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Destroyer vs. Frigate — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Fiza Rafique — Updated on November 1, 2023
Destroyers are larger, more heavily armed naval vessels designed for warfare, while frigates are smaller ships used for escort duties or submarine warfare.
Destroyer vs. Frigate — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Destroyer and Frigate


Key Differences

Destroyers are naval warships known for their size and versatility, designed to accompany larger vessels and protect them from enemy submarines and surface ships. Frigates are often smaller than destroyers and are used for escort roles, offering anti-submarine warfare capabilities and protection for other ships. Destroyers typically possess greater firepower and advanced electronic warfare systems compared to frigates.
Frigates are designed to be fast and maneuverable, capable of operating independently or within a naval fleet. They are often employed in patrol missions and have a lighter armament than destroyers. Destroyers, with their larger displacement, can carry more weapons and have higher endurance, enabling them to engage in major naval battles. Both vessels are integral to modern naval operations, but destroyers are more suited to direct combat roles.
Destroyers have evolved to be among the most powerful surface vessels in a naval fleet, equipped with anti-aircraft, anti-submarine, and anti-surface capabilities. Frigates, while also versatile, tend to focus on anti-submarine roles and often have specialized equipment for this purpose. The role of a destroyer is to provide a wide range of offensive and defensive capabilities to a naval fleet.
In a peacetime role, both destroyers and frigates may participate in maritime security operations, anti-piracy missions, and humanitarian aid efforts. Destroyers, due to their larger size and more extensive facilities, can often undertake longer deployments than frigates. Frigates are valuable for their lower operational costs and agility in various maritime operations.
Destroyers and frigates differ in their command structure due to their size difference; destroyers typically have a larger crew and a more complex hierarchy. Frigates may have a smaller crew with a less complex command structure, which can be an advantage in certain operational contexts. Despite these differences, both destroyers and frigates are critical components of a balanced and effective naval force.

Comparison Chart


Larger and heavier
Smaller and lighter


Heavily armed with advanced weaponry
Lighter armament focused on specific roles


Versatile warship for various threats
Primarily for escort and anti-submarine warfare


Longer deployment capabilities
Shorter range and deployment capabilities

Crew and Hierarchy

Larger crew with complex hierarchy
Smaller crew with simpler command structure

Compare with Definitions


A person or thing that destroys.
He was known as a destroyer of myths.


In historical contexts, a sailing warship with a single deck.
Pirates targeted the frigate for its valuable cargo.


A warship designed to escort and protect larger vessels.
The destroyer shielded the aircraft carrier from enemy submarines.


A fast naval vessel with limited armament.
The frigate was tasked with reconnaissance.


Something that eliminates or nullifies.
The scandal was a destroyer of his political career.


A warship with speed and versatility.
The frigate swiftly navigated through the strait.


In naval terminology, a destroyer is a fast, maneuverable, long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet, convoy or battle group and defend them against powerful short range attackers. They were originally developed in the late 19th century by Fernando Villaamil for the Spanish Navy as a defense against torpedo boats, and by the time of the Russo-Japanese War in 1904, these "torpedo boat destroyers" (TBDs) were "large, swift, and powerfully armed torpedo boats designed to destroy other torpedo boats".


A protector or defender in nautical terms.
The frigate stood guard against the threat of submarines.


A small, fast warship, especially one equipped for a defensive role against submarines and aircraft.


A frigate () is a type of warship. In different eras, ships classified as frigates have had very varied roles and capabilities.


A person or thing that destroys something
CFCs are the chief destroyers of the ozone layer


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


One that destroys
A destroyer of our environment.


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


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


(Obsolete) A fast, light vessel, such as a sailboat.


That which destroys something.


(nautical) Any of several types of warship:


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


(historical) A sailing warship (of any size) built for speed and maneuverability; typically without raised upperworks, having a flush forecastle and tumblehome sides.


(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.


(historical) A sailing warship with a single continuous gun deck, typically used for patrolling and blockading duties, but not considered large enough for the line of battle.


One who destroys, ruins, kills, or desolates.


(historical) A warship combining sail and steam propulsion, typically of ironclad timber construction, supplementing and superseding sailing ships of the line at the beginning of the development of the ironclad battleship.


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.


(historical) A escort warship, smaller than a destroyer, introduced in World War 2 as an anti-submarine vessel.


A small fast lightly armored but heavily armed warship


A modern type of warship, equivalent in size or smaller than a destroyer, often focused on anti-submarine warfare, but sometimes general purpose.


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


(fictional) A warship or space warship, inspired by one of the many historic varieties of frigate.


In card games, a decisive move that assures victory.
Her final play was a destroyer, winning her the game.


A frigatebird (Fregata spp.).


A forceful, devastating action or event.
The earthquake was a destroyer, leaving the city in ruins.


Originally, a vessel of the Mediterranean propelled by sails and by oars. The French, about 1650, transferred the name to larger vessels, and by 1750 it had been appropriated for a class of war vessels intermediate between corvettes and ships of the line. Frigates, from about 1750 to 1850, had one full battery deck and, often, a spar deck with a lighter battery. They carried sometimes as many as fifty guns. After the application of steam to navigation steam frigates of largely increased size and power were built, and formed the main part of the navies of the world till about 1870, when the introduction of ironclads superseded them.


Any small vessel on the water.


A medium size square-rigged warship of the 18th and 19th centuries


A United States warship larger than a destroyer and smaller than a cruiser


A bird with a forked tail, known for its speed.
The frigate bird soared above the ocean.

Common Curiosities

What primarily differentiates a destroyer from a frigate?

Size, armament, and role; destroyers are larger and more heavily armed, suited for multiple threats, while frigates are smaller, specialized ships.

Are destroyers or frigates faster?

Frigates are generally designed to be fast and agile.

Can both destroyers and frigates operate independently?

Yes, both can operate independently but have different capabilities.

Which has a longer range for missions, a destroyer or a frigate?

Destroyers usually have a longer operational range.

Can frigates engage in direct combat like destroyers?

Yes, but they're typically optimized for specific roles like anti-submarine warfare.

Do frigates carry fewer weapons than destroyers?

Yes, frigates tend to have lighter armament.

Are destroyers used for anti-submarine warfare like frigates?

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

Do destroyers provide air defense for naval fleets?

Yes, destroyers are equipped with advanced air defense systems.

Is a destroyer or frigate better suited for escort missions?

Frigates are typically more specialized for escort missions.

Do frigates have simpler command structures than destroyers?

Generally, yes, due to their smaller size and crew.

Has the role of destroyers evolved over time?

Yes, destroyers have evolved to handle a wide range of maritime threats.

Do frigates participate in peacetime missions?

Yes, frigates often conduct maritime security and patrol missions during peacetime.

Are today's frigates similar to historical frigates?

Modern frigates are more advanced but share the historical role of being fast and maneuverable.

Is the crew size on a destroyer larger than on a frigate?

Yes, destroyers typically have larger crews.

Can a frigate serve as a flagship like a destroyer?

It's less common, as flagships are typically the larger and more capable ships like destroyers.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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