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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 February 2006, 15:48 GMT
Thousands cheer on warship launch
HMS Daring was sent down the slipway into the River Clyde

Thousands of people have witnessed the launch of what has been hailed as the UK's most powerful destroyer.

HMS Daring was sent down the slipway into the River Clyde in Glasgow by the Countess of Wessex.

The ceremony at the BAE Systems shipyard in Scotstoun was also attended by Defence Secretary John Reid.

The Type 45 destroyer is the first of six to be built in Glasgow and the Navy claims it will be the most advanced warship in the world.

With a price tag of 605m, the 150m long vessel weighs in at 7,350 tons. It will officially come into service in 2009.

Each D-class destroyer will have more firepower than the combined fleet of Type 42s.

The combat system is the cutting edge of technology
Lt Cdr Woodruff

People of all ages were represented at the event, with babies in prams, school children and their parents and elderly ship launch veterans among the crowds.

A full brass band played as balloons were released and crew members on deck waved as the ship moved into the water.

About 680 tons of drag chains had to be used to slow down the ship and stop it moving too close to Braehead shopping centre on the south bank of the river, where hundreds more stood watching the launch.

The vessel has been designed to defend UK forces from air attacks and weaponry includes the Principal Anti-Air Missile System, which will provide airspace cover for hundreds of miles around.

'Natural home'

Lt Cdr Dean Woodruff said: "The combat system is the cutting edge of technology and we've gone to a full electric propulsion system."

The six Royal Navy destroyers are said to have safeguarded more than 2,500 shipbuilding jobs in Glasgow and Portsmouth.

Vic Emery, managing director of BAE Systems Naval Ships, said: "The current contract for six Type 45s will keep this company busy for at least the next six to seven years.

"We are looking for two more Type 45s and we have a bid on the table with the Ministry of Defence to make a class of eight ships. That would reinforce our position."

He added: "The successes we have had in the construction of Daring and the improvements we are delivering on the subsequent ships demonstrate that the Clyde is still the natural home of warship building in the UK."

On board, there is more recreational space for the crew, including the first purpose built fitness centre.

Large mess decks have been replaced by smaller cabins and instead of having to write home all crew will have an internet connection above their bunk.

Crowds at launch
HMS Daring was launched on the Clyde to cheers from onlookers

Mr Reid said it was a proud day for the Royal Navy.

He added: "Part of the deal is that in reducing the number of warships, that we make them more capable than ever before and this is an example, it's part of the biggest building programme we've had for decades.

"I'm delighted also for the workers on the Clyde because six years ago a lot of people had written them off.

"To see them producing this on spec, on time and on budget is a delight to me.

"And finally, if we salute, as we do, the courage and endurance of our service men and women, we have to make every effort to make sure they get the equipment as well as the training necessary to enhance their battle-winning capabilities and that's what this does."

HMS Daring will now move a few hundred yards down river to a dry dock where the remainder of the work will be carried out.

The vessel will be the seventh Royal Navy ship to bear the Daring name.

The 5.5bn Type 45 programme was ordered by the Ministry of Defence. The six vessels - HMS Dauntless, Daring, Diamond, Defender, Dragon and Duncan - are all due to be launched from the Clyde.

Diagram of a new Type-45 destroyer
1 Flight deck to take Lynx or Merlin combat helicopter
2 Navigation radar
3 Long-range radar monitors air and surface threats
4 Communications mast
5 Small-calibre gun
6 Multi-function radar can guide ship's missiles and detect enemy ones
7 Gunfire control system
8 Vertical-launching system for short- and long-range missiles
9 Medium-calibre main gun
10 Bow sonar (under keel)

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