TYPE 45 DECOMMISSIONING
Timely Reminder Of Past Military Collaboration Planning Failures!
By Howard Wheeldon, FRAeS, Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd.
06 Jun 13. I have little idea whether it is just coincidence that the Portsmouth decommissioning ceremony of the Royal Navy last Type 42 Destroyer ON June 6th happens to be occurring on the 69th anniversary of the 1944 D-Day landings but it is surely worthy of note. My purpose in writing around the decommissioning of HMS Edinburgh is not just to record the event itself but to remind of what I hope are now well heeded lessons from past failed European collaboration attempts in respect of designing a potential Type 42 replacement more than two decades ago.
First a reminder of the fine class of ship whose official retirement from Royal Navy service is commemorated at the official decommissioning ceremony today. In total, fourteen Type 42 Destroyers had been built for the Royal Navy between 1968 and December 1985. In addition two further vessels of this class were built for the Argentine Navy – one of which remains in active service to this day.
Born from cancellation of the CVA-01 carrier programme back in 1966 and its proposed attendant escort class Destroyer which was then known as the ‘Type 82’ the decision to go ahead with development of a smaller, lighter and presumably cheaper alternative vessel to be known as the Type 42 Destroyer was mercifully swift. Three separate batches of ships built by Swann Hunter, Cammell Laird, Vickers Shipbuilders and Vosper Thornycroft at varying times they were equipped with a variety of weapons and most usually carried a Westland Lynx Helicopter. Powered by a combination of Rolls-Royce Olympus and Tyne engines these ships were extremely powerful if costly to operate.
Type 42’s were to see service in virtually every conflict and area that the Royal Navy engaged including the war in the South Atlantic during which two ships, HMS Sheffield and HMS Coventry, were to be sunk with the loss of many lives. I suspect that no true account of Type 42 should ignore that these were sometimes unreliable ships particular during the later years of service when the degree of obsolescence had significantly increased. Nevertheless these were very fine ships indeed.
The decommissioning of any ship is a sad occasion but it should also be seen as a celebration of what that ship has achieved during its life and of the many associations made. During her 27 years in service with the Royal Navy HMS Edinburgh which was the last Type 42 built had seen active service in the Gulf and travelled far and wide either protecting British interests, providing the wide ranging NATO role required of the Royal Navy and visiting many international ports on goodwill visits flying the flag of Britain. This is what the Royal Navy does and it does it brilliantly with increasingly less resource.
Whilst the specific role for which the Type 42 ships had been built likely increased over the years that followed the ending of the ‘Cold War’ we can today take little comfort that of fourteen Type 42 ships originally built for the Royal Navy these have now been replaced by just six Type 45 Destroyers.
Having paid my due respects to the Type 42 class and to HMS Edinburgh itself I turn now to how back in the late 1980’s we had set about planning for the necessary Type 42 replacement. Although thankfully many of the more ridiculous proposals of the 1982 Nott Defence White Paper were to eventually be scrapped it was clear that this set a pattern for future significant cuts to be made particularly to Royal Navy and Royal Air Force operations. While most usually I concentrate predominantly on my own air power centre of excellence I am today restricting my thoughts mainly to aspects of maritime capability.
The Nott review which was based solely on cutting defence expenditure as opposed to concentration on future defence strategy had signalled major cuts in maritime capabili