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Tuesday, 30 June 2015

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Astute does town proud in sea trials

BARROW’S first of class submarine, Astute, has occasionally paused from her sea trials off the Scottish coast to line up for photographs with other Royal Navy assets.

The latest link-up was between the Astute and the generation of nuclear-powered, hunter-killer subs that the Astute class will eventually replace, the Trafalgar class.

Astute ran alongside HMS Triumph, which recently had a major refit and nuclear refuelling at Devonport, making her fit for at least 12 more years of operation.

Like Astute and all the Royal Navy’s existing subs, Triumph was built in Barrow.

The two boats made a splendid sight running alongside showing their very different profiles, including Astute’s much longer ‘fin’ or conning tower.

Astute also appeared for a photocall running alongside another new asset for the admiral, the Type 45 destroyer Dauntless, built by BAE at Yarrow on the Clyde.

Astute conducted her first dives off the Scottish coast in February, working at one stage with a Nimrod aircraft to take initial noise readings from the boat.

Commanding officer Cdr Andy Coles said in a signal from the boat: “A very stable platform in all sea states, the submarine has handled exceptionally well and, with only a few exceptions, has stood up to the rigours of sea trials very well.

“Additionally, the ship’s company have benefited hugely from the experience gained dived and have greatly enhanced their knowledge and are full of confidence in the boat.”

He added: “This has been a hugely successful period at sea which has cemented the onboard sea trials organisation and teamwork, and demonstrated the clear potential of this platform.”

Astute left Barrow on November 15.

Submarine delivery and acceptance manager Stuart Godden said: “The signal from Cdr Coles demonstrates that the crew have confidence in the boat, surface and dived, and about seeing themselves come together as a team.

“It is really important to get all these sea trials completed.”

Work at BAE is progressing on follow-on boats Ambush, Artful and Audacious and is due to start on the fifth boat Agamemnon, while long lead time parts like the reactor are being ordered for the sixth, Anson.

Shipyard chief John Hudson could not hide his pride in the new Astute submarines at a recent defence conference.

He told the audience at the Defence Industry NW conference at Manchester Airport: “It is a precision attack submarine. Not only is it very capable, but it has all sorts of new technology in there.

“The integrated platform management system has enabled us to reduce the size of the crew.”

It has a very large sonar system and, Mr Hudson added: “We have put a huge amount of effort into make the submarine quiet.

“The real skill is the balance between the noise you make and the noise you can detect from another source.”

Mr Hudson said Astute has the largest flank array sonar of any submarine in the world.

“It is a very capable war fighting machine,” he said. “There are only five nations that build nuclear submarines. Astute makes sure the Royal Navy stays in the premier league of operators.”

In Barrow, Terry Waiting, chairman of the Keep Our Future Afloat Campaign lobby group, said he believed Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth’s decision to visit to the shipyard on March 25, and to give the go-ahead that week for £300m-worth of work on two more Astute submarines, was made after good reports from the early sea trials.

Mr Waiting said: “It is because we have made such good progress on trials with the boat that obviously the government has got the confidence to go forward with this.”

Astute will be in trials for up to 18 months before becoming an operational submarine.

Astute was due to follow initial trials with those for intermediate and deep dives and full power trials.

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