Mermaid class Frigate, HMS Mermaid (F76)

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Mermaid class Frigate, HMS Mermaid (F76)

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Design & Development History:

HMS Mermaid was a singleton vessel, originally built to complete an order for Ghana. The ship was intended to be named Black Star, and it was to have functioned as both the flagship for the Ghanaian navy as well as the presidential yacht for Kwame Nkrumah, the then President of Ghana. The ship was build by Yarrow Shipbuilders on the River Clyde in Scotland, though this order would never be completed as with the ship still on the slipway, a military coup ousted President Nkrumah in febuary of 1966. The new goverment then proceded to cancel the order due to the excessive cost of around £5 million at the time. With the ship a good ways completed, Yarrow decided that the best course of action was to complete the ship as a private venture in the hope that she could be sold to another navy. Because of this she was launched without ceremony in december of 1966 and ultimately be completed in june of 1968, where she languished at anchor for several years awaiting a buyer, though none seemed to manifest.That was until in 1971, when the newly elected Conservative government decided that by purchasing the ship for the Royal Navy, they could provide an indirect subsidy to a vital shipbuilder which was struggling at the time. As such on april of 1972 the still unnamed ship was transferred to Portsmouth Dockyard and then to Chatham Dockyard, to be refitted to bring her up to operational standards and she would enter service in the Royal navy as a frigate.

In terms of design the hull and machinery of HMS Mermaid were based on the British Type 41 and Type 61 frigates, but modified to suit the requirements of the Ghanaian navy. Because of this she posessed a flushed deck, and a large quarterdeck, that could be used to land a helicopter, though there were no facilities in place to have one permanently operating off her. Another major change was that the exhausts of the eight diesel engines that powered her were truncked into a single streamlined funnel. The ship also possessed extra accommodation areas within the superstructure including a large dining and conference room for when she was intended to serve as a presidential yacht. The sensors and armament were kept relatively simple in order to keep costs down and aid in ease of maintenance. The main armament took the form of a twin QF 4 inch Mk 16 dual-purpose guns Mark 19 mounting forward of the bridge, supplimented by four single Bofors 40mm guns mounted on the upper superstructure. To allow the ship to preform an anti submarine role, it was equipt with a Squid anti-submarine mortar mounted in a well in the aft of the ship. Interstingly this would be the last ship in Royal Navy service to use both the Squid launcher and the QF 4-inch naval gun Mk XVI. In addition to these weapons the ship carried at type 170 and 176 sonar, along with a Plessy AWS-1 radar in the formast, along with a standard navigational radar mounted forward of this on a platform. All in all this gave HMS Mermaid a displacement of 2,300 tons as standard, that could reach a maximum speed of 24 knots (44 km/h; 28 mph), and she was manned by a complement of 177 officers and ratings when in Royal Navy service.

Service History:

HMS Mermaid was commissioned into the Royal Navy on the 16th of may 1973 and was given the pennant number F76. After an uneventful working up, she was dispatched to the Far East where she was dased at Singapore. This was due to both her light armament and minimal sensor suite, which made her unsuitable for a role in the European enviroment, though she was thought to be able to provide a useful presence in the Far East doing what at the time was known as ‘defence diplomacy’ roles. Here she stood in for the Type 61 aircraft direction frigate HMS Chichester as the guardship for Hong Kong, and she stood by at the end of the Vietnam War in case British nationals had to be evacuated from Saigon.

Returning to home waters in 1976, Mermaid was immediately deployed to protect British trawlers off iceland during the Third Cod war. Here she took part in two ramming incidents, the first with the icelandic gunboat ICGV Óðinn on 12 March, and a second on may 6th, when she suffered heavy collision damage with patrol boat ICGV Baldur during agressive manoeuvering. The ship would undergo repairs, and take part in a NATO exercise on 20 September 1976, where she was involved in a collision with the minesweeper HMS Fittleton that resulted in the Fittleton’s sinking and the deaths of 12 personnel, mainly Royal Navy Reservist members making it the worst peacetime accident involving the service. This would later draw controversy due to money being stolen from the deceased during the salvaging process, as those onboard Fittleton had been paid only a few hours before the accident. After this incident, Mermaid’s last tast before being paid off was to conduct trials on a moving target indication system, that enabled radar to pick out targets moving against the clutter generated by the surface of the sea. With this done her career with the Royal Navy ended after only five years of service in early 1977 when she was sold to the Malaysian Navy. This marked the end of service of the twin 4-inch guns in British service, as this was the last warship to operate it, after it being mostly phased out of service nearly 30 years prior.

Vehicle Specification:

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Displacement: 2,300 long tons (2,337 t) standard

Length: 103.5 m (339 ft 7 in)

Beam: 12.2 m (40 ft 0 in)

Draught: 4.9 m (16 ft 1 in)

Propulsion: 8 × 16-cylinder diesels, 14,400 shp (10,738 kW), 2 shafts

Speed: 24 knots (28 mph; 44 km/h)

Complement 177

Sensors and processing systems: Plessey AWS1 air search radar
Decca 45 radars
Graseby Type 170B
Type 174 hull mounted sonar
UA-3 EW intercept

Armament: 2 x 4 inch Mk 16 guns
4 × 40 mm Bofors gun

1 x Squid anti-submarine mortar

Aviation facilities: Helicopter landing platform

Additional Historical Photos:

Photos showing HMS Mermaid during the third cod war:

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Photo showing the bow of HMS Mermaid circa 1974:

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Photo showing the rear of the ship, giving a good view of her Squid launcher and the two rear 40mm gun mounts:

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Additional picture showing HMS Mermaid preforming a sharp turn during manouvers:

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Photo showing HMS Mermaid from the side, offering a clear view of her forward 40mm position:

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Sources: