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Astute Class Attack Submarine (SSN) (RN)

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Astute Class Attack Submarine (SSN) (RN)

Postby SKB » 01 May 2015, 12:43

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Introduction
The Astute class is the latest class of nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSN) in service of the British Royal Navy. The class sets a new standard for the Royal Navy in terms of weapons load, communication facilities and stealth. The boats are being constructed by BAE Systems Maritime – Submarines at Barrow-in-Furness. Seven boats will be constructed. The first of class, Astute, was launched in 2007 and commissioned in 2010 and the second, Ambush, was launched on 6 January 2011 and commissioned on 1 March 2013. Astute was declared fully operational in May 2014, while both she and Ambush have sailed for their maiden deployments.

Development
The Royal Navy has changed its submarine-employment strategy from the Cold War emphasis on anti-submarine warfare to the concept of "Maritime Contributions to Joint Operations." Approval for studies to define the "Batch 2 Trafalgar class" (what would become the Astute class) was given in June 1991. In July 1994 risk reduction studies were authorised in parallel with the formal bid phase of the project. On 17 March 1997, the Ministry of Defence announced that it would place a £2 billion order for three submarines and that they would be called the Astute class. On 26 March 1997 the contract was signed with GEC-Marconi for the first three boats: Astute, Ambush and Artful. These names were last given to Amphion-class submarines that entered service towards the end of World War II. GEC would build the submarines at its VSEL subsidiary (now BAE Systems Submarine Solutions).

Original plans were for seven boats of the Astute class to replace five Swiftsure-class submarines (Sovereign, Superb, Sceptre, Spartan, and Splendid) and the two oldest Trafalgar-class boats (Trafalgar and Turbulent). The Swiftsure class entered service between 1973 and 1977 and were entirely decommissioned by 2010, when only the first of the Astute class was coming into service. Trafalgar was decommissioned in December 2009, to be followed by Turbulent in 2011. An estimated 5,900 people are employed directly as a result of the project; 3,500 BAE Systems staff at Barrow and 2,400 other people around the UK.

As of August 2006 BAE Systems was negotiating for a contract to build another four Astute-class submarines (hulls four to seven). The fourth boat was ordered on 21 May 2007, to be called Audacious, and the names of the other hulls have been agreed as Agamemnon, Anson, and Ajax. On 15 September 2011 it was announced that hull 5 would now be named Anson. Upon the beginning of sea trials of Astute in November 2009, it was reported that long-lead items for hulls five and six have been ordered, including their nuclear reactor cores, and that the stated intention of the MoD was for a total of seven Astute-class submarines. On 25 March 2010, BAE Systems was given the go-ahead by the government to begin construction on hulls 5 and 6, being given a £300 million contract for the "initial build" of hull five and "long lead procurement activities" for boat six. In the same week the government re-affirmed their commitment to the construction of seven Astute-class submarines.

Work on the second and third submarines, Ambush and Artful, proceeded well with major milestones such as the closure of Ambush‍ '​s reactor compartment, demonstrating significant schedule advance compared with Astute. BAE Systems and the MoD have made efforts to reduce costs and achieved significant cost-cutting and productivity gains. A £580 million cost increase was agreed in 2007 due to maturing of the design requiring more materials, inflationary costs, and "some programme throughput assumptions at the Barrow site not being borne out." First-of-class HMS Astute was launched by Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall on 8 June 2007.

The order of seven Astute-class boats was confirmed in the Strategic Defence and Security Review of October 2010. In December that year it was confirmed by the MoD that "early work" was under way on boats five and six.

On October 13, 2011, the fifth boat, Anson, was laid down at the Devonshire Dock Hall and is now under construction like boats three and four. On December 10, 2012 the MOD awarded BAE a £1.2 billion contract for work on Audacious. The MOD also confirmed on the same date a further £1.5 billion funding for submarines Anson, Agamemnon and Ajax. The MOD Defence Equipment Plan 2012 refers to 'the completion of the remainder of the seven class of Astute attack submarines'.

Characteristics
The boats of the Astute class are powered by a Rolls-Royce PWR2 (Core H) (a pressurised water) reactor and fitted with a pump-jet propulsor. The PWR2 reactor was developed for the Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarines. As a result the new submarines are about 30 per cent larger than previous British fleet submarines, which were powered by smaller-diameter reactors. Like all Royal Navy submarines, the bridge fin of the Astute-class boats is specially reinforced to allow surfacing through ice caps. These submarines can also be fitted with a dry deck shelter, which allows special forces (e.g. SBS) to deploy whilst the submarine is submerged. More than 39,000 acoustic tiles mask the vessel's sonar signature, giving the Astute class a better stealth quality than any other submarine previously operated by the Royal Navy. Speculation released by the media stated that by using advanced stealth technology Astute "makes less noise than a baby dolphin, making her as good as undetectable by enemy ships."

Astute is the second Royal Navy submarine class, after the Vanguard class, to have a bunk for each member of the ship's company, ending the practice of 'hot bunking', whereby two sailors on opposite watches shared the same bunk at different times. However, they have less mess-deck space than the Valiant-class submarine built 45 years earlier.

Criticism
The Royal Navy announced a speed of 29 knots for the class, but it was reported in 2012 that this speed could not be reached in the trials due to a mismatch between the reactor and the turbine. In March 2014 the top speed requirement for Astute was met, according to a National Audit Office (NAO) report.

In November 2012 The Guardian reported that there had been a serious leak that caused an emergency surfacing because a cap for a pipe was made of the wrong metal, even though the inventory claimed proper checks had been made, that there were problems with reactor monitoring instruments because the wrong grade of lead was used, and circuit boards had not been correctly fitted. The Ministry of Defence and BAE Systems confirmed the problems were being worked on. An MoD spokesman said "It is normal for first of class trials to identify areas where modifications are required and these are then incorporated into later vessels of the class."

Incidents
Aground on Skye
On 22 October 2010, the Ministry of Defence confirmed that HMS Astute had "run into difficulties" off the Isle of Skye while on trials, after eyewitnesses reported the submarine had run aground a few miles from the Skye Bridge. There were no reports of injuries. The captain of the vessel elected to wait for tug assistance, rather than use the submarine's own power to clear the stern from the obstruction, to minimise the damage to the hull's anechoic tiles. A Royal Navy spokesperson said the vessel had been grounded on silt, and was re-floated at high tide. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency-chartered emergency tow vessel Anglian Prince was dispatched to the scene from Stornoway.

The submarine returned under her own power to Faslane, where the damage incurred was described as "minor". A Service Inquiry concluded the main cause of the grounding was not following navigation procedures combined with the watch officer not appreciating the proximity of danger.

On 27 October 2010, the Royal Navy announced that the captain of Astute, Commander Andy Coles, had been relieved of his command. In December 2010 it was announced that Commander Iain Breckenridge, who has previously commanded the submarine HMS Tireless, would take over command. On 11 December 2010, on her first day back at sea after the grounding incident, Astute had to return to port for repairs due to a problem with her steam plant.

Shooting
On 8 April 2011, one naval officer was killed and another injured in a shooting on board Astute while berthed at Southampton docks. Southampton City Council's leader, chief executive, and mayor were on board at the time. During a changeover of armed guards, Able Seaman Ryan Donovan opened fire with an SA80 assault rifle in the submarine's control room, hitting two officers, before being overpowered by Southampton Council's leader, Royston Smith, a former RAF flight engineer, and chief executive Alistair Neill.

In the 48 hours before going on a guard duty, Donovan had drunk 20 pints of cider and lager, and spirits, leaving him well beyond the drink-drive limit when on duty. Heavy drinking before duties was common practice amongst the crew.

According to Smith:

"We were in the control room when someone entered and there was an exchange of words. He [the gunman] stepped out with another man and two shots were fired and then he entered the control room again and began shooting again... He had a magazine with 30 rounds in it so I took the view that someone had to stop him. I pushed him against the wall and we wrestled, then I pushed him into another wall which resulted in him going to the ground and I managed to get the weapon from him and threw it aside under a table. I shouted for someone to help as I held him down and my chief executive was the first to come, and he did a remarkable job of restraining him." - Royston Smith, BBC interview

The gunman was later arrested by Hampshire Constabulary officers. The dead officer was named as Lieutenant Commander Ian Molyneux, Astute‍ '​s weapons engineering officer. Donovan was charged with the murder of Molyneux and the attempted murder of Petty Officer Christopher Brown, Chief Petty Officer David McCoy, and Lieutenant Commander Christopher Hodge.

On 19 September 2011, at the Crown Court at Winchester, Donovan admitted the murder of Lieutenant Commander Molyneux and three counts of attempted murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and must serve a minimum of 25 years.

On 23 March 2012, Ian Molyneux, Royston Smith and Alistair Neill were awarded the George Medal for gallantry

On 14 May 2018, the UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson announced that the seventh Astute class submarine would be built and will be named HMS Agincourt


Astute Class

1. HMS Astute (S119) Commissioned 27th August 2010
2. HMS Ambush (S120) Commissioned 1st March 2013
3. HMS Artful (S121) Commissioned 18th March 2016
4. HMS Audacious (S122) Expected 2018
5. HMS Anson (S123) Expected 2020
6. HMS Agamemnon (S124) Expected 2022
7. HMS Agincourt (S125) Expected 2024


Class and type: Astute-class nuclear-powered attack submarine
Displacement: 7,000 tonnes, surfaced; 7,400 tonnes, dived[3]
Length: 97 m (318 ft)
Beam: 11.3 m (37 ft)
Draught: 10 m (33 ft)
Propulsion: Rolls-Royce PWR2 reactor (with full submarine life core), MTU 600 kilowatt diesel generators
Speed: 29+ knots (54 km/h) submerged (design)
Range: Unlimited, except by food supplies and maintenance requirements
Crew Complement: 98 officers and enlisted, capacity of 109 (all male)
Sensors and processing systems:
Thales Sonar 2076
Atlas DESO 25 echosounder
2 × Thales CM010 optronic masts
Raytheon Successor IFF
Armament:6 × 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes with stowage for up to 38 weapons:
Tomahawk Block IV land-attack missiles
Spearfish heavyweight torpedoes


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Re: Astute Class Attack Submarines

Postby O5C4R » 01 May 2015, 19:54

It's understandably hard to find anything on the Astute class's performance in real world conditions.

There have been a couple of soundbites from exercises, all positive, but I would be really interested if anyone could post or point to further examples of just how these boats fair.

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Re: Astute Class Attack Submarines

Postby Phil R » 01 May 2015, 22:21

There is not much public domain technical info about the Astute class for obvious reasons.
However there are very positive articles about sonar 2076 in public domain and if you (confidently) assume a generational improvement in acoustic control and management compared to the T class then you can be assured we have a world class a SSN.
I just wish that the RN had resources to obtain and operate 12+ Astutes.

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Re: Astute Class Attack Submarines

Postby SKB » 01 May 2015, 22:34

Some more basic info I obtained from Wikipedia about the Astute class

Displacement (surfaced) : 7000 tonnes
Displacement (submerged): 7400 tonnes
Length: 97m (318ft)
Beam: 11.3m (37ft)
Draught: 10m (33ft)
Propulsion: Rolls-Royce PWR 2 reactor, MTU 600 kilowatt diesel generators
Speed: Up to 30 knots (56 km/h), submerged
Range: Only limited by food and maintenance requirements.
Test depth: Over 300m
Crew Complement: 98 (capacity for 109)
Sensors and processing systems: Thales Sonar 2076, Atlas DESO 25 echosounder, 2 × Thales CM010 optronic masts, Raytheon Successor IFF
Armament: 6 × 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes with stowage for up to 38 weapons (Tomahawk Block IV land-attack missiles ,Spearfish heavyweight torpedoes)

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Re: Astute Class Submarines (SSN)

Postby marktigger » 03 May 2015, 10:48

daily mail reports we have 1 operational SSK(N) and the Astutes are delayed by defects.
Thats the problem with last minute ordering to a fleet that's been pared to the bone

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Re: Astute Class Submarines (SSN)

Postby seaspear » 04 May 2015, 11:41

Cant always believe newspapers as some of the stories about the new carrier has shown ,

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Re: Astute Class Submarines (SSN)

Postby Happyslapper » 04 May 2015, 11:54

marktigger wrote:daily mail reports we have 1 operational SSK(N) and the Astutes are delayed by defects.
Thats the problem with last minute ordering to a fleet that's been pared to the bone


That's bollocks mate. The papers have had it in for A boats from day 1. The reality is that there were a few teething problems (not surprising for a piece of engineering several times more complex than the space shuttle), but that we now have several deployable assets which are quite simply world-beating.
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Re: Astute Class Submarines (SSN)

Postby Gabriele » 04 May 2015, 12:31

If i'm not mistaken, HMS Ambush took part in Joint Warrior. And it made a deployment before that, too. So, that article isn't exactly right.

EDITED: i had written Artful. My mistake.
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Re: Astute Class Submarines (SSN)

Postby RobWilliams » 04 May 2015, 13:37

Claims Ambush hasn't made her maiden voyage, pretty sure she was alongside in Brazil not too long ago.

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Re: Astute Class Submarines (SSN)

Postby marktigger » 04 May 2015, 21:26

Happyslapper Daily Mail has it in for any british military kit built in Britain !

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Re: Astute Class Submarines (SSN) (RN)

Postby sea_eagle » 06 May 2015, 21:53

I think it was dreadful that the Astute programme was slowed down at a cost of £1.50bn rather than proceeding to build 8 boats.

This situation now is surely dire since HMS Triumph is midway through refit while HMS Trenchant is in refit till end of this year. With HMS Talent back in port for repairs that only leaves HMS Torbay available alongside HMS Astute and HMS Ambush.

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Re: Astute Class Submarines (SSN) (RN)

Postby SKB » 06 May 2015, 23:36

A one-hour 2010 BBC Documentary, "How To Build A Nuclear Submarine", focusing on the Astute class SSN's.


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Re: Astute Class Attack Submarines (SSN) (RN)

Postby shark bait » 10 May 2015, 21:55

In reply to comment in the aircraft carrier thread

Old RN wrote:I know it is off topic but given there is no refuelling of the successor submarines I would rather see 3 SSBNs (still maintaining the continuous patrol at sea) and two more Astute's (making 9).


I think what you are suggesting is quite possible. Ive mocked up the build schedule below, and then a modified one with the extra astute slotted in between. it better explains it then when i tried typing it.

By knocking back the successor start date you can fit another 2 astute into the program. This has the effect of one vanguard being decommissioned without replacement. If the UK could sustain running on 3 boats for 5 years another successor could be built at the end of the program to bring the total back up to 4 which is a much more sensible number. During this time we would still have 4 boats in the water, with one doing sea trials instead of the training phase so there is little difference. However the modified schedule doesn't leave much wiggle room for delays.

This has the effect of astute being replace after 28 years instead of the currently intended 25 years.

What also looks mad it that they will have to start work on astute replacement before the first successor boat is even commissioned.

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Re: Astute Class Attack Submarines (SSN) (RN)

Postby Old RN » 11 May 2015, 07:54

Given the original SSBNs (in the 1960s) were planned to refuel every 4-5 years and there were to be 2 SSBNs on station for 70% of the time I believe that the UK only needs 3 SSBNs. In cost and manpower terms this should release enough for two extra SSNs (SSBNs have two crews - or did in my day). The issue would be whether to increase the number of missiles to compensate for teh fewer hulls. The successor is currently planned for 12 each (IIRC) with four hulls, so would it be logical to revert to the current 16? (the joint UK/US module has 4 tubes each).

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Re: Astute Class Attack Submarines (SSN) (RN)

Postby shark bait » 11 May 2015, 11:48

Old RN wrote:Given the original SSBNs (in the 1960s) were planned to refuel every 4-5 years and there were to be 2 SSBNs on station for 70% of the time I believe that the UK only needs 3 SSBNs. In cost and manpower terms this should release enough for two extra SSNs (SSBNs have two crews - or did in my day). The issue would be whether to increase the number of missiles to compensate for teh fewer hulls. The successor is currently planned for 12 each (IIRC) with four hulls, so would it be logical to revert to the current 16? (the joint UK/US module has 4 tubes each).


Its really a measurement of risk. With 4 boats you have 99.9% guarantee of 1 boat available for patrol. Decrease the number of boats and you decrease that guarantee, however modern boats should break and need refueling less so perhaps the level of risk is acceptable with 3 boats.

Let's not forget with the common missile compartment the successor will be much more useful for a traditional roll than vanguard . if they ever choose to utilise that it would be like having and additional 2 SSN in the fleet.
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Re: Astute Class Attack Submarines (SSN) (RN)

Postby GibMariner » 05 Jun 2015, 07:04

Has there been any news about when HMS Artful began/will begin sea trials? I recall reading somewhere that sea trials would commence in early 2015, but it is now mid-2015 and, to my knowledge at least, there's been no info at all. Last piece of news on her I read was her successful first dive in October 2014.

Also, with both Astute and Ambush operating around Gibraltar for the last couple of weeks, both of which seem to have been, and continue to be busy, I think it's safe to say that Daily Mail article was bollocks.

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Re: Astute Class Attack Submarines (SSN) (RN)

Postby Pymes75 » 05 Jun 2015, 11:02

GibMariner wrote:Has there been any news about when HMS Artful began/will begin sea trials? I recall reading somewhere that sea trials would commence in early 2015, but it is now mid-2015 and, to my knowledge at least, there's been no info at all. Last piece of news on her I read was her successful first dive in October 2014.

Also, with both Astute and Ambush operating around Gibraltar for the last couple of weeks, both of which seem to have been, and continue to be busy, I think it's safe to say that Daily Mail article was bollocks.


It's a good question and I am a little concerned that there has been no further news of Artful's progress.

As for the Daily Mail, I find it much easier to work on the basis that all articles are complete and utter bollocks until proven otherwise!

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Re: Astute Class Attack Submarine (SSN) (RN)

Postby SKB » 08 Jun 2015, 15:29

Have updated the Astute class introduction on page 1.

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Re: Astute Class Attack Submarine (SSN) (RN)

Postby seaspear » 08 Jun 2015, 19:15

It is my understanding of submarines that nearly all with exception of the Seawolf class have an increased noise signature the faster they go ,I have not read and would not expect to if this was the case with the Astute class a question might be if the vessel was acting as escort with the carrier at twenty five plus knots has this been assesssed

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Re: Astute Class Attack Submarine (SSN) (RN)

Postby Old RN » 08 Jun 2015, 19:39

All submarines noise signature increases with speed, including Seawolf's. The issue is how rapidly it increases. This is a function of the propulsion system. In the case of the UK we used a propulsor (ducted propeller) for all submarines from the second Swiftsure class (1975) and used rafts for the main machinery from Valiant onwards (1964). The Seawolf was the first US submarine to use a propulsor andI am not sure hen they first used a full machinery isolation raft. This led to UK SSN noise profile rising much more slowly than US SSNs. On a Swiftsure class we once held another SSN at 30,000 yards ahead of us on our towed array when we were both going at 30kts.

We were able to balance a coin on our main gearbox at full power without it falling over! :D

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Re: Astute Class Attack Submarine (SSN) (RN)

Postby sea_eagle » 08 Jun 2015, 21:04

It was the UK that gave the pump jet technology and other stuff to the US Navy.

Just thinking about the relative capability improvement of the 7x Astute class over the 7xT-boats.

The Astute class will spend less time in refits as the PWR2 Core H lasts for the life of the boats compared to the older PWR1 reactors on the T-boats. So availability will be much better.

The Astute class has 6 torpedo tubes compared to 5 on the T-class. (Not sure why the T-boats had 5?) The figures state the T-class holds 30 weapons (heavy torpedo + Tomahawk) - 6 per tube but the Astute class is listed as carrying 38 (and not 36?). Are these all internal or does this mean there is one up the spout?

So for a typical T-class load out of 20 torps + 10 Tomahawk the newer Astute could load up with 20 torps + 18 Tomahawk - nearly double the load of a T-boat. Can the boats be fully loaded with Tomahawks eg 10 torps +28 Tomahawk?

Plus all of the Astute will have the capability to carry the external submersible and I believe 3 are on order.

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Re: Astute Class Attack Submarine (SSN) (RN)

Postby Gabriele » 08 Jun 2015, 22:10

Can the boats be fully loaded with Tomahawks eg 10 torps +28 Tomahawk?


I believe that any combination of Spearfish and Tomahawk can fit into the Astute's weapons handling system. Possibly on the Trafalgars too.
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Re: Astute Class Attack Submarine (SSN) (RN)

Postby sea_eagle » 08 Jun 2015, 23:19

Gabriele wrote:
Can the boats be fully loaded with Tomahawks eg 10 torps +28 Tomahawk?


I believe that any combination of Spearfish and Tomahawk can fit into the Astute's weapons handling system. Possibly on the Trafalgars too.


Thanks for that Gabriele, enjoy reading your blog. So the Astute does appear to have a significant improvement (25%) in capability to the T-class. Will be much better when the T26 arrive so we have the ability to launch Tomahawk (or replacement) from a second platform and in larger numbers. We don't have enough Astutes! :cry:

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Re: Astute Class Attack Submarine (SSN) (RN)

Postby Old RN » 09 Jun 2015, 06:26

The S & T classes had 5 tubes as with the 2001 array on the "chin" position you could not have the classic 6 parallel tubes that previous classes had. The previous classes 2001 array was on the "forehead " position so the tubes were below them. On the S & T boats there were two tubes angled out each side (like US SSNs) and the 5th tube was on the centreline angled downwards, beneath the 2001 array.

It terms of the weapon loadout all the weapons (Mk 24, Spearfish, Harpoon, Tomahawk, and mines) have the same form, fittings and weight so any combination within the boats capacity can be loaded. In my day it was very unusual to actually sail with a full weapon load on board.

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Re: Astute Class Attack Submarine (SSN) (RN)

Postby sea_eagle » 09 Jun 2015, 13:18

Old RN wrote:The S & T classes had 5 tubes as with the 2001 array on the "chin" position you could not have the classic 6 parallel tubes that previous classes had. The previous classes 2001 array was on the "forehead " position so the tubes were below them. On the S & T boats there were two tubes angled out each side (like US SSNs) and the 5th tube was on the centreline angled downwards, beneath the 2001 array.

It terms of the weapon loadout all the weapons (Mk 24, Spearfish, Harpoon, Tomahawk, and mines) have the same form, fittings and weight so any combination within the boats capacity can be loaded. In my day it was very unusual to actually sail with a full weapon load on board.


Thanks for your answer Old RN, very interesting. I recently watched a great 3 part series by Dan Snow about The Spanish Armada and the English fleet had the same issues back then with lack of money to supply the ships with gunpowder and shot as the then Queen Elizabeth was broke and wouldn't pay for supplies. They scavenged the ammunition from captured Spanish ships. Some things never change. :)


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