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The Most Important Ship in the Royal Navy

July 26, 2009
Type 23 frigate HMS Iron Duke courtesy of Jeremy Pearson.

Type 23 frigate HMS Iron Duke courtesy of Jeremy Pearson.

As you can see from the photo, the most useful vessel in the British Royal Navy isn’t a giant aircraft carrier, high tech stealth destroyer, or nuclear attack submarine, but a 20 year old Type 23 frigate. HMS Iron Duke has been conducting the Queen’s business in far-off waters, holding up the grand tradition of the fleet cruiser of British Empire days. From RN Live News:

Royal Navy Frigate HMS Iron Duke has seized approximately three-quarters of a tonne of cocaine possibly destined for the streets of Europe and the UK.
The drugs, with an estimated UK wholesale value of over £33 million, were seized in a night time operation off the coast of South America. At street level the cocaine is heavily adulterated, substantially raising the criminal profits, therefore this seizure represents a serious financial loss to the drug barons and dealers throughout the chain…

Iron Duke’s Executive Officer, Lieutenant Commander Alasdair Peppe said:  “This is a good start to HMS Iron Duke’s North Atlantic deployment. After only a week on patrol the ship has made a significant seizure of cocaine. I am very proud of the whole of Iron Duke’s ship’s company, all of whom have played a part in this success.”

And this is not the first such ” drug bust” for the veteran warship:

The frigate made a similar drugs bust last year whilst on operations in the region with Prince William embarked, seizing drugs with an estimated UK street value of £45 million.

For the record, we think the 5000 ton Iron Duke isn’t the proper vessel for such a minor role as anti-smuggling. With her state-of-the-art Sea Wolf anti-missile system, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, anti-sub helicopters and 4.5 inch naval gun, she is more suited for Blue Water operations. Yet, like the USN with her 10,000 ton Burke destroyers, the Royal Navy has little else in the way of deploying in her nation’s interest except giant naval battleships built to fight another type of war at sea, against peer adversaries instead of the littoral mission. Such a role is more suited to patrol ships, like the 1600 ton River class OPVs.

The Type 23 frigates were themselves built for another conflict, against a Soviet Navy long gone. Yet like America’s Burke’s she is forced to soldier on until Western Navies come to grasp with the new enemies we are facing, not one of missile battleships and supercarriers, but suicide bombers, or old-fashioned economic warfare with piracy. Such asymmetrical tactics at sea aren’t so flashy, or as expensive as our futuristic armadas, but seem to be equally effective.

See here for dramatic video footage.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike Burleson permalink*
    July 28, 2009 5:46 am

    The British still have interests in these waters, as well as alliances. The drug bust was made in conjunction with the USCG!

    Don’t get me wrong, I honor this crew and valiant ship. But your mentioning the Coast Guard is telling. The British use their Blue Water missile frigates for the anti-smuggling mission, while the US uses their Burke battleships to chase pirates in speed boats. What we need are real patrol type cruisers in this function, not our most expensive warships built to fight the old Soviet Navy.

    These ships are the Navy’s version of the F-22 Raptor. Built for the wrong war, and would be misused fighting the low tech enemies of today.

  2. elgatoso permalink
    July 27, 2009 11:01 pm

    Royal Navy Frigate HMS Iron Duke has seized approximately three-quarters of a tonne of cocaine possibly destined for the streets of Europe and the UK.
    The drugs, with an estimated UK wholesale value of over £33 million, were seized in a night time operation off the coast of South America. At street level the cocaine is heavily adulterated, substantially raising the criminal profits, therefore this seizure represents a serious financial loss to the drug barons and dealers throughout the chain…

    Iron Duke’s Executive Officer, Lieutenant Commander Alasdair Peppe said: “This is a good start to HMS Iron Duke’s North Atlantic deployment. After only a week on patrol the ship has made a significant seizure of cocaine. I am very proud of the whole of Iron Duke’s ship’s company, all of whom have played a part in this success.”

    The frigate made a similar drugs bust last year whilst on operations in the region with Prince William embarked, seizing drugs with an estimated UK street value of £45 million.

    This job is suposed to be made for the Uscg US Coast Guard, isn’t it?

  3. Mike Burleson permalink*
    July 26, 2009 1:30 pm

    Undergrad-I agree! Just pointing out how the USN is worse off when it comes to fighting low tech warfare!

  4. UndergradProgressive permalink
    July 26, 2009 1:24 pm

    To be fair, though, this is half the tonnage of the Burke. Certainly, it’s a more efficient use of naval power.

Trackbacks

  1. New Cruisers and the Shrinking Fleet « New Wars
  2. Evolutions of the Cruiser Pt 3 « New Wars
  3. Royal Navy’s 6000 ton Patrol Boat « New Wars
  4. Battleships versus Speedboats Pt 2 « New Wars
  5. Drug Buster Iron Duke Back on Patrol « New Wars

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