Type 42 destroyer

HMS Birmingham (D86)
HMS Birmingham
Class overview
Name: Type 42
Builders: Vickers, Cammell-Laird, Swan Hunter, Vosper Thorneycroft, CFNE Argentina
Preceded by:
Succeeded by:
Subclasses: Batches 1, 2 and 3
In service: 1975-2013
Completed: 16
Active: Argentina: 1 (as transport)
Lost: UK: 2 (Falklands War)
Retired: 13
General characteristics
Type: Destroyer
  • Batch 1 & 2:
  • 3,500 long tons (3,600 t) standard,[1]
  • 4,100 long tons (4,200 t)[1] or 4,350 tons[2] full load
  • Batch 3: 3,500 long tons (3,600 t) standard,[1]
  • 4,775 long tons (4,852 t)[1] or 5,350 tons[2] full load
  • Batch 1 & 2: 119.5 m (392 ft) waterline,[1]
  • 125 m (410 ft)[1] or 125.6 m (412 ft)[2] overall
  • Batch 3: 132.3 m (434 ft) waterline,[1]
  • 141.1 m (463 ft)[1][2] overall
  • Batch 1 & 2: 14.3 m (47 ft)[1][2]
  • Batch 3: 14.9 m (49 ft)[1][2]
  • Batch 1, 2 & 3: 4.2 m (14 ft) keel,[1]
  • 5.8 m (19 ft) screws[1][2]
Decks: 8
Installed power: 50,000 shp (37 MW)
  • 30 kn (56 km/h; 35 mph) (2 x Olympus)
  • 24 kn (44 km/h; 28 mph) (1 Olympus and 1 Tyne per shaft)
  • 20 kn (37 km/h; 23 mph) (1 x Olympus)
  • 18 kn (33 km/h; 21 mph) (2 x Tyne)
  • 13.8 kn (25.6 km/h; 15.9 mph) (1 x Tyne)
Range: 4,200 nmi (7,800 km; 4,800 mi) single Tyne RM1C/other shaft trailing at 13.8 kn (25.6 km/h; 15.9 mph)
Boats & landing
craft carried:
  • Batch 1 & 2: 253 (inc 24 officers)[1] or 274[citation needed], accommodation for 312[1]
  • Batch 3: 269 (2013);[3] 301 (inc 26 officers)[1](1993)
  • Batch 1, 2 & 3: 24 officers and 229 ratings[2]
Sensors and
processing systems:
  • Radar Type 1022/965P air surveillance,
  • Radar Type 996/992Q 3-D surveillance,
  • 2× Radar Type 909 GWS-30 fire-control,
  • Radar Type 1007 &1008 navigation,
  • IFF 1016/1017
  • Sonar Type 2050 / 2016 search,
  • Sonar Type 162 bottom profiling,
Electronic warfare
& decoys:


DLH Decoy system
  • 1 × twin launcher for GWS-30 Sea Dart missiles (22 missiles, space was reserved for an additional 15 in Batch 3)
  • 1 × 4.5 inch Mark 8 naval gun
  • 2 × 20 mm Phalanx CIWS (after 1982, not on Argentine ships)
  • 2 × Oerlikon / BMARC 20 mm L/70 KBA guns in GAM-B01 single mounts
  • 4 × MM38 Exocet anti-ship missile launchers (only on Argentine ships)
  • 2 × STWS II triple anti-submarine torpedo tubes (not on Argentine ships)
Aircraft carried:
  • Westland Lynx HAS / HMA armed with
    • 4 × anti ship missiles
    • 2 × anti submarine torpedoes
Aviation facilities: Flight deck and enclosed hangar for embarking one helicopter

The Type 42 or Sheffield class, was a class of fourteen guided missile destroyers that served in the Royal Navy.[4][5][6] A further two ships of this class were built for and served with the Argentine Navy.

The first ship of the class was ordered in 1968 and launched in 1971. Two of the class (Sheffield and Coventry) were sunk in action during the Falklands War of 1982. The Royal Navy used this class of destroyer for 38 years between 1975 and 2013.

No ships of this class remain active in the Royal Navy and one remains in the Argentine Navy. The Royal Navy has replaced them with Type 45 destroyers.


The class was designed in the late 1960s to provide fleet area air-defence. In total fourteen vessels were constructed in three batches. In addition to the Royal Navy ships, two more ships were built to the same specifications as the Batch 1 vessels for the Argentine Navy. Hércules was built in the UK and Santísima Trinidad in the AFNE Rio Santiago shipyard in Buenos Aires.

Sheffield and Coventry were lost in the Falklands War to enemy action. This was the first conflict where surface warships of the same design have been on opposite sides since World War II, when four Flower-class corvettes built for France in 1939 were taken over by the Kriegsmarine in 1940. The final ship of the class (Edinburgh) decommissioned on 6 June 2013. One Argentine Navy ship (Hércules) remains in service, the other vessel (Santísima Trinidad) sank whilst alongside in Puerto Belgrano Naval Base in early 2013.

When the Type 82 air-defence destroyers were cancelled along with the proposed CVA-01 carrier by the Labour Government of 1966, the Type 42 was proposed as a lighter and cheaper design with similar capabilities to the Type 82. The class is fitted with the GWS30 Sea Dart surface-to-air missile first deployed on the sole Type 82 destroyer, Bristol. The Type 42s were also given a flight deck and hangar to operate an anti-submarine warfare helicopter, greatly increasing their utility compared to the Type 82, which was fitted with a flight deck but no organic aviation facilities.

The design was budgeted with a ceiling of £19 million per hull but soon ran over-budget. The original proposed design (£21 million) was similar to the lengthened 'Batch 3' Type 42s. To cut costs, the first two batches had 47 feet removed from the bow sections forward of the bridge, and the beam-to-length ratio was proportionally reduced. These early, batch 1 Type 42s performed poorly during the contractor's sea trials particularly in heavy seas, and the hull was extensively examined for other problems. Batch 2 vessels (Exeter onwards) embodied better sensors fits, and slight layout modifications. The ninth hull, Manchester, was lengthened in build, as part of an extensive design review. This proved a better hull form at sea and later hulls were built to this specification, although minor equipment and hull layout changes made the remaining ships all unique in their own way. Strengthening girders were later designed into the weather deck structure in the batch 1 and 2 ships, and the batch 3 ships received an external 'strake' to counter longitudinal cracking.


The Type 42 destroyer was built to fill the gap left by the cancellation of the large Type 82 destroyer. It was intended to fulfil the same role, with similar systems on a smaller and more cost-effective hull. The ships are primarily carriers for the GWS-30 Sea Dart surface-to-air missile system. The first batch had the 965 or 966 surveillance radar which had a "slow data-rate".[7] The Type 992Q radar used to designate targets for the gun and missiles lacked Moving Target Indiction (MTI). Though "British radar manufacturers [had] offered to retrofit MTI to these radars... nothing was done."[7] Without MTI the Type 992Q had difficulty in tracking aircraft when land was behind the aircraft or when there were snow or rain showers.[7] The Type 42 also had "insufficient space for an efficient operations room",[7] which slowed the work rate and made early Type 42s, notably the lead ship Sheffield, very difficult to fight in.[citation needed] Although often described as obsolete,[by whom?] the Type 42 still proved effective against modern missile threats during the 1991 Gulf War.

The Type 42 is also equipped with a 4.5 inch Mark 8 naval gun and earlier vessels shipped six Ships Torpedo Weapon System (STWS) torpedo launchers. Two Vulcan Phalanx Mk 15 close-in weapon systems (CIWS) were fitted to British Type 42s in lieu of the carried 27-foot whaler and Cheverton launch after the loss of Sheffield to an Exocet missile in 1982.

There have been three batches of ships, batch 1 and 2 displacing 4,820 tonnes and batch 3 (sometimes referred to as the Manchester class) displacing 5,200 tonnes. The batch 3 ships were heavily upgraded, though the proposed Sea Wolf systems upgrades were never fitted. Because of their more general warfare role, both Argentine ships were fitted with the MM38 Exocet, and not with a CIWS.

The electronics suite includes one Type 1022 D band long-range radar with Outfit LFB track extractor or one Type 965P long-range air surveillance radar, one Type 996 E band/F band 3D radar for target indication with Outfit LFA track extractor or type 992Q surface search, two Type 909 I/J-band fire-control radars and an Outfit LFD radar track combiner.

All ships were propelled by Rolls Royce TM3B Olympus and Rolls Royce RM1C Tyne marinised gas turbines, arranged in a COGOG (combined gas or gas) arrangement, driving through synchronous self-shifting clutches into a double-reduction, dual tandem, articulated, locked-train gear system and out through two five-bladed controllable pitch propellers. All have four Paxman Ventura 16YJCAZ diesel generators, each generating 1 megawatt of three-phase electric power (440 V 60 Hz).

Sheffield with the prominent exhaust deflectors on her funnel

The first of class, Sheffield, was initially fitted with the odd-looking "Mickey Mouse" ears on her funnel tops which were in fact exhaust deflectors - "Loxton bends" - for the Rolls Royce Olympus TM1A gas turbines, to guide the high-temperature exhaust efflux sidewards and minimise damage to overhead aerials. As this provided a prominent target for then-new infrared homing missiles, only Sheffield and both the Argentinian Hércules and Santísima Trinidad had these 'ears'. All subsequent Olympus and Tyne uptakes were fitted with 'cheese graters' which mixed machinery space vent air with the engine exhaust to reduce infrared signatures.

Availability and use of the Type 42

This class was originally conceived to be a stopper for long-range strategic bombers from the former Soviet Long Range Aviation/A-VMF and as area defence for carrier battle groups. As world political climates shifted, so too the role of the Type 42 followed. The class reached its operational zenith during the Falklands War with seven ships taking part in Operation Corporate and the immediate aftermath. The Type 42 provided a capable long-range defence against Argentine air force assets, scoring three confirmed kills. With their weaknesses exposed - Sheffield was hit and disabled by a long-range first generation air-to-surface missile and sank six days later, Coventry was sunk by conventional iron bombs and Glasgow was disabled by a single bomb which passed straight through her aft engine room without exploding - an extensive rethink was conducted and future iterations in and out of build and refit contained upgrades but limited by the Type 42's ageing overall design. Later uses included The Gulf War, when Gloucester struck and eliminated a large, land-based surface to surface missile with her Sea Dart missile system. More often than not, Type 42s were called upon to carry out fleet contingency ship duties, West Indies counter drugs operations and Falkland Islands patrol, NATO Mediterranean and Atlantic task group operations and Persian Gulf patrols. There was essentially no task this ship class was not engaged in over its near forty-year collective career. As far as value-for-money is concerned, notwithstanding its ability to burn fifteen tonnes per hour of marine diesel at top speed and a large, cramped ships' company, this class provided the UK with considerable ability during a very changeable political, economic and military background of change. The deployment of Type 23s in lieu of Type 42s to high-intensity mission areas became more prevalent as serviceability and reliability issues dogged Type 42s availability, as has obsolescence of their combat and machinery system equipment.

Construction programme

Pennant Name (a) Hull builder[5] Ordered[5] Laid down[5] Launched[5] Accepted into service[5][8][Note 1] Commissioned Estimated building cost[Note 2]
Royal Navy – batch 1
D80 Sheffield Vickers Shipbuilders Ltd, Barrow-in-Furness. 14 November 1968 15 January 1970 10 June 1971 16 February 1975 16 February 1975[9][Note 3] £23,200,000[10]
D86 Birmingham Cammell Laird & Co, Birkenhead. 21 May 1971 28 March 1972 30 July 1973 26 November 1976[11] 3 December 1976[9] £31,000,000[12]
D87 Newcastle Swan Hunter Ltd, Wallsend-on-Tyne. 11 November 1971 21 February 1973 24 April 1975 25 February 1978 23 March 1978[9] £34,600,000[8]
D118 Coventry Cammell Laird & Co, Birkenhead. 21 May 1971 29 January 1973 21 June 1974< 20 October 1978 10 November 1978[9] £37,900,000[8][13]
D88 Glasgow Swan Hunter Ltd, Wallsend-on-Tyne. 11 November 1971 16 April 1974 14 April 1976 9 March 1979 24 May 1979[9] £36,900,000[8][13]
D108 Cardiff Vickers Shipbuilders Ltd, Barrow-in-Furness (to launching stage)
Swan Hunter Ltd, Hebburn (for completion).[13]
10 June 1971 6 November 1972 22 February 1974 22 September 1979 24 September 1979[9] £40,500,000[14][Note 4]
Royal Navy – batch 2
D89 Exeter Swan Hunter Ltd, Wallsend-on-Tyne. 22 January 1976 22 July 1976 25 April 1978 30 August 1980 19 September 1980[9] £60,100,000[8][13]
D90 Southampton Vosper Thornycroft Ltd, Woolston. 17 March 1976 21 October 1976 29 January 1979 17 August 1981 31 October 1981[9] £67,500,000[8]
D92 Liverpool Cammell Laird & Co, Birkenhead. 27 May 1977 5 July 1978 25 September 1980 12 May 1982 1 July 1982[9] £92,800,000[8]
D91 Nottingham Vosper Thornycroft Ltd, Woolston. 1 March 1977 6 February 1978 18 February 1980 22 December 1982 14 April 1983[9] £82,100,000[8]
Royal Navy – batch 3
D95 Manchester Vickers Shipbuilders Ltd, Barrow-in-Furness. 10 November 1978 19 May 1978 24 November 1980 19 November 1982 16 December 1982[9] £110,000,000[8]
D98 York Swan Hunter Ltd, Wallsend-on-Tyne. 25 April 1979< 18 January 1980 21 June 1982 25 March 1985[15] 9 August 1985 £118,700,000[15]
D96 Gloucester Vosper Thornycroft Ltd, Woolston. 27 March 1979 29 October 1979 2 November 1982 16 May 1985[15] 11 September 1985 £120,800,000[15]
D97 Edinburgh Cammell Laird & Co, Birkenhead. 25 April 1979 8 September 1980 13 April 1983 25 July 1985[15] 17 December 1985 £130,600,000[15]
Argentine Republic Navy– batch 1
D1 Hércules Vickers Shipbuilders Ltd, Barrow-in-Furness. 18 May 1970 16 June 1971 24 October 1972 10 May 1976[5] 12 July 1976[5]
D2 Santísima Trinidad AFNE, Rio Santiago, Argentina. 18 May 1970 11 October 1971 9 November 1974 1 July 1981

In May 1982, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Jerry Wiggin) stated that the current replacement cost of a Type 42 destroyer of the Sheffield class was "about £120 million."[16] In July 1984, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (John Lee) stated: "the average cost of the three Type 42 destroyers currently under construction is £117 million at 1983–84 price levels."[17]

Running costs

Not including major refits and upgrades

Date Running cost What is included Citation
1981–82 £10.0 million Average annual running cost of Type 42s at average 1981–82 prices and including associated aircraft costs but excluding the costs of major refits. [18]
1985–86 £15 million The average cost of running and maintaining a type 42 destroyer for one year. [19]
1987–88 £7 million The average annual operating costs, at financial year 1987–88 prices of a type 42 destroyer. These costs include personnel, fuel, spares and so on, and administrative support services, but exclude new construction, capital equipment, and refit-repair costs. [20]
2001–02 £13.0 million Type 42 destroyer, average annual operating costs, based on historic costs over each full financial year. The figures include manpower, maintenance, fuel, stores and other costs (such as harbour dues), but exclude depreciation and cost of capital. [21]
2002–03 £13.5 million

Including refits and upgrades

Date Running cost What is included Citation
2007–08 £31.35 million "The annual operating cost of the Type 42 Class of Destroyers, covering a total of eight vessels in the 07/08 period, is £250.8M." "This is based on information primarily from Financial Year 07/08 the last year for which this information is available, and includes typical day-to-day costs such as fuel and manpower and general support costs covering maintenance, repair and equipment spares. Costs for equipment spares are also included, although these are based on Financial Year 08/09 information as this is the most recent information available. Costs for weapon system support are not included as they could only be provided at disproportionate cost." [22]
2009–10 £26.7 million "The average running cost per class... Type 42 is £ 160.1 million. These figures, based on the expenditure incurred by the Ministry of Defence in 2009–10, include maintenance, safety certification, military upgrades, manpower, inventory, satellite communication, fuel costs and depreciation.". [23]

In May 2000, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (John Spellar) stated: "The running costs of each of the Royal Navy's Type 42 destroyers for each of the past five years are contained in the following table. This includes repair and maintenance, manpower, fuel and other costs such as port and harbour dues. Year-on-year variations are largely attributable to refit periods."[24]

Ship 1995–96 1996–97 1997–98 1998–99 1999–2000 Citation
Birmingham £32.28 million £16.92 million £17.38 million £13.38 million £10.39 million [24]
Newcastle £32.60 million £31.60 million £18.57 million £13.90 million £13.73 million [24]
Glasgow £14.70 million £29.47 million £26.36 million £13.61 million £12.65 million [24]
Cardiff £19.86 million £41.2 million £28.86 million £13.20 million £17.87 million [24]
Exeter £19.46 million £15.72 million £40.83 million £12.76 million £14.48 million [24]
Southampton £16.53 million £20.37 million £17.91 million £39.09 million £18.79 million [24]
Nottingham £18.70 million £17.24 million £19.08 million £13.08 million £32.74 million [24]
Liverpool £16.92 million £20.75 million £14.59 million £14.79 million £14.63 million [24]
Manchester £17.99 million £19.40 million £14.58 million £12.22 million £12.69 million [24]
Gloucester £19.33 million £19.40 million £13.89 million £21.49 million £15.77 million [24]
York £20.48 million £19.79 million £17.50 million £11.78 million £21.88 million [24]
Edinburgh £35.27 million £19.29 million £22.50 million £13.00 million £12.28 million [24]


In February 1998, the Minister of State for Defence, Dr Reid said: "Type 42 destroyers achieved approximately 84 to 86 per cent average availability for operational service in each of the last five years. This discounts time spent in planned maintenance."[25]

Fate of ships

Pennant Name Home port Commissioned Status
Royal Navy
Batch 1
D80 Sheffield Portsmouth 16 February 1975 Sunk in Falklands War 4 May 1982
D86 Birmingham Portsmouth 3 December 1976 Decommissioned 31 December 1999 Scrapped October 2000
D88 Glasgow Portsmouth 25 May 1977 Decommissioned 1 February 2005 Scrapped December 2008
D87 Newcastle Portsmouth 23 March 1978 Decommissioned 1 February 2005 Scrapped November 2008
D118 Coventry Portsmouth 20 October 1978 Sunk in Falklands War 25 May 1982
D108 Cardiff Portsmouth 24 September 1979 Decommissioned 14 July 2005 Scrapped November 2008
Batch 2
D89 Exeter Portsmouth 18 September 1980 Decommissioned 27 May 2009 Scrapped September 2011
D90 Southampton Portsmouth 31 October 1981 Decommissioned 12 February 2009[26] Scrapped October 2011
D92 Liverpool Portsmouth 9 July 1982 Decommissioned 30 March 2012 Scrapped October 2014
D91 Nottingham Portsmouth 8 April 1983 Decommissioned 11 February 2010 Scrapped October 2011
Batch 3
D95 Manchester Portsmouth 16 December 1982 Decommissioned 24 February 2011 Scrapped November 2014
D98 York Portsmouth 9 August 1985 Decommissioned 27 September 2012[27] Scrapped August 2015
D96 Gloucester Portsmouth 11 September 1985 Decommissioned 30 June 2011 Scrapped September 2015
D97 Edinburgh Portsmouth 17 December 1985 Decommissioned 6 June 2013 Scrapped August 2015
Navy of the Argentine Republic

(ex D-1)

Hércules Puerto Belgrano 12 July 1976 Transformed in a multi-purpose transport ship since 2000.[28] Active.
D-2 Santísima Trinidad Puerto Belgrano 1 July 1981 Decommissioned in 2004.
Intended to become a naval museum, but sank, as a result of negligence, off Puerto Belgrano on 22 January 2013.[29] She was refloated in December 2015 and moved to a drydock to evaluate her restoration as a museum ship.[30] But due to serious damage and lack of funds, she was destined to be scrapped in 2018.[31]
Undergoing for scrapping since 2018.[31]

The surviving Argentine Type 42, Hércules, is based at Puerto Belgrano Naval Base, Argentina, and has been converted into an amphibious command ship through the addition of a new aft superstructure and hangar. It was originally fitted with four single Exocet missile launchers, two either side of the funnel facing forward but these were removed during refit. The other Argentine vessel, Santísima Trinidad, capsized and sank alongside her berth at Puerto Belgrano on 22 January 2013, reportedly as a result of poor maintenance and negligence leading to a burst seawater main and catastrophic flooding.[29] Prior to her demise, Santísima Trinidad was extensively cannibalised for spare parts for her more active sister ship. In December 2015, she was refloated and placed in drydock to evaluate the cost of restoration as a museum ship. Finally, due to the very high cost required, it was decided to scrap her in 2016.[31]


The UK ships are all now decommissioned. By 2007 none of the batch 1 vessels remained in commission. Initially the UK sought to procure replacements first in collaboration with seven other NATO nations under the NFR-90 project and then with France and Italy through the Horizon CNGF programme. However, both these collaborative ventures failed and the UK decided to go it alone with a national project.[32]

The UK Type 42s are succeeded by six Type 45 destroyers. Daring, Dauntless, Diamond, Dragon, Defender and Duncan are all in commission. The Type 42 class suffered from cramped accommodation, a problem for crew safety and comfort, and also when finding space for upgrades. The Type 45s are considerably larger, displacing 7,500 tonnes, compared to the Type 42 displacement of 3,600 tonnes.[32]

See also