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Future Attack SubMarine (FASM)
Maritime Underwater Future Capability (MUFC)

In House of Commons Hansard Written Answers for 2 Apr 1996 (pt 5): "Mr. Colvin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence on what assumption for an in-service date for the future attack submarine tender number NSM13C/60167 in MOD contracts bulletin, volume 10, number 12, dated 21 February was issued in respect of pre-feasibility concept studies for the combat system. [22258] Mr. Arbuthnot: The future attack submarine, currently the subject of concept studies, is intended to replace the Trafalgar class submarines early in the next century."

One improvement being pursued today that will impact in a decade's time is development of a core designed for the life of a submarine. The aim of this development is to remove the need for mid-life refuelling, which will correspondingly reduce the demand on that corporate capability and individual skills. The nuclear submarine program has an assured future for several years, but no new design is contemplated, the future attack submarine project having been disbanded in 2001, which is interpreted as indecision. The Trafalgar class was to be replaced by the Future Attack Submarine (FASM), however this project was effectively cancelled in 2001 and replaced by the replaced by the Maritime Underwater Future Capability. In a sign of new thinking among commanders, by 2003 the word "submarine" had been dropped from plans for the next generation of underwater vessels due to enter service in about 20 years. Until recently known as the Future Attack Submarine, the project had been renamed the "Maritime Underwater Future Capability". An MoD official said the name change was designed to allow a new approach to naval forces.

The Government Defence industrial strategy said that they planned up to 7 new attack submarines and that 3-4 Vanguard class replacements may be built if the industry can consolidate and if the affordability of the submarine industrial base can be demonstrated. Beyond 2025 a Future Attack Submarine Class could emerge.

Instead of considering what submarine will fill the gap after Astute, the Royal Navy is going back to first principles of defining required capabilities in the Maritime Underwater Future Capability. A suite of UUVs [unmanned underwater vehicles] will provide a considerable portion of capability needs. Manned submarines are expected to be used for command and transport roles rather than fighting sea battles. These include robot drones to detect and destroy mines; unmanned intelligence-gathering underwater vehicles; and remote-controlled underwater missile and torpedo platforms. The weapons could be dropped into operations by aircraft or warships.

This is a program to fill the capability need when the then remaining Trafalgar class submarines are decommissioned in around 2016/7. The current planning assumption is that the final solution will be a nuclear powered submarine, hence the programme title. The expectation is that ASTUTE class submarines, together with FASM, will constitute the ongoing nuclear powered Submarine flotilla of 10 boats. Its role is to provide a versatile and affordable, sustained forward power projection and battlespace dominance capability that delivers a disproportionate effect and preserves mission security, by virtue of stealth, through life across a wide spectrum of defence missions.

FASM is generally anticipated to be nuclear powered, though some options under consideration are conventionally powered. One such option is Air Independent Propulsion (AIP). It is likely that the Future Attack Submarine (FASM) will be armed with cruise missiles. However, unlike the Swiftsure, Trafalgar and Astute Classes, which launch these through torpedo tubes, the Future Attack Submarine will probably launch them vertically.

With increasing doubts over the FASM (MUFC) project, there is a significant possibility of additional Astutes being ordered to replace the remaining Trafalgar boats. Some consideration might be given in these later build boats to add 16 VLS tubes for cruise missiles [TacTom or Harpoon Block II].

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Page last modified: 22-09-2021 12:59:33 ZULU