The change in strategy brought about the Astute class submarines, the next generation nuclear Fleet submarines for the Royal Navy.

The newest submarine, named Audacious, is more complex than the space shuttle and can circumnavigate the world without surfacing. In fact, the only limiting factors are how much food it can carry and the endurance of the crew members.

The Astute Class boats are the largest attack subs ever operated by the United Kingdom and have the greates range. Improved communication and the ability to operate in shallower littoral water will let them support missile submarines and land forces using land-attack using Tomahawk cruise missiles. They will also be used to gather intelligence.

Astute uses radar signatures equivalent to dolphins and can remain undetected thousands of miles from home to hundreds of feet underwater. Astute has a pressurized water reactor that is fuelled for life and thousands of sub-systems that require 110 Km of cabling and pipework, and over 5 million lines of software. Astute is also vibration-free and robust enough to handle and underwater explosion.

The sub accommodates up to 109 crew and passengers for up to 90 days. Not only can it create its own oxygen from sea water, but it can also purify air onboard by removing and disposing carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and carbon monoxide. The submarine also compacts and stores all waste and garbage.

The massive submarine measures 97 m (323 ft) in length and is 11.2 m (37 ft) in diameter. When fully stored, she displaces 7,400 tons of seawater, the equivalent of 62 blue whales. A Rolls-Royce PWR2 reactor and MAN (Paxman) 1,900 kw diesel generator provides power. With speeds up to 29 knots, it is faster underwater than on the surface and, has been dive-tested to 300 m (984 ft).

The Astute launched from the BAE Systems shipyard, Devonshire Dock Hall, in Barrow-in-Furness on June 8th. BAE Systems is the prime contractor, responsible for design and inital in-service support. Work is on shcedule to meet the delivery date to the Royal Navy in August of next year with an in-service date of January 2009.

More Information:
BAE Systems

Astute Class submarine under sea surface

Transport of the massive submarine to the water for launch

Assembly of the Astute Class submarines