Submarines: Trafalgars Equipped for the Long Haul


March 9, 2007: The British nuclear attack sub HMS Talent, has rejoined the fleet after having its nuclear fuel replenished, and its sonar systems upgraded. The fuel in the shipboard nuclear reactors has to be replaced every 10-15 years (although new naval reactor designs have lengthened that to 50 years in carriers and over 30 years in subs). The HMS Talent entered service in 1988, so this was its first major refurbishment. It cost $758 million. A lot of the expense was in the need to partially dismantle the sub, to get at the reactor and install the new sonar system. The Talent is the third of the seven Trafalgar class SSNs to be refurbished like this. Five of the Trafalgars have been refueled and undergone some refurbishment.

The Trafalgars entered service between 1981 and 1991. These boats are 280 feet long and displace 4,700 tons on the surface. They have a crew of 130, and are armed with 25 torpedoes, fired out of five torpedo tubes. Mines or Tomahawk cruise missiles can also be employed, via the torpedo tubes. The Trafalgars are quiet boats, as nuclear subs go. Although smaller than the American Los Angeles class SSNs, the Trafalgars are very comparable in performance. It appears that the investment in the Trafalgars is meant to keep them viable for another decade or two.


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