posted on Aug, 22 2004 @ 04:02 PM
I decided to do a write up of the new nuclear attack submarine the Royal Navy are getting; the Astute class. Some of the specialised weaponry terms
are in bold and can be looked up in the glossary after this post. This is a long one but is an excellent chance to learn about a great piece
Just a bit of background information to get started. The Royal Navy has 2 classes of SSNs in service currently. The Swiftsure class of 6
submarines was commissioned between 1974 and 1981. The flagship, HMS Swiftsure had to be decommissioned in 1992 as it suffered damage to it’s
pressure hull during sea trials. The Trafalgar class of 7 submarines had it’s boats commissioned between 1983 and 1991. These two classes of
submarine can fire torpedoes, deploy mines, use the ‘sub harpoon’ anti shipping weapon and some can fire Tomahawk cruise missiles.
The Astute Class of submarine was planned to replace both the Royal Navy’s aging Swiftsure class, which are reaching the end of their operational
lives, and the newer Trafalgar Class SSNs. Originally the plan was to build 7 Astute submarines that would replace the 5 Swiftsure SSNs and
the 2 oldest Trafalgar submarines. This plan was scaled back to building just 3 new Astute submarines. This would mean not decommissioning the 2
oldest Trafalgar class and keeping 2 of the older Swiftsure class in service. Once the 3 Astute submarines were in service, there was the option to
buy a second batch of 2 or 3 more.
The Royal Navy’s submarine fleet had to find new roles after the cold war. The emphasis was moved away from ASW to supporting forces on the
ground. The new Astute class will have the ability to fire Tomahawk cruise missiles from the day they enter service. The submarines will be powered
by a pressured water reactor that will not need refuelling.
All descriptions are approximate
Length : 100 metres
Beam (Width at widest point) : 11 metres
Displacement (surfaced) : 6500 tons surfaced
Displacement (dived) : 7200 tons
Submerged speed : 30+ knots
Complement : 98 but capacity to carry 12 more people
Armament and Weapons
The Astute class has 6 533mm (21 inch) torpedo tubes, 1 more than the usual five for Royal Navy submarines. Through these torpedo tubes, a variety of
weapons can be fired.
Spearfish torpedo – The Spearfish torpedo is the heavyweight, submarine carried, torpedo of the Royal Navy. It can be used for both ASW and
It has 2 settings; high speed and low speed. In the high speed setting, it can travel at up to 81 knots with a range of 23 km (12.5 nautical
In the low speed mode, it’s range is extended to 54 km (30 nautical miles). It is 20ft long, weighs nearly 2 tonnes and has a 300kg directed energy
The submarines can also fire Tomahawk cruise missiles and the ‘sub harpoon’ weapon which is a Harpoon anti shipping weapon that is carried to the
surface before firing.
A total of 38 weapons can be carried for tube-launch, for example: 20 Tomahawk, 18 torpedoes. The Astute class submarines can also lay mines.
Astute – Keel laid down 2001, planned in service date is 2009
Ambush – Keel laid down in 2003, planned to be in service in 2010
Artful – Keel due to be laid down later this year, planned in service date of late 2011
If the MOD have the money and decide to buy a second batch of 2 or 3 submarines, there is the possibility of them being fitted with Vertical Launch
Tubes to carry the new Tactical Tomahawk but only if firing ‘TacToms’ from the torpedo tubes is not a viable option.