HMS Audacious, the fourth of seven Astute class attack submarines, has been launched BAE Systems at its site in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria.

Armed with Spearfish torpedoes and Tomahawk land attack missiles, the Astute class submarines are the most highly-capable submarines ever built for the Royal Navy.

The nuclear attack submarine can hit targets up to 1,000km from the coast with pin-point accuracy and is equipped with a world-leading sonar capability and powered by a nuclear reactor.

The first three submarines in the class, HMS Astute, HMS Ambush and HMS Artful, are now in service with the final three Astute class submarines are at various stages of construction at the Barrow site.

Will Blamey, BAE Systems Submarines Managing Director, said:

“Audacious enters the water in a more advanced state of build than any previous Astute class submarine, which puts us in a good position for the next phase of work – the testing and commissioning of her complex systems.

Designing and building a nuclear-powered submarine is extremely challenging and today’s launch is yet another reminder of the unique skills required to deliver such complex programmes.

We now look forward to working alongside Audacious’ crew to prepare her for sea trials, before she joins her sister submarines in service with the Royal Navy.”

Assistant Chief of Naval Staff Submarines Rear Admiral John Weale said:

“It’s an exciting moment to see Audacious enter the water for the first time ahead of trials. Such a feat of engineering is testament to the skills of the BAE Systems workforce in Barrow.

As part of an increasingly capable Royal Navy, Audacious will go on to serve on operations right around the world, helping keep Britain safe.”

HMS Audacious will now begin the next phase of its test and commissioning programme ahead of leaving Barrow for sea trials next year.

29 COMMENTS

  1. Just shows what we can do when we put our minds to it – amazing site and amazing class of submarines.

    Let’s order some more shall we…

    • Even if we wanted to build more SSNs we couldn’t because there is no space in production between the end of the Astute programme and the beginning of the Dreadnought programme. You would have to tap them on to the end of the Dreadnoughts which would be Mid to late 2030s

  2. Best of British. Being conservative(small’c’ 🙂 ) one more would be just fine and i wonder if some of the cruise missiles could be nuclear tipped? I know very little about what would be required. I know that Cruise Missiles are vulnerable to counter measures and don’t offer the same guarantee that Trident does but the Libdems brought up this option as a possible cheaper Nuke alternative or supplement

    • Hi Geoff,

      I agree another Astute would be highly desirable.

      As mentioned by others in UKDJ threads the idea of Astutes carrying any Nukes is difficult because when one rocks up it may or may not be carrying Nukes and that could lead to all sorts of misunderstandings.

      I wouldn’t take notice of anything Lid Dems or Labour (under current leadership) on Nuclear Deterrence, they are both a total mess. CASD is as works just fine and as intended.

      • Would not say Labour are a total mess, they seem to be the only party genuinely campaigning at the moment with great policies. And Corbyn not wanting a nuclear deterrent does not make Labour or anyone else for that matter “a total mess” the Nuclear deterrent is entirely political, it offers no battlefield value at all.

        I personally would find a much cheaper nuclear alternative, reducing our stockpile by half, leading the world in Nuclear disarmament, and putting the money saved into military hardware that actually gets used.

        • Labour has great policies? 1) Taxpayers to be able to opt out of funding defence? 2) Build the Dreadnought subs but don’t arm them? 3) Tell the world that we would not use the deterrent..but actually that doesn’t matter because we won’t have any deterrent will we? 4) Sit down with the reasonable people in the world and see if we can get them to stop funding terrorism, gassing their own population and beating women back into the stone age. Now, moving on to North Korea….

          • All true. This is the world we actually live in.

            The challenge to decent fair minded people is expecting the world always to be fair because they are fair to the world. That’s like expecting a lion not to eat your child because you didn’t eat the lion.

            I also want to be fair to the world but similarly make sure the lions know not to mess.

        • Morning Kieran, I’m not a party man but an issues man. My comments about a ‘total mess’ related to CASD and I stand by them. The comment about battlefield value is entirely true and similarly misplaced. It is the ultimate geo political, strategic military insurance policy and CASD is the way to maintain it. A position held and understood by every Labour Govt since WW2.

        • “Lead the world in nuclear disarmament” is that a joke or are you actually serious?

          Nuclear weapons exist. The fact that we’re in a hurry to forget that fact in order to save money, unfortunately, does not change that fact.

          The moment we no longer maintain a credible nuclear deterrent is the day we risk seeing its effects shift from ‘purely political’ as you put it, to a rather less comfortable physical scene.

          Regardless of policy, Corbyn strikes me as a very weak man. He has no mind for Defence and his ignorance on the topic is frankly dangerous. Is he a man you would trust to take a tough stance and fight our corner in a crisis? I think not.

      • Thanks for your comments Ian and am in agreement. Am also Conservative with a capital’C’ but willing to listen to any reasonable argument-at least the LibDems support the Deterrent even though for some reasons as you point out, the Cruise missile option is a non-starter

        • Morning Geoff, it’s true the Lib Dems do support nuclear deterrence but not CASD as they plan to reduce boats to three. Four is the minimum number for CASD. At least Corbyn’s position is principled, the Lib Dems is more dangerous because it’s a deception, the worst kind of gesture politics. For the casual observer it ticks either the ‘nuke’ box or the ‘reduce weapons of mass destruction’ box while doing neither and fundamentally undermining the capability.

    • This Nuclear club really does baffle me, the way people get on it’s as if the entire populations of Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan, S Korea, Australia, Canada and most of the planet are perpetually living in fear and hiding in bunkers because they don’t have this “deterrent”

      I don’t mind having nuclear weapons, because other countries do, but it’s a case of cost and need, and no matter what people say we simply cannot afford it, we cant afford to feed our population or keep our pensioners warm in the winter. Not to mention to give our Carriers a proper escort would take up most of the fleet, we are pathetically short on hulls, we haven’t been able to fulfill our naval commitments for years, not sent a single ship to RIMPAC for years. We need to sort our priorities on Defense, we cannot afford to have it all i’m afraid.

      • All the countries you mention effectively live under the protection of US nuclear umbrella. Morally I have a problem with being happy to live on someone else’s tab. As a small island nation our defence requirements are unique in the world and we should rely on no one else for that protection.

        There is plenty of cash to fund all three branches within current accepted fiscal envelope but Govt chooses to spend it differently and or give it away.

        I stand to be corrected but I understand CASD costs c£2b pa so it’s not the reason the rest of our services are under-resourced.

  3. One of my biggest wishes for the RN is more Astutes but unfortunately I really can’t see it happening. There just isn’t enough capacity (skilled staff or construction hall space) to parallel build any more Astute hulls once Successor builds get underway.

    I usually get really sad to see build programs pushed to the right but in this case, if there was only some way to get a few more years of life out of the current SSBNs, using that time to drop in at least one more Astute (and ideally 2 or 3 more) would be fantastic but I think we’re up against reactor age limits on the SSBNs so no realistic chance of that.

    • Exactly we could in theory man another Astute (with some clever people shuffling) but it is just construction hall space as you said and the dire need for the new SSBNs. We managed with 7 Trafalgars so we will have to manage with 7 Astutes.

  4. The main reason why we spend so much on our nuclear fleet is to have a ballistic missile, this is unnecessary on a military level, but actually from a “convention” level it is common practice for nukes to be ballistic (that is for them to leave the atmosphere and re-enter).

    The benefit of this is that a country would be under no doubt that it is under nuclear attack if a ballistic missile was launched at it, but would be unsure if this was a cruise missile.

    Due to these missiles going into the atmoshpere they return at mach 10+ and are virtually impossible to stop.

    The way I look at this is that it is sort of a gentlemens agreement between the nuclear powers (except Israel who have nuclear cruise I believe) as a safeguard of sorts, and therefore it is worth spending the extra money to ensure maximum safety.

    Not sure Mr Corbyn or the general public understands this – our nuclear deterrant is a single type asset by design to ensure maximum safety.

    • Do you have any proof of this “gentlemen’s agreement”?

      I thought it was range and speed why countries use ballistic, that’s certainly why they were developed.

      I just cannot see the tactical value at all i’m sorry, the way I see it there is two ways it could go, either China or Russia hit us first and wait for the immediate retaliation of Nato and our allies. Which is safe to say is highly unlikely. Or we are winning a war with both countries and they decide to use them as a last gasp attempt to change the tide, more plausible but in both scenarios the deterrent has not deterred anything.

  5. Don’t know if you guy’s have any extra info: But i have been reading about the Dreadnought class SSBN’s having a multi-Role capability, well possibly anyway… For example using land attack missiles when not being used as a SSBN on patrol ?

    Just interested to know you’re opinions on that one.. thx

    • My understanding is that, at least as far as Dreadnought (DN) is concerned, the multi-role possibility is pretty much an accidental side effect of a component choice. The component in question is the launch tubes where the choice is to join with the USA in developing the common missile compartment (CMC) that can take either nukes or tomahawk (1 nuke or a much larger number of tomahawk, I forget how many, I think 6 or 7).

      For the UK DNs we need the nuke capability and this is the new nuke launch system that the US is developing so this is what we get. For the US it already has some SSBNs that have been converted to SSGNs (vertical tubes firing Tomahawks, one of these is the “very powerful sub” that Trump boasted about just being deployed to North Korea area) so for future SSGNs the fact that the same CMC can be used for their Tomahawks (or successors) is valuable.

      For us right now we are building the minimum number of DN class that we need to maintain CASD so we simply don’t have the numbers to ever use the CMC in the DN class for anything other than nukes. Where it might become interesting though is after the 4 DN have been built at which point we’re looking at Astute successor and a single CMC, which actually comprises 4 tubes for a load of I think 24 or 28 Tomahawk (or successor), would become a very interesting option. 2 CMC modules to double that load would be even more interesting. In fact, if our subs are to retain the ability to launch Tomahawk I think CMC will be necessary because future production of torpedoe tube launched Tomahawk is unlikely once the US has CMC.

    • Given Tomahawks are much more likely to be used, one of my concerns about dual use on CASD boats would be that its location is revealed once a T missile has been fired. Not sure that trade is worth it.

      • Agreed. Revealing the location is by far the biggest consideration which is why in my view the Dreadnought class will never carry Tomahawk even though, in theory, their common missile compartment would enable them to do so. That is why I said that only building the 4 required to maintain CASD is an issue since, in order to avoid revealing its location, for any given deployment a DN would need to either be dedicated to its CASD role, i.e. never give away position unless launching nukes, or have no role in the current CASD operations so that it could go off and take some Tomahawk somewhere to fire at an enemy. If it was to carry Tomahawk and be prepared to launch them it would need to drop out of the CASD role completely for that tasking and with 4 in total the numbers just aren’t there to ever excuse one from CASD duty.

        Also, it is pretty certain that the Dreadnoughs will have fewer tubes than the current Vanguard class, down from 16 to at most 12 and ther has even been mention of 8. With reduced capacity I doubt they would want to devote any tubes to Tomahawk although the concern above about revealing location is overwhelmingly the bigger one.

        Where it does become interesting though is in 15 or 20 years time when DN built has finished and we are on to the next class of SSN to replace Astute. At that point the experience that we will have gained building the common missile compartment into the DNs will make it a very interesting option for that next class of SSN, in that case used purely for Tomahawk.

        Using CMC for next gen SSN might also give a very interesting new twist to the next gen SSN capabilities if things really got to the brink of nuclear war. An enemy would know that there was at least one Dreadnought at sea potentially fully loaded with nukes but they would also have to worry about whether, in light of heightened tensions, the UK also had any of its successor-to-Astute class at sea at the time with one or more of the CMC tubes carrying some Trident missiles instead of Tomahawks. I’m sure there would be extra internal electronics required to handle the receiving and processing of the targeting data for nukes but that could be designed in to the next gen SSN as fitted-for-but-not-with and probably installed fairly quickly (I suspect it’s all rack-mounted electronics and control stations mostly) if a world crisis ever required it.

        Another thought occurs to me but this post is already too long and I’m interested to see if anyone else picks it up. It might also be stupid so I need to think about it some more.

        • Hi Julian,

          I posted this above and I think it has merit.

          As mentioned by others in UKDJ threads the idea of Astutes carrying any Nukes is difficult because when one rocks up it may or may not be carrying Nukes and that could lead to all sorts of misunderstandings.

          • Hi Ian,

            Yes, I think we are definitely in agreement re SSBN carrying only nukes. They can have no secondary role in any of their deployments because executing that secondary role (e.g. firing Tomahawk) would compromise the primary mission.

            As for Astute, or more accurately SSN because I was never suggesting Astute carry nukes but was talking about the successor to Astute on the assumption that it had at least one 4-pack common missile compartment module included in the design, that is more complicated to my mind.

            I’m not sure I agree with your “when one (SSN) rocks up it may or may not be carrying Nukes and that could lead to all sorts of misunderstandings” comments since SSNs try to be just as stealthy as SSBNs so they almost never “rock up” to a deployment zone but rather stay submerged. The issue though (and maybe it’s what you meant) is that they do put into port now and then (e.g. the embarrassing collision in Gib) and there you are absolutely right. Apparently one of the benefits of our carriers being non-nuclear is that many ports don’t like nuclear powered vessels docking so I can only imagine how much more awkward it would be for a nuclear armed vessel to use docking facilities.

            A solution to that problem though might be for the RN to have a well publicised standard operating protocol that if an SSN is carrying a nuke on a particular deployment then it it will always behave like an SSBN, i.e. never surface or put into port for the duration of the deployment. It might still fulfill its attack role, i.e. track and perhaps even engage other subs and shipping, but it would not “rock up” to any port or surface to hover menacingly off some foreign shore.

  6. The arguments against the CASD vs conventional forces are a misdemeanor.
    the fact is that any country giving £13 billion in foreign aid every year can easily afford CASD and adequate conventional forces to defend the UK.
    We simply need to get real and stop this madness. Time to get building and get more astutes, type 31s and adequate type 26 hull numbers.

  7. I might be being thick but I am not sure that the giving away its position argument against ssbns using conventional cruise missiles holds much water unless our submarines have large neon signs stating whether they are an ssn or Ssgn/bn. And if an enemy can detect this it doesn’t say much for the stealthiness of our subs. Also my understanding is at certain times 4 boats would allow a spare boat? Surely due to the large costs of the assets there is some argument for conventional deployment? And especially in times of crisis with a conventional enemy Especially due to the large number of cruise missiles that they could carry.

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