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(frĭg`ĭt), originally a long, narrow nautical vessel used on the Mediterranean, propelled by either oars or sail or both. Later, during the 18th and early 19th cent., the term was applied to a very fast, square-rigged sailing vessel carrying 24 to 44 guns on a single flush gun deck. Frigates were employed by the European naval powers in large numbers as commerce raiders and for blockade duty. In the United States before the War of 1812, Joshua Humphreys designed a number of frigates superior to any other vessels of their class in speed and armament. With the introduction of steam and steel warships in the middle of the 19th cent., frigates as a class of warship passed out of use. However, during World War II frigates were reintroduced by the British as a form of antisubmarine escort larger than a corvette and smaller than a destroyerdestroyer,
class of warship very fast relative to its length, generally equipped with torpedos, antisubmarine equipment, and medium-caliber and antiaircraft guns. The newest destroyers are equipped with guided missiles as their chief offensive weapon.
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. Destroyer-type ships called frigates are important combat vessels today; however, there is no clearcut uniform distinction between a frigate and a destroyer. Modern frigates are often armed with antisubmarine weapons and guns; many are missile-armed and some are nuclear-powered. The nuclear-powered frigate U.S.S. Truxtun, launched in 1964, was the largest destroyer-type ship ever built.


See F. Dorovan, The Tall Frigates (1962); J. Henderson, The Frigates (1970); Jane's Fighting Ships (pub. annually since 1897).



(1) In sail-driven navies, a three-masted naval ship, second in size after a ship of the line. Frigates had two gun decks with a total of up to 60 guns, were very stable, and surpassed ships of the line in speed. They were generally used for cruising and reconnaissance. In the mid-19th century, steam frigates appeared, both wheel-driven and propeller-driven; they were made of wood, iron, or a combination of both. Some frigates had armor plating and were called ironclad frigates. Steam frigates were used by the warring parties during the Crimean War (1853–56) and the American Civil War (1861–65).

(2) In World War II, frigates were ships of a transitional type between light cruisers and destroyers (USA) or the analogous patrol vessels (Great Britain). They were used for antisubmarine and antiaircraft defense in formations of warships and in convoys of transport ships. Frigates in the US Navy had a displacement of 3,500–5,000 tons and a speed of approximately 35 knots (65 km/-hr); they were armed with two all-purpose 127-mm cannon, four automatic guns of 76 and 20 mm, four torpedo launchers, and four depth-charge launchers. Frigates in the British Navy had a displacement of up to 2,500 tons and lighter armament.

(3) Modern frigates are specially constructed ships used for locating and destroying atomic submarines at sea and for defending aircraft carriers from naval, aircraft, and rocket attack. Frigates in the US Navy have a displacement of up to 6,000 tons, a speed of 34 knots (63 km/hr), and a range of 8,000 nautical miles. They are armed with long- and short-range antiaircraft rockets, rocket-torpedoes, conventional torpedoes, and naval artillery— usually one 127-mm all-purpose automatic cannon and two 76-mm antiaircraft guns. They have a crew of 350–370 men. In the early 1970’s, series construction of frigates with atomic power plants was begun in the USA.



(naval architecture)
In the U.S. Navy, a ship larger than a destroyer and smaller than a cruiser, having a displacement of 4000-9000 tons, designed mainly as an escort ship for an attack aircraft carrier.
In the British and Canadian navies, an escort ship larger than a corvette and smaller than a destroyer, having a displacement of 1200-2500 tons, corresponding in size to a destroyer escort in the U.S. Navy.


1. a medium-sized square-rigged warship of the 18th and 19th centuries
a. Brit a warship larger than a corvette and smaller than a destroyer
b. US (formerly) a warship larger than a destroyer and smaller than a cruiser
c. US a small escort vessel
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