Welcome to the Astute Submarines programmewhich is delivering the Royal Navy’s largest and most powerful attack submarine."The Astute class is truly next generation. They are immensely powerful vessels and they will form a key part of our future programme, giving the Royal Navy the versatility and technical excellence needed to operate successfully across the globe."
Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope KCB OBE ADC First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff
The first-of-class HMS Astute departed Barrow on November 15th 2009. It is currently proving its systems in waters around USA.The second boat, Ambush, was launched on 16 December 2010 and lies at Barrow preparing for its initial voyage.Boat 5 keel was laid late in 2011.
On 25 November 2011 at Hansard Column 596W Ministers provided an update of the Astute programme's status.
Peter Luffsaid As recorded in the Major Project Report 2011 recently published by the National Audit Office, the original approved budget and projected final costs for the Astute Class submarines are as follows:
Projected final cost
Boats 1 to 3 (Batch 1)
The current approved level of spend on Astute Boats 5 to 6 do not reflect the total costs of these boats as they undergo incremental approval. The Boat 5 approval includes the nuclear reactor, other long lead items and the initial build work. The Boat 6 approval includes the nuclear reactor core and long lead items.
The cost increases are well documented through previous Major Projects Reports; however, the programme is now on a much firmer footing.
HMS Astute achieved its in-service date in 2010. The timescales for in-service delivery of the remaining boats are shown in the following table:
This added to the earlier statement By the secretary of State Mr. Bob Ainsworth MP, made on 29 March 2010 (Hansard Column 645W
"Of the seven planned Astute class submarines, the first four boats have been ordered.
Boat one (Astute) is currently undergoing an extensive programme of sea trials while boats two to four (Ambush, Artful, and Audacious) are in various stages of construction.
We have decided to proceed with the initial build work on boat five and to order the long lead items for boat six. The delivery timetable for the class is currently being re-baselined.
We are continuing to target an in-service date for the first Trident successor submarine of 2024, as set out in the White Paper 'The Future of the United Kingdom's Nuclear Deterrent' (Cm6994). The precise delivery schedule will be determined at Main Gate, currently scheduled for 2014.
The Ministry of Defence and industry are evaluating the lessons from the first boats in the Astute programme and will ensure that there is appropriate sequencing between the Astute and successor programmes to ensure that continuous at sea deterrence can be maintained. We do not expect delays in the Astute programme to affect the timetable for the delivery of the Trident successor submarines".
Barrow shipyard is the UK's only Submarine Centre of Excellence. It currently employs around 5,080 people.
A fully modular build system is being adopted in the build of HMS Astute, HMS Ambush and HMS Artful by BAE SYSTEMS . The Submarines have a cost of £3,492 million* By comparison American Virginia class submarines cost over $2.4 billion each. (*source: Parliamentary answer on 17th May 2006).
Nuclear powered Attack Submarines (SSNs) of the ‘Astute’ class are at the heart of the UK’s naval undersea warfare capability. The new submarines are designed to operate in anti-surface ship and anti-submarine roles as well as land attack. The original order was confirmed in March 1997, and HMS Astute was laid down in February 2001.
"Astute' is designed to operate at great depth in the crushing black cold of the deepest ocean. For man in the exploration of his home planet, the seas still represent the final frontier and in many ways a journey into the depths is more challenging than a voyage into space.....Operating in such an unforgiving place calls for some remarkable engineering solutions. Especially when the submariners are entrusted with the ultimate safety and security of our territory” – the 'Astute' submarine is such a remarkable engineering solution. (Source: 'Astute' leaflet, BAE Systems 2004)
'Astute’ has greater weapons capability, improved communications facilities and enhanced capability to operate in the littoral in comparison with the existing Swiftsure and Trafalgar (S&T) Class currently in service with the Royal Navy.
Armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles 'Astute' can strike at targets thousands of km away from a launch point with pin-point accuracyNow Avilable: Northwest Spend Map 2007 / 2008
A regular drumbeat of orders for Astute class submarines is needed.
The Royal Navy needs a fleet of 8 'Astute' class boats. A four page brochure sets out the case for 8 Astutes.
Nuclear powered submarines are crucial to the defence of the UK, protecting strategic deterrent submarines and safeguardingsea lanes.
BAE Systems is the prime contractor for the Astute Class of nuclear-powered submarine, responsible for the design, build and initial in-service support of the three 7,800 tonne vessels so far fully ordered - Astute, AmbushArtfulAudacious under construction at the shipyard. Up to 4 more Astute-class vessels are planned to replace the Swiftsure and Trafalgar class attack class submarines currently in service.
The Astute class is largest, most capable and widely deployable attack submarines ever operated by the Navy, it has improved communications systems to support joint operations and an enhanced ability to operate in shallower littoral environments compared with previous classes.
Astute is designed to undertake a range of other tasks including support of land forces, land attack using Tomahawk cruise missiles, and intelligence gathering.
Astute’s state-of-the-art pressurised water reactor is more complex than a nuclear power station, it must be engineered and operated in the knowledge that almost 100 people live and work in close proximity.
Once deployed, Astute is designed not to require refuelling throughout her 25-year service life. It can produce oxygen and water indefinitely and is limited to a patrol length of 90 days at a time only be its ability to carry food for the crew. With a radar signature equivalent to a dolphin, it can remain undetected thousands of miles from home and hundreds of metres underwater. In the right conditions it can detect the QE2 leaving New York harbour from the English Channel.
Design and construction of the Astute Class is one of the most challenging engineering projects mankind undertakes and compares with the space shuttle in complexity, involving over a million components and the production of over 7,000 design drawings.
Over half the value of each submarine goes to the supply chain. Major suppliers include Rolls Royce, Derby (nuclear plant), Thales Optronics (visual system), Thales Underwater Systems Ltd (sonar), Ultra Electronics (technology demonstration, programme for buoy system) and Weir, Strachan & Henshaw, Bristol (weapon handling and discharge system).A key suppliers Group drives efficiency and productivity savings on all Boats.
Astute is one of the first nuclear submarines to be designed entirely in a three dimensional computer aided environment and breaks away from the principle that submarine performance should be optimised. Over 1 million components are represented on the three dimensional CAD model, which together with analysis and integration rigs, represents the completed vessel. The use of three dimensional CAD enables the exchange of critical design data across the supply chain, reducing risk in the programme and allowing change to be implemented efficiently and rapidly.
Specialist engineers working on the design of Astute are undertaking complex engineering activities including:
Nuclear engineering: providing safety and performance improvements
Systems engineering: integrating the thousands of sub-systems
Marine and mechanical engineering: providing solutions for the propulsive power train,
Hydrodynamics and control engineering: the design of the submarine hull, hydroplanes and controls
Human factors: ensuring that every system is safely operable and maintainable in all conditions
General characteristics of each submarine are as follows:
PWR 2 pressurized water reactor and pump jet propulsion
Support to Vanguard class submarines
Surveillance and intelligence gathering
The "8 Astutes" Campaign
The Keep Our Future Afloat Campaign, led by trade unions, is urging Government to order a batch of four more 'Astute' submarines in a 2007-8 timeframe and to undertake all conceptual design work on any future 'Vanguard' class submarine successor programme at Barrow, the UK's Submarine Centre of Excellence.
Barrow probably has the UK's largest concentration of naval ships and submarine designers in the UK. This unique range of submarine expertise includes specialist project management, contract administration, design and welding capabilities totally focused on delivering one of the world's most sophisticated pieces of technology.
KOFAC advocates an order for 8 boats to help sustain key skills in the submarine industrial base; to keep key supplier companies viable and to enable MoD to secure the benefits of taking a long term view of procurement whilst giving companies visibility of future workforce.
The 'Astute' programme was under revised contract arrangements agreed between UK MoD and BAE SYSTEMS in December 2003, made real progress.
Technology insertion programmes will enable the capability to evolve to meet perceived threats. More orders are needed because the existing 'Trafalgar' fleet and earlier nuclear submarines are ageing and refits would be costly in comparison with new builds. The Trafalgar class fleet, for example, will start to be retired in 2008 starting with HMS Trafalgar, with other boats due to retire in 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2022.
Ordering 8 boats would also avoid the problems of the 1990's. Then “The ‘Astute’ programme (was) faced with substantial challenges due to a ten year gap in SSN design and build, which led to a loss in submarine design skills and corporate knowledge in both industry and MoD”. (Source: Jane’s Navy International, 1st September 2002).
The 'Astute' class is cost effective when compared with U.S. submarines
The 'Astute' class submarine is cost effective in comparison with American nuclear powered submarines. UK Government are on record saying the following about the value of 'Astute' submarines:
“We will be purchasing these submarines at a considerably lower price than the Americans say their nuclear submarines cost them.” (Sir Peter Spencer, Hansard Q.184, House of Commons).
“In terms of value for money for the tax payer the equivalent submarine in America is far, far more expensive than these submarines, far more expensive and less value for money for the tax payer.” (Source: Mike Turner, BAE SYSTEMS, Hansard Q.5, House of Commons Public Accounts, Select Committee, February 2004)
The Benefits of Nuclear-powered Submarines to the UK's Defence
Some people may regard submarines as a 'cold war relic'. They are in fact now one of the most effective components of the UK's defence forces.
The Royal Navy's existing and planned Astute class nuclear submarines (SSN) represent some of the most powerful fighting vessels in the world. They are the most complex vehicles devised by man, patrolling the deep oceans 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, contributing to national and global peace and security. Their stealth and endurance, speed and flexibility gives them unparalleled freedom to operate worldwide.
Nuclear Submarines are not cold war relics. In the 21st century they operate a wide range of missions, 'Astute's' deliver
a core anti-submarine warfare role.
operations against diesel electric submarines (SSKs).
a strategic coercion role
escort for Carrier Task Groups and strategic deterrent submarines.
deep strike using tomahawk missiles.
In short Nuclear Submarines are at the forefront of 21st Century war fighting flexibility and capability. Their stealth means the opposition never knows where they may be - they represent multi role capability that is versatile and good value.
The submarines contribute right across the spectrum of Ministry of Defence “Maritime Contribution to Joint Operations”, or “Power from the Sea”.
Royal Navy nuclear submarines roles now and in the future are highlighted in Dr Lee Willett's paper 'The Astute Class Submarine - Capabilities and Challenges (Summer 2004), RUSI Defence Systems 59 06-63', key extracts of which are cited below:
'Astute'…“is tasked primarily with supporting Trident SSBNs, anti-submarine and anti-ship warfare, surveillance/ intelligence gathering, task group operations, land attack, and special forcesoperations”.
"British SSNs have made significant contributions to recent campaigns in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. In particular, as well as engaging in vital intelligence gathering and sea-control operations, …In Kosovo, HMS ‘Splendid’ fired the opening salvo of the air campaign, while HMS ‘Turbulent’ played a vital antisubmarine role in offsetting any potential threat from the Serbian submarine force. In Afghanistan, HMS ‘Trafalgar’ and HMS ‘Triumph’ fired TLAMs while, together with a third boat (‘Turbulent’), engaging in vital intelligence-gathering operations".
"The SSN now has a clear contribution to make to power projection operations ashore and – more importantly – can do so in critical , early stages of the political crisis and of the military operation from a covert asset which can gain access both to theatre and to target at a very early stage".
"…a platform with the flexibility of ‘Astute’ provides good value for money,…‘Astute’ has modular designs that will enable incremental improvements to be made throughout the life of the class……SDR concluded that the SSN’s future was assured because of its enduring, multi-purpose flexibility".
"MoD studies of future operations have suggested that SSN roles will not change much in the next 15–25 years, a test ament to their enduring utility and flexibility. The MoD work also concludes that future strategic challenges will predicate a greater requirement for the SSN’s inherent qualities – known as the ‘seven deadly virtues’ – of flexibility, mobility, endurance, reach, autonomy, stealth and punch. Coupled with the SSN’s speed and firepower, these qualities generate – in one multi-dimensional , modular unit – balanced, integrated, multi-mission capabilities and roles which the SSN can swing between to deliver a variety of effects across the spectrum of operations".
"…as MoD operational analysis continues to underscore the need for rapid, covert deployment, the advantages brought by the seven deadly virtues of a nuclear submarine – whether that be an SSN or a generic hull – will be hard to replace”.
“While a platform with the flexibility of ‘Astute' provides good value for money, unit costs for nuclear submarines
In conclusion KOFAC echoes the view that:
"The intellectual rationale for both the SSBN and SSN (is) unassailable".(Source: Royal Navy Perspective VADM Sir James Perowne, Royal Navy, Deputy Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic).