the combined effect of these measures thus generated “an additional 84 months of General Purpose Type 23 availability between 2021-2029, a 55% increase over the pre-IR plan,” Admiral Radakin emphasized.

These measures are being carried out to bridge the gap between the Type 23 force and Types 26 and 31, so that the enough units are available to the Royal Navy when there is a need. What is more, there is not “over-investing” in older platforms and the focus is shifted towards the future UK’s naval fleet.

Admiral Radakin pointed out that as new ships are brought into service, they will require less maintenance than those they replace, reaping the benefits of modern technology and further improving relative availability. The UK is currently committed to several initiatives, under Projects RESOLUTION (submarines) and RENOWN (Surface Ships), to shorten refits and speed up routine maintenance of the existing fleet.

“The collective effect of all these measures will be a much more available Fleet, delivering a better return on the investment the Ministry of Defence has made in the Royal Navy, and providing more days on operations for the nation,” Admiral Radakin concluded.