Astute-class submarine

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HMS Ambush long.jpg
HMS Ambush in 2012
Class overview
Name: Astute-class submarine
Builders: BAE Systems Maritime – Submarines, Barrow-in-Furness
Operators:  Royal Navy
Preceded by: Trafalgar class
Cost: Over £1,370M per boat (2015 est.)[1]
Built: 2001–present
In commission: 2010–present
Building: 3
Planned: 7
Completed: 3
Active: 3
General characteristics
Type: Nuclear-powered fleet submarine
Displacement:
  • Surfaced: 7,000 to 7,400 t (7,300 long tons; 8,200 short tons)[2][3]
  • Submerged: 7,400 to 7,800 t (7,700 long tons; 8,600 short tons)[2][3]
Length: 97 m (318 ft 3 in)[2][3]
Beam: 11.3 m (37 ft 1 in)[2][3]
Draught: 10 m (32 ft 10 in)[2][3]
Propulsion: Rolls-Royce PWR 2 reactor, MTU 600 kilowatt diesel generators
Speed: 30 kn (56 km/h; 35 mph), submerged[2][3]
Range: Unlimited[4]
Endurance: 90 days[4]
Test depth: Over 300 m (984 ft 3 in)
Complement: 98 (capacity for 109)[2]
Sensors and
processing systems:
Armament:

The Astute class is the latest class of nuclear-powered fleet submarines in service with the Royal Navy.[3] The class sets a new standard for the Royal Navy in terms of weapons load, communication facilities and acoustic silencing. The boats are being constructed by BAE Systems Maritime – Submarines at Barrow-in-Furness.[6] Seven boats will be constructed: the first of class, Astute, was launched by Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall in 2007,[7] commissioned in 2010, and declared fully operational in May 2014.[3] The Astute-class are the replacements for the Trafalgar-class and the Swiftsure-class fleet submarines in Royal Navy service.[3]

Development[edit]

Batch 2 Trafalgar-class[edit]

The Astute-class programme began in the 1980s when the Ministry of Defence (MOD) launched a number of studies intended to determine the capabilities and requirements for the replacement of its Swiftsure and Trafalgar-class fleet submarines.[8] These studies, called project SSN20, were conducted during the Cold War, when the Royal Navy maintained a strong emphasis on anti-submarine warfare to counter increasingly more capable Soviet submarines. To match this growing threat, the studies concluded that project SSN20 should be a revolutionary design, with significantly enhanced nuclear propulsion and firepower, and a more sophisticated "integrated sonar suite" and combat systems.[8] Similarly, the United States Navy who was facing the same threats, went on to design and build the Seawolf-class. The estimated costs of project SSN20, although great, were not considered a "constraint".[8]

However by 1990, the Berlin wall collapsed and the Cold War came to an end. Project SSN20 was promptly cancelled and a new set of design studies were started, this time, with "cost control" as a key objective.[8] The Trafalgar-class had been an evolved derivative of the preceding Swiftsure-class, thus, in order to reduce cost and technical risk, it was concluded that this new class of fleet submarine should "build upon" the Trafalgar design. This became known as the Batch 2 Trafalgar-class (B2TC), with approval for the studies phase given in June 1991.[8] While the philosophy behind B2TC was that of a modern and improved Trafalgar, early design concepts of B2TC were also heavily influenced by the then under construction Vanguard-class, in particular, its Nuclear Steam Raising Plant (NSRP).[8]

Astute programme[edit]

Following two years of a studies phase on B2TC, the MOD decided to put the contract out to tender. A draft invitation to tender was announced in October 1993[8] and a final invitation to tender in July 1994.[8][9] The final invitation to tender involved a formal competition between GEC-Marconi/BMT Limited[8] and VSEL/Rolls-Royce,[8] with bids to be submitted in June 1995. GEC-Marconi and BMT had little experience with British submarine designs, where as VSEL and Rolls-Royce were heavily involved in both British nuclear submarine design and construction. For example, VSEL was the owner of the Barrow shipyard, the only shipyard capable of building nuclear submarines in the United Kingdom.[8]

During the assessment phase of the bids put forward by both teams, the MOD favoured the GEC-Marconi/BMT design on both cost and capability grounds.[8] The bid put forward by VSEL/Rolls-Royce was less attractive and considered "an expensive and dull design."[8] In June 1995, VSEL was subject to a takeover by GEC-Marconi, and with it, the Barrow shipyard. In December of the same year, the MOD announced that GEC-Marconi was the preferred bidder. The bid put forward by GEC-Marconi included the innovative use of 3D CAD software and modular construction techniques. Although the MOD had awarded the contract to GEC-Marconi, partly due to its competitive cost, it was still considered too high for the MOD to sign off on.[8] The MOD and GEC-Marconi negotiated on a new price for the contract, amounting to £2.4 billion for the first three Astute submarines, plus in service support. The contract was signed on 14 March 1997, for what was now called the Astute programme, with a fixed maximum-price, and any cost overruns being assumed by GEC-Marconi, the contractor.[8]

Although B2TC was intended to be a modest improvement over the Trafalgar-class, it wasn't to be the case for Astute. With the signing of the contract in March 1997, GEC-Marconi started work on developing a complete and comprehensive design for the Astute programme.[8] Initial realisation was that the size of the Rolls-Royce PWR2 required a much larger boat (width and length) and significantly improved acoustic quieting. A new understanding was reached between the MOD and GEC-Marconi that this would be an entirely new class, and far more complex than originally envisioned.[8]

Construction, cost overruns and delays[edit]

The Astute-class are built at the Devonshire Dock Hall, Barrow-in-Furness

In November 1999, British Aerospace bought out GEC-Marconi and created BAE Systems. At the time of the takeover, it had been approximately 20 years since the Vanguard-class were designed, and the last of the boats had already been launched.[8] The work force at the Barrow shipyard had fallen from around 13,000, to 3,000. Key skills in design and engineering had been lost, predominately though retirement or movement into other careers.[8] This created significant delays and challenges in getting the Astute programme from design phase and into construction phase. Further delays and cost increases were also caused by the 3D CAD software,[10] despite originally being touted as an innovative cost saving measure, by greatly reducing man-hours.[8] However, one of the reasons for this was a lack of experienced designers able to use the software and its expanded tools.[8]

Astute on the shiplift after her launch ceremony

Amongst ongoing issues, including incomplete design drawings, the first boat, Astute, was laid down on 31 January 2001. As planned, modular construction methods were used, with the boat being built in several ring-like modules, each up to several meters in length.[11] These were wielded together using specially designed high-strength steel,[12] and then fitted out. From boat 2 onward however, vertical outfitting has been used, whereby the ring-like sections are "stood up on their ends."[13] This has better enabled the fitting of large and heavy equipment, and has also proved to be more efficient, with reportedly "thousands of man-hours saved".[13]

By 2002 both BAE and the MOD recognised they had underestimated the technical challenges and costs of the programme.[8] In August 2002 the programme was estimated to be over three years late and hundreds of millions of pounds over budget.[8] BAE Systems issued a profit warning on 11 December 2002 as a result of the cost overruns and delays.[14] BAE Systems and the MOD subsequently renegotiated the contract, with an understanding that the MOD had to share some of the financial risks.[8] In December 2003 the contract modifications were signed, with the MOD agreeing to add another £430 million to the programme and BAE Systems assuming £250 million of the cost overruns.[9] The MOD also enlisted the advice and expertise of General Dynamics Electric Boat through a U.S. Navy contract.[15][16] Eventually, a General Dynamics Electric Boat employee became the Astute Project Director at Barrow.[8]

Audacious under construction

Input from General Dynamics helped resolve many of the software issues associated with 3D CAD,[8] they were also responsible for the introduction of vertical outfitting and other construction techniques. Consequently, much rework was needed on Astute now that detailed designs were complete.[8] On 8 June 2007 Astute was launched and boats 2 and 3 (Ambush and Artful) were at various stages of construction. A month before hand, procurement for boat 4 (Audacious) was agreed.[8] Boats 5 and 6 (Anson and Agamemnon) were approved in March 2010.[8] In June 2012 the order was placed for the manufacture of the nuclear reactor for boat 7 (Ajax), production of the first nuclear reactor for the Successor-class submarine was also ordered.[17]

In November 2009, a House of Commons Defence Select Committee found that delays due to technical and programme issues brought the Astute-class to a position of being 57 months late and 53 per cent (or £1.35 billion) over-budget, and a forecast cost of £3.9 billion for the first three boats.[18]

Programme cost summary[edit]

National Audit Office: Major Projects Report 2015[1]
Expected cost to completion at approval Current forecast cost to completion Change
Boats 1–3 £2,233 million £3,536 million Negative increase
Boat 4 £1,279 million £1,492 million Negative increase
Boat 5 £1,464 million £1,420 million
Boat 6 £1,579 million £1,533 million
Boat 7 £1,642 million £1,640 million

Characteristics[edit]

Weapons and systems[edit]

Astute firing a Tomahawk Block IV cruise missile

The Astute class has stowage for 38 weapons and would typically carry Spearfish heavy torpedoes and Tomahawk Block IV cruise missiles, the latter costing £870,000 each.[19] The Tomahawk missiles are capable of hitting a target to within a few metres, to a range of 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometres).[20] The Astute class will also be able to fire the new tactical Tomahawk under development. The Astute Combat Management System is a new version of the Submarine Command System used on other classes of British submarine. The system receives data from the boat's sensors and displays the results on command consoles. The submarines also have Atlas Hydrographic DESO 25 high-precision echosounders, two CM010 non-hull-penetrating optronic masts—in place of conventional periscopes—which carry thermal imaging and low-light TV and colour CCD TV sensors.[21] The class also mounts an Successor IFF system.

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.[22] All of the Astute-class submarines will be fitted with the advanced Common Combat System.[23]

Propulsion and general specifications[edit]

The boats of the Astute class are powered by a Rolls-Royce PWR2 (Core H) (a pressurised water) reactor and fitted with a pump-jet propulsor. The PWR2 reactor was developed for the Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarines and has a 25 year lifespan without the need for refuelling.[4] As a result, the new submarines are about 30 per cent larger than previous British fleet submarines, which were powered by smaller-diameter reactors. Like all Royal Navy submarines, the bridge fin of the Astute-class boats is specially reinforced to allow surfacing through ice caps. These submarines can also be fitted with a dry deck shelter, which allows special forces (e.g. SBS) to deploy whilst the submarine is submerged.[24] More than 39,000 acoustic tiles mask the vessel's sonar signature, giving the Astute class improved acoustic qualities over any other submarine previously operated by the Royal Navy.[25] Speculation released by the media suggests the acoustic signature of the class is comparable to that of a "baby dolphin".[26]

A 2009 safety assessment by the Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator concluded that PWR2 reactor safety was significantly short of good practice in comparable navies in two important areas: loss-of-coolant accident and control of submarine depth following emergency reactor shutdown.[27][28][29] The regulator concluded that PWR2 was "potentially vulnerable to a structural failure of the primary circuit", which is a failure mode with significant safety hazards to crew and the public.[30] Operational procedures have been amended to minimise these risks.[31]

Astute is the second Royal Navy submarine class, after the Vanguard class, to have a bunk for each member of the ship's company,[32] ending the practice of 'hot bunking', whereby two sailors on opposite watches shared the same bunk at different times. However, they have less mess-deck space than the Valiant-class submarine built 45 years earlier.[33][34]

Accidents[edit]

On 22 October 2010, the Ministry of Defence confirmed that Astute had "run into difficulties" off the Isle of Skye while on trials, after eyewitnesses reported the submarine had run aground a few miles from the Skye Bridge. There were no reports of injuries.[35]

On 20 July 2016, Ambush sustained damage to the top of her conning tower during a collision with a merchant ship while surfacing on an exercise in Gibraltarian waters.[36] It was reported that no crew members were injured during the collision and that the submarine's nuclear reactor section remained completely undamaged.[37][38][39]

Boats of the class[edit]

The UK First Sea Lord, Admiral Stanhope (left), and US Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Jonathan Greenert (centre), are briefed by the CO (right) on the capabilities of Astute during the joint exercise Fellowship 2012 between Astute and New Mexico

In 2012, during the joint exercise Fellowship, Astute performed simulated battles with the latest United States Navy Virginia-class submarine, the USS New Mexico. It was reported that the Americans were "taken aback" by Astute's capabilities. Royal Navy Commander Iain Breckenridge was quoted, "Our sonar is fantastic and I have never before experienced holding a submarine at the range we were holding USS New Mexico. The Americans were utterly taken aback, blown away with what they were seeing".[40][41]

The names Astute, Ambush and Artful were last given to Amphion-class submarines that entered service towards the end of World War II.

Name Boat Pennant number Status Ordered Laid down Launched Date of commission
Astute 1 S119 Active in service 17 March 1997 31 January 2001 8 June 2007[42] 27 August 2010[43]
Ambush 2 S120 Active in service[44] 17 March 1997 22 October 2003 6 January 2011[45] 1 March 2013[46]
Artful 3 S121 Active in service 17 March 1997 11 March 2005 17 May 2014[47] 18 March 2016 [48]
Audacious 4 S122 Under construction 21 May 2007 24 March 2009 In service 2018[49]
Anson 5 S123 Under construction[50] 25 March 2010 13 October 2011 In service 2020[49]
Agamemnon 6 S124 Under construction[51] 25 March 2010 18 July 2013 In service 2022[49]
Ajax / Boat 7 7 S125 Confirmed, steel cut[52] In service 2024[49]

In fiction[edit]

Season two of the American television series The Last Ship features a fictional Astute-class submarine named HMS Achilles as the primary antagonist.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b National Audit Office: Major Projects Report 2015 (PDF). United Kingdom: National Audit Office. 20 October 2015. p. 42. Retrieved 27 July 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Bush, Steve (2014). British Warships and Auxiliaries. Maritime Books. pp. 10–11. ISBN 1904459552. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Astute-class attack submarines". royalnavy.mod.uk. Royal Navy. Retrieved 27 July 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c "BAE Systems - Astute class submarines". baesystems.com. BAE Systems. Retrieved 25 July 2016. 
  5. ^ "UK's most powerful submarine joins the Navy". Ministry of Defence. 27 August 2010. Retrieved 11 April 2011. 
  6. ^ "Naval Technology — SSN Astute Class project details". naval-technology.com. Retrieved 8 January 2012. 
  7. ^ "New UK nuclear submarine launched". BBC News. 8 June 2007. Archived from the original on 18 June 2007. Retrieved 15 June 2007. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac Lessons from the United Kingdom’s Astute Submarine Program (PDF) (Learning From Experience: Volume III ed.). United States: RAND National Defence Research Institute. Retrieved 27 July 2016. 
  9. ^ a b "Ministry of Defence: Major Projects Report 2008". nao.org. National Audit Office, 18 December 2008. Retrieved 27 July 2016. 
  10. ^ Department of the Official Report (Hansard), House of Commons, Westminster. "House of Commons Hansard Written Answers for 9 Mar 2006". Publications.parliament.uk. Retrieved 7 November 2011. 
  11. ^ "An astute strategy". theengineer.co.uk. The Engineer. 3 May 2001. Retrieved 27 July 2016. 
  12. ^ "Welding Astute-Class Submarines". aws.org. American Welding Society. Retrieved 27 July 2016. 
  13. ^ a b "Mr Astute". naval-technology.com. Naval Technology. 31 August 2007. Retrieved 27 July 2016. 
  14. ^ Odell, Mark (12 December 2002). "BAE warning sends share price to seven-year low: News of 'additional issues' on two big defence contracts takes market by surprise". Financial Times. 
  15. ^ "US team to work on submarine order". BBC News. 8 April 2003. Retrieved 3 January 2007. 
  16. ^ "U.S. Navy contracts". U.S. Department of Defense. 3 September 2004. Archived from the original on 15 February 2008. Retrieved 13 February 2008. 
  17. ^ "£1bn contract for UK nuclear submarines to be announced". BBC News. 17 June 2012. 
  18. ^ Defence Select Committee (23 February 2010). "Defence Equipment 2010" (PDF). House of Commons: Ev 97. HC 99. Retrieved 9 March 2010. 
  19. ^ "House of Commons Hansard - Written Answers for Daily Hansard - Written Answers 17 May 2011". UK Parliament. 17 May 2011. Retrieved 6 November 2011. 
  20. ^ "United States Navy Fact File: Tomahawk Land Attack Missile". navy.mil. US Navy. Retrieved 27 July 2016. 
  21. ^ BBC News Scotland, A vision of evolving technologies 30 August 2007, 13:06 GMT
  22. ^ Press Release, BAE Systems, 2002, archived from the original on 9 September 2010 
  23. ^ "HMS Artful test fires first torpedo using new UK-made advanced Combat System - Royal Navy". Retrieved 25 July 2016. 
  24. ^ "Dr Lee Willett, The Astute-Class Submarine, Capabilities and Challenges, RUSI (2004)" (PDF). Retrieved 7 November 2011. 
  25. ^ "Countdown to launch of first Astute submarine at Barrow shipyard". Shippingtimes.co.uk. Retrieved 7 November 2011. 
  26. ^ unknown (14 February 2006). "Britain launches massive submarine that can hear a ship from across the Atlantic". Martinfrost.ws. Retrieved 30 January 2012. 
  27. ^ Rob Edwards (10 March 2011). "Flaws in nuclear submarine reactors could be fatal, secret report warns". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 March 2011. 
  28. ^ Joseph Watts (11 March 2011). "Expert warned MoD on safety of Rolls-Royce nuclear sub reactors". Derby Telegraph. Retrieved 28 March 2011. 
  29. ^ "Annex B: Successor SSBN - Safety Regulator's advice on the selection of the propulsion plant in support of the future deterrent (4 November 2009)", Successor Submaring Project - Update (PDF), Ministry of Defence, 24 November 2009, p. 21, EC-14-02-02-01-14 / Annex B: DNSR/22/11/2, retrieved 28 March 2011 
  30. ^ "PWR3 Reactor chosen for Trident". defencemanagement.com. 18 May 2011. Archived from the original on 22 July 2011. 
  31. ^ "CSA: Safety paramount for RN nuclear submarine reactors". Defence News (Ministry of Defence). 9 June 2011. Retrieved 17 June 2011. 
  32. ^ Astute Fascinating Facts
  33. ^ "Defence Nuclear Programme Human Resource Study" (PDF). Ministry of Defence. 1 July 2009. Defence Board (09)33. Retrieved 16 April 2011. we must not repeat the retrograde step made with the Astute class SSN, where the sailors will have less mess-deck space than in HMS Valiant built 45 years ago. 
  34. ^ "Defence Nuclear Programme Human Resources Study - An Audit by Defence Operational Capability" (PDF). Ministry of Defence. 1 July 2010. Defence Board (10)XX. Retrieved 16 April 2011. Recommendation ... on-board accommodation standards and quality of life issues are thoroughly addressed in order to avoid the mistakes made with the Astute class. 
  35. ^ "Nuclear submarine HMS Astute runs aground off Skye". BBC News. 22 October 2010. Retrieved 22 October 2010. 
  36. ^ Staufenberg, Jess. "Royal Navy nuclear submarine collides with merchant ship off coast of Gibraltar". Independent Newspaper. Retrieved 20 July 2016. 
  37. ^ News, B. B. C. "UK nuclear submarine collides with merchant vessel off Gibraltar". BBC News. Retrieved 2016-07-21. 
  38. ^ "Royal Navy Statement – 20 July 2016". UK Ministry of Defence. 20 July 2016. Retrieved 20 July 2016. 
  39. ^ "£1.1bn submarine limps into port after collision". The Times. 21 July 2016. 
  40. ^ "HMS Astute arrives home from US sea trials - Announcements - GOV.UK". Retrieved 25 July 2016. 
  41. ^ "Awesome Astute "surpassed every expectation" on her toughest test yet". Navy News (navynews.co.uk). 1 March 2012. Retrieved 25 July 2016. 
  42. ^ "New UK nuclear submarine launched". BBC. 8 June 2007. Archived from the original on 18 June 2007. Retrieved 8 June 2007. 
  43. ^ "Royal Navy's Most Powerful Submarine Gets Royal Approval". Ministry of Defence. 27 August 2010. Archived from the original on 10 September 2010. 
  44. ^ "HMS Ambush (S120) - Royal Navy". Retrieved 25 July 2016. 
  45. ^ "HMS Ambush". royalnavy.mod.uk. Royal Navy. Retrieved 27 July 2016. 
  46. ^ "HMS Ambush Officially Welcomed Into The Royal Navy". Royal Navy. 2013-03-01. Retrieved 2013-03-07. 
  47. ^ "Home - BAE Systems - International". Retrieved 25 July 2016. 
  48. ^ "HMS Artful becomes a commissioned warship". Royal Navy. 18 March 2016. Retrieved 18 March 2016. 
  49. ^ a b c d "House of Commons Written Answers c45W". UK Parliament. 3 September 2012. Retrieved 13 July 2013. 
  50. ^ Naval Ship Building Boat 5 news
  51. ^ "Sixth Astute Class submarine keel laid - News stories - GOV.UK". Retrieved 25 July 2016. 
  52. ^ "£300M facilities investment will transform UK submarine building". baesystems.com. BAE Systems, 13 March 2014. Retrieved 26 July 2016. 

External links[edit]