Royal Navy

Surface Fleet FAQs

What is the difference between a Frigate and a Destroyer?
How fast can a ship go?
How far can a ship go without refuelling?
How do ships refuel at sea?
How long do ships go away for?
What new ships are being developed?
How big will the future aircraft carrier be?
What are the new Type 45 Destroyers going to be called?
What is the role of Frigates and Destroyers?
What is the role of our Hydrographic Ships?
Why do we need a Mine Countermeasures Capability?
Why does the Royal Navy operate Fishery Protection Vessels?
What is the role and capability of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary?



Question: What is the difference between a Frigate and a Destroyer?
Answer: The primary role of a destroyer is to defend against airborne attack; by aircraft or missile. A frigate's primary task is to defend against submarine or surface threats.


Question: How fast can a ship go?
Answer: Destroyers, Frigates and Aircraft Carriers generally have a speed of about 30knots (34 mph).


Question: How far can a ship go without refuelling?
Answer: At cruising speeds, frigates and aircraft carriers can travel about 7,500 miles and destroyers 4,000 miles.


Question: How do ships refuel at sea?
Answer: At sea RN ships use their RFA support ships to refuel and resupply with food, stores and ammunition. The procedure is known as Replenishment at Sea or RAS. Lines are fired across between the ships and stores can be hauled across and fuel pumped across whilst both ships are still moving.


Question: How long do ships go away for?
Answer: During training ships may sail for just one day returning to their home port at night. Deployments last for up to six months and occasionally may be as long as 9 months.


Question: What new ships are being developed?
Answer: In the last 3 years, 15 new ships have been ordered including 6 Type 45 Destroyers, 2 survey vessels and 3 offshore patrol vessels.

The largest development project underway at the moment is the development of the Royal Navy's future aircraft carrier. Additionally, production had already started on the Type 45 class destroyers which will be the largest and most powerful air defence destroyers ever operated by the Royal Navy. Details of all the RN's future ships and development can be found here.


Question: How big will the future aircraft carrier be?
Answer: The future aircraft carrier will be between 50 and 60,000 tonnes - approximately 3 times the size of the current invincible class aircraft carriers.


Question: What are the new Type 45 Destroyers going to be called?
Answer: The first 6 ships will be named Daring, Diamond, Dauntless, Dragon, Defender and Duncan.


Question: What are the weapons systems in the new Type 45 Destroyers?
Answer: These Type 45s will be the most advanced air defence ships in the world. The main armament will be the sophisticated and lethal Principal Anti Air Missile System (PAAMS). The system is designed to defend against supersonic, stealthy, highly manoeuvrable missiles that could use sea-skimming or steep-diving flight profiles approaching in salvoes, simultaneously from several directions. PAAMS is capable of controlling several missiles in the air at any one time, each one of which could engage individual targets, preventing attackers from swamping the fleet's air defences.


Question: What is the role of Frigates and Destroyers?
Answer: In wartime, the primary role of these ships is to protect friendly ships against attack. However Frigates and Destroyers are versatile multi-role ships capable of performing any number of tasks throughout the world, from humanitarian operations to anti-drug policing.


Question: What is the role of our Hydrographic Ships?
Answer: Hydrographic ships are involved in the surveying and mapping of the oceans. In addition to surveying in overseas areas, hydrographic ships are constantly engaged in updating the charts covering the waters around the United Kingdom, using the latest surveying techniques. See Hydrographic Vessels.


Question: Why do we need a Mine Countermeasures Capability?
Answer: Mines are an ever-present threat to naval operations and to the UK's merchant fleet. They are a cheap but highly effective method that can be used by a hostile state to deny access to their territorial waters. The UK's Mine Countermeasures capability exists to guarantee safe water for warships and merchant vessels, both at home and abroad, to conduct their operations. Most recently six Royal Navy minesweepers were employed during Operation Telic employed to clear routes to Umm Qasr in Southern Iraq to allow urgently needed humanitarian aid to be delivered. See Mine Countermeasures.


Question: Why does the Royal Navy operate Fishery Protection Vessels?
Answer: The Royal Navy's Fishery Protection Squadron (FPS) undertakes fishery protection duties on a repayment basis on behalf of the Department for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA). The FPS also plays a policing role within UK waters and is tasked in anti-pollution, Search and Rescue, Customs & Excise, Coastguard and Maritime Counter Terrorism duties. This provides an early opportunity for able young officers to gain command experience. It enables them to undertake a 'real' task in a demanding and challenging environment and provides excellent training value. See Patrol Vessels.


Question: What is the role and capability of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary?
Answer: The Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) is a civilian manned fleet of tankers and cargo ships. It exists to support the Royal Navy with all the services necessary to operate independently for extended periods anywhere in the world. The RFA also has the capability to provide the Royal Marines and the British Army with much of the heavy lift logistic support necessary to undertake and sustain out of area operations of significant size and duration. See Royal Fleet Auxiliary.