Yes, when the ships were put into reserve Vosper Thornycroft made a plan to modernise the ships for export. The hangar would be extended for two Lynx and the after 4.5in removed and the two funnels would be merged into one.
New radar fit would be Decca TM1226, Marconi S820, Marconi ST802 and one Sapphire. The sonars would be one Graseby GI 777K. Armament was unchanged except for the loss of Limbo and the after 4.5in gun.
Obviously though when Malaysia brought them none of that wrk was undertaken.
Source: Combat Fleets of the World 1980/81.
The Shipbucket Forum has a spectulative drawing based on the real plans for such a refit.
Yep, Gurkha, Tartar, and Zulu all ended up in the Indonesian Navy. And honestly, I think the refit described might have been pretty handy for the TNI–AL. Helicopters are great multipliers for for surface surveillance, which has to be the main concern for the Indonesians. Now, fitting two Lynx in the hangar, even widened, would be hard, but one with adequate access space would still be an improvement over a Wasp.
The Type 81s performed valuable gunboat service both in the RN and Indonesian Navies.
Ironically one of the main roles of the Type 81 was as a Far East sloop, providing bobby on the beat
style protection against pirates and smugglers or insurgents, for which its guns and Wasp helo were admirably suited. Apparently even the Limbo could be used as an admittedly expensive mortar round!
Even in NATO waters the RN held on to these ships because unlike their newer techier sisters they were useful for the more mundane but more usual tasks of a peacetime Navy, patroling the sealanes.
As I have commented elsewhere it was the high end RN ships that deserved more criticism than the poor old Type 81 which did a very good wide range job. It also featured heavily in RN recruitment ads because of this broad service.
How many times between 1962 and 1991 did the Royal Navy get to test its high end warships?
What happened when they did?
Meanwhile back in the real world in the same timescale the RN was having to perform every day duties similar to those of smaller navies, ie those who wanted to buy ships from us. I don't think Indonesia or others buying ex RN ships wanted to be able to take on the Kiev or the Kirov, or did I miss the original point of this thread.
I guess Vosper thought they couldn't sell them without some kind of modernisation but it seems Indonesia brought them practically as they were when they left RN service with outdated senors and weapons. Vosper was aiming low-end market, I'm sure it wanted to sell its own Vosper series of craft as new toys and Yarrow had the Type 24 on the drawing boards at the same time trying to get export sales and RN interest. There was even talk of building a Type 24 as a speculative venture hoping that no-one brought it the RN would.
A couple of images of Vosper's modernised Tribal.
One has a hangar for two Lynx and no less than 16 Exocets on the hangar roof - which would probably make it one of the most heavily armed anti-ship frigates in the world, but which does nothing to aid the rather poor AA capability still reliant on Sea Cat and the old 4.5in gun.
The other has two helicopter landing spots. Assuming the hangar is the same this means perhaps three Lynx (two in the hangar and one atop) or you could fly both Lynx at the same time (why would you want to?).