HMS Somerset headed out to sea for the first time in nearly four years as the frigate emerged from refit.
After more than one million hours of work by skilled engineers, technicians and shipwrights, the warship left Plymouth today as the latest ship in her 12-strong class to complete a massive overhaul – known as LIFEX (life extension).
She has undergone maintenance, received updates and structural improvements to her hull and living spaces, and enhanced sensors and weapon systems led by the latest Sea Ceptor air defense missile system, replacing the obsolete Sea Wolf.
Additional upgrades to key electronic equipment, including communications, navigation and computer systems have been undertaken, ensuring the ship can operate against the latest threats well into the next decade.
Diesel generators have been replaced and the remainder of the propulsion system received an enhanced clean. Other key ancillary systems have been overhauled and updated.
The work allows these workhorses of the Fleet – designed in the 1980s and originally intended to serve for around 18 years – to remain in the vanguard of naval warfare until their successor Type 26 and 31 frigates begin entering service later this decade and into the mid-2030s.
“This is HMS Somerset’s first time at sea under her own power since a visit to Hamburg back in the spring of 2018”, said Commander Dave Mason, HMS Somerset’s Commanding Officer.
“With a full complement of 176 sailors – many of whom are sailing today for the first time in their careers ¬- everyone is looking forward to putting the ship through her paces.
“I am very proud of the ship’s company whose professionalism, commitment and hard work have ensured that HMS Somerset is ready to safely proceed to sea
“HMS Somerset has a busy program ahead to fully test the ship and her crew over the coming weeks and months.”
Among the ‘first timers’ are communications specialists, Weapons Engineering Technicians Alys Wightman and Lucy Evans.
“Joining HMS Somerset gave me unique opportunities,” said Alys. “It’s enabled me to experience first-hand what it’s like to bring a ship out of refit, which has been extremely rewarding.”
Lucy added: “I have been a member of HMS Somerset since May 2021 supporting the rest of the ships company to get the ship to the required standard to sail. I’m really looking forward to sailing as this will be my first time at sea with the Royal Navy.”
She and her 175 shipmates will spend the next few weeks off the South Coast conducting trials and training.
The trials bring the curtain down on work which began in the frigate complex in Devonport back in November 2018 involving sailors, MOD personnel and industrial partners Babcock.
To mark the revamp’s completion, the project team waved off the Duke-class warship and her crew as she departed Devonport.
“Our support to the Type 23 class draws on our experience and unique engineering expertise to update and upgrade these frigates and deliver them back to the Royal Navy with the capability they need to successfully operate beyond their original design life,” said Gary Simpson, Managing Director of Babcock’s Marine Support Business.
“I am really proud of our teams for completing another major overhaul of a Type 23 frigate, as part of the life extension program, ensuring the frigates are fighting fit for operational duties across the globe.”
After completing sea trials, HMS Somerset will return to the Fleet ready for further training and then operational tasking.
Meanwhile HMS Iron Duke is the next frigate due to exit the Frigate Support Centre and continue her overhaul ahead of HMS Argyll and HMS Westminster arriving later this year.