HMS Audacious – the Royal Navy’s fourth Astute-class submarine - has now been launched, manufacturer BAE Systems has announced.
The new-generation vessel emerged from the defence/aerospace firm’s Barrow-in-Furness facility (located in Cumbria, England) at the end of April.
Part of a seven-strong group revolutionising the Royal Navy’s underwater capabilities, the nuclear reactor-powered HMS Audacious will be equipped with world-class weapons and sonar once it enters service.
HMS Astute, Ambush and Artful – the three prior Astute-class subs – have already joined the Royal Navy. Construction of the remaining trio is – in all three cases - now underway.
“Audacious enters the water in a more advanced state of build than any previous Astute class submarine, which puts us in a good position for the next phase of work - the testing and commissioning of her complex systems”, comments BAE Systems’ Submarines Managing Director, Will Blamey.
He continues: “Designing and building a nuclear-powered submarine is extremely challenging and today’s launch is yet another reminder of the unique skills required to deliver such complex programmes. We now look forward to working alongside Audacious’ crew to prepare her for sea trials, before she joins her sister submarines in service with the Royal Navy.”
97 metres in length, HMS Audacious displaces 7,400 tonnes of water. Thanks to its nuclear power source, it can technically perform infinitely long missions but crew requirements will limit its deployments to a maximum of 90 days at a time. Weapons carried will include Tomahawk Block IV cruise missiles and Spearfish Mod 1 torpedoes.
Produced by Raytheon, the Tomahawk Block IV is a high-precision weapon fitted with a powerful warhead. It can be ship- or submarine-launched, redirected mid-flight and has a 1,000+ mile range. To date, around 3,000 Tomahawks of all variants have been delivered and there have been circa 2,000 frontline launches.
The Spearfish Mod 1 is an enhanced version of a torpedo the Royal Navy’s had since the 1990s. A wholly-digitised weapon, its features include a fibre-optic navigation system and an upgraded warhead.
Next for Audacious come sea trials, ahead of its planned commissioning next year.
“It’s an exciting moment to see Audacious enter the water for the first time ahead of trials”, says Rear Admiral John Weale, Assistant Chief of Naval Staff Submarines. “Such a feat of engineering is testament to the skills of the BAE Systems workforce in Barrow. As part of an increasingly capable Royal Navy, Audacious will go on to serve on operations right around the world, helping keep Britain safe.”
Both HMS Audacious images copyright/courtesy BAE Systems