The Astute class are the largest, most advanced and most powerful attack submarines ever operated by the Royal Navy, combining world leading sensors, design and weaponry in a versatile vessel.

The class have provision for up-to 38 weapons in six 21-inch torpedo tubes. The submarines are capable of using Tomahawk Block IV land-attack missiles with a range of 1,000 miles and Spearfish heavyweight torpedoes.

HMS Astute fires a Tomahawk missile.

For detecting enemy ships and submarines, the Astute class are equipped with the sophisticated Sonar 2076, an integrated passive/active search and attack sonar suite with bow, intercept, flank and towed arrays. BAE claims that the 2076 is the world’s best sonar system.

All of the Astute-class submarines will be fitted with the advanced ‘Common Combat System‘, the system acts as the submarine’s brain – controlling its ‘eyes’, ‘ears’ and ‘nervous system’. You can read more about that here.

The manufacturer say that no other attack submarine is as technologically advanced. In the words of BAE, the Astute class is “designed and engineered to be the stealthiest submarine of her type, equipped with the latest and most powerful sonar suite and secure communications facilities, while exhibiting a low noise signature and optimum detection avoidance characteristics”.

Astute class submarines in build at the BAE facility in Barrow.

Astute class facts and figures:

  • over 100km of cabling and pipe work is installed on board each submarine
  • fitted with Sonar 2076 providing the Royal Navy with the ‘biggest ears’ of any sonar system in service today
  • each submarine is 97 metres in length
  • over 7,000 tonnes total displacement
  • the Astute class is the first class of Royal Navy submarine not to be fitted with optical periscopes, instead they employ high specification video technology
  • able to manufacture its own oxygen and fresh water from the ocean
  • can circumnavigate the world without surfacing, her endurance is only limited by the amount of food that can be stored
  • armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles.

The seven Astute class nuclear powered submarines will have the capability to circumnavigate the globe without surfacing, limited only by their food storage capacity. Able to deploy rapidly, they are powered by a nuclear reactor that can run for their 25 year lifespan without refuelling.

As mentioned above, the submarine is armed with the Tomahawk – known in the Royal Navy as TLAM (Tomahawk Land Attack Cruise Missile) – the submarines are able to strike at ground targets hundreds of miles inland with pinpoint accuracy. According to the Royal Navy, Tomahawk IV is the latest version of the missile.

“It has a longer range than its predecessors (well in excess of 1,000 miles), can be directed at a new target in mid-flight, and can also beam back images of the battlefield to its mother submarine.”

An Astute fitted with a Dry Deck Shelter which allows special forces (e.g. SBS) to deploy whilst the submarine is submerged.

Additionally, the Spearfish torpedo is the heavyweight torpedo mentioned above and it weighs nearly two tonnes and is capable of blasting enemy submarines or ships out of the water.

“At full speed, Spearfish can attack a target up to 14 miles away. At low speed, that increases to more than 30 miles. It is guided either by a copper wire or closes on to its target using its inbuilt sonar, delivering a 660lb explosive charge. That detonates either when it strikes the hull of an enemy submarine, or via an acoustic proximity fuse underneath the target.”

HMS Astute and HMS St Alban’s.

Courtesy of BAE, we’ve also been able to publish an interesting list of more bits of trivia.

Did you know…

  • Astute class submarines are the UK’s largest and most powerful attack submarines and can strike at targets up to 1,000km from the coast with pin-point accuracy.
  • Astute submarines are the first nuclear submarines to be designed entirely in a three-dimensional, computer-aided environment.
  • Design and construction of an Astute submarine has been described as ‘more complex than that of the space shuttle.’
  • If the cables on board an Astute Submarine were laid out end-to-end, they would stretch from Barrow to Preston.
  • An Astute submarine’s 90-day dived endurance is only limited by the amount of food that can be carried and the endurance of the crew.
  • Astute submarines are the first Royal Navy Submarine not to be fitted with optical periscopes – instead the vessel employs high specification video technology.
  • Astute submarines will be the quietest ever operated by the Royal Navy.
  • The Devonshire Dock Hall is BAE Systems Maritime-Submarines main build facility, standing 51m high, 58m wide and 260m long.
  • The first submarine for the Royal Navy was built in Barrow, and every submarine currently in service was also built there, Holland 1.
  • Astute class submarines are designed not to require refuelling throughout her projected 25-year life.
  • 10-week patrol the 98-strong crew of a Astute will get through (on average): 18,000 sausages and 4,200 Weetabix for breakfast.
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Ian M.

Hmmm. That’s a 4.28571429 sausage to Weetabix ratio, pretty balanced I think!

Stephen

I want to know if they ration the beans considering they’re all stuck in a sealed tube for 90 days…

Ian M.

Not as bad as a French boat, all that garlic! 🙁

Derek

Damn strange coves, these submariners. Eating sausage with their Weetabix. Ugh! Everyone knows it should be fried mushrooms!

nicholas wood

Thats assuming Beano Tablets are well stocked. Lol

Geoffrey Roach

How about sliding an eighth in to the programme? I know but it’s nearly Christmas.

T.S

I would personally rather see 5 or 6 smaller lean manned AIP subs to provide protection to more local waters. These would provide good training vessels and free up the Astutes for duties further afield. Partner all manned subs with the future XLUUVs to form hunter packs as well and we would have massively upgraded our underwater capabilities potentially for just the cost of 1.5 to 2 Astute.

Geoff

German Type 212As.

Andy P

Small AIP boats wouldn’t just be good for local ops, for sneakies, especially in ‘shallower waters’ small boats are handy. The S & T’s were ok but A boats are fecking huge.

James

There ARE no other AIP subs. Nuke is it.

Steve R

I find myself torn between the ideas of getting an 8th or even a couple extra, with us building or buying an advanced class of 6 or so AIP diesel submarines, perhaps along the lines of the Japanese Soryu class. We would then have a two-tier submarine fleet (excluding SSBN) the Astutes for long range patrols, escorting the carrier and escorting whichever SSBN is on patrol, and then the AIPs for shorter range stuff: patrolling the North Atlantic, North Sea and even the Mediterranean. We could permanently forward-base one at HMS Juffair for that part of the world, too. It… Read more »

Ron

The Japanese have a new class under construction the Taigei class, they cost about £500 million each or for five of these at the same price as two Astutes. However if I was able to get some AIP subs for the RN I think I would opt for the Swedish A26 Extended range with a diver module and 2×6 round VLS modules for cruise missiles. That would work well with Sweden involved in Tempest whilst the RN involved with A26. I would think that the extended range VLS version would be more expensive than the Japanese but its still two… Read more »

geoff

Eight Astutes are regarded by many Naval types as a minimum number required.Perhaps unmanned smaller subs are an alternative for coastal use in the near future? The Americans only operate nuclear powered subs as do we but recycling the reactors is a major problem. I was really surprised to learn that our old Polaris fleet is still tied up in Scotland!! A friend who is a retired Chief Engineer who served most of his career in the USN on nuclear subs explained their recycling process for fuel and reactor and it is an expensive and hazardous business and of course… Read more »

Paul T

Its not Just the Polaris Subs that are Tied Up Awaiting Disposal -its Every Nuclear Powered Boat that the RN has Operated too.

Robert1

Americans (and Russians) have a very different attitude to dealing with their nuclear legacy than UK (and ultimately France). UK programme is the Submarine Dismantling Project, fair bit publicly available and results of public consultation give the rough plan.

Ultimately all UK intermediate and high level waste will go into Geological Disposal Facility (both civil and military), odds are this will be in Cumbria if the locals get their way over second home owners.

Mark B

Recycling of reactors will I am sure become a more positive thing in the near future.

Mark B

Have all the teething problems been fixed?

John Stott

Cancel Trident, sell the carriers and order more Astutes with sub strategic nukes on board. Some Swedish diesel electrics thrown in as well for coastal work. A strong submarine force versus a vulnerable surface fleet any day. Now watch the fish heads go ballistic.

Steve R

Sell the carriers? Sorry but that’s ridiculous. Without them we cannot project power. Carriers and the RFA are what make us a blue water navy.

Gavin Gordon

Yep, submarines can stop an invasion but are of limited use effecting one. It’s all in the balance.

Ron

Cancel Trident, in some ways I agree with that, on the condition that the money goes back into the RN. If only we could put Trident back into the treasury budget and keep the MoD budget as is. What I would do with the extra money is extend the Astutes with a with 2×8 or 3×6 VLS Cruise missile system they would then become land attack platforms which could be more useful. Or have a mix of a few extra extended Astutes and AIP subs also with VLS cruise missile modules. AIPs for UK up to the North of Norway… Read more »

George Royce

I think we should develop out own nukes. It’s not like we don’t know how. We just need the willpower. If the ruddy French can do it, so can we. I think that attitude of managed decline post-war, has to be given the boot once and for all. Brexit presents an opportunity like nothing else, we can stand up on our own two feet again.

Ron

From my understanding we do produce our own warheads but use the UK rocket. I do agree with you in manyways. I have often asked why do we have one of the largest defence budgets and yet France who spends less have there own systems. When I think that we used to make rockets such as Blue Streak, Black Knight etc or I think that was the names. Where we used to invent, build I am trying to understand what the hell happened. I(f I remember Blue streak became the first stage of the Europa, rocket a ESA launch system).… Read more »

George Royce

Hear hear. We lack the political willpower. Since WW2 we have been in a state of ‘we’ll never be as great as we once were again’. That kind of piffle and nonsense comes from the supposedly highly educated morons from Eton, Oxford and Cambridge. The working class man has never felt that way. If the French have their own system so should we. We can’t continue to buy our nuclear deterrent. The entire concept of buying your ‘biggest stick’ rather than actually chopping down the tree, whittling and carving it yourself, is beyond pathetic. I think we should take any… Read more »

Spyinthesky

I believe our rocket engines used to be so advanced that the US first part financed them and after cancellation fully acquired the technology for themselves. Not convinced there is any going back to that mind, we have lost so much of our main stream industrial base.

George Royce

Interesting, I didn’t know that. Although I think our Hydrogen bomb tech was ahead of the Americans I believe. But I would never say never :P.

We can always build up our industrial base once more. Nothing is ever lost if you want to fight for it.

Ron

George, I agree what many people don’t understand is that in many areas we in the UK are still some of the best design engineers in the world. What seems to happen is that these engineers sell their ideas overseas as the Uk does not invest into them. I will give a example, one of my dear friends, aero dynamics engineer studied in the UK but her parents are from Sri Lanka cannot get a postion in the UK. The Swiss where she was born and is here only passport took her and is now working on Swiss Aero frames.… Read more »

George Royce

Another example is Reaction Engines. This could be our groundbreaking tech for our space program. But we instead had to build a testing facility in the US because the Gov funding is so small.

A Green

Nope….we were excluded from the bomb programme by the USA after making major early developmerntal contributions so had to play catch up…only going thermonuclear in 57…but nothing particularly advanced about it. Restoring a British manufacturing/high tech base wopuld be a dream…but pre EU our own self destruct was all about short term investment and erxcess profit tak,ingh, complacency and failure to engage the workforce in the common interest of success based on quality….our manufacturing made a bit of a comeback (to 10% gdp) via EU inward investment…now thats all under threat and some big fish (Honda, Forsd bridgend) have already… Read more »

A Green

“greatness” is an elusive term. I doubt there is a clear divide between oxford “morons” and working people who are not a uniforem groyp and may have varying views on defence and manufacturuing. Our warheads are built at Harwell but the work wqas subcontracted to a US company. Despite the increase in defence budget our programmes remain under strain. There will never be the capacity now to build our own ICBM system…better to re-engineer warheads to fit cruise missiles from SSNs if you want to retain an affordable deterrent. Lets hope the Brexit so many ordinary folk voted for (without… Read more »

Gavin Gordon

Out of interest on the subject of defence budget, have you seen Thomas Theiner’s comprehensive take on UK Land Power. ( by the way, slip of your finger – US missile)

Barry Larking

Yes, Ron, it’s bit weird our not developing our independent national systems. The designs and technical details of Blue Streak were given to the French, I have been led to believe. Black Knight was epic! Twenty seven launches and no duds! It launched the Prospero telecommunications that is still up there! Like so much else it was cancelled on the verge of success; smaller, lighter satellites were coming along that Black Knight would have handled well enough. I suspect there is some ‘hidden treaty’ that MacMillan entered into that covers our nuclear relationship to the Americans that accounts for this;… Read more »

Nathan

I have heard rumours that there were similar agreements made with the EEC/EC/EU when we joined. That we basically sacrificed our industrial sector to avoid competition with the Franco-German axis in return they would allow us to become the financial capital of the continent. I have heard similar things about the Szczecin shipyard in Poland, which is very close to the German border. That they had to close it to obtain accession as it was too close to Hamburg and with such low labour cost rates it would have threated its long term viability. I don’t know the truth but… Read more »

Barry Larking

Most – not all by any means – people do not realise how much goes on ‘behind the scenes’. Sometimes this is justified by protecting ‘vital national interests’. All governments do this – Ministers are by-passed. Example: Attlee and Bevin decided to build Britain’s atomic bomb without telling the Cabinet and no ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ politician has had anything much to do with ESCHELON … Perhaps just as well?

A Green

Blue streal relied very heavily on Us technology but it was the only reliable bit of the ELDO (European Launcher Development Org) that worked (first stage) The french dfollow on did not work. that programme was scrapped and france successfully went unilateral with Ariane.

Barry Larking

Many thanks. That is what I have understood to be the case. I think the Polaris and later Trident arrangements may be tied to the fact that the United Kingdom had the means to supply the United States with nuclear material after safety concerns closed Oak Ridge. It makes sense if one follows the realities; if we ever had to use these weapons – and who does apart from fiction thriller writers? – then the concept of national sovereignty would have no meaning at all.

Daveyb

We design and build the nukes that go on the Tridents, that is the purpose of AWE. The Tridents are US however, and they go back to the states for maintenance.

Jon

Are you really saying we had to leave the EU to act more like the French? I know what you mean though. There was nothing to stop us thinking independently and globally while we were in the EU. We just didn’t. If change shakes up the mindsets of politicians, that can only be a good thing. Moving back East of Suez again is a start.

George Royce

No what I mean is something different. It was quite clear that the British establishment, wanted us to join the EU Army. Thus we were kind of hampered in making largescale decisions that would hamper the integrity of that armed force dream. Also, I don’t think we should be like the French, but we should not waive our autonomy as much as we have. I think France would like to take charge of the EU Army despite it being funded largely by the Germans. We should realise, we’re no longer in that group anymore. We need to realise that the… Read more »

Sean

We do develop our own warheads.
It’s just the missiles which are USA developed and held in a joint pool. It saves money which can then be spent on areas of defence – it’s a good thing.

Meirion X

Without Trident the UK would be subject to Nuclear Blackmail! Other Nuclear powers would only have to threaten us with nukes to abide by their terms!
We would be unable to operate a Bluewater navy. Only the nuclear powers operate Bluewater navies!
Do you Really believe NATO would come to the resue? They would be Checkmate as well by the threat of retaliation on their own populations.

Ron

No, I undrstand what you are saying and agree. However, cruise missile do have the ability to have nuclear warheads just smaller and with limited range. Again I need to use the word However, most of the worlds cities urban areas etc are within 500 miles of the coast, a cruise missile with a nuclear warhead has a range of a 1000 miles. I agree its not the same as an ICBM but the possibilty of 18 cruise missiles nuclear tipped raining down on you will still give a bad hair day. Give them new tech such as stealth, supersonic… Read more »

Meirion X

Japan’s navy is Not a Bluewater navy. Most of It’s operations are confined to the NATO does Not really have its own nuclear weapons! They are American warpons, delivered by European Airforces. I don’t expect NATO to use threat of retaliation to protect Britain’s role on the UN Security Council. “Then again there is the next question would a nuclear power use its weapons against a non ICBM power. I don’t know but I do think the world would be up in arms about it.” The answer to this question is that Russia has threatened to use Nuclear weapons against… Read more »

Ian

Warheads re-entering the atmosphere descend on their targets at something like Mach 20. Trident SLBMs have a range up to about 12000 km (depending on the payload). With current and near future technology, cruise missiles do not compare in terms of difficulty to intercept, or in terms of effective range. The entire purpose of a nuclear deterrent is to have a second strike capability that can’t plausibly be defeated, and will cause an unacceptably huge amount of damage to an adversary. The only way to do that (and we have spent a lot of time and money studying it) is… Read more »

Meirion X

I totally agree with you Ian!
You comment very much makes sense!

I glad that some people here talke sense!

Meirion X

You deserve a prize for this comment, Ian!

Nathan

A ballistic trajectory at Mach 20 is fast but it is also predictable. Do not the Russians deploy anti-ballistic missile defence using low yield nukes? Who needs to be accurate when you have a 1 mile blast radius. Can an ICBM outrun that? I don’t know but I seem to think they probably can’t.

This is why either hypersonic glide vehicles or steerable re-entry vehicles will become necessary to maintain a credible threat.

Mark B

I don’t think you can really put in conditions. If you abandon Trident (or an alternative) you are effectively undermining defence completely. We might as well not bother – like other countries ie. SPAIN

Ron

OK, lets look at your aguement, and flip it on its head. Does that mean the UK does not need an Army, Air Force or Navy but just have 6 SSBNs? I do not think that the UK should get rid of a nuclear deterant, I am just wondering if it could be delivered in a cheaper and more flexible method. For example jive all cruise missiles the ability to carry a 1Kt nuclear warhead. With my idea of refunding the RN to 4 SSGNs and 8SSGs each with 24 VLS cruise missiles that would be 248 cruise missiles coming… Read more »

Meirion X

You would need 2 Ohio Class SSGN’s on Patrol at the same time to launch 248 cruise missiles. Ohio’s have 24 launch tubes. If they can launch 6 CM each, that gives you 144 CMs. So this leaves us over 100 warheads short!

That is why Trident is a better value of money. Other launch platforms will cost a lot more.

Ron

True, but my calculation was with 4 SSGN Astutes and 8 A26 extended each with 3×8 VLS for cruise missiles as a therory.. However the question is, is Trident the best value for money. In all out nuclear war yes, in a limited war where you do not want the enemy to know what is coming I don’t know. the cruise missile gives the option of diffrent warheads. Trident is a backstop insurance policy. As for platforms costing more, a A26 extended, extended includes 3×6 or 3×8 vls for cruise missiles costs about £600 million to build, dreadnought £2 billion… Read more »

D J

One of the problems with using nuclear & non nuclear missiles where the enemy is not sure what you have fired, is that they may assume the worst & respond accordingly. It needs to be remembered, nuclear war between the majors is a dead end game.

4th watch

The Germans had the same sort of unbalanced fleet you are proposing and it meant we were able to dominate them and sink them at will.

Peter S.

I think the German investment in U boats was a better use of resources than attempting to build a competitive blue water navy which had proved useless in WW1. They inflicted huge damage and tied up massive allied forces. In the Pacific, US submarines destroyed Japanese merchant shipping at will. These were of course not true submarines so remained vulnerable to counter measures. Two torpedoes from a true submarine effectively neutralised the whole Argentine navy. I too would prefer more subs to underarmed frigates with little anti submarine capability. Whether additional Astutes or some smaller non nuclear type, I am… Read more »

Meirion X

The USSR had same sort of un-balanced fleet at the time of tje Cuba missile crisis. The US totaly dominated the surface!
Just like boots on the ground!

Peter S.

But both sides blinked. USSR agreed to remove nukes from Cuba in return for USA removing it’s missiles from Turkey. We will never know how effective Russian subs might have been against the US blockade. Given the threat posed by today’s subs, UK has far too few hunter/ killers and anti submarine frigates. The T31 should be at least as well equipped as the Iver Huitfeldt.

Meirion X

The blockage was equivalent to a hostage taker pointing a gun at someone, and surrounded by dozens of cops with guns aimed!

John Stott

Totally agree.

Ron

Again it is what do you want to do with the fleet. Stop the enemy using it or control it for your use. In WW1 and WW2 Germany almost won the war by the use of submarines, America could have caused the surrender of Japan without the use of the nuclear bomb just by using the submarine. However these are island nations that sub warfare can destroy without invasion. When you look at nations such as France and Spain you need a balance fleet, when you look at Germany they need only a coastal fleet unless they have offensive ideas.… Read more »

Steve R

No, Germany did not almost win the war, and certainly not through submarines. However it was the aircraft carrier that contributed the most in the war against Japan. US and Royal Navy carriers were what what made it possible to project power there. Otherwise the war in the east couldn’t have been won. And no, submarines could not have forced Japan to surrender. Two things did that; the atomic bomb and the fact that the Soviets were rapidly advancing on them and Japan faced a very real threat of Soviet invasion. Better to surrender to the US than the Soviet… Read more »

John Stott

Friend, do you read U Boat history? Submarines held the ace card for years in two world wars. The tonnage sunk by Kriegsmarine submarines in the Atlantic was incredible. Yes, l advocate submarine use over surface vessels any day. Along with airpower, missile technology, cyber warfare and increased use of mass drone attacks. Land forces should be light and lean on SF models too. Nuclear deterrent should be based on several methods of delivery too. Ask yourself what would have happened down south if just one Argentine submarine had got near a carrier or worse a troop carrier like Canberra.… Read more »

Steve R

The powers that be know nothing of the sort because it is not true. Why else is it not only us but the US investing in new carriers? Also China, India, and France is looking for a replacement for CdG. You mentioned air power being one of the things in your list for us to keep. How do you guarantee that without carriers? You can’t. What if it’s a Falklands type scenario too far from any fixed bases? What if other countries near our enemy don’t allow us to use their airfields or our aircraft to overfly their airspace? That… Read more »

Meirion X

Submarines are the equivalent of the special forces on land, they can Not hold ground. It is the infantry and armoured forces role to hold ground. The same at sea with the surface navy, to dominate the surface.

Last edited 1 month ago by Meirion X
John Stott

“Holding ground” is an out of date concept. And UK forces have been unable to hold ground for decades, as the Red Army and US Army have found to their expense. Really, you sound like a latter-day Bonaparte. Still, it’s your view and you are entitled to it, as l am mine.

Meirion X

Your reply proves you know nothing of warfare, just sprout Nonesense!

Last edited 1 month ago by Meirion X
Meirion X

Your views are of A total disarmer, which is contrary to the aims and value of this website!
Anybody with any sense would understand that submarines are Not the be all, and end all, of warfare.

4th watch

The SSN introduces a big problem to surface ships no doubt. Like all warfare its first, advantage Offense then its advantage Defence.
In WW2 the surprise was that the U boats attacked more often than not on the surface and not as 7kn submarines.
We beat the Uboats with many layers of Offence: Closing the AirGap, Improved radar and DF equipment and escort carriers and surface attack groups etc.
You know all that and agreed it was a hard won fight but won nonetheless because we owned the surface, sky, codes and electronic airwaves.

Mark B

Oh lets cancel our whole strategy of modernising our military and pin everything on subs. Very funny. Agree we should have more subs though and I’m sure they will come but I’m not sure its the current priority.

John Stott

What’s funny? Bang for buck and value for money. The “old” ways of warfare will never be used again. Massed land armies, vast fleets? Like battleships, the stuff of history. Modernisation is needed, not just material, but thinking. Cyber, drone, space all are at the forefront now. The UK ( if it still exists in a few years ) needs defensive strategies based on modern thinking. Submarines carry the advantages of unpredictability, as does the use of special forces and a surgical airstrike. Economic warfare via cyberattack on infrastructure, both defensive and offensive should be the focus, as should use… Read more »

Meirion X

Ho dear me! It’s Troll Harold in another disguise, I think!

John Stott

I find people who resort to using that term inadequate. Also people using anything other than a real identity the same. If you cannot tolerate a different view to your own entrenched perceptions, then why comment at all? You never know who you are speaking to online do you?

Meirion X

It is you whom has the entrenched positions, very similar to the pro Kremlin trolls I have seen here before in the past.
The same commenters who do Not want to learn anything new by any logical reasoning.

John Stott

You assume much and know very little then. So anyone who does not see the world through your eyes is a “pro-Kremlin troll”? And as for learning “new” things? Take a look inwards. I frankly have better things to do than enter a mud-slinging match with one whos eyes and mind appear closed. Oh, for your information the world is not coloured pink for the British Empire anymore. See it changed quite a long time ago. Oh dear, I am guilty of assuming you are a little Englander, if l am wrong please forgive me.

Meirion X

Speaking of Yourself I see! It is your eyes and mind that is close to any logical reasoning whatsoever!

I see you exposed your anti British prejudices, I see!

Meirion X

Your viewpoint is of a total disarmament, which is contrary to the aims and values of this website!

So what are doing here trolling then?

Challenger

Knowing what we do sitting here in 2020 i’d have committed to 6 Astute’s back in 2009/2010 when the long-lead items where being procured and then sought to build 4 AIP’s under licence to undertake submariner training and shorter range ops in The North Sea / North Atlantic, leaving the SSN’s to focus on shadowing the carrier-group and offering Tomahawk availability East of Suez. 10 boats in a 6/4 split for roughly the same, possibly even less than a 7th and 8th Astute. Sure more of both would be great (a 8/6 split would be wonderful) but even 6/4 would… Read more »

RobW

Truly fantastic assets. I look forward to seeing how unmanned systems work alongside the Astutes in future, as that is the only realistic way we will be able to increase numbers.

John Clark

I would agree Rob, unmanned underwater loyal wingmen is the way to go, as an additional capability. I’m certainly not against the principal of buying a batch of AIP Subs, in the short term, longer term, we should be looking at a fleet of 12 SSN’s. After the 1990’s cuts, we stabilised and maintained this number until Blair and Cameron started swinging the axe! The only route back, is very long term, so a batch 5 AIP subs, Swedish would make sense, considering their excellent capabilities and the current UK / Swedish love in. Then order 5 new SSN’s based… Read more »

RobW

I’m not sure about loyal wingmen as they could highlight the location of the subs. I was thinking more of a completely separate system that could patrol the GIUK gap or our underwater cables. Something based on the XLUUV or Orca, with the ability to carry torpedoes.

Funding and crew will likely mean that we will won’t have any more than 7 SSNs and 4 SSBNs.

John Clark

I see your point Rob, re Loyal Robo aqua drones … or what ever such things are called!

Sending reconnaissance drones off to survey/ listen in on signals traffic and gather acoustic data would certainly add to the Astutes capabilities significantly.

I agree re 7 SSN’s and 4 SSBN’s, but its not enough though, particularly SSN’s, but when you cut the numbers of such complex assets, its extremely difficult to rebuild the numbers. It would take serious investment and years of determination to realise 12 commissioned SSN’s back in the RN.

john melling

The RN has been testing the 30-metre Manta XLUUV, which is built by Msubs as of March 2020!

Capable of ASW and more

No idea if they have any conclusions about XLUUVs

But we need them and they ned to get a wiggle on

Glass Half Full

Broadly agree. IMO we’re likely to end up with a range of autonomous UUV for ASW/ASuW roles, from smaller sea gliders to larger XLUUV platforms. We are likely to be able to support far larger numbers of such platforms than we ever could with AIP subs, let alone SSN, which is one reason why we’re unlikely to see the UK adopt AIP manned subs or significantly increase SSN numbers; manpower being another reason. Not sure any of the UUV will need to be armed though, which would drive a physically larger UUV requirement, if we consider ASW/ASuW as a system-of-systems… Read more »

Meirion X

Would the use of subterranean cameras connected be cable? Have they been tried?
Digital cams are now so cheap!

Ron

In many ways I agree but if I remember correctly there used to be an inteligent mine combined with a torpedo. If the mine sensors picked up a threat the top was released. That would make a good GIUK gap defence line.

George Royce

Why is the 5th Astute class boat being made? I thought we had already put all 6 into service? It takes forever to get anything done by the MOD. Bloody Nora!

Last edited 1 month ago by George Royce
john melling

4th Astute was recently completed and we have ANSON, AGAMEMNON and the last one AGINCOURT as of 2026

George Royce

That is absolutely insane. Why on earth does it take us so long to make these ships? We should increase our our defence budget to 3% then with the extra financial firepower they don’t have any excuse to complain about why ships aren’t on time I’m.

RobW

*Pedant alert*, they are boats.

A constant slow drumbeat means we retain the skills and facilities. If we did it as fast as possible we would lose all that each time a class of boat was finished.

George Royce

I called them boats in my op, minor slip. Yes that is true, but surely, it shouldn’t be that it takes almost 30 years from start of the program being built to final boat being released. First ship being built in 2001 and the final ship leaving in 2026?? Come on, it should be 15 years or so, for the full cycle.

RobW

The first of the class will always be slower but yes 25 years seems rather long for 7. I seem to recall BAE saying they could have built an 8th within the total amount we will have paid for 7 if the MOD had ordered them at the right time. How we would have crewed it is another matter.

George Royce

Yes I think our industry can pump out the best stuff in good time. It’s just we lack the budget and the political willpower. Now that we have Brexited and no longer pay the £16bn membership fee, we could divert some of the money and more to our defence budget. Increasing spending from £60bn to £90bn to make it 3% of GDP doesn’t seem so farfetched anymore.

Steve R

Well there is the economic impact of leaving which, at least for the first few years, will be a loss of more than that £16billion. After that, so five years onwards, say, who knows? But in the short term we will be losing more money than saved. Also, our defence budget now is more like £44 billion a year, including this new extra cash. 3% would be approx. £60billion. You are right though, it comes down to political will. Generally, the Tories don’t want to raise any extra taxes to fund defence, and Labour just don’t really see funding defence… Read more »

BB85

I think the treasury screwed us on that one. I doubt they saved much other than the cost of the materials to drag the time frame on 7 boats until the dreadnought entered full rate production.

Meirion X

It did take us nearly 30 years from the 1st SSN in 1963 to 14 in 1990.

George Royce

I think that’s too long. By the time the final few ships get released, the first boats are already at the end of their lifespan or need severe upgrades. We’re perpetually stuck in having an expensive modern fleet mixed with older boats. So we can’t buy enough new boats and have to carry on maintaining older boats. We should have a system whereby in the span of 10-15 years all our ships are made, and they are upgraded in unison for the next 20 before they are phased out. I think it’s more to do with, not having enough money… Read more »

BB85

Ideally if we had 8 SSN and 4 SSBN we could maintain a build cycle of 1 ever other year. That would give us a 1 year window to commission the new sub before the old one needs phased out without refuelling. That seems to be the approach they are going for to maintain skills. It is then the treasury that screwed us over on long lead times. I’m pretty sure we would have had 8 astute subs if it wasn’t for the treasury.

George Royce

Indeed. I agree whole heartedly.

Steve R

That’s for 14 subs though. Slightly more than one sub every 2 years. Acceptable. Not so acceptable when we’re talking similar length of time for only 7 subs.

George Royce

25 years for 7 boats, = 3.5 years for 1 boat.

I think it should be every 2 years. How can we have just 4 attack subs out of a planned 7, patrolling the waters? It’s been 19 years. I feel like I’m howling at the moon. Who in the MOD thinks this is acceptable? They should pressure politicians to give more funding or make it public that a PM doesn’t or isn’t fulfilling the requirements of a strong RN.

Steve R

Problem with that is most of the voting public doesn’t care all that much. Also it’s a hard accusation to make, given that the PM has just announced an additional £4billion a year over the next 4 years.

HMG could also point to the MoD as it’s ultimately their decision. Forced on them to fit all our new equipment in on a reduced budget to meet said annual budgets, but still officially their decision.

Meirion X

It isn’t just the case of money, it was the lack of engineering skills. Britain struggle to design and build the Astute class subs.

Last edited 1 month ago by Meirion X
Meirion X

I forgot to add. Britain was trying build a very complex machine just like the USA has got, which would have come easy to the worlds largest economy. So you would expect the world’s 6th economy to struggle to build such a complex sub!

India has overtaken as 5th largest due to its large population.

Last edited 1 month ago by Meirion X
Paul T

Another couple of Issues – there was a Skills Gap between the Completion of HMS Vengeance and the Start of Construction of HMS Astute,also HMS Audacious ( no 4) is basically a Batch 2 Astute with several Enhancements,a Few Problems were Encountered which Delayed the Progress of the next 3 Boats through the Production Process.

4th watch

I want to know why the latest 3 haven’t got X planes aft? Is it really such a big redesign? We’ve known about the advantages for many years now.

John Clark

Interesting, thanks for that I hadn’t noticed…

I thought the redesign was more updated internal systems.

BB85

Apart from operating in shallow waters are there that many advantages. I thin the traditional method is better for cutting through the ice.
It is a pity they couldn’t put the new smaller reactor in the batch 2s though and slim them down a bit. They look very bloated compared to the Virginia and baricuda class subs

Last edited 1 month ago by BB85
Spyinthesky

I seem to remember that we are the only ones now using the torpedo tube launch process. That seems rather short sighted doesn’t it when others have gone over to VLS.

BB85

Do the French have a VLS on their new sub? The astute still has a large total capacity for TLAM and Torpedos. If there is no difference in range does it matter if they are kept in a VLS tube or not.

Deep32

Operationally it could matter, with 6 tubes, only 4 will ever be used for a missile strike. The SM will always have 2 tubes loaded with Spearfish for counter fire. It takes a while to reload the tubes with more weapons if you need to fire more then 4.
If they were housed in VLS tubes you could ripple fire your entire outload in a short time whilst not compromising your ability to defend yourself with torpedoes.

BB85

I remember there being a lot of talk in the new during the Syria strikes that the RN didn’t want to launch a TLAM because they where being tracked by Russia. Not that Russia would have attacked the sub but it would have given the game away that the subs were being tracked which is not a good sign. I think I read it in the daily mail though so took it with a strong punch of salt.

Deep32

Morning, I’m not entirely sure the Russians would necessarily have been tracking our SSNs underwater, but might well have been in a position to see where the TLAM was launched from as it exists the water, effectively revealing the position of the launching unit, which isn’t ideal in itself. No SM captain wants to give his position away unnecessarily if he doesn’t have to. I expect coalition forces would have knowledge of any potential ‘enemy’ Submarine forces in the area, even if they didnt know their exact location. Thus should be in a position to avoid any encounters. However, it’s… Read more »

Paul T

Since the Events of what Happened Regarding the Syria Strikes have been Pretty Well Commented on,the Actual Truth will Probably never Be Known.The Story I have Read that Seems to be the One Most Often Quoted is that there was a RN Sub in the Area,which was Basically Used as a Decoy to Lead the Russian Ships Looking for it on a Merry Dance,Enabling other Ships and Subs to Launch Their Weapons Unhindered.

BB85

Yeah it almost makes ship launched TLAMs more convenient because you don’t have to worry about giving your position away. I remember watching documentaries years ago claiming the US tracked every Russian sub as soon as it left Port and often there would be two Russian subs together to try to counter the US. I’m not sure how many active Russian subs are in operation but it makes you wonder do their subs just sit in the Irish sea and wait for the RN to deploy their subs so they are always in close proximity which would make the nuclear… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by BB85
Paul T

Again pure Speculation on my Part but i would have Expected any Russian Submarine to be more Brazen in its Area of Operations during the RAF’s MRA Gap,whether that meant that they would actually enter the Irish Sea i don’t know,but at least now with the P8’s Operational they might be Dissuaded.

Meirion X

At least we can reload at sea with torpedo tubes.

dan

Has BAE ever not claimed that any of their stuff isn’t the best in the world? LOL

Gavin Gordon

Suppose BAES, VMDA, Sheffield Forgemasters, et alia firewalls have received a thorough workout by the usual suspects, both eastern & western, long since.

Geoffrey Roach

Thanks for all the responses gentlemen. As my namesake Geoff says eight boats is apparently the optimum number or so I’ve heard.
The route to AIP’s and/or autonomous is one we have to look at I think. Securing the northern seas would do a lot to reduce the Russian threat. As you say T.S. there is there is real choice now that wasn’t available even a few years ago. Also forward basing Steve for near littoral patrols…good idea.
Global Britain needs the Royal Navy.

Barry Larking

Doubtless a very impressive submarine. However, the building programme has and remains very slow. Clearly they are very complex and still give the builders headaches; Audacious was delayed for months after getting into the dock.

A very fast moving technical environment will greet the last of this class. As we have seen recently yet again (Harpoon replacement) thinking ahead is not something M.o.D. does well if at all. Still, it might be worse.

Best Wishes to all who serve and their families.