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.

Confirmation of the build of the seventh Astute class nuclear submarine, HMS Agincourt, and a £2.5 billion pounds investment was announced earlier today.

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 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”.

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.

Courtesy of BAE, we’ve also been able to publish an interesting list 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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maurice10

When operating as part of a task group, does the Astute need to match surface vessel speeds, or do they offer regional support but at a slower speed?

Gunbuster

Speed on an attack boat is not an issue. They can out pace any major surface unit in service.

BB85

They can hit 30 knots submerged and in theory maintain that speed where a surface ship could not. The interesting thing is AEP subs can only maintain 2 knots submerged if they want to remain submerged for 4 weeks which is why they are primarily focused on literal environments and the UK and US has not bothered with them.

Callum

Unless I’m very much mistaken, subs assigned to carrier groups traditionally position themselves upwind of the fleet, between their charges and the likely direction of any hostile vessels

John Clark

I would think that an Astute wouldn’t be with the task group so to speak, but ranging someway ahead and using its sophisticated sensor suite to search for target’s.

If you think about it, an Astute paralleling and in convoy with a task group would have its sensors blinded by the combined noise of the groups ships.

Sceptical Richard

And risk being sunk by his own side….

Elliott

Exactly so.

Mr J Bell

Speed = cavitation= noise.
The astute will be able to deploy very rapidly to a crises zone or area of operations then she must go deep and quiet to prevent detection= slower speed.
That is just submarine operations, an SSN should be in an area operating independently to protect a surface task force but not shackled to the surface task force.

Julian

How slow is “slower speed”, just roughly to give some idea of scale? Are we talking the same 2 knot crawl that BB85 spoke about for an AEP sub to stay submerged for 4 weeks or are we talking about something in the 10 – 20 knot range? I assume that the actual top speed numbers, and dive depth presumably, are all pretty highly classified. What are the availability rates like on Astutes? Are they more limited by human factors (crew, shore time, etc) than mechanical? As I understand it a high level of maintenance is done by the crew… Read more »

David E Flandry

The Astute class has a complement of 98, but 147 are assigned per boat, so 1/3 of the
crew are at home while the boat is on patrol, with a new 1/3 rotating out upon return. That keeps availability rates up, as well as morale of crew and family.

The reactor maintenance is easy, just spray WD-40 on everything daily. 😉

David Nicholls

Certainl more speed equals more noise, but with the pump-jet system you CANNOT cavitate!

Evan P

That’s not true David. Pump jets can and do still cavitate, they just produce more thrust before cavitation begins to occur.

Daveyb

Correct, all rotary impellor style turbines/pumps will cavitate at a certain speed. The cavitatation point is mostly dependent upon the manufacturing finish and the pitch incidence of the blades. Varible pitch blades offer a greater range before they start to cavitate. The theory is no different to laminar flow over a wing except you are dealing with a stickier medium i.e. salt water.

Icepilot

Deep = no cavitation = speed
SSNs certainly support Battle Groups & not necessarily always in the forward sector – unless an adversary happens to be on the BG track, they will be approaching from the flanks or stern.

P tattersall

Last year In The Yank media they were saying it’s the best sub in the world by a country mile ..

Steven

Any links to the articles you read ? Thanks 🙂

Mr Bell

Warships IFR did a report on that. Great 2 page spread. Astute pitted against 2 Virginia class SSNs. In the exercise took them both out. Then proceeded to engage and sink a cruiser and an Arleigh Burke before disappearing. These are utterly deadly vessels. With correct strategy and a skilled crew they are war winners. The US Navy were reported as saying they could not believe the range the astute detected the Virginia class, tracked them and got a firing solution on them with heavy weight torpedoes without the Virginia class even knowing she was there. Just wish we had… Read more »

Anthony D

Agree, these are the most important naval assets we have and 7 is insufficient. To get more tough choices would need to be made, if scrap dreadnought and buy nuclear cruise for the while fleet. I know the range, yield, survivability and patrol issues but I think on balance it would be worth it for another 5 to 6 astute.

Andrew Smith

if we were building 10 you would just say that we should have 14

P tattersall

RN being totally ‘re fitted with ultra modern weapons … Great news ..

If its true that the Astute is regarded as the best sub in the world, why is it we don’t export at least elements of the design. The French have just won the Auzzie deal to supply Barracudas. Did we not enter? I would hope that if not and we have decided to not export the design it is purely due to the fact we want to protect our advantage. If not, it is another case of designing world beating kit that somehow doesn’t seem to interest other countries and we need to get more savy. Just look at our… Read more »

Helions

The RAN buy is of the shortfin Barracuda SSK which is the DE version of their Barracuda SSN. Couldn’t the Astute Class have an SSK version as well? Perhaps as a lower cost RN GIUK sentry and export model? Seems like a natural to me…

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Barracuda-class_submarine

Cheers!

Julian

It’s an interesting conundrum, whether or not to attempt to export a world-leading product or a variant of it. If some of the secret sauce that goes into making Astute great is super-highly classified and considered by HMG/MoD to be genuinely unique and not known to other parties then every single extra person that has access to that information, even if a totally trustworthy ally, is another possible point where the information could be leaked. For examples just look at the extremely strong bonds between the US and UK intelligence services. Even there the UK has compromised US information and… Read more »

Helions

I suppose the same applies to the U.S. stance on the export of the F22…

Cheers.

Jonathan

Yep is a continuum of trust, some things nations seem to like to keep to thereselves even if there could have been strategic advantage in sharing or selling, the F22 was a classic example, as strategically the western world could have done with wider access to the F22, it also would have drop the unit price and given the US a bigger buy. Look at the spat the US and UK had over the F35 it was almost a break up (which could have really damaged the programme) over Sovereign control between the two development partners. To be honest I… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

Agree. There are certain areas of Intel and tech only between USA and UK. Let’s keep Astute capability ourselves.

Helions

Good points all. Though I do believe that that an export version could be sold to the RCAN, RAN, and RNZN (ex very sensitive gear) without compromising the technology. I would still explore an SSK version of the Astute for the RN dedicated to homeland protection while the nukies could be used on worldwide deployment. There would be enough commonality between the two versions that most sub ratings could interchange between them – excluding propulsion ratings of course. With lower costs an extra 3-4 SSK might be procured to augment the nuclear boats.

Cheers!

Hamish Yetlow

And you would grow the Ships Company where? We dont have manning for current hulls

Mr Bell

Agree the Astute is a symbol of national pride and contains some of our most utterly top secret technology. We cannot share that technology with any other nations, even allies.
As for an AIP version of astute. One question.
Why?
An AIP version will not have the range, power, endurance of an SSN not be able to sustain more than 4 knots submerged for any prolonged period of time.
If we want more subs, which we clearly do need. We need to just buy a further batch of 3-4 more Astutes.

BB85

The main reason I suspect is our lack of a proven UK submarine using AEP, when the UK developed the Upholders their outdated propulsion made them immediately obsolete despite being extremely quite and capable in every other aspect.
Labour then went down nuclear only route which left it to industry to develop AEP themselves for the export market which was never going to happen, leaving it to France, Germany and Sweden to hoover up the export orders.

Stephen G.

We should definitely look to build a diesel electric version of the Astutes to increase our own submarine numbers if nothing else, and possibly win some exports too. Even when Britain does come up with something great like the Zephyr U.A.V. they deliberately sell it to foreigners so Britain doesn’t benefit from exports like we obviously should. It is government policy that Britain should not have any decent industry/exports, and if any do emerge they have to be sold to foreigners immediately. It’s similar with the Taranis, there is no doubt in my mind that if the will was there… Read more »

Here here. exactly my argument as well. It baffles me why Government doesn’t do it, it seems such a no-brainer. Developing a high tech industry for military purposes then allows us to be leaders or competitive in other things. Then we get well paid jobs and skills, then the tax receipts flood in to government. Win win for all. Simples!

4thwatch

When people talk of Government they are really talking Central Civil Service. These are the Bods that go on regardless of the Political Government in power. The Politicos have to play catch up, which in the UK is a problem because so few politicos have much military experience. Presently this may be improving; lets hope so.
This knowledge gap and industry gap needs closing and should be addressed as a matter of urgency. However when the two get too close you get screams of ‘Military Industrial- Political complex!’; are too cosy.

Brian Taylor

Foreigners, foreigners, foreigners. Seems to be the only thing your concerned about and it is very bizarre as the topic is the Astute class

Robert Blay

But we do already build the above mentioned.

Sceptical Richard

Remember when the U.K. announced a few years ago that they wanted to collaborate with France in the development of a new generation SSN/SSBN. The US vetoed it. Our SSNs/SSBNS, including Astute and more demonstrably Dreadnought, still depend to a large extent on US technological transfer in power plant and noise deadening technology. In the case of Dreadnought, the missile compartment is of course jointly designed. At one point, Canada was interested in buying Trafalgar type submarines. I think in that case the US would have agreed. It would be hugely expensive to develop an AIP version of Astute. Britain… Read more »

Sceptical Richard

I meant to say non-nuclear version of Barracuda!

Mr Bell

Or we could just get more Astutes. Which are shaping up to be the best, most deadly and capable subs in the world. Why go AIP when we have a nuclear powered design that actually works. We do not need the development costs. If we are going AIP or SSKs then a compact small 800-1000 ton BMT design would suffice. Enough to screen the nuclear deterrent force coming and going and very useful to train future SSN and SSBN crews in. Periscope course etc and special forces insertion and recovery. Much better to have a small sub for these roles… Read more »

BB85

The green lobby is quite strong in Australia the media would be convinced nuclear fuel would end up released into the great barrier reef or something else that daft. Considering its remote locate only SSNs make military sense to Australia the French prob still would have won the contract though Astute got a bad rep for its production delays even though they are now sorted and likely the less risky option.

David E Flandry

Australia needed a larger sub with greater range, so they could patrol from the western Indian Ocean to the northern Pacific.
Cammel Laird offers a 3600 ton SSK with or without AIP, crew of about 45. They could have bid on the Australian project but it was not a proven design. The RN should buy 3 or 4.

Helions

Wonder why they didn’t buy the Soryu Class boats? Very large and the best SSK in the world…

Cheers

David Taylor

Let’s hope they are not wondering that in a decade or so!

Stephen G.

Sceptical Richard, Britain was still building diesel electric subs in the ’90s, I wouldn’t say we had “zero” expertise in this area.

C.S.

Indeed we did Stephen G. Some of that expertise is still alive and well (just about) and helping Canada with theirs 😉 I think they are still the quietest boats the RN ever had. Astute may be quite for nuclear boat but I doubt they’re as quite as the Upholder/Victoria class were/are.

David Taylor

Nuclear submarines have to keep the ‘feed pump’ running; it is one of the major headaches when it comes to design them. It is one of the reasons why Chinese submarines are noisy.

C.S.

T.S. Astutes are nuclear powered boats. I don’t think AUS like nuclear power so probably wouldn’t have one if they were given one. 😉

Daniele Mandelli

Just an extra.

This as an example that the moaners on here and elsewhere need to consider when describing our forces as third world. We could have numerous extra ships. Instead we have capability such as these.

The true battleships of the RN and I wish we had more.

I know it’s great to have two carriers, but I would happily have given up one for a couple more Astutes.
I not sure if you are implying me as a ‘moaner’? I do often moan lol, and often through ignorance in some part. But my most passionate moans are often those to do with frustrations over a lack of backing and vision with our procurement and industrial strategies. Like you have often said dan, a high medium low mix, not just high to sort out depth. And I want to US building our great ideas.

Daniele Mandelli

No T.S I had no one especially in mind! To be fair most are “guests” who come on and say some crap about our military and disappear.

Agree with your ideas too.

I was meaning more along the lines of extra escorts myself than the carriers. 2 are fine for 1 always ready.

Can I point out that there are now two T.S’s. I am going the original and not the one who has been posting on this feed. New T.S, we may need to agree on being T.S1 and T.S2?

Ian

I moan quite a bit, but not about capability – I worry about depth and only in some cases.

QE’s, Astutes, T-45s, T-23s, T-26s, Merlins, F-35s, Tides, Trident, all world class, some top of that top class.

Of all the above I am content with numbers only on QE’s, Tides & Trident.

Let’s see what the MDP brings – not long to wait now.

Daniele Mandelli

Agree. Depth and the way Mod and government treat the forces and dole out the money, these are the moans.

I was thinking of those who appear on this site and bemoan our third world military. I still recall that is exactly what he said just don’t remember who it was!

Stephen G.

Agree guys, I wish we could build even 1 more Astute, and/or a few diesel electric submarines to bulk or numbers up, perhaps based on the Astutes to save money, we could probably win some exports with them too.

John Stevens

Totally agree with you Daniele..

John Clark

While there may only be 7 of them (when all delivered), one of these is enough to totally gut most Navies and hang them out to dry.

A truly fearsome predator of the deep and a superb World leading SSN

Jonathan

Was there ever a specific reasoning for 7 ? The Hunterkiller fleet has had a really significant drop in numbers. You can sort of see a (very week) argument around dropping the numbers of 45s from the 42s, as you could argue one 45 could do the job of two 42s ( for protecting a task group that would have needed multiple 42s). But hunter killers don’t work in multiples so it’s in no way relevant how much better an Asute is to previous generation of hunterkillers, you still need the same number.

BB85

I think the initial numbers where around 10, but with the threat of Russia barely existent 10 years ago (their subs where more of a danger to their sailors than us) the numbers where cut and production stretched until the Dreadnoughts to maintain skills and employment. I’m more confident now we will see 4 Dreadnoughts rather than 3, and if 1 is surplus to requirements it could potentially be used as a conventional high capacity TLAM carrier.

Daniele Mandelli

When Blair was cutting the escorts from 35 to 32 and then 31 the SSNs were going from 12 to 10 if I recall correctly.

Come new chapter in 2004 they were vowing 8.
Somewhere along the line 7 was then the norm.

Yes I too really want to understand where this figure of 7 came from. 4 to continuously protect the ND then 3 for global deployment? Having a global deployment of 1 sub at any one time seems a bit slim, 2 would make more sense (which would mean a total of 10).

Jon

One reason may be that there is no need to refuel. T class boats spent the best part of 2 yesrs out of service undergoing LOP(R).

Helions
Sceptical Richard

Well done Hellions. Thanks for that. It was of course Rickover’s close relationships with Mountbatten which enabled us to build the first Dreadnought. The back end of Dreadnought was in fact a Skipjack. Rickover was dead against this at the beginning but Mountbatten won him over eventually.

Helions

Did not know that fact about the Skipjack stern on the Dreadnought SR! Lord Mountbatten must have really put on the charm offensive to get Rickover to agree to this. By all accounts he was a very hard case…

Cheers!

Sceptical Richard

He must have done. Apparently even the Americans didn’t like Rickover very much. Most officers and politicians lived in fear of him. An extraordinary character…

Icepilot

The Admirals hated Rickover – he went around the Navy leadership (& the President) directly to Congress.

Elliott

Rickover was a very brilliant and gifted head of engineering and research programs. His issues were he was one of the people who KNEW he was brilliant. That made him difficult to work with,crude, abrasive, and short tempered. Rickover very gifted but he probably could have accomplished more had he had a bit more tact.

The number of subs is a real concern, no matter how good they are, cant be in two places at once. Russia have 80 subs, therefore potentially able to gang up on individual Astutes, removing their advantages. Then we loose a couple and we are stuffed! Same for so much other kit, enough for peace time to show force and provide excellent capabilities, but we loose some through attrition and we almost completely loose a capability. This is why I and others have called for an ssk, for say £500 mill a pop – they look after Faslane and North… Read more »

T.S. From what I understand UK ship numbers deliberately do not take into account potential losses, read it in a government paper somewhere. With the Russian navy numbers can be misleading and aren’t always a great indicator of naval strength. That said, one of the UK’s main defence policies Vs Russia is that of relying on our ‘allies’. Currently policy isn’t designed for us to go toe to toe alone with the Russians and come out on top, I would imagine a large reason behind this is financial. Bear in mind ASW has more layers than just submarines. That said,… Read more »

Propellerman

just to dive in on why we don’t try and export the Astute, the propulsion technology and acoustic suite is light years ahead of the rest of the world with the exception of the US where we are just a block ahead and the Russians where we are a torpedo strike ahead. it is truly a magnificent piece of engineering – sadly nobody will ever get to see or appreciate it close up when you sell to other countries, you proliferate your technology, some of it will have been caught up by the commercial world anyway and it doesn’t matter… Read more »

Stephen G.

Could we not also build a lower end version with a more standard propulsion, acoustic suite, etc. for export?

David Taylor

Submarines unlike surface warships are, how can I say it, very much a closed system. You can’t really peel bits away and shove other bits into them. There have been cases where submarines have had extra length inserted to them. You can built families of a design, but again these are designed from the get go to be as such. For example the SAAB A-26 comes in 3 variants and 4 lengths. But as rule it would be very difficult to do what you suggest. Astutes are big boats which would add complications when it came to buoyancy and tank… Read more »

PatrickC

The RN owe the US some gratitude for your Astute class. Without their expertise (particularly at Electric Boat) the Astutes would probably never have been completed! Thats the problem with ordering so few boats, its hard to maintain the capability to design/build them.

Sceptical Richard

The US economy is between 6 and 7 times bigger than the U.K.’s. It currently has just over 60 SSNs in service, including under construction. That would suggest that the U.K. should have around 8 to 9 SSNs. That’s just a very rough rule of thumb. So we will have 7. It would be nice to be able to build one or two more. I for one would trade some surface navy for more subs. These are the only things that instil fear in an enemy.

Icepilot

And it’s not 7 SSNs getting underway – given training, maintenance & overhaul, having more than 5 ready to go will be extremely difficult.

Also bear in mind %gdp both countries spend on military. Over 3 for US Vs 2 for UK.
icepilot, understanding UK navy rotation in most scenarios it is very unlikely that more than 2 astutes will be deployed. I assume that 4 are used to continuously protect the ND, leaving 3 for global deployment.

Helions

They are also, IMO, the future of naval warfare as well… It would be money well spent…

Cheers.

Helions

Wonder if they have thought about including an extra section in the last couple of Astutes similar to the Block IV Virginia’s extra section? It could add a great deal of firepower to the sub fleet with all those extra VLS cells…

Cheers.

Sceptical Richard

No chance Hellions. Other people are adopting the cylindrical VL six-pack system for T-LAM, NOTABLY THE Swedes on the A-26 follow-on to Gotland class and the export AIP Barracuda France is selling to Australia. On Astute we’ve instead increased the tubes to six and increased the size of the bomb room to house 38 weapons in total ( I’m guessing a mix of 16 TLAMs and 22 Spearfish?). That’s a pretty impressive loadout although I suspect not as much as Virginia Block IV?

Helions

Apologies SR,

it’s the Virginia Block V (2019 boat II) which gets the VPM. The Block IV improves maintenance and tweaks design. They carry the same TLAM loadout as the Block IIIs which have two payload tubes which replace the 12 VLS tubes on earlier boats. The Block V’s add the VPM and 4 additional payload tubes in addition to the IVs for a total of 40 TLAM shots not including the boat’s torp loadout for its four tubes.

http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/the-simple-reason-why-americas-virginia-class-submarines-are-17835

Cheers!

Sceptical Richard

Thanks Helions!

Julian

Thanks Helions. There’s lots of interesting stuff in that article but one thing really caught my eye – “an SSN normally deploys 14 times during its 33-year lifespan”. If that’s a 6 month deployment then it’s deployed 7 x 6 months / 33 years = 21.2% of the time. Does the US do longer deployments, i.e. more than 6 months, which would increase that percentage? Presumably the UK works to a higher ratio to make up for having far fewer SSNs. That ratio on our fleet of 7 would give 1.54 subs deployed at any given time, i.e. a lot… Read more »

Julian

Silly me. The 21.6% ratio is correct but I should have said 14 x 6 months (not 7 as written – that is the number of years deployed).

Helions

Julian, The USN SSN force end strength numbers ( and therefore deployment schedules) are a bit of an illusion because many of the boats are tied up and minimally manned – not because of real manpower issues – it’s because of the fact there is not enough yard space for their maintenance and midlife overhaul availabilities. Some of them have been waiting for a significant amount of time – The worst I can think of is the case of the USS Boise which has been waiting years and still hasn’t made it in (USN states she’s next up)… This is… Read more »

Helions

Sorry for the redundant sentence

Helions
Julian

Thanks Helions. Really interesting & informative.

Are any of your subs forward based by the way? 🙂 🙂

Helions

Why yes Julian? Why do you ask? :_

Julian

I agree with Richard. I think the Astutes are too far advanced and locked in for such a big design change. One interesting thing for the future though is that I believe the Common Missile Compartment was at one point going to have an option to host multiple TLAMs in a single tube as an alternative to a single Trident. Does anyone know if that capability did make it through to the final design? If yes then incorporating a single CMC (which I believe is 4 tubes) into the UK’s next generation SSN (i.e. Astute successor) might be an option.… Read more »

And that is why Russia has so many of them. They cannot match the USA in most areas, but all those subs could cause havoc if war broke out. They could close shipping routes and pose a huge threat to carrier groups. Another example of their area access denial tactic. With the uk being an island and dependant on shipping imports, we need to up numbers to meet the threat. As I have said before, cheaper ssk’s To increase numbers, then work on cheap autonomous loitering subs networked with an underwater sensor field in key areas around us. They could… Read more »

Bill Edmead

SR it’s not the size of the economy its the size of the respective defence budgets that should dictate your logic. The US is about 11 times plus, the size of ours so 7 attack subs seems a pretty good ratio.

Sceptical Richard

Yeah Bill. There are many ways of looking at this. The 10/11 to one rule works as well. But at the end of the day, it’s your economy that pays for defence and everything else. And unless your productivity is head and shoulders above everybody else’s (which ours unfortunately isn’t!) the size of your economy is going to dictate more or less what you can afford…

David

To add I think it’s not so much what one can afford rather what one chooses to spend. The UK is choosing to spend almost 14Bn/yr on foreign aid. That must come at the expense of something else. I’m not against foreign aid in principal but as a nation, we have to ask if such a vast sum can really be justified. Our politicians have no intent of upsetting the masses by cutting the NHS or education, so defence becomes the easy kitty to raid. We as a nation do this at our peril for I fear it will come… Read more »

Stephen G.

I have been saying the same thing David, we absolutely have to cut the foreign aid budget, it is far too high. This would be a hugely popular move. We can use Britain’s own hard earned money saved to improve our own country (enlarge the Royal Navy, rebuild our industries with state of the art facilities, improve our motorway network, improve our railway network, etc.).

Daniele Mandelli

Spot on Stephen.

Alf

You also have to think of economies of scale – once you’ve got some nuclear submarines, you have to fund a infrastructure to support them, train the people and so on, and those backroom costs of operating more or less does not scale linearly. E.g. The cost of operating two submarines is not twice that of one. Hence where the difference to start with is almost an order of magnitude based on expenditure, then you could imagine a further 50% factor for the larger force. This is reflected in reality, US kit is bigger/more capable than ours, as well as… Read more »

John West

Again – the V class subs are highly capable. Why can’t we re -purpose them as super Astutes?

16 tubes for cruise missiles? They would be absolute beasties.

Sceptical Richard

I suspect it’s to do with size of support infrastructure, expense and manpower.

Stephen G.

Tubes for torpedoes also.

Julian

Surely it’s also a matter of crippling cost or even impossibly of life-extending them? If it was possible to life-extend them any further then I suspect HMG would have jumped at that option to keep them in the CASD role, kick the can down the road on Successor and we wouldn’t be into the Dreadnought program yet.

Mr J Bell

We are an island nation. Seemingly forgetting the hard won history of the 20th century. Our national survival is dependent upon commerce and trade. The UK at any time has only upto 6 months food in stock, thereafter people starve to death. Too many people, not enough land or knowhow to produce enough food of our own. I would think a couple more astute class would be a small price to pay for our freedom and democracy to be assured. Whilst we are at it…another 9 Poseidon MPAs and at least 10 type 31 frigates and at least 96 F35Bs… Read more »

Lusty

Chuck in a few more Merlin, and Wildcat for good measure. And some additional RFA vessels – Diligence replacement, Argus replacement, dedicated hospital ship, and additional replenishment capabilities spring to mind.

Sjb1968

Mr Bell I would just add a few more RFAs and enough ship lift for a fully restored 3 Commando Brigade.

John Clark

Fantasy or sensible ….

12 T45
12 T26
16 T31
12 SSN
4 SSBN
3 Flat top Helicopter/ dock well Amphibious Carriers
3 QE class Aircraft Carriers
Enough F35B’s to support Four 18 aircraft Front line Squadrons, OCU etc plus attrition 100+
Enough Merlin ( transport and AS) plus Wildcat to fully support the above
RFA asset’s in sufficient number to fully support the above
18 Poseidon’s.

Personnel, well paid and cared for and in sufficient number’s to underpin the above.

Paul T

Great list John – but the chances of it becoming reality are somewhere between Nil and Zero id say !

I agree with the 12 ssn and T26, but don’t think we need 12 T45, their only future use will be carrier escort and task group once t31 comes online and 6 will be fine if we get them all manned and active alongside T26.
I think if we built support ships with decent amphib capabilities and helo facilities we would only need 1 LPH. I would rather spend the money on them and the 3rd carrier you propose on a fleet of SSK personally.
Agree with a few more P8’s and increase in helicopter numbers.

This would all be possible over the 20 years if the budget was increased to 2.5%

Daniele Mandelli

Impossible. That is a force of escorts back to 1995 Front Line First levels.

T31 at 10 units tops for me. Even that probably too much to hope for.

With current spending yes, impossible. It’s what we could and should have if we get an uplift in budget. Just a bit of depth added really.

Mr Bell

I would be content if we just get all 8 type 26. Possibly 1more added through the savings of sharing the design with Australia and hopefully Canada. I think if we get 8 type 31s in service that will be a good result. A couple more Astute class would be a huge result. Our armed forces have never been so cash strapped and small as they are now. The government are sleeping at the wheel. Content to rely on foreign powers to help defend us from our enemies. We should be more self sufficient and able to project military power… Read more »

[…] The Astute class, Britain’s advanced hunter killer — UK Defense Journal […]

John Clark

The list I came up with is simply restoring force levels to a minimum point, to allow the country to defend itself robustly and independently.

Today we are fully dependent on Allies to fill the blanks, a dangerous place to be.

Anthony D

We’ve always relied on allies. This is a strength that we have such strong and effective allies. Why would we want to have to afford to protect ourselves independently? One on one were beatable, 28 to 1 no chance…

There are gaps but the most expensive complex stuff is covered. We need to reorient our defence posture to the maritime and make some hard choices on our land forces capability.

Alf

The UK has achieved the historical impossible of being a small semi-isolated nation becoming a global super power, and post that, remaining a global power – off the back of being very good at making and keeping Alliances. It is hard to think of a single conflict where support, active or passive, from Allies has not proved vital in our success. In contrast, most of our enemies have been defeated because they have failed to match our Alliance building ability. Germany in WW1, WW2 and of course the USSR in the Cold war spring to mind as the main ones… Read more »

I’ve always thought that the problem is that no-one considers what we actually NEED. What are the areas we need to look at, what do we need to defend those areas. Apart from our nuclear deterrence I would look at four main areas. Home/Russia, China, Falklands, Gibraltar. Let’s take the last three first. China – is that really our problem or area of influence? We’re not going to be able to influence anything there, the odd tie up with allies is the way forward – but basically using spare capacity rather than anything critical. The Falklands. Realistically, not under any… Read more »

Lusty

Agree, but I have always felt that vessels could and should be forward deployed to Gibraltar (similar to HMS Juffair) for wider Med/South Atlantic tasking. Perhaps a future role for T31 or future River orders?

Anthony D

Rob I think your Falklands/Gibraltar point is about British overseas territories in general. Given their dispersion, the threat of carrier strike / astute and a type 31 stationed in the region should be enough. For any constabulary rules we need to use our opv fleet. For wars of national survival, well we defend the UK by helping the rest of NATO to keep the attacker in his barracks or if he is too stupid to know better to give him the bloodiest of bloody noses, crippling cyber attack and economic ruin. A couple of armoured brigades ain’t going to help… Read more »

Alf

The lesson of the 20th Century, which is not dissimilar to the lessons of previous centuries, is that wars are decided on land, and if you want to have influence in how an alliance operates, you have to make a significant land contribution. Ultimately the Navy is a supporting arm, just as the Air Force is, not to say the Navy cant make tremendous effect, or that it can’t “lose” the war, but it cannot win it. I write that as a lifelong fan of the Navy, but also as an experienced realist. The UK in WW1 could not have… Read more »

Anthony D

Thanks Alf, really good points. I don’t want to run the army down to nothing but adopt a maritime posture as the UK traditionally did for hundreds of years. My view is let the continental powers focus on the land forces and we focus on our areas of strength, which are also the same forces that allow us to exercise global influence and make us a partner of choice. An enduring brigade presence was no where near enough to stabilise Helmand or Southern Iraq… Nor would it have been in northern Ireland or any of the counter insurgencies Britain faught… Read more »

Julian

Lots of comments rightly raving about the Astute and some mention of favourable comments from the US together with comparisons vs the Virginia Class. In comparisons with the Virginia Class it’s worth including the torpedoes isn’t it? From a look at the specs on Wikipedia Astute’s Spearfish look a lot more capable than Virginia’s Mk48 – 54km max range and 80 knots speed for Spearfish vs estimated 38km at 55 knots or 50km at 40kn for Mk48. It’s not clear whether the Spearfish 54km range is at 80 knots or if it’s variable like the Mk48 spec but Spearfish is… Read more »

Sceptical Richard

Data on both torpedoes is highly classified. From the info in the public domain, it can be surmised that both torpedoes, when they work as intended (let’s not forget that ALL torpedoes can be temperamental), are very good. Anecdotal evidence would suggest that Spearfish has the edge on Mk-48 ADCAP both on speed and range. Both torpedoes would only reach max speeds in the final phase of an engagement. But let’s remember that success is less related to the quality of the equipment and more to the quality of the people in control of that equipment and the command team… Read more »

Alex

Question: if the French can offer a modified Barracuda submarine to Australia with diesel propulsion could not BAE do the same to the Astute class?

Would this not potentially provide the RN and export customers an outstanding SSL with a top notch sensor and weapon suite?

Alex

*SSK

Si

What is the rate of dive on an Astute class submarine?