The third Astute-class submarine for the Royal Navy, HMS Artful, is set to start sea trials after final fitting out of operational equipment was completed by BAE Systems shipyard at Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria. Providing that the sea trials go well then Artful will join HMS Astute and HMS Ambush in maintaining the Royal Navy’s underwater hunter-killer submarine capability.
The 97m-long, 7,400t nuclear-powered Astute-class is one of the most sophisticated and stealthiest submarines in the world. It is also one of the first to dispense with the optical periscope that has been such a key part of the submarine since the very beginning. Instead the submarine employs high-definition video technology which provides images to the submarine control room through fibre-optic cables. The smaller device is harder to detect by airborne radar, can raise above the surface for very brief seconds to take a multitude of images before disappearing back down and increases range of what can be seen.
As well as the traditional torpedo armament for attacking ships and other submarines the Astute-class also has a powerful land attack role being able to launch Tomahawk Block IV land-attack missiles. Four more vessels are in various stages of construction for the Royal Navy.