Out with the old in with HMS Dragon; Replacement for HMS Cardiff will be at centre of UK's defence for 30 years, says commander taking her to sea.
THE commander of the Welsh warship that will replace HMS Cardiff has pledged to rebuild ties between the Navy and the Welsh capital.
HMS Dragon, a Type 45 destroyer, was launched yesterday and replaces HMS Cardiff, which was decommissioned three years ago.
More than 12,000 spectators gathered to see the launch of the warship, complete with an 18-metre Welsh dragon decorating its bow, on the River Clyde in Glasgow yesterday afternoon.
Commander Ian Jackson, HMS Dragon's Senior Naval Officer, says his top priority is to continue the long affiliation the city traditionally had with HMS Cardiff.
"Starting to rebuild this affiliation and link (with Cardiff) will be one of the first things I do with the ship," said Commander Jackson, speaking at the ship's launch.
"It's important to have this affiliation-not only is it a link between the Navy and the public but it broadens the sailors' perspectives on life."
Mike Beardell, a former Commanding Officer of HMS Cardiff, said HMS Dragon's predecessor had always been proud of its strong links with the capital.
Since its launch in 1974, Commander Beardell said, the Type 42 destroyer had forged close ties with the local council and Mayor of Cardiff, the Welsh Assembly Government, and many clubs and associations including the United Services Mess, the Royal British Legion, the Cardiff County Club, and countless sports clubs in the region.
The ship, which also had strong ties with the Welsh regiments, RAF St Athan and the Sea Cadets, also raised thousands of pounds for Welsh charities.
Commander Beardell added: "One link that was quite pertinent to a lot of the sailors was the association we had with Brains...
"When we left we were always given a small amount of stuff to remind us of the good times we had in the city!"
He said that in rugby terms, the new ship was like "replacing a tired old senior pro with a top world international".
During its time in service, HMS Cardiff earned battle honours for service in the Falklands and Gulf wars. Now HMS Dragon - which has the motto "We yield but to St George" - could be deployed anywhere in the world. "It's an opportunity to re-establish those proud maritime traditions that have been on hold for a few years," added Commander Beardell.
"The new Welsh warship has a very exciting future - she is very capable and very powerful - and she will be at the heart of the UK's defence for the next 30 years."
As well as providing air defence over a wide area, HMS Dragon can carry up to 60 Royal Marine Commandos and operate a helicopter from the flight deck.
It is also far more environmentally friendly than its predecessor.
The Type 45 is powered by two advanced cycle gas turbine engines, based on an advanced Rolls- Royce engine, but uses a sophisticated US-built heat exchanger which recovers waste heat from the ship's exhaust system to greatly increase its efficiency.
It will be another two to three years before HMS Dragon is deployed, while the crew are trained and the warship completes sea trials.
It is likely that one of HMS Dragon's first visits will be to the Welsh capital in 2011. Yesterday, a Royal Marines helicopter display marked the event, during which HMS Dragon was named and launched by Susie Boissier, wife of the Deputy Commander-In-Chief Fleet and Chief of Staff.
First Minister for Wales Rhodri Morgan welcomed the launch, and said: "HMS Dragon recognises Wales' strong links with the Royal Navy.
"HMS Dragon symbolises that two-way commitment between Wales and the Royal Navy in the modern era."
'Building a link with Cardiff will be one of the first things I do with this ship'
- HMS Dragon Commander Ian Jackson
How the two ships shape up
British Type 42 destroyer
Built - Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria
Launched - February 22, 1974
Cost - pounds 30m
Size - 125m
Weight - 4,000 tons
Speed - 30 knots
Armament - Sea Dart, a surface-to-air missile system capable of hitting targets up to 56km away
Motto - Keen in Emergency
Battle honours - Falklands War and the Gulf War
Life span - 30 years (decommissioned 2005)
Current home - Portsmouth Harbour
Fate - Unknown
British Type 45 destroyer
Built - Portsmouth and Glasgow
Launched - November 17, 2008
Cost - pounds 1.06bn (or pounds 6.4bn for all six 'Daring' class destroyers)
Size - 152.4m
Weight - 8,000 tons
Speed - 27 knots plus
Armament - PAAMS system - principal Anti-Air Missile System - (twice as powerful as HMS Cardiff). Can fire up to eight missiles at a time, reaching speeds five times the speed of sound in two seconds
Capacity - 235 people (40% increase on HMS Cardiff)
Motto - We yield but to St George
Service - anywhere
Life expectancy - 30-40 years
Current home - River Clyde, Glasgow
Homecoming - likely to be 2011
STRONG TIES: HMS Cardiff leaving Cardiff Bay on its final voyage; SEEING RED: HMS Dragon, the fourth of the Royal Navy's new Type 45 class of anti-air warfare destroyers, is launched from the BVT Surface Fleet shipyard at Govan, Glasgow PICTURE: PA