HMS Astute (S119) is the lead ship of the new "Astute-class" of nuclear-attack submarines in service with the British Royal Navy. The type was developed as a replacement for the aging Trafalgar-class which appeared in seven boats with six continuing service as of this writing (2012). HMS Astute has since overtaken the Trafalgar-class boats as the most powerful and most advanced of the British nuclear attack submarines and provides a lethal "arm" to Royal Navy operations anywhere in the world. The type is marketed as an efficient and deadly submarine utilizing the latest in sound reduction and threat detection technology. HMS Astute is a missile-armed boat capable of tackling surface and underwater threats as well as inland land-based targets.
HMS Astute was ordered in March of 1997with her keel laid down on January 31st, 2001. She was launched on June 8th, 2007 out of the BAE Systems Submarine Solutions facility at Barrow-in-Furness, seeing formal commissioning on August 27th, 2010 under Pennant Number S119Her homeport is HM Naval Base Clyde. Sea trials began in 2010 which included testing of the various critical detection, tracking and engagement facilities as well as armament launches. All told, the vessel measures a running length of 323 feet with a beam of 37 feet and a draught of 33 feet. Along the surface, the Astute displaces 7,700 tons and, when submerged, she yields 8,140 tons. Her typical operating crew is made up of 98 sailors and officers with a maximum capacity for 109 total personnel (visitors, guests and special operations units).
While HMS Astute has been given a rather conventional internal and external arrangement as submarines go, the overall design sports various subtle features that quickly identify the type as wholly modern. Mostly absent are the smooth, curved edges of traditional submarines seen throughout the Cold War, now replaced by sharp edges and slab side panels running the length of the boat. The sail is positioned in a typical fashion along the dorsal spine aft of the nose cone and slightly ahead of amidships. The sail is home to the various required masts and antenna that allow the Astute to utilize satellite technology and specialized systems. One mast is given a thermal imaging device while another is fitted with low-light cameras which, in effect, take the place of the traditional submarine. The bow features a prominent tapered shape with six torpedo tubes facing forward, all mounted under the waterline. Dive planes are noted at the upper edges of the bow sides. The stern is capped by a large propeller system tied to the internal propulsion mechanism. There are a pair of vertical tail planes and a pair of horizontal tail planes for maneuvering.
HMS Astute is an attack submarine through and through. While lacking the deck guns of her World War 2 counterparts, the submarine increases her offensive lethality through the fielding of Raytheon BGM-109 Tomahawk (Block IV) cruise missiles and BAE Spearfish wire-guided/active-passive sonar guided torpedoes. The Tomahawk is a devastating - and battle proven - cruise missile that is accurate against land-based targets out to 1,200 miles. This allows the vessel to attack inland targets from relatively safe distances, emerging from the deep to just under the surface of the ocean only to fire her missiles and submerge once again to avoid detection. The Spearfish torpedoes are utilized for clandestine attacks against enemy surface vessels as well as enemy submarines. Torpedo reloads are housed in the lower levels of the bow while active torpedoes are fired through one of six 21" (533mm) torpedo tubes found at the lower bow. A mix of 38 torpedoes and cruise missiles are typically carried.
The other quality of a strong attack submarine is its defense. The Astute is appropriately armed with sonar detection systems at the bow, the sides and the rear of the design. A towed sonar array can also be dropped from the stern. Sensors and processing systems include the Thales Sonar 2076 series, the Atlas DESO 25 series echosounder and a Raytheon Successor IFF system. The onboard radar system is capable of detecting larger surface vessels out to 3,000 miles.
To regularly feed its 98-strong crew, HMS Astute relies on five dedicated staff chefs whom provide round-the-clock service out of the stocked galley. Food stores allow for up to three months of operation at sea before replenishment is required with a typical tour (patrol) lasting approximately 10 weeks. An integrated water and air treatment unit provide fresh water and air to the crew. "Creature comforts" include beds for each single crewman as well as eleven units for overflow crew to be used as needed. There are five complete showers for general hygiene as well as five toilets - otherwise known in navy-speak as "The Head" and a proven necessity at sea.
Power is provided for by a Rolls-Royce PWR2 series nuclear reactor embedded within the rear half of the boat. There are also MTU 600kW diesel generators for additional power. With proper maintenance and safety precautions in place, the nuclear system can be expected to provide a lifespan upwards of 25 years, essentially granting HMS Astute unlimited range in her travels - depending on ongoing food stores and overall crew fatigue. A top speed in excess of 25 knots is reported and one twenty-four hour voyage can cover some 500 total miles. The propulsion system is further equipped with specially designed "ultra-quiet" propellers which are shrouded around the arc of the blades. Additionally, the hull itself is lined with noise-absorbing rubber (synthetic polymer - "Anechoic Tiles") tiles to help strengthen the boat's "stealth" characteristics against enemy sonar. The hull is up to seven inches at its thickest point which allows for a maximum dive depth greater than 500 feet.
Unfortunately for the class, operation of the very expensive HMS Astute has not been without some negative events. In October 2010 it was reported that the vessel ran aground near the Isle of Skye. Tow boats were called to the scene to help pull the vessel free, resulting in minor damage. The boat's commander was then removed from command. In another event - though a decidedly darker one - an HMS Astute sailor opened fire aboard the vessel, murdering its engineering officer. The shooter was promptly taken down, disarmed and transferred to authorities where justice delivered a sentence of life imprisonment.
None of this, however, should take away from the inherently fine qualities of the Astute design itself. As one of the newer classes of nuclear-powered submarines in service anywhere in the world, the vessel maintains a powerful presence under the high seas, able to respond to the needs of the Crown at a moment's notice. While the days of Western submarines carrying nuclear-armed ballistic submarines are largely left to history, this does not lessen the conventional firepower that boats like HMS Astute can bring to bear. Couple this with the advantage of the latest that technology offers a fighting crew and HMS Astute should provide for many decades of faithful service.
The Astute-class of submarines is made up of seven vessels led by HMS Astute (S119) herself. The class includes her sister ships: HMS Ambush (S120), HMS Artful (S121), HMS Audacious (S122), HMS Anson (S123), HMS Agamemnon (S124) and HMS Ajax (S125).
The keel for HMS Astute was laid down exactly 100 years after the keel to HMS "Holland 1" - the Royal Navy's first-ever submarine.
HMS Astute (S119); HMS Ambush (S120); HMS Artful (S121); HMS Audacious (S122); HMS Agamemnon (S123); HMS Anson (S124); HMS Ajax (S125)
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
Traveling under the surface to search, track, and / or engage or reconnoiter areas.
Active patroling of vital waterways and maritime areas; can also serve as local deterrence against airborne and seaborne threats.
Serving in support (either firepower or material) of the main surface fleet in Blue Water environments.
323.0 ft 98.45 m
37.0 ft 11.28 m
33.0 ft 10.06 m
1 x Rolls-Royce PWR2 nuclear reactor; MTU 600kW diesel generators; 1 x shaft.
18.0 kts (20.7 mph)
29.0 kts (33.4 mph)
kts = knots | mph = miles-per-hour | nm = nautical miles | mi = miles | km = kilometers
1 kts = 1.15 mph | 1 nm = 1.15 mi | 1 nm = 1.85 km
6 x 21" (533mm) torpedo tubes
Mix of Spearfish torpedoes and Tomahawk Cruise Missiles (Block IV) carried.
(Not all weapon types may be represented in the showcase above)
Ribbon graphics not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective naval campaigns / operations / periods.
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The HMS Astute submarine with the HMS Triumph in the foreground
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Stern view of the rudder and sail of the HMS Astute; US Navy
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The HMS Astute at BAE Systems dock prior to launching; Public Domain via Wikipedia
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