Upgrade work to stop £6bn fleet of Royal Navy destroyers from breaking down in hot water is delayed

CRITICAL work to upgrade engines of a £6bn fleet of warships prone to breaking down in the hot waters of the Gulf has been delayed.

Friday, 17th January 2020, 6:34 pm
Updated Sunday, 19th January 2020, 12:35 pm

A project to overhaul the vulnerable propulsion systems of Royal Navy’s six Type 45 destroyers was meant to begin in November.

However, on-going maintenance work on the ships in Portsmouth, combined with operational commitments have led to a hold-up, the Ministry of Defence said.

Ministers have now earmarked ‘spring’ as the earliest possible date for work to begin - although no precise time has been officially revealed.

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HMS Dauntless, pictured on her last deployment in 2015. Photo: LA(Phot) SImmo Simpson

HMS Dauntless, which has been in extended refit after being relegated to the role of a ‘training ship’ in 2017, will be the first to get the new engine upgrades, defence minister James Heappey confirmed.

He said: ‘Work will commence this spring and the ship will return to sea for trials in 2021.

‘The timetable for the power improvement project is dependent on the availability of ships to undertake the conversion, balanced against the Royal Navy's standing and future operational commitments.

‘It is planned that all six ships will have completed their upgrades by the mid-2020s.’

The state-of-the-art air defence warships are currently fitted with Rolls-Royce WR-21 gas turbines which struggle to operate in extreme temperatures.

Rolls-Royce executives said the engines installed in the Type 45 destroyers had been built as specified – but that the conditions in the Middle East were not ‘in line with these specs’.

The engine woes, which the MoD initially dismissed as ‘teething problems’, first became clear when HMS Daring lost power in the mid-Atlantic in 2010 and had to be fixed in Canada.

The ship, built by BAE Systems, needed repairing again in Bahrain in 2012 after another engine failure.

The improvement project, which is part of a £250m military upgrade project, will see an additional diesel generator fitted to each ship.

Upgrades will be fitted into each ship at Cammell Laird shipyard in Birkenhead, Liverpool.

Speaking in November, Dauntless’s new captain, Commander Tom Trent said: ‘We are all ready for the challenge and will relish being the first of class for this essential midlife upgrade to this superb destroyer.’