THE captain of HMS Dragon has spoken of his pride as the Royal Navy’s latest £1bn destroyer prepares to start life at her new home in Portsmouth today.
Commander Darren Houston anchored the new Type 45 destroyer in the Solent last night ahead of her arrival into Portsmouth Naval Base this morning.
He said: ‘This is my first command of a warship and it’s a huge privilege and an honour to be the first commanding officer of Dragon as she arrives in her base port for the first time.’
The warship – which arrives from the Clyde with a distinctive red dragon painted on her bow – is the fourth of six state-of-the-art Type 45 destroyers built for the navy by BAE Systems.
She has spent three years on intensive sea trials preparing to join her sister ships HMS Daring, Dauntless and Diamond in the home of the Royal Navy.
Cdr Houston said that his ship arrives in the best condition of all the Type 45s delivered so far.
He said: ‘We are proud that the sea trials have been above and beyond our expectation.
‘It’s gone well. We are the fourth in class and we have been the most successful so far.’
The White Ensign was due to be raised on the Dragon for the first time this afternoon during her ceremonial hand-over from BAE.
Cdr Houston said: ‘It’s a brand new ship and a brand new ship’s company. Eighty sailors have been with us in Scotstoun and 120 are waiting for us in Portsmouth for the ship to arrive. They have been conducting training and when we come in they will march up the gangway to join the ship.
‘It’ll be a big moment and it’s hugely exciting for all of us.’
Dragon was launched by BAE Systems in Govan dockyard, Scotland, in November 2008 and shipbuilders have been working with the navy to get the ship ready.
Keith Dickie, of BAE Systems, who will leave his post as ship manager after the handover, said: ‘It’s a big day for us. We’ve been working hard towards it over the last year or so in particular, getting this ship up to an even better standard than the first three ships and handing it over in a better condition than the other three.
‘A £1bn warship is a prototype in itself and as each ship has entered service we’ve been able to pick up any particular challenges and make them better and improve on them a lot. In that sense, Daring, Dauntless and Diamond have been integral to Dragon.’
He added: ‘It’s a fantastic thing to work with. One of the big things about Dragon has been the team spirit between BAE and the Royal Navy guys. We’ve integrated well with the Commanding Officer’s team to get the ship in the condition she is in today. It’s been a fantastic team effort.’
After Dragon is handed over, she will embark on the next stage of sea trials. The painted red dragon is only temporary and will be removed. She is due to be officially commissioned into the Royal Navy fleet in April next year.
Navy destroyer programme to be completed by early 2013
SHIPBUILDING giant BAE Systems said it is on track to deliver all six Type 45 destroyers to the Royal Navy by early 2013.
The fifth Type 45, HMS Defender, is undergoing final stages of outfitting and will go on her first sea trials in November ahead of arriving in Portsmouth in September next year.
Outfitting continues on HMS Duncan, the sixth and final vessel in the class, following her launch in October 2010. She will commence her first stage of sea trials in the first half of 2012.
Originally, the navy wanted 16 Type 45s. This was cut down to 12 and then six as the cost of the project inflated to £1bn for each warship.
The ships are billed as the most advanced in the world with modern living conditions and Sea Viper missiles which will be capable of hitting 10 targets at once.