‘One of the most complex engineering projects in world’
Last updated 12:44, Wednesday, 22 October 2008
BAE Systems Submarine Solutions is the prime contractor for the Astute class, responsible for the design, build and initial in-service support of the four 7,400-tonne vessels – Astute, Ambush, Artful, and Audacious – currently under construction at the shipyard.Astute is currently undergoing testing and commissioning of the thousands of systems on board the vessel, which is recognised as one of the most complex engineering projects in the world. She will leave Barrow next year for sea trials before going into service with the Royal Navy.
Astute sets a new standard for the Royal Navy in terms of weapon load, stealth and comfort for the crew. The submarine also employs a new generation steam-raising nuclear plant, fuelled for the whole of the vessel’s 25-year operational life.
Designed to fulfil a wider range of strategic roles for more flexible deployment, Astute will be the most capable attack submarine ever operated by the Navy.
As well as supporting the deterrent and fulfilling anti-surface ship and submarine duties, Astute is designed to undertake a range of other tasks including support of land forces, intelligence gathering, and land attack using the latest Tomahawk cruise missiles delivering pinpoint accuracy on targets 1,000 miles distant.
Astute’s state-of-the-art pressurised water reactor is more complex than a nuclear 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 – the submarine commander sleeps less than 10 metres away from the nuclear core.
Once deployed, Astute can patrol for 90 days, remaining undetected thousands of miles from home and hundreds of metres underwater.
Specialist engineers working on the design of Astute are undertaking a wide range of activities including:
Nuclear engineering: providing safety and performance improvements to a state-of-the-art pressurised water reactor that is fuelled for life.
Systems engineering: integrating the thousands of sub-systems that require 110km of cabling, 23,000 pipes amounting to10km of pipework, and over five million lines of software code – plus managing the supply chain, which consists of over 30 main suppliers.
Marine and mechanical engineering: providing solutions for the propulsive power train, auxiliary systems and life support.
Astute must be quiet, vibration free and robust enough to withstand a nearby underwater explosion.
Hydrodynamics and control engineering: the design of the submarine hull, hydroplanes and control systems to provide control of depth and good manoeuvrability. The submarine must maintain neutral buoyancy and is literally ‘flown’ underwater.
Human factors: ensuring every system is safely operable and maintainable in all conditions by a relatively small complement compared with previous nuclear powered submarines.