A ROYAL Navy frigate has returned to sea after spending 16 months out of action.
HMS Iron Duke has undergone a major overhaul in her home base of Portsmouth.
She has now left the city boasting one of the most advanced radar systems in the world.
The Type 23 frigate is the first Royal Navy ship to be fitted with Artisan – a 3D radar which is five times better than the version it replaces. Her ship’s company have now gone back to sea to begin an intensive few months of sea trials.
Commander Tom Tredray, HMS Iron Duke’s commanding officer, said: ‘This marks a significant milestone in the regeneration of HMS Iron Duke. We are looking forward to taking the first Artisan radar to sea and testing the Royal Navy’s latest cutting-edge technology.’
Artisan will be fitted to every one of the navy’s 13 Type 23s, as well as the two future aircraft carriers.
The radar could also be the principal air radar system of the planned Type 26 combat ships, which will take over from the Type 23s when they enter service in the next decade. Artisan radars can spot something as small as a cricket or tennis ball travelling at three times the speed of sound from more than 15 miles away.
It is built out of the same lightweight carbon glass fibre materials found on a Formula 1 car and weighs only 700kg.
Sailors can use the system to track up to 800 targets simultaneously – whether they are 200 metres or 125 miles away.
This means HMS Iron Duke could be at her home base in Portsmouth while simultaneously following aircraft landing at Heathrow, Gatwick, Southampton, Stansted, Bournemouth, Bristol, Cardiff, Exeter and Birmingham airports.
As well as having high accuracy, the radar is packed with anti-jamming features and can pick out targets against a background of electronic noise and interference.
The upgrades to HMS Iron Duke, carried out by BAE Systems, also include work on her weapons systems and combat computers.