Leander Class

Overview

Country: United Kingdom

The Leander Class were true Cold-War workhorses for the Royal Navy. Developed from the Whitby and Rothesay Classes of frigate, twenty-six were built. They were commissioned 1963 – 1972 as anti-submarine and general-purpose vessels. They were a highly successful, popular and widely travelled class with excellent sea keeping and bad weather performance. The largest class of frigates to be built for the Royal Navy since the Second World War, and the last steam powered frigates in the Service; all later ships being powered by gas turbines.

Built in standard Batch 1 and 2 and ‘broad beamed’ Batch 3 versions, there were ten of the latter. Some were later modified for carrying Sea Wolf close-range anti-aircraft missile and a Lynx helicopter, though updating of batch 3 vessels was limited by the 1981 Defence Review, with only five modernised.

The first batch of eight vessels were converted in 1973-76 to carry the Australian designed Ikara anti-submarine missile system forward of the bridge in lieu of the 4.5in gun armament, as a response to the perceived Soviet submarine threat. All vessels eventually received a Lynx helicopter replacing the original Wasp.

Seven of the second batch (of eight) were also converted to carry the potent Exocet anti-shipping missile in lieu of the forward guns, and from 1982 four were modified to operate the RN’s first towed-array very low frequency passive sonar.

Many were involved in North Sea Oil Rig patrols in the 1970s, and in 1974 HRH The Prince of Wales served in Jupiter. At Easter 1975 Achilles stood by off the coast of South Vietnam for possible assistance in the evacuation of British Nationals, and Scylla served off Iceland during the ‘Cod War’.

Argonaut was damaged during the 1982 Falklands War.

Defence cuts, an aging design and large crew size meant all the Royal Naval Leanders were decommissioned by the early 1990s, the Ikara vessels being paid off first. Scylla was sunk off Cornwall to serve as an artificial reef in 2004, ten years after decommissioning.

Leander class frigates were exported under licence to Australia (six vessels), Chile (2 vessels), India (six vessels), the Netherlands (six vessels) and New Zealand (two vessels), with ex RN ships sold to Chile (2), Ecuador, New Zealand (2), India and Pakistan. The last New Zealand vessel served until March 2005.

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