Four years since her last mission and two years since she began a massive overhaul, the Queen’s frigate – HMS Lancaster – is back in the water and preparing for renewed action.
Crew are due to re-join the Type 23 frigate next month, breathing new life into the 4,500-tonne warship which has been a building site since 2017.
The Red Rose emerged from the giant frigate shed in Devonport where most of the work has been carried out and is now aiming to return to her homeport of Portsmouth in time for Christmas as she builds back up to re-join the Royal Navy fleet.
Lancaster – whose sponsor is the Queen in her role as Duke of Lancaster – has undergone extensive upgrades mirroring the major changes across the frigate flotilla, such as the new Artisan 3D radar, improved navigational radar and new-generation Sea Ceptor missile system which replaces the now-retired Seawolf as the ship’s shield against air attack.
In addition, the backbone of the ship has been strengthened with 200 new steel inserts fitted to reinforce Lancaster in heavy seas.
The newly-installed kit will be commissioned in the autumn ahead of planned initial sea trials early in 2020.
Having floated up in February, she was removed from the refit sheds out into the basin where work has been ongoing to ensure the ship’s company meets the move on board date.
From just six crew joining in April, numbers have grown rapidly; 130 sailors are set to move on board Lancaster in August.
“The ship’s company are all currently being trained to take care and protection of HMS Lancaster back from Babcock in August,” said Weapon Engineer Officer, Lieutenant Commander Mike Bray.
“They are also making sure that she is safe in all respects for the crew to move on-board, this involves all aspects of duty watch training including firefighting, damage control, casualty response and so on.”
With new crew members joining in the build-up to next month’s move, it has been a chance to rebuild relationships with affiliates.
The ship’s company headed to the Armed Forces Day parade in Morecambe.
“The team from Lancaster threw themselves into the spirit of the day and enjoyed engaging with the general public and representing the Senior Service,” said Lt Cdr Bray.
“We thoroughly enjoyed meeting the people of Morecambe and Lancaster, and re-forging their affiliate bonds. We are already talking about popping back up to the North-West for training and for the November ceremonies.”
Lieutenant Commander Adrian Legge (Retired) from the Lancaster Military Heritage Group, who assisted in planning events at Morecambe, added: "I hope everyone had a great night in Morecambe and an easy drive back to Devonport.
“Thank you all for your invaluable contribution to Armed Forces Day – you are a credit to your ship and to the Royal Navy."