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.
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 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.”
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.”
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.