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Difference Between Frigate and Destroyer

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In the world of naval vessels, many different types of ships are designed for specific purposes. Two common types of warships are frigates and destroyers. Both are designed for combat, but there are significant differences between the two.

The main difference between a frigate and a destroyer is that a frigate is a lighter and more lightly armed vessel, while a destroyer is heavier and better-armed.

What is a Frigate?

Polish Navy's New Miecznik Frigate

Frigates are the workhorses of the Navy, designed to handle a wide range of tasks. They are typically slightly smaller than destroyers, though they can be equipped with powerful weapons and sensors. Some frigates specialize in anti-submarine warfare (ASW), while others are better suited for surface combat missions.

What is a Destroyer?

The USS Zumwalt, a US Navy stealth Destroyer

Destroyers are designed for combat and have more powerful weapons than frigates. They also have stronger armour and better sensors, making them ideal for taking on enemy vessels in battle. Destroyers typically carry torpedoes, missiles, cannons and other weapons designed to attack and sink other ships.

Differences Between Frigates and Destroyers


The history of frigates and destroyers can be traced back to the early days of sailing ships. Frigates were originally developed as fast ships that could outrun and outmanoeuvre enemy vessels. They were also equipped with enough firepower to hold their own in battle. Destroyers, on the other hand, were designed specifically for combat. They were heavily armed and armoured, making them ideal for taking on enemy ships in head-to-head battles. 

In modern times, the distinction between these two ship types has become less clear. That's because technological advances have meant that all naval vessels are now faster and more heavily armed than ever before. As a result, the line between frigates and destroyers has blurred, and these two ship types are now often used interchangeably. 


The primary role of a frigate is to patrol and protect friendly vessels, while the main purpose of a destroyer is to engage in direct combat with enemy forces. Destroyers are usually considered the offensive arm of any navy, while frigates serve as their defensive counterpart.

Size and Weight

Frigates are usually smaller than destroyers, with a typical length of around 130-150m. Destroyers tend to be larger, at 150-160m in length. Frigates are also lighter than destroyers, weighing roughly 4,000 tons compared to 8-10,000 tons for a destroyer.

This difference in size is due to the fact that destroyers are built to carry heavier weapons and armour, while frigates are designed for greater speed and manoeuvrability.


Destroyers are typically much more expensive than frigates, requiring larger crews and more advanced weapons systems. A modern destroyer can cost between $2-3 billion, while a frigate usually sets you back somewhere between $750 million to $1.5 billion.


Frigates are equipped with surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), anti-submarine warfare (ASW) torpedoes, and guns for surface engagement. They may also be fitted with vertical launch systems (VLS) that give them the ability to fire long-range anti-ship missiles (AShMs).

Destroyers also have SAMs, ASW torpedoes, and guns for surface engagement. In addition, they usually have VLSs that allow them to fire long-range anti-aircraft missiles (AAMs). The heavier armament on destroyers reflects their primary purpose of providing protection against aircraft carrier groups. 

Speed and Maneuverability

Frigates are designed with higher speeds and manoeuvrability in mind. They typically have top speeds of around 30 knots, while destroyers range from 20-30 knots, depending on the specific model. This allows frigates to move into position for an attack quickly or escape danger if needed.

Destroyers have more powerful engines and stronger hulls, but they cannot match the speed and manoeuvrability of frigates.

Comparison Table: Frigate Vs Destroyer

Main PurposePatrol and protect friendly vesselsEngage in direct combat with enemy forces
Size and WeightShorter and lighterLonger and heavier
CostCheaperMore expensive
ArmamentSurface-to-air missiles (SAMs), anti-submarine warfare (ASW) torpedoes, long-range anti-ship missiles (AShMs), guns for surface engagementSurface-to-air missiles (SAMs), anti-submarine warfare (ASW) torpedoes, long-range anti-ship missiles (AShMs), long-range anti-aircraft missiles (AAMs), guns for surface engagement

Similarities between Frigates and Destroyers

Despite their size, armament, and purpose differences, frigates and destroyers have some important similarities. For one thing, both ship types are designed with advanced sensors to detect enemy vessels at sea. They also use similar weapons systems such as SAMs, ASW torpedoes and guns for surface engagement. Finally, both ships typically carry helicopters for reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the primary roles of frigates and destroyers?

Frigates and destroyers are the backbones of a nation's naval forces. They typically operate in groups, providing air defence for larger ships, escorting capital ships such as aircraft carriers into combat zones, conducting anti-submarine warfare (ASW) operations, patrolling territorial waters and maritime approaches, and carrying out other roles as assigned by their commanders. Destroyers are typically larger and more heavily armed than frigates, focusing on anti-aircraft defence and offensive capabilities. They can also be used as escorts for other vessels, providing additional protection against attack from enemy submarines.

What is the biggest danger for a warship?

The biggest danger for a warship is enemy fire. Modern warships are equipped with advanced weapons systems that allow them to engage other ships at extreme distances. However, they can still be vulnerable to surprise attacks from submarines, planes, or missiles. Enemy torpedoes and missiles pose a particular threat as they can sink a ship quickly if not adequately defended against. Mines, detonated on the surface or in the water, can also cause significant damage to a warship. In addition, hostile forces may attempt to board and capture a warship that has been damaged or disabled. Finally, warships are vulnerable to technological attacks such as cyber warfare and electronic jamming.

How many weapons does a destroyer have?

A destroyer typically has a variety of weapons, including torpedoes, cruise missiles, long-range guns and anti-aircraft missiles. There are also several other types of small arms that the vessel may carry to defend itself against hostile forces. The ship may also be equipped with advanced electronic warfare capabilities such as radar jamming or decoy flares. Additionally, many modern destroyers are equipped with vertical launch missile systems to provide a greater range of attack options. The exact weapons that any particular destroyer carries depend on several factors, such as its mission, size, and budget.


In conclusion, frigates and destroyers are two distinct ship types that have evolved over time for different roles in naval warfare. Frigates are designed with speed and manoeuvrability in mind, while destroyers prioritize armament and protection. Despite their differences, they share many common features, including advanced sensors and similar weapons systems. Thus, both frigates and destroyers can be considered essential components of any modern navy.

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About the Author: Nicolas Seignette

Nicolas Seignette, who holds a scientific baccalaureate, began his studies in mathematics and computer science applied to human and social sciences (MIASHS). He then continued his university studies with a DEUST WMI (Webmaster and Internet professions) at the University of Limoges before finishing his course with a professional license specialized in the IT professions. On 10Differences, he is in charge of the research and the writing of the articles concerning technology, sciences and mathematics.
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