HMS Dauntless arrived in Cape Town harbour last Thursday after sailing for the South Atlantic on April 4, relieving HMS Montrose. The operational deployment is the warship’s first since she was commissioned into the fleet in 2010. Since then she has been put through an intensive period of sea trials and training to prepare her for operations, according to the Royal Navy.
The destroyer will maintain a continuous presence protecting British interests in the region, carrying out maritime security operations off West Africa and the wider South Atlantic. Her deployment has heightened tensions with Argentina over the Falklands, especially after a statement from a Royal Navy officer that, “With its battery of Sea Viper missiles a Type 45 is capable of wiping out the Argentine air force in a day if they were foolish enough to take us on.”
However, the Royal Navy insists the ship’s deployment was “pre-planned and routine” and that it was purely coincidental that the ship set sail around the anniversary of the Falklands War. The Ministry of Defence said the warship would only pay a courtesy visit to the Falklands.
However, this has not been enough for Argentina, which has persuaded other South American nations to refuse to let HMS Dauntless dock at their ports.
Apart from protecting British interests in the Atlantic, HMS Dauntless’ programme includes port visits in both West and South Africa, with an emphasis on enhancing maritime security.
Some of the African countries Dauntless has paid visits to include Sierra Leone and Ghana and during Exercise Saharan Express she trained with personnel from Gambia, Senegal and Morocco. Teams from these countries boarded the warship and learnt how to tackle a variety of maritime problems including piracy, illegal fishing and the illicit trade in drugs, weapons and people smuggling.
HMS Dauntless is 152 metres long and is the second of six Daring Class Type 45 destroyers that are replacing the Type 42 class of ship.
The Type 45s are armed with high-tech Sea Viper anti-air missiles and will be able to carry 60 troops. They also have a large flight deck, which can accommodate helicopters the size of a Chinook, and can take on board 700 people in case of a civilian evacuation.
The UK originally sought to procure air defence ships as part of the eight-nation NFR-90 project and later the Horizon Common New Generation Frigate programme with France and Italy. The Type 45s take advantage of some Horizon development work and utilise the Sea Viper missile system (the SAMPSON radar variant of the Principal Anti-Air Missile System).
The ships are fitted with the 114 mm Mk 8 Mod 1 medium-calibre gun system for shore bombardment and two 30 mm guns. There is provision for the installation of two close-in weapons systems such as the Raytheon Phalanx.
In an "intensive attack" a single Type 45 could simultaneously track, engage and destroy more targets than five Type 42 destroyers operating together. The Daring class are the largest escorts ever built for the Royal Navy in terms of displacement, at around 8 000 tonnes.
Originally a dozen ships were supposed to be bought but the number was halved in 2008, something that was hugely controversial.
The ships have a designed top speed of more than 27 knots and a range of more than 7 000 nautical miles.
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