Veteran Royal Navy minehunter prepares for 37th year of service after £7.5m refit in Portsmouth

A ROYAL Navy warship is preparing to return to action after a £7.5m refit.

Tuesday, 11th February 2020, 10:13 am
Updated Tuesday, 11th February 2020, 4:11 pm

HMS Middleton is back on the water after spending six months ashore having her kit upgraded.

The veteran minehunter went into BAE Systems’ ship production hall at Portsmouth Naval Base in July for the overhaul.

The 750-tonne glass-hulled vessel now sports improved generators, hull and and living quarters, with every bed now having a now USB socket fitted to help sailors keep their phones charged at sea.

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HMS Middleton is lowered into the water by a hydraulic barge after a £7.5m refit in Portsmouth. Photo: Royal Navy

Now she is readying herself to return to the fleet for her 37th year of service.

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Lieutenant Commander Christopher Hollingworth, Middleton’s commanding officer, said his crew was eager to get her out to sea.

He said: ‘We are another step closer to taking HMS Middleton back to sea and rejoining the operational fleet for her fifth decade in Royal Navy service.’

HMS Middleton back on the water at Portsmouth Naval Base after a six-month refit. Photo: Royal Navy

Gary Firbank, BAE Systems’ project manager for Middleton, said the completion of the work marked a ‘significant milestone’ within the vessel’s pre-deployment programme.

He added: ‘Our team has completed over 65,000 production hours, including a full structural re-baselining of the ship, with over 3km (two miles) of laminating cloth being laid, extensive system enhancements, plus maintenance and defect rectification.

‘We now look forward to embarking on the commissioning phase and readying the ship to return to sea on schedule.’

While some members of Crew 8, the minehunter crew currently assigned to HMS Middleton, stayed with the ship others were assigned to active crews.

Leading Engineering Technician (Marine Engineering) Gary McKnight, 30, from Portsmouth, said it: ‘Having the opportunity to work alongside our industry partners has been fascinating – particularly getting to see the ship out of the water.’

The UK maintains a constant presence of four minehunters in the Gulf with crews rotating onto the vessels there.

Middleton is the seventh of 13 Hunt-class minehunter, six of which remain in service.

These ships are the largest in the world to be built of glass-reinforced plastic and have seen service in the Falklands and the Gulf.

They hunt for anti-ship mines with sonar, using highly-trained drivers or Seafox unmanned robots to destroy them.