ABOARD HMS DARING (Reuters) - The world’s most advanced warship of its type completed its maiden voyage to its Portsmouth base on Wednesday, handing the country a huge boost in firepower in the face of growing pressure on defence budgets.
Stealth destroyer HMS Daring is the first of six 1 billion pound vessels ordered by the Royal Navy with the capability to shield London from missile attacks in the 2012 Olympics or protect the country’s fleet from multiple sea-skimming weapons.
“This ship gives us the ability to operate anywhere in the world against any range of threats,” Captain Paul Bennett told Reuters before preparing to berth the Type 45 destroyer alongside Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory.
The Royal Navy has been hit severely by defence cuts in recent years as planners focus on urgent operational needs such as ground-based operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The 6.5 billion-pound Type 45 programme, which has been halved from 12 ships to six, will provide the backbone of Britain’s naval air defences until 2040 or beyond.
It will enter service in December after completing sea trials, but well before two new aircraft carriers it was built to protect. The government last year pushed back those vessels by one to two years to the middle of the next decade.
Daring’s combination of systems allows it to pinpoint threats and guide air operations far inland, however, giving the navy extra punch in future conflicts.
“If you want a kick-the-door-down capability, you need to be able to operate close to the highest threats. This gives a robust, high-quality air defence for those units,” Bennett said.
“This was built for future wars rather than current crises,” he added.
Daring’s arrival was overshadowed by a surprise shake-up in the shipbuilding industry as VT Group said it would quit the venture that built Daring, but the Navy said its multi-billion-pound renewal programme would not be affected.
At 7,500 tonnes, Daring is twice as big as the vessels it will replace.
The crew of 190 is a third smaller and the ship’s labyrinth of passages is brighter and more spacious than the cramped conditions on previous Type 42 destroyers now in service.
No more than six junior crew -- with an average of 22 -- will share quarters instead of as many as 50 on previous warships.
Daring’s PAAMS air defence system can track over 1,000 objects simultaneously and order the ship’s 48 Aster missiles to destroy a tennis-ball sized target travelling at Mach 3. Its three-dimensional Sampson radar, enclosed in a dome perched on top of a 37-metre mast, is capable of monitoring every aircraft landing or taking off at London Heathrow, Paris or Brussels from the English Channel.
The corresponding U.S. combat system, Aegis, was developed around 15 years earlier.
Officials said the ship could be fitted if needed with land-attack cruise missiles or carry unmanned aerial vehicles.
Editing by Steve Addison
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.