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Thursday, 23 October 2014

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Barrow built secret subs in use by Special Forces ‘show shipyard’s skills’

BARROW is at the forefront of Britain’s fight against terrorism with a mini submarine built in the town’s shipyard being used by special forces to launch daring underwater missions.

mini submarine pod

by Amy Fenton

The Evening Mail can reveal that the miniature pods spotted on top of HMS Astute in Gibraltar last week are in fact designed and built in Barrow.

The mini subs, which can hold up to eight people, are used by Special Forces, most likely to be the Special Boat Service – the amphibious version of the SAS – as part of the UK’s counter-terrorism activity.

A former submariner, who served in the Royal Navy for a number of years, told the Evening Mail SBS missions were “the stuff of James Bond”.

“It’s exactly the sort of stuff you imagine it to be, the most daring and dangerous missions you could think of – that’s what Special Forces do,” he said.

“When we were on a submarine, as the regular crew, if we ever had any Special Forces onboard with us carrying out a mission, even our commanding officer wasn’t allowed to ask what they were doing. We were just the taxi. It’s all very secretive as you would expect.”

Although a spokesman for BAE Systems said the company was unable to comment and the Ministry of Defence declined to respond on issues of operational capabilities, the Evening Mail understands the mini submarines are designed and built in Barrow with input from the MoD. When the main submarine is complete, it leaves the town separately and is later reunited with its miniature companion.

Another source told the Evening Mail that around seven years ago, a team of Special Forces visited Barrow to check out the kit and gave their seal of approval.

He said: “When finished they were taken away for whatever the final touches were and they are now taken around the globe on other types of ships where they can be lowered into the water and picked up without fuss or knowledge of other interested parties.”

The Evening Mail understands two such vessels have been built so far.

Our naval source, based in Yorkshire, added: “Things are very different with nuclear-powered submarines because they have a different purpose and operate very differently to diesel-powered submarines.

“That means the nature of the way Special Forces interact with submarines has also changed, and that’s why you see ops like this with such secretive and advanced bits of kit. And the fact this stuff is designed and built in Barrow is a further testament to the skills in the town and at the shipyard.”

Despite such equipment usually being considered top secret, it has been suggested the mini subs were allowed to be seen in Gibraltar in response to the growing tensions with neighbours in Spain to act as “a bit of sabre rattling to the Spanish to let them know that they were being watched”, our source said.

Have your say

Sorry but they are not miniature submarines at all; just bolt on appendages. I'd like to be more specific but having signed the Official Secrets Act like hundreds of others reading this article we'll have to leave it there I'm afraid.

Posted by Double O. Sevenup on 8 April 2014 at 11:53

Fred, did you see the article in The Sun about the mini sub last week? From what I can see the mail is just highlighting the fact that this is made in Barrow. The whole world saw these pics. And let's face it, all of us 6,000 yard workers know they're made here, not really a secret! Get over yourself.

Posted by James on 7 April 2014 at 21:16

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