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Frigate vs. Destroyer: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Published on November 16, 2023
Frigates are smaller, fast naval ships used for escort and protection, while destroyers are larger, heavily armed ships designed for offensive actions.

Key Differences

Frigates and destroyers are both warships used by modern navies, but they serve different roles and have distinct characteristics. A frigate is generally smaller, faster, and less heavily armed, primarily used for escort duties and protecting other ships from submarines and aircraft. Destroyers, on the other hand, are larger, more heavily armed, and designed for a variety of offensive operations, including anti-aircraft, anti-submarine, and surface warfare.
In terms of armament, frigates are equipped with lighter weapons suitable for anti-submarine warfare and defense against smaller vessels or aircraft. Destroyers possess more advanced and heavier weaponry, including missiles, guns, and torpedoes, allowing them to engage in direct combat with larger enemy vessels and provide extensive air defense.
The size and agility of frigates make them suitable for operations in shallower waters and for rapid response roles. Destroyers, being larger and more robust, are capable of enduring tougher sea conditions and can operate in deeper oceanic areas, making them suitable for extended missions.
Historically, frigates were used for scouting, blockade, and trade route protection, evolving from the age of sail to modern times. Destroyers originated in the late 19th century as a response to the development of torpedo boats, growing in size and capability to become one of the most versatile and powerful ships in a navy's fleet.
In modern naval forces, the roles of frigates and destroyers sometimes overlap, but the distinction remains in their primary functions: frigates for protection and anti-submarine roles, and destroyers for more aggressive, multi-role combat operations.

Comparison Chart

Size and Build

Smaller, lighter, and faster
Larger, heavily armed

Primary Role

Escort duties, anti-submarine warfare
Offensive operations, multi-role combat


Lighter armament for defense
Advanced, heavy weaponry for offense

Operating Environment

Suitable for shallower waters
Operate in deeper oceanic areas

Historical Use

Scouting, protection of trade routes
Response to torpedo boats, versatile combat

Frigate and Destroyer Definitions


A warship that's smaller and lighter, primarily used for escort duties.
The frigate escorted the aircraft carrier through the strait.


Designed to operate in deep oceanic conditions.
The destroyer sailed through the rough open sea.


Equipped with anti-submarine and anti-aircraft weapons.
The frigate's sonar systems are designed to detect submarines.


Engages in surface warfare and provides air defense for fleets.
The destroyer engaged enemy ships with its powerful artillery.


Operates primarily in littoral and shallower water zones.
The frigate navigated through the coastal waters with ease.


Has a larger crew and more comprehensive support systems.
The destroyer accommodated a crew of over 300.


Has a smaller crew and requires less operational support.
The frigate set sail with a crew of 200 sailors.


A larger, heavily armed warship for offensive naval operations.
The destroyer led the naval fleet in the military exercise.


Often used for patrol missions and maritime security.
The frigate was deployed for a maritime security patrol.


One that destroys
A destroyer of our environment.


A warship that is smaller than a destroyer and used primarily for escort duty.


A small, fast, highly maneuverable warship typically armed with an assortment of weapons such as guns, torpedoes, depth charges, and guided missiles.


A high-speed, medium-sized sailing war vessel of the 1600s, 1700s, and 1800s.


That which destroys something.


A small, fast warship with light gun armament, smaller than a cruiser, but bigger than a frigate.


(military) A larger warship with guided missile armament, usually intended for air defence or anti-ship roles. Often, but not always, larger than a frigate and smaller than a cruiser.


One who destroys, ruins, kills, or desolates.


A small fast warship used primarily as an escort to larger vessels and typically armed with a combination of 5-inch guns, torpedos, depth charges, and missiles; formerly identical to the Torpedo-boat destroyer.


A small fast lightly armored but heavily armed warship


A person who destroys or ruins or lays waste to;
A destroyer of the environment
Jealousy was his undoer
Uprooters of gravestones


Equipped with advanced missile systems for air defense.
The destroyer's missile systems can intercept incoming aircraft.


How are destroyers armed compared to frigates?

Destroyers have more advanced and heavier armaments than frigates.

Can frigates operate in deep waters?

Frigates are more suited for shallower waters and coastal areas.

What is a frigate?

A frigate is a smaller, fast naval ship used mainly for escort and protection roles.

What is a destroyer?

A destroyer is a larger, heavily armed warship designed for a variety of offensive operations.

What roles do destroyers play in a navy?

Destroyers engage in offensive operations, surface warfare, and provide air defense.

Are destroyers capable of independent operations?

Yes, destroyers are capable of operating independently in various naval missions.

What are the historical roles of frigates?

Historically, frigates were used for scouting, blockades, and protecting trade routes.

How has the role of destroyers evolved?

Destroyers evolved from torpedo boat defense to versatile combat ships.

What are frigates mainly used for?

Frigates are used for escort duties, anti-submarine warfare, and protection of other vessels.

Can frigates carry helicopters?

Many modern frigates have facilities to carry and operate helicopters.

What size crew does a frigate have?

Frigates typically have smaller crews, around 200 sailors.

Are frigates faster than destroyers?

Frigates are generally faster and more agile than destroyers.

Do destroyers participate in anti-submarine warfare?

Yes, modern destroyers are equipped for anti-submarine warfare.

Do destroyers have capabilities for electronic warfare?

Yes, destroyers are equipped with advanced systems for electronic warfare.

Can destroyers defend against air threats?

Yes, destroyers have sophisticated missile systems for air defense.

Do frigates and destroyers work together?

Yes, frigates and destroyers often operate together in naval fleets.

Are modern frigates equipped with missile technology?

Modern frigates are equipped with missiles, primarily for defense.

Are destroyers used in anti-piracy operations?

Destroyers can be deployed in anti-piracy and maritime security operations.

How do frigates contribute to maritime security?

Frigates conduct patrols and security operations to safeguard maritime interests.

How do frigates and destroyers differ in radar capabilities?

Destroyers typically have more advanced radar systems for tracking and engagement.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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