Stern first HMS Sutherland is carefully moved out of the refit complex

The waters of the Hamoaze lap around the hull of HMS Sutherland once more as the warship passes a major milestone in her multi-year revamp.
The Type 23 frigate has been high and dry for well over 12 months, taken out of the water for her LIFEX (life extension) refit in the hands of defense firm Babcock.

Sutherland is the last ship in her class to go through the overhaul, which – as the name suggests – extends the life of the frigates to allow them to continue in service into the mid-2030s.

While in dry dock in Devonport’s frigate refit complex, Sutherland has undergone a full structural survey and a major upgrade including 700 inserts, 11,500 weld repairs demanding more than five kilometers of welding.

Entire sections of the ship have been deconstructed and then rebuilt to allow engine, generator and machinery control upgrades: forward and aft switchboards, new diesel generator and motor generator sets in the forward and upper auxiliary machinery rooms, as well as the installation of several miles of new pipework and cables.

As a fighting machine, Sutherland has also received an upgraded 2150 Sonar system, requiring the removal of the sonar bow dome – a major lifting operation involving specialist support.

And she’s the very last ship in her class to receive the Sea Ceptor missile system – now proven in action after HMS Richmond downed drones at the weekend.

With the ship now back in the water, the focus is on bringing the Fighting Clan to life again as the growing ship’s company (just 11 sailors this week, but nearly 100 by the end of next) and Babcock engineers complete the overhaul and trial the myriad of systems upgraded.

“We are excited by the significant milestone flood up presents to HMS Sutherland’s ship’s company and the Babcock team who have worked extensively to get her to this stage. We look forward to the next steps and are delighted to see Sutherland back in the water,” said the frigate’s Senior Naval Officer Lieutenant Commander Alexandra Page.

“Our focus is to now work side-by-side with Babcock as we commission systems, whilst training as a ship’s company ready to return to sea later this year.

“I could not be happier to see HMS Sutherland back where she belongs with the Fighting Clan ready for the exciting journey ahead.”

Gary Simpson, Managing Director of Babcock’s Marine Support business, added: “We are proud to work alongside our colleagues from the Royal Navy to carry out life-extensions of the Navy’s Type 23 fleet. Flooding up HMS Sutherland is another great milestone in that journey.
“The skills shown by our engineers, fabricators, technicians and experts have been outstanding to get us to this stage. We’re delighted to see HMS Sutherland back in the water, where she belongs.”

I could not be happier to see HMS Sutherland back where she belongs with the Fighting Clan ready for the exciting journey ahead.