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Astute Class Submarine Programme Firmly On Track

13 Sep 2005

BAE Systems submarine manufacturing facility at Barrow-in-Furness, the prime contractor for the Astute Class of submarine, is on track to deliver the first of Royal Navy’s advanced nuclear submarines by August 2008.

BAE Systems is responsible for the design, build and initial in-service support of the first three 7,800 tonne Astute class submarines currently under construction in the Devonshire Dock Hall facility at the shipyard. When HMS Astute, HMS Ambush and HMS Artful enter service, they will be the largest and most powerful nuclear attack submarines ever built for the Royal Navy.

The Astute programme is now firmly on track and managing director Murray Easton has stated that the aim is to deliver the first of the Astute class submarines by August 2008. Since October 2003 BAE Systems significantly re-scoped working practices and reduced overheads. The company is meeting and beating challenging deadlines, ready to meet the delivery date of HMS Astute in August 2008.

Design and construction of the Astute Class is an engineering challenge that has been described as “more complex than the space shuttle”. The adoption of a modular build strategy has played a crucial role in achieving the current production schedule and BAE Systems is seeking to increase the modularisation in successive Astute class builds. Recognition of the unique challenges in commissioning a first-of-class submarine has driven modularisation in the build and integration stages during 2005 as part of a major effort to derisk the programme.

Key achievements in the project to date include:

* Manoeuvring Room Module (MRM) – planned shipping date November 30 2004, actual date shipped October 30 2004

* Forward Engine Room Module (FERM) – planned shipping date November 28 2004, actual date shipped November 14 2004.

* Main Propulsion Machinery Package (MPMP) – planned shipping date July 20 2005, actual date shipped June 10 2005

* Command Deck Module (CDM) – planned shipping date January 2006, forecast shipping date November 5 2005

* Bridge Fin and Casings – Planned shipping date March 2006, forecast shipping date October 2005

The benefits of modular construction, and the associated risk reduction in the programme are demonstrated by the shipping of the Main Propulsion Machinery Package more than a month ahead of schedule, in turn enabling the butt closure of units 2 and 3 containing the propulsion units some three weeks later. In the past installing the engine might have taken 2 or 3 days, but in Astute the operation took just 5 hours and 23 minutes. Thousands of man hours have also been saved through installation of items onto the MPMP during its build at the submarine machinery installation and test establishment (SMITE) instead of carrying out the work within the confines of the submarine hull.

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 by designing the smallest boat possible with little regard to cost.

The programme relies heavily on the power of computer aided design and ‘virtual prototyping’ because with a project as complex as Astute producing an actual prototype submarine is too costly and time consuming. ‘Virtual’ prototyping allows for regular computer test and visualisation, as well as with continuous design and systems analysis.

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 to a state-of-the-art Pressurised Water Reactor that is fuelled for life.

* Systems engineering: integrating the thousands of sub-systems that add up to 100km of cabling, 10km of pipework and over 5 million lines of software code – and managing the supply chain, which consists of over 30 main suppliers.

* Marine and mechanical engineering: providing solutions for the propulsive power train, auxiliary systems and life support. Astute must be quiet, vibration free and robust enough to withstand a nearby underwater explosion.

* Hydrodynamics and control engineering: the design of the submarine hull, hydroplanes and control systems to provide control of depth and good manoeuvrability. The submarine is literally ‘flown’ underwater.

* Human factors: ensuring that every system is safely operable and maintainable in all conditions by a relatively small complement compared with previous nuclear powered submarines.



BAE Systems is an international company engaged in the development, delivery, and support of advanced defence and aerospace systems in the air, on land, at sea, and in space. The Company designs, manufactures, and supports military aircraft, combat vehicles, surface ships, submarines, radar, avionics, communications, electronics, and guided weapon systems. It is a pioneer in technology with a heritage stretching back hundreds of years and is at the forefront of innovation, working to develop the next generation of intelligent defence systems. BAE Systems has major operations across five continents and customers in some 130 countries. The Company employs over 90,000 people and generates annual sales of approximately 14.8 billion through its wholly owned and joint-venture operations.

For further information, please contact:

Chris Nelson, BAE Systems
Tel: +44 (0) 1229 875975 Fax: +44 (0) 1229 873333

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