Type 23 Frigate HMS St Albans and nuclear submarine HMS Astute have faced off against each other off the Scottish coast.

“To be the best at what we do, it is essential that we train both against and alongside the very best,” Commander John Cromie, Commanding Officer of HMS St Albans, said in a news release.

“HMS Astute provides that partner with whom we can polish our skills to the highest level.”

The Royal Navy say that this latest training exercise took place in a Scottish loch and was a chance to sharpen and refine procedures necessary to coordinate activity when dealing with a potential submarine threat.

According to a Royal Navy news release:

“Type 23 frigate HMS St Albans and hunter-killer sub HMS Astute have been operating alongside each other, honing their Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) skills.

But it was also an opportunity for them to go up against each other, testing their ability to deal with the threat one another brings to the battlefield.”

47 COMMENTS

  1. Is Hms Astute the least capable of the Astute submarines because of first built? I know the newer ones have upgrades and some better tech ect.

    • She has all the same capabilities as the other boats but continues to experience issues with propulsion.

      Worth noting it was Astute herself that took on USS New Mexico in wargames and faired so well.

      It’s just a pity that the powers that be don’t see the real potential of our SSN’s and start building one a year.

      • SSN’s are completely unproven so to speak as only one has ever fired a shot in anger. We can be fairly certain that the Sonar is awesome, the propulsion borrows heavily from Vanguard SSBN which as far as I know has not only never been tracked by a hostile submarine but is so quiet it accidentally bumped into a French SSBN in the middle of the Ocean. The subs themselves carry significantly more firepower than the T boats with better accommodation all round so whats not to link. They are also the cheapest western SSN’s being built right now. Its also worth noting that almost every new western naval design has experienced propulsion difficulties on the first of class. Unfortunately 7 boats is not a lot but it does make it the most numerous SSN ever built by the UK. If it was up to me we would just keep rolling out more with an batch 2 carrying PWR 3 and a payload module for TLAM and Perseus ASM. However just two or three Astute class SSN on their own could probably decimate any navy in the world in open ocean with the exclusion of the USA.

  2. So, which do we hope has the advantage? If the T23 has the edge, that means we can detect most other subs and Take them out. But means others can detect our subs too.
    If Astute has the edge, no one else is likely to detect it but our t23’s might miss other subs and could be taken out.
    Which is best?

  3. Are they using the same secret weapon (ssssssh!) that enabled T45 with no ASW sonar, non-dipping Wildcat to hunt Talent a few weeks back? Or are they stuck using old fashioned methods like proper sonars and a world class ASW helicopter? 🙂

          • No it is what it is built for.

            The original sonar set should have been the Thales one used in the Horizons.

            Yes 2050 can do mine avoidance. Just as a Transit can carry a small load but a Fiesta van can’t carry a large one.

            MFS7000 was designed as a low cost set for the Brazillian. It is a sonar set in water so it will to a VERY LIMITED extent have capacity to detect a boat. But it nowhere near a set as capable as say 2050. HMG failed to get a satisfactory price with Thales for the TMS 4110CL as fitted to the Horizon which is the same size and capability of a sonar like 2050. I think the price of MFS7000 for six ships was £20million for 6 ships. So that is roughly just over £3 million per ship for ships that cost somewhere in the region of a billion.

            We are in SPG equals tank territory here.

          • MFS7000 was designed for self-defence. Basically against torpedos and mines.

            Shouldn’t stop it tracking nearby subs though.

            The Brazillian Navy use a predecessor to MFS7000 from EDO (now Harris).

            How different MFS7000 is to the 997 is then the question 🙂

  4. As a causal and interested observer of the Navy, it looks like the best ASW Type 23/Merlin combo playing cat and mouse with the best SSN in service anywhere. As ever, excellent assets, but so few. Gunbuster, your thoughts?

    • That was my thought. We might bemoan our lack of numbers and reliance on allies for escorts etc but when our SSN crews do training exercises they get to pit themselves against the best ASW vessels out there and when our ASW crews train they get to pit themselves against the best SSNs in the world, in both cases without needing to look outside the RN. What other navy can say that? The USA has seriously good stuff but apart from that?

  5. Artful I call this. Recent years have produced stories and rumours of Soviet Russian submarines off our shores including snooping around vital undersea cables carrying international communication traffic. If there was anything vital to U.K. anti-submarine operational effectiveness about these exercises then I suspect nothing but nothing would get into the public domain. I think this is a message being sent and welcome it is.

  6. Advantages and disadvantages for both litoral participants, surely? Sub in confined waters, but then again t23 difficulties if ideally wanted to employ a towed sonar. Yes, mainly aimed at countering the very real threat of soviet subs, no doubt.

  7. Its a strange choice of location, doesn’t seem realistic for any type of warfare.

    Litoral warfare is very likely (ala falklands) but in that situation you have a very noisy ocean with heavy waves etc making sonar operations difficult, you also have very ragged shores cased by the heavy waves. Whilst a loch is likely to be flat with pretty smooth shores.

    The other realistic scenario is open waters, but in that scenario you again have waves, but also you have massively more room and likely depth to play with.

    The only situation this would be realistic for would be hunting in a habor area, but surely any military harbor would have fixed point sonars and/or anti-sub nets to hamper activities and i assume in a war situation they would also fit these to civil harbors. In either case a habor is likely to have a lot of other ships, making identification more difficult than a near empty loch.

    This sinks of a PR stunt, is there PM’s or foreign diplomats on-board the frigate to be wined/dinned whilst enjoying the show?

  8. Sub hunting in the Firth of Clyde area is nothing new. It happens a lot. And the water is DEEP, and rarely flat. On one exercise I watched, years ago, there was four subs and about 10 NATO frigates. (The subs all surfaced off ARRAN, in a small bay, met up with the frigates, and RN used the choppers for a night out in Glasgow. They were back at work early next morning). As I said it was some years ago.
    The last time I watched them, a few years ago, it was one on one.

  9. It will be a procedural CASEX. Lots of practise runs for both vessels that are basic in nature and the sub doing the obligatory putting up it’s various masts so lookouts can see what they look like.

    It’s not just finding a sub that gets practised but the whole ops room organisation. The sub will Tx on radar and the EW team need to detect it.
    Helo control for directing it onto a target for a MATCH attack.

    Bridge practise for nav and looking out for flare signals from the sub.

    Me patrol quiet checks and procedures.

    Plus the obligatory run Ashlee in Cambeltown!

    • Just seems strange to me. I would think waves and ocean noise has significant impact on all of the above and the enemy visual signature would be different anyway so testing in perfect conditions seems like a waste.

      If you read the lessons from the Falklands and one of the big factors was lack of realistic training caused mistakes to be made and reaction times to be reduced, kinda feels that the lessons have been lost as we revert to cold war training styles that have never actually been tested in combat

      • Although i admit to knowing very little about sub hunting so entirely possible that i am wrong, saying that the draw backs in training from the falklands era were linked to cost saving by the navy, which is clearly still an issue and so we could be reverting to cheaper training options as a way to cut costs.

      • In the Falklands there where 2, 2016 equipped ships( T22s) if you dont count the Invincible. S2016 was the fore runner of the current 2050. The rest of the sets where 184 or even less advance sets circa late 50s and 60s.
        Those old 184 sets had a range of around 10k yds on a good day. A 2050 with good environmental’s will ping out at the very least 3 times that.
        Awfully Slow Warfare has taken a back seat over the years but it is still practised and exercised.
        Having been in the Sonar control Room when we tracked a foreign nation Boomer on a tail equipped T23 I can say with some authority that a T23 is a very very good sub hunter. With Merlin or a partner T23 in attendance it is a nightmare to go against even in the latest subs.

  10. This is simply a timely reminder that UK ASW forces are prepared to react. No conclusions can be drawn about the nature of the training from this short or brief. Who knows where or what aspects of ASW are being undertaken. Suffice to say the T23, Merlin and A class are a highly capable and respected ASW package.

    • This we will probably never know if true or not, the only way we will find out is if there is another war which we all hope will never happen.

      At the time the ships of the falklands war were considered some of the best and they were, except that some stupid cost savings decisions were made to less visible systems and this resulted in them being pretty ineffective, for example not investing in a ground tracking radar tech for the destroyers, not properly practicing electronic warfare and combined operations etc etc.

      These problems still exist, such as cutting the data link on the wildcat and plenty of other areas that we know about and i am sure many more that we don’t.

      All we have to go by is stories from the sailors and spin from the MOD/builders.

      This issue isn’t restricted to the UK, don’t forget in Iraq war the US was confidentially saying the Patriot would be 100% successful, and had been fully tested, and yet it turned out to be all rubbish as it hadn’t been tested properly due to the costs involved and fear that if they properly tested it the results would not be positive and there was no backup plan.

      Same with the fight off between the A10 and the F35 earlier this year / last year. The test was so insanely rigged, because the air force couldn’t risk that the older plane would walk the floor with their new baby.

  11. The Daily Fail reports…….

    Female officer on British nuclear submarine HMS Artful ‘left with a ‘broken jaw’ after a fight with three male colleagues at top secret military base’………….

    Not good.

  12. Many years ago there was a facility called the hooly bar at Faslane, it allowed returning crews chance to de stress before returning home following a patrol. Life under the water for long periods of time is extremely difficult particularly mentally. Alas I’m sure there is more to this story than the usual headline grabbing out of context rubbish.

  13. Meanwhile “Hms Astute” appears at HMNB Gibraltar…. someone is not telling the truth! At the same time as HMS St Albans departs Ireland “HMS Ambush” returns back to Faslane..

    Nothing like keeping National Security up to date.!!!

  14. You do realise it wasn’t HMS Astute? within 24 hours HMS Astute turned up at Gibraltar. Just so happened within hours another Astute turned up at Faslane. (NOT Astute)

    Think about it – can a submarine sail from the far north of Scotland and then appear in Gibraltar within 24 Hours? I know their speeds are classified but 24 hours? Really????

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