Submarines: March 22, 2001


The British Royal Navy has laid the keel for HMS Astute, the first of a new class a nuclear-powered attack submarines. The first three boats (HMS Astute, HMS Ambush, and HMS Artful) are under contract to enter service in 2005, 2007, and 2009. Sometime in 2002, the British will decide whether to order two more boats or extend the program to a sixth submarine. Compared to the previous Trafalgar-class, the 7,200-ton Astutes have an improved nuclear power plant, an updated tactical system, a 50% increase in weapons load (to 38 torpedoes and missiles), six torpedo tubes instead of the five in Trafalgar, reduced noise, and a significant reduction in crew size. The reactor core will last 30 years, eliminating the need to refuel the sub (a costly operation) during its service life. While the sub was designed to carry Sub-Harpoon, however the British are planning to retire this weapon in 2003. The Royal Navy is considering options, including the Triton fiber-optic-guided weapon.--Stephen V Cole


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