Taking the Royal Navy into the 21st Century: Third of Britain's £1billion Astute class submarines finally takes to the water

Mon, 19 May 2014

Edging slowly out of her dry dock at Barrow-in-Furness, this is the third of the Astute class submarines that will take the Royal Navy's fighting capabilities into the 21st Century.

The 97m long, 7,400 tonne nuclear-powered attack submarine Artful has cost taxpayers more than £1billion but, along with its sisters, sets a new standard in weapons load and stealth.

Armed with both Spearfish heavy torpedoes and Tomahawk cruise missiles, Artful's design marks a shift away from a Cold War focus on anti-submarine warfare to a concept of 'Maritime Contributions to Joint Operations'.

The Tomahawk cruise missiles she will carry are claimed to have an accuracy of just a few metres over a range of within 1,240 miles, giving Artful the ability to support ground forces anywhere in the world.

More than 39,000 acoustic tiles mask the vessel's sonar signature, meaning she slips through the seas with less noise than a baby dolphin.

Yet her sonar is said to be so powerful it can detect ships leaving harbour in New York City from a listening point below the waters of the English Channel, 3,000 nautical miles away.

Artful got her toes wet for the first time yesterday, more than 24 hours after she first emerged from the Devonshire Dock Hall in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria. She was officially named last September by Amanda, Lady Zambellas, wife of the Royal Navy’s First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir George Zambellas.

Stuart Godden, Astute Programme Director for BAE Systems, said: 'The launch of Artful is another significant step forward in the Astute programme.

'Building on past experiences we’ve been able to launch her in the most advanced state of construction of any submarine to be built in Barrow. This allows us to now fully concentrate on the test and commissioning activities required to get her to sea.

'Moving a submarine of this size from its build hall to the water is very challenging. It’s testament to the experience and careful planning of the team involved that Artful is now ready for the next phase in her programme.

'Witnessing a submarine move out of the hall and be readied for launch is truly inspiring and a source of great pride to the thousands who have played a part in getting Artful to this stage.'

Artful will now undergo a series of complex tests to prove the safety and operability of her systems before she departs BAE Systems’ site for sea trials.

The Ministry of Defence’s Director Submarines, Rear Admiral Mike Wareham, said: 'The Astute programme is making real progress and the sight of the third submarine afloat in the water is a reflection of the hard work of both the MOD and industry.

'The launch of this submarine brings it a step closer to entering into service where it will provide a key capability for the Royal Navy and an essential component of the Submarine Service into the future.'

BAE Systems, the prime contractor in the Astute programme, is the UK's only designer and builder of nuclear powered submarines - one of the most complex engineering programmes in the world today.

The first two submarines in the Astute class – HMS Astute and HMS Ambush – have now been handed over to the UK Royal Navy, while the remaining five are in various stages of construction.

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