UK — Navy sub fires first Tomahawk missile

The first of the Roy­al Navy’s new attack sub­marines, HMS Astute, has blast­ed Tom­a­hawk mis­siles far across the North Amer­i­can skies as part of her first test fir­ing mis­sion.

The first Tom­a­hawk cruise mis­sile to be launched from HMS Astute heads sky­wards [Pic­ture: Pet­ty Offi­cer (Pho­tog­ra­ph­er) Paul Punter, Crown Copyright/MOD 2011]
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

The 5.5-metre-long cruise mis­sile weighs 1,300kg and has a range of more than 1,000 miles (1,600km). In the fir­ing tests this month the Tom­a­hawk weapons rock­et­ed from HMS Astute at up to 550 miles per hour (885km/h) across the Gulf of Mex­i­co.

HMS Astute’s Com­mand­ing Offi­cer, Com­man­der Iain Breck­en­ridge, said:

“This first-of-class fir­ing proves that Astute is a tru­ly capa­ble sub­ma­rine. It means that the UK Sub­ma­rine Ser­vice will be able to pro­vide the UK’s strike capa­bil­i­ty for many years to come.”

HMS Astute is in the Gulf of Mex­i­co for the first test run of her sys­tem. She has the largest weapon-car­ry­ing capac­i­ty of all the Roy­al Navy’s attack sub­marines and can hold a com­bi­na­tion of up to 38 Tom­a­hawk mis­siles and Spearfish tor­pe­does.

See Relat­ed Links to watch video footage of the first launch of a Tom­a­hawk mis­sile from HMS Astute.

A Tom­a­hawk mis­sile is pre­pared for launch on board HMS Astute [Pic­ture: Pet­ty Offi­cer (Pho­tog­ra­ph­er) Paul Punter, Crown Copyright/MOD 2011]
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

The UK is the only coun­try sup­plied with the Tom­a­hawk tech­nol­o­gy by the USA, and has been in oper­a­tion since 1999. Mis­siles have been launched from var­i­ous sub­marines to sup­port oper­a­tions in Afghanistan, Iraq and, most recent­ly, Libya.

The Astute Class of nuclear-pow­ered attack sub­marines are the most tech­no­log­i­cal­ly-advanced sub­marines to serve with the Roy­al Navy and will pro­gres­sive­ly replace the Trafal­gar Class cur­rent­ly in ser­vice.

They have been designed with mod­ern oper­a­tions in mind and are vast­ly dif­fer­ent in shape, size, capac­i­ty and capa­bil­i­ty to their pre­de­ces­sors.

Com­man­der Breck­en­ridge said:

“The most notice­able dif­fer­ence for the ship’s com­pa­ny is that for the first time every­one has their own bunk. Design changes that will make an oper­a­tional dif­fer­ence include the fact that we have a reac­tor that will nev­er need to be refu­elled in the boat’s 25-year life.

HMS Astute sails from Kings Bay Naval Sub­ma­rine Base, Geor­gia, USA [Pic­ture: Pet­ty Offi­cer (Pho­tog­ra­ph­er) Paul Punter, Crown Copyright/MOD 2011]
Source: Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

“We have optron­ic masts instead of tra­di­tion­al periscopes, which means we have saved lots of space in the con­trol room as well as hav­ing the ben­e­fit of dig­i­tal cam­eras instead of tra­di­tion­al opti­cal periscopes.”

The Astute Class is designed to per­form a num­ber of roles includ­ing anti-sub­ma­rine and sur­face ship war­fare, and gath­er­ing intel­li­gence to pro­tect the UK’s strate­gic deter­rent and sur­face ship­ping. It can also attack tar­gets on land with Tom­a­hawk guid­ed mis­siles.

The First of Class, HMS Astute was com­mis­sioned into the Roy­al Navy on 27 August 2010 and is cur­rent­ly under­tak­ing a peri­od of exten­sive sea tri­als before she is hand­ed over for oper­a­tional ser­vice.

She will con­tin­ue her tri­als in the USA until the ear­ly spring and will return to the UK for train­ing before her first oper­a­tional deploy­ment.

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK

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