The first of the Royal Navy's new Type 26 frigates has been named HMS Glasgow, recycling the name for the fourth time in the last 100 years.
"The name Glasgow brings with it a string of battle honours. As one of the world's most capable anti-submarine frigates, the Type 26 will carry the Royal Navy's tradition of victory far into the future," said the First Sea Lord, Admiral Lord Philip Jones, naming the as-yet-unbuilt warship this morning.
All future Type 26s will be named after cities, making them the City class – a step up from when the names were previously used as part of the Town class of yore. Numerous wags on Twitter suggested that the ship would be named HMS Frigatey McFrigateface, in a nod to the Natural Environment Research Council's epic public naming contest blunder.
“This is great news for the workers on the Clyde: first-in-class builds are always special, but I know from visiting BAE Systems earlier this year that they are raring to go on a world-class project that will showcase their skills and the ‘Clyde built’ brand for a new generation,” Martin Docherty-Hughes, the Scottish National Party MP for West Dumbartonshire, told The Register.
The Type 26s are the future of British sea power, being intended to replace the venerable old Type 23 frigates that make up the backbone of the Navy's warfighting fleet. In British service, frigates are broadly equipped to fight other surface warships and as anti-submarine vessels, a particular British speciality.
Although today marks a fresh milestone in the Type 26 project – at the beginning of this month the Ministry of Defence finally got over itself and placed the £3.7bn order for the first three ships of the planned class of eight – the whole ordering-new-ships thing is, predictably, mired in delays and cost overruns, mainly caused by MoD dithering and government wanting to avoid spending large sums of money at politically inopportune moments.
In addition, the number of ships has been slashed: Blighty was originally set to receive 13 Type 26s, split between specialised anti-submarine variants and general purpose ships, until some bright spark in the MoD decided that the GP version should be dropped and replaced with a cheap 'n' cheerful equivalent named the Type 31e ("e" for "export"). Despite that, BAE Systems, the Type 26's builders, still hope they can sell their ships to other nations such as Canada.
The last HMS Glasgow was a Type 42 air defence destroyer which was decommissioned in 2005. She had an eventful career, including serving in the Falklands War, where she took a direct hit from an Argentine bomb that mercifully failed to explode.
Further back in time, the Second World War had an HMS Glasgow, a Town-class light cruiser and a sister ship to the preserved HMS Belfast, which is permanently moored in central London. In the First World War an HMS Glasgow fought in the little-known Battle of the Falkland Islands in 1914.
Naming warships is an inherently political process. The Royal Navy has, particularly in the latter part of the 20th century, tried to pick names that guarantee it support from the important parts of society – see the Hunt-class mine countermeasure vessels, named after the packs of well-off Hooray Henrys who spend their free time galloping around Blighty’s fields in search of foxes. More recently, a Cold War-era frigate was named HMS London, which worked well until she was flogged off to Romania in 2002, complete with a few crates of unwanted L85A1 rifles. Type 23 frigate HMS Westminster continues flying the flag for the RN near the corridors of power, courtesy of a feature wall in Westminster Tube station.
The name Glasgow was officially bestowed to recognise the shipbuilding heritage of the Clyde area. In reality, it's more of a sop to try and damp down the fires of Scottish nationalism; apparently, patriotic names are all that now stands between the United Kingdom and its breakup. ®