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Westminster the interceptor as frigate completes refit with Navy’s new air defence missile
3 October 2016

HMS Westminster has completed a massive revamp in her home port which has turned into Britain’s most potent frigate.

Among other upgrades, the ship is the first in the fleet to receive the new air defence missile, Sea Ceptor.

Pictures: BAE Systems

ALMOST ready for sea after 18 months out of action is HMS Westminster – the most powerful and advanced frigate in the Royal Navy inventory after a massive overhaul was completed.

More than 800 engineers, technicians and shipwrights from BAE Systems have swarmed over the 24-year-old warship in Portsmouth to prepare her for the final decade of her life.

She’s the first ship to receive the Navy’s new shield against air attack – the Sea Ceptor missile system, which is also being installed on sister ships Argyll and Montrose during their revamps in Devonport.

Ceptor (short for interceptor) replaces the veteran Seawolf which has protected the frigate flotilla more than 35 years.

The new Artisan radar is lowered into place on the main mast

The large trackers which guided the old system have been removed and replaced with its successors smaller, more powerful sensors.

And the silo has been adapted to accommodate the new supersonic missiles, heavier, over one metre longer and with a range of more than 25km (15 miles), more than twice that of Seawolf.

In addition, engineers have installed the Artisan radar which is rapidly becoming prevalent on the Type 23s – it can track more than 800 objects simultaneously as close as 200 metres and as far away as 200,000 (200km, 125 miles, or from Portsmouth to Calais as the crow flies).

A shiny refurbished ‘Kryten’ main 4.5in gun has been lowered back into place on the forecastle; it can rain 21kg shells down on enemy targets more than 27km (16 miles) away at the rate of up to two dozen miles away.

Before the dry dock was flooded, the hull received a coat of anti-fouling paint which will stop algae and other marine organisms sticking to it…and slowing the ship down.

And just for good measure… the bridge was completely revamped. And the galley. And the mess decks and communal areas, as the ship’s company discovered when they moved back aboard recently.

They have to wait another couple of months before taking the ‘capital ship’ back to sea – basin/harbour trials have to be conducted on most systems and equipment, while the crew must undergo training and finally assessment before being authorised to sail a multi-million pound warship.

Working on the bridge windows

Once trials are complete, Westminster is due to be handed back to the RN next spring.

“HMS Westminster is emerging from an extended refit period as one of the most capable surface ships in the Royal Navy,” said her new Commanding Officer Cdr Simon Kelly.

“She has benefited from a number of significant upgrades many of which the Royal Navy will invest in the future Type 26 Frigate. The partnership with BAE Systems throughout this period has been excellent, for which I thank all of the team.”