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Astute Fascinating Facts

Life on board

Despite space restrictions every crewman and passenger has his own bunk (unlike in earlier subs when ‘hot bunking’ was the norm). 

Astute’s state-of-the-art Pressurised Water Reactor is more complex than a power station with more restrictions placed upon it; it must be engineered and operated in the knowledge that almost 100 people live and work in close proximity, with the submarine commander sleeping less than 10 metres away from the nuclear core. 

Astute can manufacture its own oxygen from seawater and purify the onboard atmosphere even underwater. 

Advanced engineering

The thousands of sub-systems built into Astute comprise of 100km of cabling, 23,000 pipes (amounting to10km of pipework) over 1 million individual components and over 5 million lines of software code.

Design and construction of the Astute Class is arguably the most challenging engineering project in the UK and has been described as “more complex than the space shuttle”, involving the production of over 7,000 design drawings. And 10,000 separate design and engineering requirements.

The nuclear reactor and 4 turbines on board Astute are capable of generating tens of megawatts of power, yet less than a single watt of power is radiated into the sea.

Once deployed, Astute is designed not to require refuelling throughout her full service life - over 25 years - and can patrol for 90 days, remaining undetected thousands of miles from home and hundreds of metres underwater.

The Navy’s best

When HMS Astute, HMS Ambush and HMS Artful enter service, they will be the largest and most powerful nuclear attack submarines ever built for the Royal Navy, equipped with the world’s most advanced sonar system, Spearfish torpedoes and Tomahawk cruise missiles capable of delivering pin-point strikes 2,000km from the coast. 

Able to circumnavigate the entire globe while submerged she will be able to carry 38 torpedoes and missiles - more than any previous RN submarine.

Astute’s Captain will never have to hunch over an optical periscope - a range of equipment including thermal imaging cameras and low light video and CCD TV sensors will enable Astute to capture and then analyse surface images.

Size is important

When fully stored Astute will displace 7800 tones of sea water (equivalent to 65 Blue Whales or nearly 1,000 London buses). She is 97m long and is 11.2m wide.

A nuclear submarine is typically three times more densely packed with machinery and equipment than a surface ship, so spatial constraints of the Astute class are enormous.

The pressure hull of the Astute class is a 97 metre long cylinder which when submerged must withstand pressure equivalent to 400 family saloon cars weighing down on every square metre of surface area.  Manufactured from steel, the vessel will spend her entire life immersed in sea water – a highly corrosive liquid.   

Building Astute

The Astute programme relies heavily on the power of computer aided design and ‘virtual prototyping’ because with a project as complex as Astute there is no time or budget to produce an actual prototype submarine.  Instead, ‘virtual’ prototyping is relied upon, harnessing the power of computer test and visualisation, along with continuous design and systems analysis.

The Devonshire Dock Hall is the largest shipbuilding construction complex of its kind in Europe, covering an area of 25,000m the height of the hall at 51 metres was determined by the need for overhead cranes to clear the raised masts of nuclear submarines.

Astute is one of the first nuclear submarines to be designed entirely in a three dimensional computer aided environment and breaks away from the principle that submarine performance should be optimised by designing the smallest boat possible with little regard to cost.