The seventh and final Astute class hunter-killer submarine HMS Agincourt will be affiliated with Torbay, say the Royal Navy.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said:

“Torbay has a special relationship with our submarine service and it is a real honour to be able to announce HMS Agincourt will continue this tradition. Agincourt will be Britain’s most advanced submarine ever, the jewel in the Royal Navy’s fleet – and there is no better place for her to be twinned with than Torbay.”

Torbay has been associated with the RN since the late 17th Century and, since 1940, with the submarine service as two submarines have been named HMS Torbay.

Mayor Gordon Oliver said, according to the Royal Navy, that there had been a “quietly-mounted” campaign to maintain the borough’s links with submarines – as many people had “the Royal Navy in Torbay at its heart.”

He continued: “This will be the start of a very long relationship with a new nuclear submarine but in particular with its commanding officer and crew in due course. I welcome the opportunity to support the senior service again and look forward to the process of construction, launch and naming of a no-doubt-famous vessel built to protect us and defend us. It will be much needed.”

Whitehall committed £1.5bn to Agincourt earlier this year, with work now under way on the boat at BAE’s yard in Barrow. She is expected to enter service from her base at Faslane around 2024.

37 COMMENTS

  1. Does anyone know further details of what happened with the latest missile strike in Syria? The expected RN sub-launch of Tomahawk missile apparently didn’t happen as our attack boat (not sure which class) was engaged in a cat and mouse with the Russians so couldn’t come close to the surface to fire.

    Would love to hear more if anyone has more details – fascinating stuff!

    Thank you all.

    • There’s a theory that whichever boat it was made itself known off Gibraltar and then just left, making the Russians believe there was an Astute in the locale and chase their tails, whilst everyone else got on with unleashing the planned barrage.

    • I’m as naturally curious as the next person, probably much more so in fact, but as a supporter of our armed forces I hope that we don’t get any reliable information to know what went on for however many years it takes until the info gets declassified because if any credible info does get into the public domain before then it’ll be because of breaches in either computer or human (people not taking their security obligations seriously) security. Assuming such breaches haven’t and don’t happen then it’s all guesswork and theories with no way of assessing which are anywhere close to the truth.

  2. I would imagine if the Astute class had wanted too it could easily have taken out the Russian sub. Instead it led the sub on a merry goose chase around the med allowing other NATO assets to launch their strikes unharrassed by an improved Kilo class lurking nearby.

  3. Good submarines but far too few of them. Maybe would have made more sense to go for more, cheaper conventionally powered submarines than the all singing all dancing Astute class.

    • Hi John, although a bit cheaper, conventional subs are actually completely different beasts to nuclear boats.

      The nuclear boat is a strategic asset potentially able to transit to anywhere on the globe without the need for support and in a matter of days as such our nuclear boats allowed us to put credible exclusion zone around the Falklands. You can move a nuclear boat thousands miles in a few days, most can sustain 20+kns indefinitely ( well until the crew runs out of food).

      A conventional sub is more a a regionally based mobile minefield, it needs to port on a regular basis and be supported/resupplied. Your average modern top end ocean going conventional sun can cruise at about 6kns out to 6k miles or so.

      So a nuclear boat can chase down a surface task group or another nuclear boat and follow it indefinitely or until it needs to take a specific action, a conventional sub can only be placed at a piont you know a target will be ( which means pre placing at a choke piont and hoping), it then can only keep contact for a very small window of time ( hence the Mobile minefield description).

      On deployment a nuclear boat can simply charge anywhere on earth faster than any surface vessel 24/7 and loiter until the food funs out (theoretically that’s close to a thousand miles travelled a day and about 3 months of time on mission). A conventional sub can travel around an 150miles in a day with a max range of 6000-7000miles before before refuelling, so a uk based conventional sub could operate ( without a friendly port to fuel in) out to a about 2000miles with a weeks loiter time.

      So You can get 3 conventional boats for the price of a nuc, but it’s like comparing a Merlin with an A400M, both good at what they do but completely different prices because they do totally different things.

      • 5 Wyvern conventional subs to supplement the Astutes would be the way to go, this is where any extra money for the Navy should be spent. It would be much more successful with exports too in this important market, a market where the U.K. could do well, if the World could see it being used by, and good enough for, the Royal Navy.

        • Yep I could see a good use for a few conventional subs for the North Sea and Baltic work. But not if it cut into the nuclear fleet.

          But the question is what’s more use 4-5 conventional subs or securing a couple more nuclear boats. Not sure what the Navy would go for, but I would put a fiver on the nuclear boats.

          • Maybe one other thing to consider is that for the closer-to-home areas we have additional options, or at least will have, in the form of P-8A assuming that those are mostly home based. Also, one extra cost to factor in if introducing a small fleet of conventional subs is the new training pathways and maintenance/logistics procedures that would need to be spun up.

            There were rumours way back that BAE had offered the MoD a very keen price on adding an 8th Astute to the build but the MoD declined. I can’t remember or never read what price was offered but if the rumour was/is true and the price was good then it seems like a very big missed opportunity. Still, there were rumours swirling around a year or so ago that this 7th Astute was going to be cancelled so looking on the bright side we can at least be thankful that rumour didn’t become reality. They wouldn’t dare cancel HMS Agincourt now and risk incurring the wrath of Torbay :-).

  4. Hopefully we should see a new improved astute batch started in the late 2020s early 2030s as the dreadnoughts come off the slips. We don’t want all those increased costs we saw In Astute because of the gap in building, with astute decommissioning around 2040, 8-10 years from laying down to commissioning and commissioning one sub every two years we could see an improved astute batch come of the slips 2 years before Astute decommissions this would let us get our fleet up to 8.

    • Are you literally thinking of an improved Astute batch or do you mean the start of a successor (next generation) class of SSN? I would have thought that the time between the first Astute build starting back in 2001 and the early 2030s would be enough to justify starting a new SSN class potentially taking lessons learned and new technology from the Dreadnought design and build, technology that might include incorporating perhaps a single quad-pack Common Missile Compartment configured for TLAM launching which by then the USA will most likely have verified (the TLAM launching bit).

      • Hi Julian I suspect we would be looking at an incremental improvement in the same way we saw between the S and T boats. Incorporating the common missile compartment would be a great way to go. Remember the design will need to start being developed pretty soonish for at late 2020 steel cutting and the astute is a pretty much cutting edge design.

        But you never know they may do a ground up new design.

  5. I know this may seem a bit early but I’ve had a look on the Wiki and it seems the order for these was put in just 2 years after the commissioning of the last boat in the Trafalgar class so can we expect an order the replacement vessels about mid 2020?
    It will be interesting to see what amazing technical advances are speculated about and finally make it onto those.

    • Are the Dreadnought (DN) builds now effectively the immovable object in the way of starting a new round of SSN builds, i.e. until the Barrow construction hall is clear of DN builds, or at least has enough space free for at least one extra SSN build to go on in parallel with finishing off the DN build program, it’s impractical to do any more sub building even if we had the budget to do it? I suppose never say never, a second submarine construction facility could be spun up, but presumably that would be hugely expensive and pretty crazy to do given that we barely have enough of an SSN/SSBN drumbeat to keep the current Barrow facility going in the long term.

      If any of the above is accurate then when is the expected end date for DN builds and how many simultaneous DN builds will Barrow be able to support? From looking at photos it looks like 2 Astutes at a time in final construction and enough spare length in the hall for that to be 2 DN at a time so will the time when Barrow has free capacity be when DNs 1 through 3 are out of the main construction hall at which point Barrow could have DN 4 plus the first of a new batch of SSN underway at the same time? Again, if that is a correct assumption then any idea when that might be, i.e. when DN 3 is expected to be rolled out of the construction hall thus potentially allowing its slot to be taken by the first of any new SSN builds?

  6. Regarding naval assets these are our trump cards.

    No way do conventional boats replace these. Augment possibly if money and crew are available, which they are not.

    7 are just not enough. Hammond vowed 8 in the 2004 cuts.

    • an exercise between a south korean conventional submarine,it was disclosed, a conventional boat evaded an entire carrier group got close enough to a carrier to sink it, then sneaked away with the u.s fleet non the wiser. given the price of an astute ans say, the german type 204, the u.k could have two for the price of one, its how they are used,not what propulsion system they have.

      • South Korean? I recall it was a Chinese boat. Unless I’m thinking of another incident.

        I think that, seeming as the major powers all use SSN there is a very good reason why as Jonathan outlined above.

        • Their have been exercises where conventional submarines “sank” the carrier. With Korean, Swedish, Israeli (German), and Australian SSKs. However their have also been exercises where they were hunted down and “killed”well short of target.
          When you here these reports ask two questions:
          1. Out of how many tries during the exercise?
          2. What was the scenario of the exercise and how likely of one is it?
          For example in some of these tests the TF was without it’s screening SSNs for the scenario. In others the SSKs were to have advanced knowledge of where the TF was heading based on intelligence and a surprise outbreak of war. There for was able to play absolutely dead until the last moment.
          Always take a sales brochure for the “cheaper” options with a billion dollar sized grain of salt.

      • Andy a conventional sub literally needs to be run over by the enemy for it to be effective ( think of it as limited mobility and time limited mine field) 6kns ( 140 miles traveled per day) total 6-7k milesrange and a matter of weeks before port vs 20-30kns ( 800miles traveled per day) unlimited range and 3 months deployment at sea.

        Ones a trap used in choke points or as area denial weapons by regional navies the other a strategic weapon system used by global powers.

      • A Swedish SSK was loaned to the US navy for a few weeks to test a carrier group’s ASW defenses, off California. After the exercises were over, the Swedish sub presented several periscope photos it had taken of the carrier. That counts as a kill in exercises.

        • But rember the SSK was placed before time and Knew where the exercise was taking place. If said Carrier group was free to roam where it would the SSK would have been impotent, as a 6kn SSK could not chase or hunt a high speed target in an ocean environment.

  7. I think it is always difficult to determine the exact situation should a ‘breach’ be reported in an exercises because I would presume that there will always be experiments and variations carried out to find out what exact scenarios a sub of whatever nature and tactics would have a realistic chance of breaching defences otherwise they will never know what tactics, ship numbers and types to be the ideal screen. So those defences will be changed, degraded and no doubt a thousand other variations explored to determine risk and ways ways of improving those defences without having to over stock the vessels carrying it out as a true wartime state of affairs would dictate that considerably. I would presume its the circumstances of any breach therefore that determine the true threat rather than any breach in itself. But of course that is only in the exercise scenario a breach by a potential enemy would be far more concerning..

  8. The threat of an SSN patrolling say the waters around the Falkland Islands has a huge deterrent value, far greater than that of a conventional surface ship or submarine.

  9. How true, we only have seven, but the threat of a single Astute class hiding off the shore is a terrifying threat to any potential enemy.

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