Royal Navy: HMS Dragon to roar back into action thanks to Portsmouth teams as navy ramps up efforts to fix dodgy destroyer engines

THE Royal Navy is ramping up its efforts to replace dodgy engines from its £6bn fleet of destroyers by drafting in dockyard workers from Portsmouth to help speed up the upgrades.

Skilled engineers from the city have been mobilised to take over part of the costly £160m project to replace the propulsion system of the Type 45s, that have been plagued by woes for years which have seen them breaking down and losing power in the hot waters of the Gulf and Mediterranean.

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The new move has seen defence giant BAE Systems switch the major power upgrade scheme for HMS Dragon from the Cammell Laird yard in Birkenhead to its own facilities in Portsmouth Naval Base.

HMS Dragon pictured returning to Portsmouth where she is receiving a major upgrade to her engines.

Dragon is the third ship of the fleet of six to begin the major overhaul project, following on from sister vessels HMS Dauntless and HMS Daring – who are both being fixed in Birkenhead.

Work on Dragon is understood to have started a few weeks ago at the naval base’s Deep Maintenance Centre of Specialisation. The ship is likely to be out of action for months while a new propulsion system is fitted.

The navy said the upgrade to the mighty air defence destroyer – one of the world’s most advanced warships – would be combined with routine maintenance in an effort to improve efficiency and speed up the time it takes to get the ship back on the water.

It follows delays and setbacks to the ‘power improvement programme’ caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

A number of Royal Navy destroyers pictured at Portsmouth Naval Base on Wednesday February 23, 2022.

News of Portsmouth’s involvement has been championed by a former head of the Royal Navy, who insisted the city was in a prime position to fix the Type 45s.

Admiral Lord Alan West told The News: ‘I really do welcome this, it shows the Ministry of Defence is taking this problem seriously.

‘The project is all behind time so I hope Portsmouth pulls out all the stops and cracks on with getting the Type 45s back on the water as soon as possible because who knows, there could be a war within next year.’

The former naval boss has been an outspoken critic of how long it has taken to repair the engines of the Type 45s – ships which first began entering service during his tenure as Britain’s top sailor.

Speaking of the engine faults in the destroyer fleet, the Labour peer added: ‘We knew this was a problem in 2009 – that’s 13 years ago.

‘We need to absolutely get going and pull our fingers out and get these ships operating with the fleet because when they have got power and their systems are running, these ships are absolutely superb.’

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, who is in charge of Portsmouth City Council, said the work coming to the naval base was a glowing endorsement for the dockyard.

But he added: ‘It’s just unfortunate the work needs to be done at all. I’m glad the MoD has taken the decision to upgrade the engines because there’s no point in having a destroyer that can’t work in warm water. It’s just no use at all.’

Three more destroyers, HMS Diamond, Defender and Duncan still need to undergo their upgrade programme.

The News understands no decision has been made yet on whether the vessels will have their upgrades in Portsmouth or elsewhere.

However, the navy has said that options to ‘optimise’ the programme to ‘suit the changing needs of the fleet’ are ‘always being considered’.

It’s hoped that all six Type 45s will have received their power improvement project conversion by 2028. The first ship, HMS Dauntless, is undergoing harbour trials ahead of sea trials later this year.