UK’s most powerful submarine joins the Navy

The UK’s most pow­er­ful attack sub­ma­rine, HMS Astute, has been wel­comed into the Roy­al Navy today in a com­mis­sion­ing cer­e­mo­ny over­seen by the boat’s patron, the Duchess of Corn­wall.

Astute arriving at her home base on the Clyde in November 2009
Astute arriv­ing at her home base on the Clyde in Novem­ber 2009
Source: LA(Phot) J J Massey, Min­istry of Defence, UK
Click to enlarge

HMS Astute, which offi­cial­ly becomes ‘Her Majesty’s Ship’ today, is qui­eter than any of her pre­de­ces­sors, mean­ing she has the abil­i­ty to oper­ate covert­ly and remain unde­tect­ed in almost all cir­cum­stances despite being fifty per cent big­ger than any attack sub­ma­rine in the Roy­al Navy’s cur­rent fleet. 

The lat­est nuclear-pow­ered tech­nol­o­gy means she will nev­er need to be refu­elled and can cir­cum­nav­i­gate the world sub­merged, man­u­fac­tur­ing the crew’s oxy­gen from sea­wa­ter as she goes. 

The sub­ma­rine has the capac­i­ty to car­ry a mix of up to 38 Spearfish heavy­weight tor­pe­does and Tom­a­hawk land-attack cruise mis­siles, and can tar­get ene­my sub­marines, sur­face ships and land tar­gets with pin­point accu­ra­cy, while her world-beat­ing sonar sys­tem has a range of 3,000 nau­ti­cal miles (5,500km).

The First Sea Lord, Admi­ral Sir Mark Stan­hope, said: 

“The Astute Class is tru­ly next gen­er­a­tion — a high­ly ver­sa­tile plat­form, she is capa­ble of con­tribut­ing across a broad spec­trum of mar­itime oper­a­tions around the globe, and will play an impor­tant role in deliv­er­ing the fight­ing pow­er of the Roy­al Navy for decades to come. 

“A high­ly com­plex feat of naval engi­neer­ing, she is at the very cut­ting-edge of tech­nol­o­gy, with a suite of sen­sors and weapons required to pack a pow­er­ful punch. 

“Today is an impor­tant mile­stone along the road to full oper­a­tional capa­bil­i­ty which will fol­low after a fur­ther series of demand­ing seago­ing tri­als test­ing the full range of the submarine’s capabilities.” 

Fol­low­ing the suc­cess­ful com­ple­tion of her first rig­or­ous set of sea tri­als, which began at the end of 2009, HMS Astute has also now achieved her in-ser­vice date, sig­nalling that she has proven her abil­i­ty to dive, sur­face and oper­ate across the full range of depth and speed inde­pen­dent­ly of oth­er assets, there­by pro­vid­ing an ini­tial lev­el of capability. 

Rear Admi­ral Simon Lis­ter, Direc­tor of Sub­marines, who over­sees the build pro­gramme of the class for the MOD, said: 

“To my mind Astute is a 7,000-tonne Swiss watch. There is an extra­or­di­nary amount of exper­tise that goes into putting one of these sub­marines togeth­er. There are stages when it’s like black­smithing and there are stages when it’s like brain surgery. 

“So to see Astute com­mis­sioned is momen­tous not only for the Roy­al Navy, who have been eager­ly antic­i­pat­ing this quan­tum leap for­ward in capa­bil­i­ty, but for the thou­sands of peo­ple around the coun­try who have been involved in the most chal­leng­ing of engi­neer­ing projects.” 

Fol­low­ing the com­mis­sion­ing, HMS Astute will return to sea for fur­ther tri­als before she is declared as operational. 

As the base port of all the Roy­al Navy’s sub­marines from 2016, Faslane will be home to the whole Astute Class, includ­ing Ambush, Art­ful and Auda­cious which are already under construction. 

Astute was built by BAE Sys­tems at Bar­row-in-Fur­ness, with hun­dreds of sup­pli­ers around the coun­try con­tribut­ing com­po­nent parts, includ­ing Rolls-Royce, Der­by (nuclear plant); Thales UK, Bris­tol (visu­al sys­tem and Sonar 2076); and Bab­cock, Stra­chan & Hen­shaw, Bris­tol (weapon han­dling and dis­charge sys­tem). Astute is affil­i­at­ed to the Wirral in the North West. 

About HMS Astute 

  • She is 97 metres from bow to stern.
  • She has a beam of 11.2 metres.
  • She dis­places 7,400 tonnes of seawater.
  • Her cabling and pipework would stretch from Glas­gow to Dundee.
  • She is the first Roy­al Navy sub­ma­rine not to have a tra­di­tion­al periscope, instead using elec­tro-optics to cap­ture a 360-degree image of the sur­face for sub­se­quent analy­sis by the com­mand­ing officer.
  • Astute is the first sub­ma­rine to have an indi­vid­ual bunk for each crew member.
  • She man­u­fac­tures her own oxy­gen from sea­wa­ter as well as her own drink­ing water.
  • She could the­o­ret­i­cal­ly remain sub­merged for her 25-year life, if it were not for the need to restock the crew’s food supplies.
  • She is faster under the water than she is on the sur­face — capa­ble of speeds in excess of 20 knots (37km/h), although her top speed is classified.

Press release
Min­istry of Defence, UK 

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