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Royal Launch for First of Class Astute Submarine

08 Jun 2007 | Ref. 164/2007

Barrow, United Kingdom. – HRH the Duchess of Cornwall has today named the Royal Navy’s largest and most powerful attack submarine, the first-of-class Astute, before it rolls out of the build hall at the BAE Systems shipyard in Barrow-in-Furness.

More than 10,000 people have watched the ceremony today in the 25,000m² Devonshire Dock Hall submarine build complex, the largest building of its kind in Europe. Astute will remain on the shiplift overnight before being lowered into the dock tomorrow.

After the naming ceremony the Duchess met members of the submarine crew and the production workforce before taking lunch with more than 400 guests drawn from the employees, suppliers, the MoD, the Royal Navy and local dignitaries.

The Duchess travelled to Barrow by helicopter, landing at the company’s airfield on nearby Walney Island. The naming of the Astute is her only engagement in the town.

The Astute submarine will set a new standard for the Royal Navy in terms of weapon load, stealth and comfort for the crew. It also employs a new-generation steam-raising nuclear plant which is fuelled for the whole of the vessel’s 25 year operational life.

BAE Systems Submarine Solutions is the prime contractor for the Astute Class, responsible for the design, build and initial in-service support of the four 7,400 tonne vessels - Astute, Ambush, Artful, and Audacious - currently under construction at the shipyard. The fourth submarine, Audacious, was the subject of a £200 million order from the Ministry of Defence announced in May.

The launch has been achieved eight weeks early against the date set in 2003 when the project was rebaselined. Work is on schedule to meet the August 2008 date for delivery of the first of class Astute to the Royal Navy – a stretch target three months ahead of the previously-agreed handover date of November 2008. The in-service date for Astute is January 2009, with subsequent Astute class submarines to be delivered on an agreed 22-month ‘drumbeat’.

Astute is the most capable attack submarines ever operated by the Navy and is designed to fulfil a wider range of strategic roles for more flexible deployment than earlier generations.

The vessel is equipped with the advanced 2076 sonar system which has already proven its class-leading performance on upgraded Trafalgar-class submarines, and is capable of identifying and tracking vessels across thousands of square miles of ocean.

Astute has improved communications systems to support joint operations and an enhanced ability to operate in shallower littoral environments compared with previous classes. The submarine is also the first to replace a conventional periscope with two optical masts incorporating digital video technology that incorporates zoom, low light and infra-red features with an ability to rapidly capture images, analyse them on video screens and transmit images to other fleet elements.

As well as supporting the deterrent and fulfilling anti surface ship and submarine duties, Astute is designed to undertake a range of other tasks including support of land forces, intelligence gathering, and land attack using the latest Tomahawk cruise missiles which can attack targets a thousand miles away with pinpoint accuracy.

Design and construction of the Astute Class is arguably the most challenging engineering project in the UK. It compares in complexity with the space shuttle, involving over a million components and the production of over 7,000 design drawings.

Astute’s state-of-the-art pressurised water reactor is more complex than a nuclear power station, with more restrictions placed upon it: it must be engineered and operated in the knowledge that almost 100 people live and work in close proximity - the submarine commander sleeps less than 10 metres away from the nuclear core.

Once deployed, Astute and can patrol for 90 days, remaining undetected thousands of miles from home and hundreds of metres underwater.

Specialist engineers working on the design of Astute are undertaking a wide range of 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 require up to 100km of cabling, 23,000 pipes amounting to10km of pipework, and over 5 million lines of software code – plus managing the supply chain, which includes 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 must maintain neutral buoyancy and 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.

About BAE Systems
BAE Systems is a global defence and aerospace company delivering a full range of products and services for air, land and naval forces, as well as advanced electronics, information technology solutions and customer support services. With 88,000 employees worldwide, BAE Systems' sales exceeded 13.7 billion pounds sterling (US25.4 billion dollars) in 2006.

For further information please contact:
Mike Sweeney, BAE Systems
Tel: + 44 (0)1252 383074 Mobile: + 44 (0)7801 716452
Email: mike.sweeney2@baesystems.com

Chris Nelson, BAE Systems
Tel: + 44 (0) 1229 875975 Mobile: + 44 (0)7793 422810
Email: chris.nelson@baesystems.com

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