A new generation of nuclear submarines will be developed to replace the Astute class in the 2040s.

The Defence Command Paper, titled ‘Defence in a Competitive Age’, describes the planned programme:

“We commit to funding for the next generation of nuclear submarines (SSNs) to guarantee our security well into the second half of the century.”

The Astute-class submarines 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 Royal Navy also say that the class sets a new standard for the Royal Navy in terms of weapons load, communication facilities and stealth.

The boats are being constructed by BAE Systems Submarines at Barrow-in-Furness alongside the Dreadnought class nuclear missile submarines, the submarines that are pictured above  will replace the Vanguard class and host Trident nuclear missiles.

Seven boats are be constructed: the first of class, Astute, was launched by Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, in 2007, commissioned in 2010, and declared fully operational in May 2014.

The Astute class is the replacement for the Trafalgar-class fleet submarines in Royal Navy service. We know very little about their replacements however.

There is a bit of information floating around, though. Pun intended. Respected naval commentator H. I. Sutton wrote in an article for Forbes that on November the 23rd 2019, BAE Systems advertised a job in Barrow-in-Furness.

“The advert is now closed, but the information contained is of great interest because of just one word: SSNR. The role description included ‘to work different stakeholders across the Astute, Dreadnought and SSNR programmes’. Defence watchers will recognize the first two projects. The Astute Class is the Royal Navy’s current attack submarine, and the Dreadnought is the new Trident missile boat.”

You can read more about SSN(R) here.

 

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Levi Goldsteinberg
Levi Goldsteinberg
6 months ago

Title made me think the sub fleet was growing. Who am I kidding – this is HMG we’re talking about

Deep32
Deep32
6 months ago

Unfortunately the only real way the sub fleet can grow in the short to medium term is by bringing in some SSK’s, thus relieving some of the pressure and workload on the small SSN force. Obviously not likely to happen!! Unfortunately.

John Clark
John Clark
6 months ago
Reply to  Deep32

There’s certainly a good case for an off the shelf purchase of SSK’s.

But no change for now, unless the Russian submarine threat increases and we need to do something about it quickly.

Geoff
Geoff
6 months ago
Reply to  John Clark

German Type 212As

Martin
Martin
6 months ago
Reply to  Deep32

Better with USV’s than SSK’s, we could build dozens.

Martin
Martin
6 months ago
Reply to  Martin

Sorry UUV’s

Deep32
Deep32
6 months ago
Reply to  Martin

Not really Martin, manned SSKs are a far better option than unmanned assets, even those like XLAUUVs, but the advantage they have as you say, price, cheap and cheetful when comparef to a manned SSK.
The Navy has only just started to ecplore this technology and as such is still immature for what is needed, but in time will become more common im sure.

Glass Half Full
Glass Half Full
6 months ago
Reply to  Deep32

Manned SSKs would be better but we don’t have the people or the budget.

There may be scope to consider unmanned vessels as enablers for manned counters as part of a system-of-systems approach.

In this case, a mix of different USV platforms would provide comprehensive surveillance and communicate what they find to other sub-surface, surface and air assets. The most suitable platform(s) would then prosecute the response. We could make the GIUK and points north a very unfriendly place for Russian subs with many more USVs than would ever be possible with manned platforms.

Deep32
Deep32
6 months ago

Hi GHF, we will no doubt go down this route, eventually, when all the technology is mature enough for said systems to do what is required automounously. Unfortunately we are not at that juncture just yet, and wont br for many years yet.
Sub hunting is a team game that involves lots of people depending on the assets used, unmanned systems arent at that level yet.

Glass Half Full
Glass Half Full
6 months ago
Reply to  Deep32

No question we are dipping our toe in the water with these capabilities. BTW I meant to write UUV, not USV, which may make a difference to your answer? A range of small through large UUV, deployed persistently is what I was considering, a mobile SOSUS in effect.

I agree that I don’t see a rapid development of USV beyond the type of boat we are using for the MCM role and which might be used for littoral ASW work, otherwise it would be manned platforms.

Robert Blay.
Robert Blay.
6 months ago
Reply to  Deep32

Why do we need SSK’s? we haven’t operated diesel boats for over 30 years, so why do we need them now. Astute is the best in the world, and 7 of them will be lethal In the hands of the RN.

Graham Moore
Graham Moore
6 months ago
Reply to  Robert Blay.

Using the Navy’s rule of 3, you could only expect 2 boats to be available out of the 7 – and there are 5 oceans for a global Britain to have a presence in. That’s 2.5 oceans per sub!

Robert Blay
Robert Blay
6 months ago
Reply to  Graham Moore

We have managed with 6 boats for a few years now.

David Flandry
David Flandry
6 months ago
Reply to  Robert Blay.

The latest SSKs are as advanced as any SSN, just don’t have quite the endurance. Still, with AIP the endurance is quite good enough. They are quieter, and kill USN fleet carriers. Seven SSNs are just not enough. The MOD decided 10 was enough, instead of 12, later they said 8 ere enough, and never got to that. Quantity counts.

Deep32
Deep32
6 months ago
Reply to  Robert Blay.

Morning Robert, if you read the comments from the first post, thats not what ive actually said, more that the only way to increase numbets would be to go fown the SSK route. But now that you mention it, we fo need more submarines, the 7 we have atent enough for all the tasking they receive. Given that Barrow is at capacity, more Astutes are not an option, so, unless we wait until SSNR commences building and we receive say 9-10, which is what we probably need, the only way of incteasing said numbers is to buy SSKs, with all… Read more »

Deep32
Deep32
6 months ago
Reply to  Deep32

Sorry for typos, posting on my mobile noy the same as laptop!!!

James Fennell
James Fennell
6 months ago

It can grow by getting some large SSK like unmanned subs- I am hopeful that will happen.

Last edited 6 months ago by James Fennell
Marked
Marked
6 months ago

No doubt the 7 will be replaced by 5 later cut to 4 to save money.

Jack
Jack
6 months ago
Reply to  Marked

Because they are more advanced and therefor you only need one or two for global operations (says a disingenuous snivel servant)

Something different
Something different
6 months ago
Reply to  Jack

The civil service is backbone of the MOD and deserve respect not stereotyping based on an 80s show.

Andrew
Andrew
6 months ago

I would like to see the type 31 concept extended to our submarines. Alongside the top of the range nuclear subs we build cheap boats using off the shelf technology and designed for export.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
6 months ago

Old news.

Reported years ago, maybe STRN I forget where.

Robert1
Robert1
6 months ago

Been reported various places, believe often using MOD name Maritime Underwater Future Capability. Tie in with UKNEST led to very “out there” graphics not so long ago.

https://www.royalnavy.mod.uk/news-and-latest-activity/news/2017/august/28/170828-royal-navy-unveils-radical-future-submarine-concepts

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
6 months ago
Reply to  Robert1

Thanks Robert.

Bloke down the pub
Bloke down the pub
6 months ago

Maybe the MSubs Moray XLAUUV will be added to the mix to allow the SSNs to concentrate on things only they can do.

Richard B
Richard B
6 months ago

Great to hear of plans for new submarines. Are there any plans for safely disposing of the old submarines in storage? It feels like we are just building new one and not really dealing with the waste.

Chris Jones
Chris Jones
6 months ago
Reply to  Richard B

I was disappointed to see that yet another government has kicked this particular can down the road again. We really should start disposing the old subs ourselves urgently, either that or pay someone like the U.S. to do it for us (if that’s even an option).

The Submarine Dismantling Project was announced in 2013, 8 years later and we’ve yet to decide even the basics of the programme. The fact that we’ve failed to recycle a single boat is a bit of an embarrassment IMO.

john melling
john melling
6 months ago
Reply to  Chris Jones

We might as well tow them out to sea and just sink them

captain p wash
captain p wash
6 months ago
Reply to  Richard B

It’s been my question for years now. The cost’s are enormous together with the timescale.

Andy P
Andy P
6 months ago

Maybe if they start building them now they might be ready for the 2040’s.

The A boats have really dragged arse.

John Hartley
John Hartley
6 months ago

Lets hope the new sub has vertical launch capability (Virginia payload module) & an escape bell (like the latest Russian subs, post Kursk). That would be the large Astute replacement The RN also needs a smaller sub that can sneak closer to coasts in shallow water. Either an AIP SSK or a smaller SSN using a spin off of the new generation of mini nuclear reactors (SMR) being developed for civil electric power..

Watcherzero
Watcherzero
6 months ago
Reply to  John Hartley

Russian subs have had an escape pod almost since the start, nevermind Kursk. Its mainly to do with less global reach and ability to get a rescue craft there unlike NATO which could get a rescue craft anywhere in the world within less than 24 hours.

Ian
Ian
6 months ago

Even during the Cold War the SSN fleet wasn’t that much larger- the fleet was augmented with SSKs, which were all retired in the early 90s. The decision to procure follow-on SSNs after Astute in similar numbers is unsurprising given the commitment to maintaining the SSBN fleet- there is a minimum number of nuclear boats required to sustain a sovereign defence nuclear enterprise- too few and the jobs can’t be sustained, at which point the expertise goes elsewhere.

Steve R
Steve R
6 months ago
Reply to  Ian

10-12 would be the ideal number.

10 subs built one every 1.5 years means 15 years of guaranteed work, 12 would mean 18 years. Keeps them sustained for a while.

If the first one were to enter service in 2040 then it would be 2055-8 before they’re done, and looking at the Dreadnought replacement by then.

Ian
Ian
6 months ago
Reply to  Steve R

I suspect there’s also a manning problem for increased hull numbers (persuading enough people to regularly descend in a tin to the bottom of the sea)- unless the crew numbers can be reduced by automation.

Levi Goldsteinberg
Levi Goldsteinberg
6 months ago
Reply to  Ian

Not to mention the difficulty in hiring nuclear engineers on public sector salaries

Rob
Rob
6 months ago
Reply to  Ian

Good point Ian. A force multiplier would be if the next gen of SSN could deploy autonomous mini subs for inshore patrol or simply as dummy targets. Surely such will have matured by the time these subs are actually built?

Watcherzero
Watcherzero
6 months ago
Reply to  Ian

Theres potential for more automation to reduce manpower requirements. Russian subs have since the 60’s had tiny crews as they heavily rely on automation (often in inaccessible modules) and doing maintenance in port rather than at sea (trading off range and endurance at sea). Russian sub crews are almost entirely officers as they are all specialists, there is a very low proportion of ratings.

John Hartley
John Hartley
6 months ago
Reply to  Ian

In 1988, the RN had 4 SSBN, 16 SSN, 11 SSK.

Steve R
Steve R
6 months ago

Great! Let’s order at least 10 of them and build them faster than the Astutes!

captain p wash
captain p wash
6 months ago

Let’s just put a figure of 20, that way we might just get 5……..

James
James
6 months ago

They should build more Astute first to face immediate threats rather dream about the 2040s when by then the submarines warfare has transformed already . You don’t need 20 years to design a sub lol Specially when you developed many before. It would end up with few build only anyways. My sense is they plan to cut the Astute and claim we will use some of the money to build a new 2040 class .

Last edited 6 months ago by James
Deep32
Deep32
6 months ago
Reply to  James

I think it very unlikely that Astute numbers will be cut, we have a great need for them, as they are currently our only means of truly delivering long range strike (TLAM) and sinking enemy warships! Mk8 ‘s guns don’t really cut it, and our version of sub harpoon are well past their effectiveness in any peer conflict.

John Hartley
John Hartley
6 months ago
Reply to  Deep32

I think I read recently, that Harpoon is being re-introduced on USN SSN.

Deep32
Deep32
6 months ago
Reply to  John Hartley

Hi John, sorry, meant to say Harpoon as fitted on our ships, sub harpoon was retired several years ago.
Yes, it’s my understanding that Uncle Sam is upgrading their missiles, while we will be replacing ours with a new system-we should find out which fairly soon.

Watcherzero
Watcherzero
6 months ago
Reply to  James

Actually yes submarine development is generally longer than a decade both in the West and in the East. You can do a minor class variation quicker, for example a stretch or change in equipment but even thats no easy task as additional weight needs offsetting with additional weight on the opposite side to keep them balanced.

Martin
Martin
6 months ago

If the UK a wants to focus on any single capability especially as it squares off with Russia and China it should be SSN’s. Small manning numbers, massively complex to build and operate and using some of the most advanced technology on the planet. Perfect for a midsize country like the UK. The UK could easily double its production and build a force that’s truly significant on the global stage with a platform the can virtually guarantee control of the blue water environment.

Watcherzero
Watcherzero
6 months ago
Reply to  Martin

The killer with nuclear submarines isnt their initial build cost, its their lifetime maintenance and disposal of their reactors after retirement.

A diesel sub you might expect to spend 50% of its initial construction cost as lifetime maintenance and at retirement after stripping you can sell it for razor blades. A nuclear sub on the other hand maintenance and decommissioning and storing of irradiated material could mean 100-200%.

Last edited 6 months ago by Watcherzero
dan
dan
6 months ago

Need a lot more boats than just 7. Especially with no help from the German subs since they never leave the dock. Ugh

Dern
Dern
1 month ago
Reply to  dan

*yawn*

Watcherzero
Watcherzero
6 months ago

Its natural that to maintain the shipyards you need a steady stream of submarines, the Astutes are almost done and the Dreadnoughts will take over but after the 4 Dreadnoughts are completed you need something ready straight away or you get a skills gap. The last Astute was laid down in 2018, The first Dreadnought was laid down in 2016 (in the gap between astutes 6&7) with one laid down every 2-3 years you need something new to lay down around 2028.

Challenger
Challenger
6 months ago
Reply to  Watcherzero

They won’t need to lay down anything in 2028 or for a few years afterwards as the Dreadnoughts are going to take a long time to complete and Barrow doesn’t have the space or workforce to start anything else until the 1st (possibly even the 2nd) are delivered.

Supportive Bloke
Supportive Bloke
6 months ago
Reply to  Challenger

Even things like welding pressure hulls are perishable.

OK, you can keep the guys and gals there doing something else but it has to be a full time day job keeping skills intact. You cannot afford any mistakes welding a pressure hull.

We made that mistake after T boat production…….and Electric Boat sailed to the rescue……if you want to understand why A boat entry to service was sooooo extended look at that gap.

Challenger
Challenger
6 months ago

At least SSN numbers should be kept at 7 until the final Astute’s are delivered.

Best we can then hope for is that 4 or 6 of the new autonomous subs are introduced to undertake a lot of the more mundane surveillance and patrol duties around The UK to let the SSN fleet focus on East of Suez.

Ron
Ron
6 months ago

It seems that the MoD have based the SSNs on the latest SSBN designs of the time, the R class and C class are related, the V class and A class are related so I would expect that the new SSN would be based on the D class SSBN. I only hope that we have eight of these equipped not only with torp tubes but three VLS tubes two for 14-16 cruise missiles and one for SBS operations. However the MoD really need to think and understand the world issues then ask themselves a question is 8 SSNs enough? If… Read more »

Simon m
Simon m
6 months ago

A new class of ship carrying 2000 cruise missiles will be brought into service in 2050! Stinks of little new recent good news so highlight potential possibilities in the distant future. Easy to promise future spending than concrete spending now. This review is full of as they say jam for tomorrow & that depends upon no change of supplier or mind or financial situation!

Robert E. Frick RDML USN ( Ret)
Robert E. Frick RDML USN ( Ret)
6 months ago

The long term focused design, development, construction and delivery of modernized nuclear powered and advanced capability submarines within the Royal Navy is of signal importance to the multinational force of USN, RAN, Canadian, French, RAN, South Korean, Japanese and other Peace Seeking Nations in the focused insurance of of the International Waters and Trade routes of the World. BZ! RN! and the UK scientific and security development contractors in the UK and around the World. The security of the Scandinavian, Baltic, Asian, Pacific, Mediterranean, Southern and Indian Oceans is only assured by a coalition of an overwhelming International Naval Presence… Read more »

David Flandry
David Flandry
6 months ago

There will be no more than 6 SSNs built.

Dern
Dern
1 month ago

I feel like Barrow needs to up it’s build rate in order to get these going, after all the Astutes still need to be finished, and then the whole Dreadnought class needs to follow on…

Pacman27
Pacman27
1 month ago

When SSNR does come to fruition we need a fleet of at least 12. This may seem fanciful but bare with me. Our potential enemies are investing in sub surface assets globally, necessitating a larger force once again. Costs associated with Astute and Successor include the long term rebuilding of the workforce and its skill set. that being done we have now learned how to build these vessels again and economies of scale can start taking effect. Each SSBN needs 2 SSN to provide protection = 8 The carrier strike groups (2) and littoral strike groups(2) also need SSN protection… Read more »

Christopher Smith
Christopher Smith
24 days ago

Great fantastic news new boats being designed but can anyone explain why bigger is always better Astute class bigger than Trafalgar is this not presenting a better target to those hunting us as we hunt them .