Type 23 frigate HMS Somerset has begun a nine month docking period being undertaken by Babcock at Devonport – marking the first refit to be undertaken under the Surface Ship Support Alliance (SSSA) Class Output Management (COM) Phase 2 arrangements, which officially came into effect last month (April).
SSSA Phase 2, now in place, sees full implementation of COM* across all legacy in-service platforms, with significantly greater delegation to industry on a performance-based ‘contracting for availability’ basis. As the first to commence under Phase 2 Somerset’s docking period will build on the successful partnering seen on previous Type 23 refits, to ensure a smooth transition to contracting for availability under COM.
The docking period will see HMSSomersetreceive a number of upgrades and improvements that will significantly increase her sustainability and fighting capability. These include the new DNA(2) Command System (central to the ship’s capability against air, surface and underwater threats) with a comprehensive programme integrating all existing weapons, sonar and radar systems to be carried out during the commissioning phase of this upgrade.
Other upgrades include the SeaWolf mid-life upgrade (SWMLU) comprising tracking, guidance and weapon management upgrades to counter evolving anti-ship missile threats; installation of the Defence Information Infrastructure (Future) (DII(F)) enabling information sharing and collaborative working across the Armed Forces and MoD; and NATO Radial Filters to protect fresh air supplies from contamination in the event of an incident; as well as a galley equipment upgrade ensuring the service areas are in optimum condition to support the ship. An upgrade to the high pressure air system and modifications to the underwater inlets and outlets are among the mechanical upgrades.
Additionally, the refit will see a programme of deep maintenance carried out, including overhaul or renewal of valves, generators, rudders, propellers and shafts, pumps and motors, the helicopter handling system, breakers and switchboards, refrigeration and fresh water systems. A full structural survey will identify any repair work required, and a large paint preservation package will be undertaken. There will also be a programme of maintenance and minor upgrades on the radar, sonar, and weapons systems including the 4.5 inch gun.
Importantly, the workscope for the refit has been developed with Babcock and the MoD working together closely during the planning phase, and based on lessons learnt from previous successful Type 23 docking periods, enabling much of the traditional growth from previous refits to be incorporated into the specification from the start. As Phase 2 comes into play, the improving knowledge of material state being built up by the Type 23 COM team will enable workscope development for future refits to be increasingly well informed, to achieve further efficiencies and savings.
Safety and process improvements have also been introduced by Babcock based on experience from previous docking periods, including improved access control to the dockside and ship, improved scaffold access to areas of the outer bottom, and a revised electrical and mechanical tagout procedure.
Babcock’s Warship Support Head of Operations, Devonport, Mike Weeks, said: “In delivering this project the joint Babcock, MOD and BAE Type 23 COM team will be drawing on their close working relationships and extensive experience gained from previous successful Type 23 docking periods, to deliver HMSSomersetsafely, to quality, on-schedule, and at optimum value for money.”
He continued: “The refit will be challenging and we will be managing a very complex integrated schedule containing all Babcock, Ship’s Staff and MoD contractor activities, with multiple interlinked activities that must be carefully planned to avoid any conflict and maintain the tight schedule. At the same time, ensuring the safety of all personnel involved is our number one priority and we actively seek to continuously improve safety standards set during previous Type 23 refits. We look forward to working closely with all our partners to ensure successful completion of this first project to be undertaken under SSSA Phase 2 arrangements.”
HMS Somerset will leave Devonport at the end of the year for sea trials.