Babcock International has started the first upkeep period of a Type 23 frigate that has already undergone a major life-extension (LIFEX) refit.
Commissioned in 1991, HMS Argyll is the oldest remaining frigate in service. Having completed the first LIFEX refit carried out at Devonport (Jun 2015 – Feb 2017), she was subsequently worked hard, serving all over the world. By September 2021, when this author visited her, she was looking distinctly tired. In May 2022 she was handed over to Babcock and her ship’s company moved over to HMS Iron Duke (due to emerge soon from the basin on completion of her LIFEX).
Argyll is in the Frigate Support Centre in Devonport undergoing work that will see her serving until around 2027-28 when she will effectively be replaced by either HMS Glasgow (the first Type 26) or HMS Venturer (the first Type 31).
A new approach to re-certification is being adopted, she is being prepared for a Lloyds structural survey to achieve a full ship assessment in just 9 weeks. Sarah Hilder, Project Manager said: “by implementing new efficient and innovative processes we are striving to complete the project in a vastly reduced timescale compared to a standard upkeep”.
Due to her limited time left in service, she will not receive the diesel engine replacement – Power Generation Machinery Upgrade (PGMU) that will be applied to many of her sisters but key equipment is being overhauled and there will be various minor capability improvements. Formerly a ‘stag ship’, there will also be modifications to accommodation to allow mixed crewing and she will be completely repainted before she re-joins the fleet in 2023.