Leander class frigate

Leander class frigate

"See Leander class cruiser for the cruiser class of the same name."

The Leander class, informally known as the Type 12I, comprising twenty-six frigates, was arguably the most successful and popular class of frigates in the Royal Navy's modern history. The class was built in three batches between 1960 and 1968, each batch with a distinct role. It had an unusually high public profile, due to the popular and acclaimed "Warship" BBC television drama series.

Batch 1

The first batch, comprising 8 ships and built between 1963 and 1965, were general purpose alternatives to the far more expensive single-role classes such as the Rothesay class frigates and Whitby class frigates. They had a Y100 engine design, which would be replaced in the subsequent two batches, as well as much improved accommodation for the crew, including air conditioning. They also were designed from the start to operate a Westland Wasp helicopter, a feature rather rare at that time.

They were originally armed with one twin mount 4.5 in (114 mm) gun, but this was later removed in favour of the Australian designed Ikara anti-submarine warfare (ASW) rocket launcher in response to the perceived threat of Soviet submarines, effectively turning the batch one vessels into ASW frigates. The Sea Cat missile was also installed, replacing the 40 mm guns.

Following the Ikara conversion, the ships mounted no less than three ASW systems (Ikara, the Limbo mortar and an ASW helicopter) and were amongst the most effective anti-submarine ships afloat, but had limited air defence, not least because the positioning of Seacat and its associated fire director (GWS22B) was such that the missile system could not engage targets forward of the beam.

Batch 2

The second batch, comprising 8 ships (1966 to 1967), were designed for the specialised anti-submarine warfare (ASW) role and were only slightly revised to the batch ones, in that they had a different engine design, known as the Y136. The one twin mount 4.5-in gun was later replaced with the Exocet anti-ship missile launcher giving them a potent anti-ship capability. The SeaCat missile and 6 torpedo tubes were also added. The ASW mortar was also removed to allow the helicopter deck to be extended to enable the class to operate the larger, and more capable, Westland Lynx.

Exocet had first been trialled by the Royal Navy aboard the County class destroyer HMS "Norfolk" in May and June 1974. The missile was ordered in large quantities and installed aboard a number of RN classes including the County class destroyers and the Types 21 and 22 frigates as well as the 'Leanders'. The decision to install Exocet was prompted by the need to provide defence against surface threats following the demise of the RN's carrier-borne air power. In the Leanders, Exocet used Type 993 radar for fire control.

Batch 3

The third batch, comprising 10 ships (1968 to 1973), had an increased beam of 43 ft (versus the 41 ft beam of the first 2 batches) to give more internal space and improved stability. This also allowed the Batch Threes to be more receptive to modernisation.

The third batch had a different engine design, known as the Y160. On five ships of the batch, the one twin mount 4.5 in (114 mm) gun, SeaCat missile launcher, 40 mm guns, and Limbo mortar were all removed in favour of three Oerlikon 20 mm guns, and Sea Wolf missile and Exocet missile launchers. The 20 mm Oerlikon gun was added to all Batch Three ships.

RN service

The ships performed excellently in RN service, with relatively low noise levels giving the 2030(I) towed sonar mounted during the 1970s a range of more than 100 miles, better than that of the more advanced 2030(Z) sonar when fitted in the Type 22 class. However, all Leanders in RN service were decommissioned by the early 1990s due to ships' aging design and high crew size, combined with yet another RN manpower crisis and defence cuts. HMS "Scylla" was sunk 27 March 2004 as an artificial reef off Cornwall, ten years after her decommissioning in 1994.

Overseas Service

Leander-class frigates were also successfully exported under licence to Australia as the River class, Chile as the Condell class, India as the "Nilgiri" class, the Netherlands as the Van Speijk class and New Zealand. Ex-Royal Navy ships were sold to the navies of Chile, Ecuador, New Zealand (HMS Bacchante/HMNZS Wellington), India and Pakistan.

Some Leanders remain in service with foreign navies, remaining in service with Ecuador, India, Indonesia (ex-Netherlands Van Speijk class) and Pakistan.

HMNZS Canterbury, the last steam-turbine driven "Leander" class frigate in the Royal New Zealand Navy, was decommissioned in Auckland on 31 March 2005 after 33 years operational service. In 2006 it was announced that the ship was to be sunk as a dive attraction in the Bay of Islands, and this was carried out on 3 November, 2007 at Deep Water Cove.


;Royal Navy* = not converted

See also

* Whitby class frigate the original Type 12 frigate.
* Rothesay class frigate the preceding Type 12M frigate.
* Warship, a BBC television drama series.

External links

* [http://www.btinternet.com/~warship/Postwar/Frigates/leander.htm Leander (Type 12) class frigate website]
* [http://www.hazegray.org/navhist/rn/frigates/leander/ Hazegray.org on the Leander class]
* [http://www.leanders.plus.com/ An unofficial Leander Class Frigate Site]


* "The Encyclopedia of Warships, From World War Two to the Present Day," General Editor Robert Jackson


* "Modern Combat Ships 1: Leander Class", by Commander C.J. Meyer OBE, RN
* "Leander Class Frigates", by Jim Allaway
* "Leander Class Frigates", by Richard Osborne and David Sowdon

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