Warships are an important part of the surface fleet, they come in various shapes and sizes depending on their capabilities and functions.
Two common types of warships used in most navies are frigates and destroyers. Both are designed for quick maneuverability and can be used to escort and protect larger ships from air, surface and underwater threats.
Modern frigates and destroyers today have significant similarities in capabilities, which have led several European navies to use interchangeable terms. According to the evaluation of Global Fire Power Index 2019 in fact used, frigate is more popular. Most of the navy in the world owns frigates as part of a navy fleet, while only 13 countries own destroyers.
Of the nations with frigates, China is leading the world with 52 frigates. In recent years, China has been speeding up the construction of warships with the ambition to become a blue sea navy force, competing directly with other naval powers. Following and surprisingly was Taiwan with 24 and the US is 22 vessels.
The destroyer, by contrast, is much less common, only a few capable navies possessing this type of warship. The U.S. Navy, with its enormous financial potential, has the largest number of destroyers with 68 ships currently in service. Japan ranked second with 37, followed by China with 33 vessels. Some countries with significant economies in the world, such as Spain and Germany, officially do not have destroyers, although most of their frigates are similar to what the other countries would classify as destroyers.
Basically, the difference between destroyers and frigates is in their displacement, dimensions and capabilities. Understandably, destroyers are usually larger, more capable and faster than frigates.
The destroyers come in many sizes. Small destroyers such as the Royal Navy’s Type 45 Daring and Russia’s Project 956 Sovremenny class, which are about 150 meters in length, a beam of about 17 to 18m. Large destroyers like the Zumwalt class of the US Navy, a “giant” with a length of 190m and a beam of 24.6m. The displacement of the Zumwalt class is nearly 16,000 tons, double that of the smaller destroyers with a full displacement of about 8,000 tons.
While destroyers vary greatly in size, powerful frigates such as the Admiral Gorshkov class of Russia and the German Sachsen class are much smaller than those of destroyers, they have a length of about 130m to 150m and the beam is almost equal to the destroyer.
Thanks to the larger dimension, destroyers can easily be equipped with high-resolution and more powerful radar, especially the vertical launching systems. Destroyers are fitted with surface-to-air, surface-to-surface missiles and defensive capabilities for a fleet, such as aircraft carrier combat groups, so they are often designed to focus on this function. Destroyers are often integrated into aircraft carrier groups as an indispensable component for air defense or the ability to strike with surface-to-surface missiles.
The frigate is usually operated individually and used as an escort to protect maritime routes or as an auxiliary component for attack fleets. The frigates are often slower than destroyers, although in modern times there is no significant difference. Despite its impressive dimension, the Zumwalt-class destroyer can move at 30 knots, a bit slower than smaller classes like Sovremenny and Daring with an average speed of about 32 knots. Modern destroyers can reach a maximum speed of about 33 knots. The fastest destroyer ever recorded was the French Le Terrible, which could reach 45.1 knots during sea trials in 1935. One of the high-speed frigates is the Indian Navy Shivalik class, which has a maximum speed of 32 knots, while other ships range between 26 to 30 knots.
In terms of armed, both frigates and destroyers are equipped with the most advanced weapons and defense systems, which are critical for their escort or protection role. Some frigates, such as the Duke class of the Royal Navy, have specialized anti-submarine warfare and are equipped with sonar equipment and torpedoes. Anti-submarine frigates are often designed with hangars and helipads, serving helicopters capable of identifying and attacking submarines by torpedoes or submersible bombs. The Duke class is equipped with two Sting Ray twin torpedo tubes accompanied by a Westland Lynx helicopter equipped with two torpedoes or a Westland Merlin with four torpedoes.
According to military experts, frigates can provide limited air defense to themselves and nearby ships but are not capable of forming air defense networks. They tend to be used primarily for anti-submarine warfare as well as short-range air defense as a complement to the fleet.
Destroyers are specifically designed to launch anti-ship missiles and guided air defense missiles. The Daring-class Sea Viper defense system allows the Royal Navy to track targets up to 400 km away using the Sampson active electronically scanned array radar and the Sylver 4 48-cell Vertical Launching System with Aster 15 and Aster 30 surface-to-air missiles. The “giants” Zumwalt comes with 20 Mk57 Vertical Launching System with 80 launchers, it can fire Evolved Sea Sparrow missiles and Tactical Tomahawk subsonic cruise missiles.
In terms of cost, destroyers are much more expensive than frigates. The most expensive destroyers in the world are the US Navy Zumwalt class. The first DDG 1000 costs about $4.2 billion, according to USNI News. From the second and third, production costs were estimated to be cheaper, at $2.8 billion and $2.4 billion, respectively. They are considered too expensive when compared to the Royal Navy’s Daring-class destroyers, costing more than £1 billion, equivalent to $1.36 billion.
Compared to destroyers, frigates are much more economical. The Duke class of the Royal Navy costs around £130 million each, or the Type 31 frigate cost about £250 million each, according to the British Government. The Sachsen class of Germany is one of the most expensive frigate classes, worth about €2.1 billion for a total of three.
In short, both types of warships are surface combatants. They are all capable of patrolling in near shore, off shore and deep waters. All of them can be equipped to engage aerial, surface and underwater threats, and even land targets. The difference is the level of competency in each area.