VIDEO: Sea Cat (1963)

A short newsreel from British Pathé.

Marry this with an archived 1963 edition of Flight International highlighting the new missile system.

Royal Navy Whitby-class frigates

HMS Whitby (F36)
built: Cammell Laird and Co Ltd, Birkenhead
laid down: 30 September 1952
launched: 2 July 1954
commissioned: 10 July 1956
paid off: 1974
fate: sold for scrapping 1979

HMS Torquay (F43)
built: Harland & Wolff Ltd, Belfast
laid down: 11 March 1953
launched: 1 July 1954
commissioned: 10 May 1956
paid off: 1985
fate: sold for scrapping 1987

HMS Scarborough (F63)
built: Vickers Armstrongs (Shipbuilders) Ltd, Newcastle upon Tyne and Vickers Armstrongs (Engineers) Ltd, Barrow-in-Furness
laid down: 11 September 1953
launched: 4 April 1955
commissioned: 10 May 1957
paid off: 1972
fate: 1977

HMS Tenby (F65)
built: Cammell Laird and Co Ltd, Birkenhead
laid down: 23 June 1953
launched: 4 October 1955
commissioned: 18 December 1957
paid off: 1972
fate: sold for scrapping 1979

HMS Eastbourne (F73)
built: Vickers Armstrongs (Shipbuilders) Ltd, Newcastle upon Tyne and Vickers Armstrongs (Engineers) Ltd, Barrow-in-Furness
laid down: 13 January 1954
launched: 29 December 1955
commissioned: 9 January 1958
paid off: 1984
fate: sold for scrapping 1985

HMS Blackpool (F77)
built: Harland and Wolff, Belfast
laid down: 20 December 1954
launched: 14 February 1957
commissioned: 14 August 1958
paid off: 1971
fate: sold for scrapping 1980

Decline of Royal Navy frigate and destroyer strength 1983-2013

‘Were I to die at this moment “want of frigates” would be found stamped on my heart.’ Horatio Nelson, 1798.

In 1983, 30-years ago (which scarcely seems credible to this old fart), in the midst of the it-seemed-hot-enough-at-the-time Cold War, in the immediate aftermath of the Falklands Conflict, the Royal Navy planned for a force of 50 frigates and destroyers (HC Deb 28 November 1983 vol 49 cc661-737).

HMS Achilles (F12) Leander-class frigate at HMNB Portsmouth, 1983.

In 1993, post Cold War, already in draw down and reaping the so-called peace dividend, the Royal Navy was facing reductions to a force of 40 frigates and destroyers (HC Deb 25 February 1993 vol 219 c717W).

HMS Amazon (F169) Type 21 frigate sold to Pakistan as PNS Babur (D182) in 1993.

By 2003, in the midst of the Global War on Terror and with the Iraq War coming to the fore, the force had been reduced to 31 frigates and destroyers… of which only 26 were operational (HC Deb 12 May 2003 vol 405 cc47-50W).

HMS Glasgow (D88) Type 42 destroyer at HMNB Portsmouth, 2003. Copyright Kev Slade.

Today, 2013, realpolitik, Spain rattles its sabres over Gibraltar, Argentina remains bellicose over the Falklands, there is continued instability in Libya, Syria and Egypt, there are standing demands for counter-narcotics patrols in the Caribbean and counter-piracy patrols off the coast of East Africa, and the war of terror continues, and there is always the need for a Fleet Ready Escort… well… we’re down to just 19 frigates and destroyers (13 surviving Type 23, 5 Type 45 in commission, 1 Type 45 undergoing sea trials).

HMS Dragon (D35) Type 45 destroyer, off Gibraltar, 2013. Crown copyright.

Just 19. And not a single Type 26 on order. Talked about, but not ordered. Spec’d, but not ordered. Number to be purchased undecided.

Type 26 Global Combat Ship (Copyright © 2013 BAE Systems)

Type 26 Global Combat Ship. (Copyright © 2013 BAE Systems)

I don’t want to think about how things will be in 2023.