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Andrew Wilde

A very good analysis, thank you. A dedicated, skilled and completely trustworthy workforce from start to finish seem to have been fighting just as much against a divisive, ignorant and untrustworthy Government and MOD as any enemy they will ever meet. Some of the people involved in trying to get these boats to sea must have been pulling their hair out in sheer frustration.

Gavin Gordon

I wondered how we ‘guarantee’ total trustworthiness with regard to our nuclear boats. The Walker group are famous for supplying data to the Russians in the US, as we know. The risk is still very high with US engineer Toebbe, the subject of a sting operation, being arrested just last year.

Dave Wolfy

Never more needed than now, no, especially more than the 1970s or 1970s.

Fixed Wing Bomber

Yes, both the 70’s and the 70’s were terrible weren’t they.

DaSaint

I thought the 70’s were bad, but then I remembered the 70’s, which was even worse.

Watcherzero

The 70’s the 70’s, so bad they named it twice. Mind you they say if you can remember it you weren’t really there….

Defence thoughts

It will be interesting to see how possible it will be to replace Astute like-for-like with UUVs also coming online.

ATH

My guess is that’s extremely unlikely. I can see UUV’s in support of the next gen SSN but not as a replacement. The issues with power, covert comms and control are still a long long way from being fixed.

Deep32

You are assuming that a UUV will have the same capabilities as a manned SM. Not even remotely in your wildest dreams!!

captain p wash

As ever Deep, you are spot on …………….. it’s always nice to read your educated and experience based replies…………… now I’ll just go back in to the woods and lurk for a while. Keep up the good work my cyber friend.

Last edited 5 months ago by captain p wash
Deep32

Hey Capt, nice to hear from you again. It would be good to see you post again mate, your contributions have been sorely missed. I think things on the various sites have changed a little for the better. Might it not tempt you back out of retirement?

captain p wash

good morning mate, thanks for that, i may pop in a bit at times but it’s been quite nice just reading stuff rather than ending up arguing with silly people !

captain p wash

As another reply (having thought about it now), I would love to be able to post on “The Other Site” too but since I got banned after standing up for free speach and actively highlighting the incredibly damaging Up and Down vote system whilst trying hard to deflect the “Incoming” from such delightful members as “Herodotus” and the like….. I have been “Censored” for quite some time now…….. so If you can say a BIG HELLO to Cam, Rear Gunner and Daniele Mandelli, I’d be very gratefull mate……….. Only in the Free Speaking Countries are Free Speakers, not free to speak…………….. How Bizzare is that eh ?

Defence thoughts

I meant replacing the Astutes like for like with a proper SSN in light of UUVs also coming online. Would some authority in the MoD consider watering down like-for-like with some UUVs as compensation (5 replacement SSNs and 4 UUVs or whatever)? Or would they consider SSN numbers the highest priority and UUVs “come into existence in addition to the 7 successors?

N-a-B

It’s the latter.

Deep32

As N-a-B has posted, it will be in addition to SSN(R).
There are unfortunately many hurdles to overcome with getting UUVs to a useful capability where it can readily add to the SSN force structure. Many think that UUVs are just as capable as their fixed wing counterparts which have been around for several decades. That’s just not the case, and will probably take a decade or more to get to that capability, even longer to get to the same level as the ‘loyal wingman’ concept.

Supportive Bloke

With the harder problem of high bandwidth comms undersea?

In the air there are viable options: directional RF, laser/LiFi & satellite.

Deep32

Yes absolutely, and two polar opposites in operating environments that are unfortunately not understood well enough.

captain p wash

A fleet of Trieste’s with weapons and RC would be a real game changer though…. (sorry, a tongue in cheek reply just to make people think about operational depths and virtully undetectable detterent options….) What’s the average Baltic, North Sea, Japan Sea depth again compared to the “Trench” ? I bet you know this mate !!!!

Watcherzero

Some talk of the SSN(R) because of their 25% greater displacement to fit the Dreadnought reactor having a hanger for UUV’s.

Kendonian

It amazes me how we spend so much on defense and get so little in return, and when you look at the wasted projects and billions of £ gone down the crapper I kinda understand why. There should never be a gap in building either sub’s or ships, we need dedicated BIGGER shipyards that can handle multiple builds at once if required. Spending £257 million on upgrading 60 or so tomahawk missiles?? Are you kidding? No extra numbers and £4 per missile for an upgrade? MOD need replacing and this mess sorting out ASAP. I’d rather have another type 31 than 60 upgraded missiles

Supportive Bloke

This is an informed article about doing things better and cheaper. On the whole using sensible measure that will probably produce results.

Billy no mates

In just a few years, there will be something like 25 N boats (if you include the V class) waiting for proper disposal and the costs involved are staggering, I believe there are currently 18 or 19 awaiting disposal tied up in Devonport and Rosyth, some have been there for decades, It’s almost like no Government wants to be responsible for the bill.

N-a-B

Nope. The costs aren’t staggering, although they’re not free either. The actual costs of in-water storage are relatively cheap. What is concentrating the mind is that they’re running out of secure storage space in Guzz. Which is why the SDP has accelerated recently.

Once the pilot programme on the defueled boats at Rosyth has delivered, then they’ll have proved the method. What will then be required is the new defuelling facility at Guzz to start processing those boats. That won’t be cheap, but it won’t be staggering either.

Billy no mates

But to be fair, I wasn’t talking about the cost’s of storage so much as the cost of long term cleaning up and disposal which by any estimate is actually quite “Staggering” especially when compared to any non nuclear powered boats. I’m guessing someone on here might be able to upload a thread or article that can show accurate forcasts of the the actual costs involved. The word “Staggering” is just my own interpretation of said costs.

Andrew Deacon

Talent and Trenchant have just gone in and will be while before Triumph and V boats come out of service – so plenty of time!

Rudeboy

The first full dismantlement is underway, first in the world I believe for a full dismantlement, that will provide lessons learned so the remainder can be done more quickly and cheaper.

Billy no mates

Well lets hope so RB.

Billynomates

Not sure of the “first in the World” bit, I think the USN, Russia and France have already done this with dozens if not hundreds of their N boats and Ships. I remember walking around the Redoutable many years ago after she was Sliced up and put on show.

Supportive Bloke

They are not fully dismantled.

The Russians chop off fore and aft of the reactor compartment weld plates over the ends and then either store that on a barge of sink it.

The Americans do the same and dry store the remaining module in a facility.

No idea what the French approach is.

Bizzarely we are making life very hard for ourselves by removing the reactor from the compartment. That will be a first.

ATH

The “problem” we have is a combination of a lack of a suitable space/lack of political support for the US solution of containing the whole reactor compartment and leaving the problem for a couple of hundred years. The U.K. will separate the non contaminated (the vast majority) from the lightly contaminated (for which we have a disposal system) and the more highly contaminated. The small amount of this material will be stored pending a national repository for this class of wast.

Supportive Bloke

Exactly so.

But it is a first as nobody else has spectated the bits yet!

Billynomates

OK thanks for the clarification, that makes sense, I guess the “Fully Dismantled” bit causes the confusion here but i still believe the costs involved will be huge when all things are taken in to account.

N-a-B

Les Francais are marginally ahead of us.

Naval Group chooses Veolia for deconstructing 5 nuclear submarines

Albeit they’ve had far fewer boats and although they managed to do Le Redoubtable, the rest seem to have been defuelled and left afloat in Cherbourg, much like we’ve done in Rosyth.

captain p wash

By all accounts the costs will be pretty horrendous in the big scheme of things….. there has already been decades of man power costs alone, just to “keep an eye on things” let alone all the other work involved.

Challenger

Just reinforces how ridiculous it was to have such a large gap between the last Trafalgar and first Astute! In the early 90’s the Swiftsure’s were already 15+ years old. If a figure of 12 SSN’s was identified as the minimum then why oh why didn’t they immediately get cracking on 5 Trafalgar follow on/derivative boats (the so called W Class) ASAP!

When production at a single site is artificially slowed down to keep them in work it results both in inflated costs and all sorts of messy delays and expensive refits to keep older boats going.

Billy no mates

It’s all very much down to the lack of perceived threats, as viewed by previous and current Governments, since the fall of the wall I guess.

Supportive Bloke

All true.

The main issue is that ministers have zero grasp of a subject area when appointed.

Investing money to save money in the long term is not something that is highly politically popular or popular with Treasury types – they see it as money pit stuff full of unmeasurables.

Sunmack

Fighting two land based wars in Iraq Afghanistan on a peacetime defence budget caused the RN to be hollowed out to pay for it. The RAF/MOD/Politcians spaffing £3.4 billion on MR4A to get no aircraft didn’t help either

Duker

They did get the MRA4 . Its just a new government decided to make very harsh cuts for shallow reasons and then spend as much again 12 years later for the same thing.

N-a-B

They got an aircraft that was not – and could not be cost-effectively made – properly airworthy.

Whoever made the call to go with a refurbished 1960s airframe for a 21st century capability (and it’ll have been a senior crab) should have been taken out and beaten to death with their own shoes. Twice, just to make sure.

MRA4 and P8 are most definitely not the same thing.

Last edited 5 months ago by N-a-B
captain p wash

Indeed, one mans Inch was another mans foot, apparently !

captain p wash

I seriously doubt the MRA4’s would have been finished even by the time we decided to purchase a much reduced quantity of P8’s though. Would have probably been better off buying Orions at the time.

N-a-B

Orions weren’t a real option back then.

The option back then was the P7 (which would have been a new-design Orion-a-like turbo-prop). But certain people knew for certain that jets were best, specifically jets based on a 1950s airliner, because time to station and speed and stuff.

I believe the technical term is “D’Oh!”

captain p wash

A better option than none at all though. It’s yet another example of cuts cuts cuts then all of a sudden it becomes an urgent requirement again.

N-a-B

In that particular case, it wasn’t cuts cuts cuts, rather betting on the wrong horse which became undeliverable. The requirement was always urgent.

captain p wash

Well the Numbers were cut then cut again, then cut all together then Cut up into lots of little bits……….. !

Duker

The airframes were delivered. ( 9 or 12 ?) the ASW hardware was mostly carried over from the MR2, just like most of the ASW hardware on the P8 came from the P3.
Sure the cost was ridiculous but it was spent money by the time the cuts came and thats was mostly due to BAE who also blew the Astute development at the same time ( remember the ship builder didnt have the modern 3D digital design software and the trained staff to use it)

Remember the P8 is on the 737 airframe , while a new build, also dates from the 1960s and is limited by its small wingspan designed for 1960s short haul airport terminal ‘gates’
The Japanese P-1 showed them all up and how it could have been done with proper high altitude capability and including ‘simple things’ like 4 flat plate radar arrays for 360 deg surface scanning ( the P8 just uses nose limited view scanner and the MR4 used its chin pannier location). The P-1 contract was let around 2001 and they did have discussions ( unfruitful) with USN on shared development for their similar timescale P-3 replacement

N-a-B

The early to mid 90s were all about this thing called the Peace Dividend. When the principal driver for your SSN capability disappears, it can be somewhat difficult to convince the MoD Investment Approval Ctte – as I think it was then – to spend billions on designing and building new boats.

We’d won. There was a memo and everything.

Then we got a Chancellor who viewed every pound spent on defence as a pound wasted. From a party where a significant proportion of the membership were CND enthusiasts.

Last edited 5 months ago by N-a-B
Duker

You have forgotten
Options for Change 1990
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Options_for_Change
Front Line First 1994
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Front_Line_First

The First labour government one 1998, was mild compared to the Tories reviews at the end of the Cold war ( above ) and the notorious 2010 Review
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategic_Defence_Review

And just this year theres another mini-review which reduces numbers again

N-a-B

I refer you to the phrase “the early to mid 90s were all about this thing called the Peace Dividend”. When last I looked that was Thatchers last government and the Major government. So hardly forgotten – and understandable when the threat goes away.

None of this changes the basic premise that Brown viewed a pound spent on defence as a pound wasted. While the SDR98 was a fine piece of work in terms of capabilities defined and made perfect sense at the time, one could ask whether it was actually funded. To which the answer is emphatically no. Remember JCRC? Two ships apparently required. Funded? Nope.

The amount of money wasted while Brown made the forces undertake two enduring operations way beyond the scale of funding provided to do so was scandalous.

Duker

There were 2 major defence reviews under conservatives with major cuts from 1990 to the time labour was in office and their review was inconsequential cuts ( and 2 new carriers!)

Andrew Deacon

My understanding was that 3 months was the maximum patrol allowed for crew welfare and food supplies. Does a 5 month patrol mean they have to surface somewhere somehow for resupply and crew rotation?

Wrecker M

No, the crew have to just suck it up!

stephen ball

On channel 5 Submarine life under the waves, it says they have food for 120 days. Pretty sure with that much food depending on when they get informed to stretch there food they can add 10-20-30 days.

It’s the spare part’s that’ll limit the endurance for those 10-20-30 days.

Cameron

What an embarrassing look into the submarine service that was… The toilets broke so they would have to shi£ in bags and bin them! Then the main fridge broke causing major food issues…then there was a fire…and someone was injured… Jesus Christ! Should have put cameras in an Astute not an old worn out barely working trafalgar…granted trafalgars have been worked hard and done a great job…

Joeinpoole

As an ex-Artificer I was frankly shocked how poorly the crew coped with basic mechanical/electrical issues. It was as if not having proper apprenticeships for the last 20 years has actually had consequences!

Duker

Very true. Young guys dont fix or tinker with cars or motorbikes anymore. Its all about the looks and the sound system.
Does anybody even know enough to open the back of a computer of phone even . I had to fix a door lock the other day. I had no real idea but gave it a go taking apart and it was fixed

Billy no mates

Nope, The Crew just have to eat 2 Sausages rather than 3 per breakfast session.

Former OA

You have boards that go along 2 deck or we did on Spartan and sceptre that the chefs fill 2 deck with canned products the cans are used cleaned out and marked mt on the bottom they are not shredded till back in port as there would be no place to store the boards along 2 deck while on patrol

Challenger

A V Class boat never surfaces during a patrol. It’s trump card as an effective deterrent is secrecy.

During The Falklands Conflict the SSN’s sent down south were packed full of extra tins to extend their time on station by weeks and weeks.

I’d say welfare is a bigger problem. 3 months underwater crammed into a metal cigar with no natural sunlight or shore runs must be a big challenge for the crew. More time on patrol equals more stress and uncertainty.

James

Great article, I have complete faith in our Navy despite all the concerns we read about every week.

Fred the Frog

Well that makes me feel a whole lot better James.

Paul Welch

As ever, IT is seen as the solution for most of the current problems. What should be addressed would take me a long time to answer but I will try to be concise.
The relationships between the Stakeholders can be poisonous both on a personal and Company level, with each party blaming the other for costs and delays.
Manufacturing the nuclear systems for the new generation of submarines has not (how shalI I put it) been the most efficient.
The establishment of fixed Processes and Procedures has strangled any initiative required due to constantly changing circumstances.
Repeated Company-wide initiatives to increase production that cost fortunes and fail to deliver.
Time and money wasted on Diversity and Inclusivity training. PR departments fail to realise we are all diverse from one another!

Will things change? Yes; they will get worse.

Supportive Bloke

“ The establishment of fixed Processes and Procedures has strangled any initiative required due to constantly changing circumstances”

There is always a grain of truth in that statement.

Jon

When they refuelled Vanguard, RR lost years on their plan to build the PWR3 refuelling capability as the one capability replaces the other. I doubt they’ll ever be able to refuel both PWR2 and PWR3 simultaneously. That’s a high risk strategy and an example of short term thinking. As long as we don’t have the ability to build PWR3 attack subs, surely we need to maintain full capability with PWR2.

That’s not easy. It’s expensive and presumably Derby has its share of NIMBYs (where doesn’t), but the expense of getting it wrong is far higher. A Vangard-style issue with an Astute could no longer be handled in the same way, nor any serious reactor issue. It’s not like RR have a couple of spare reactors in a back shed just in case. The detail design for SSN(R), or even an interim Astute+ with PWR3, can’t come a minute too soon.

The knock on effects of penny pinching and the lack of transparency contribute to the problem. We claim we can do things at a knock down price and end up spending even more. If Vigilant cost £300m to refit/refuel back in 2008-2011 and Vengeance cost £350 million by 2015, who decided to try to get Vanguard a major refit/refuel for £200m? Unsurprisingly the budget was insufficient, ultimately driving up overall costs and timescales with nobody held to account. (Who even remembers Def Sec Philip Hammond, who announced the core replacement, then estimated at £120m? He was shortly after promoted to Chancellor of the Exchequer. Not what I’d call held to account.)

We read earlier this year that an extra £6 bn is to be spent on submarine (CDAS) availability, “targeted investments in infrastructure”, which they had previously got wrong. Must be a pretty broad target for that amount: money which could have been better spent on sailors, attack submarines or surface ships. We must stop unrealistic planning throughout DE&S. Kicking the can down the road eats away future investment.

Last edited 5 months ago by Jon
Duker

PWR3 , isnt that the core thats doesnt need refueling for the life of the boat ? the no refuel was introduced for PWR2 Core H which is going in V class boats at its refit and is included with A class at build

Supportive Bloke

A very good article that rightly focussed on one of DefSec’s priorities: getting more seagoing days out of each platform.

He was very clear that the dollop of cash he got from the treasury was to make existing assets more available as well as reduce costs of future acquisition.

DaSaint

I wonder how UK industry participation in AUKUS will affect RN readiness and schedules. So eager to see how the RAN decides to proceed with their SSN program.

Duker

Their readyness problem is even greater as a nuclear boat wont realistically become in service till 2040. The existing Collins will barely make it to 2030. getting the trained and experienced people for both a larger fleet of SSN and an existing maintenance heavy SSK fleet is practically impossible.
Thats why theres talk of an interim replacement for the Collins…. now where could they find a design that suits their requirements and likely built offshore, but not so many as before ?

” hello , Monsieur Le President , about those Barracuda’s . Theres been a development”

Deep32

Are the Collins class not getting essentially a lifex to take them to 2040 and beyond? I have read that they will also be getting Tube Launched TLAM Blk V, much the same as our boats have, which will boost there offensive capabilities.

Duker

I think a lifex wont be the panacea they think it will be and is more likely to be over budget and extended time- sound familiar
Wise heads are saying the lifex money can be better spent than trying to improve 1980s boats. The obvious choice is Barracuda to Australias requirement but built in France and maybe 4 or so in succession.

Deep32

The Aus Navy were taking a long look at the Japanese Navy’s Soryu class long before their French adventure, and were very interested in it. Not sure why they went over to the French, might have been more industrial workshare and or a newer design?
Sweden’s A26 class ‘Oceanic’ version might also fit the bill if they do decide to purchase a limited number of SSK’s.

Scott

(Hello from Adelaide.) The Collins Class LOTE is now forecast to cost A$5 to $6 billion, about £3 billion. The RAN could buy two Astutes for that. Naval group had trouble meeting deadlines on the Attack contract (major reason for cancellation). They were three years late on the Suffren and still have five more SSNs and four more SSBNs to build for the French Navy. I do not see how they have any spare capacity to build SSNs for anyone quickly. If the PWR2 issues could be resolved a continuous production of a “Batch 2” Astute at Barrow and ASC/BAE Adelaide might be a great solution for both the RN and RAN.

Deep32

Morning Scott, unfortunately I think it highly improbable that there will be any ‘batch 2’ Astutes regardless of any PWR2 issues. Our Astutes are now largely built, and in various stages of fitting out and testing. Barrow is now ramping up to build Dreadnoughts, so without putting that program at risk, any purchase from the UK will involve our SSN(R) design along with PWR3.
I think it much more likely that you will buy from the USA when you are ready, unless of course you introduce a interim SSK buy to tide you over untill we bring SSN(R) on line if that’s your preferred choice!

Duker

Barrow had previously built at a higher rate. Restarting the Astute production is easier than you might think- its a proven system while D class will be certain to have production delays. More complex is the continuation of the A class reactor production

Grant

Great article. It’s a source of immense pride we can build and operate such incredible equipment: very few countries can and it shows we still have it.

I know we would like more of these, but the realities of cost, capacity and probably most importantly finding people who in this age of social media want to serve on these things means that 7 SSN is impressive. We should however add more kit which can shoulder some of the burden where we do have the ability to add: 2 more T26s with mission bays full of sub hunting kit, more P8s and get those MK41s on the T31s so they can lob the occasional tomahawk at a lower end adversary when needed, so we can keep the SSNs in the North Atlantic and protecting the carriers when needed.

Cameron

Seeing HMS Triumph next to HMS Ambush really shows how much bigger Astutes are…

Duker

That surely goes to the heart of the problem. The capability creep which makes smaller and smaller numbers of even larger submarines

Resolution class SSBN L=420 ft beam = 33 ft Displ subm =8500 T
Astute class SSN L= 318 ft beam =37 ft Displ sub =7500T

N-a-B

It’s not capability creep per se. The major drivers are to do with safety, commonality and signature, plus sensor type and performance.

captain p wash

Erm, there were 4 Resolutions same as the Vanguards….. and 7 Trafalgers same as the Astutes…. So that’s the same number of both but the newer Boats are very much larger….. am I missing the obvious regarding your comment “Smaller and smaller numbers of even larger submarines” ?

Duker

Trafalgars served at the same time as their predecessors. 7 laid down from 1979 to 1987. Astutes 7 laid down 2001 to 2018 and longer completion time currently almost 10 years for last of class.

The Swiftsures (6) were laid down 69-77, and apart from Swiftsure itself which went early in 1992 because of reactor cracks, they served until 2004 to 2010

So previously there was 2 classes almost all in service at one time and the RN had numerous SSK as well till the Upholders sold off around 92.

captain p wash

Well yes, I know that but you specifically mentioned the R and A class boats which are actually way in excess of their predecessors by way of displacement…… same amount of hulls though.

Duker

R was obviously a ballistic missile sub just shown how the A class is now around the same size but without the bulky missile tubes.

Of course even the surface warships have grown bigger since the sixties designs , often related to the changes in weight distribution and stability going from heavy boilers and steam turbines along with magazines at the bottom of the hull to very light weight aircraft derived gas turbines only at bottom and vertical launch tubes at deck level ( or higher) and larger flat plate radars in superstructure.
A nuclear submarine doesnt have those changes is mission is subsurface and retains the same methods of propulsion ( step change from PWR1 reactor to the current PWR2 type now used for T and A class)

Louis

I believe the Astutes were meant to replace the five Swiftsures and hills 1 and 2 of the Trafalgar class, I assume that another class was planned to replace the rest of the trafalgar class and keep SSN numbers at 12.

X

No. The government halted building. And the drumbeat was broken. Astute should have been at least 8 boats.

captain p wash

It’s that old “At Least” saying again….. just like we were to get “At Least” 5 Type 31’s not so long back…. it’s been dropped now though, predictably !

Nicholas

Great article, very informative, thanks

CAW

The DAR was a mess from the 1st day it was sent to Babcock’s for Vanguard’s 2nd core change

Nicholas

For one hilarious moment I thought that there were a couple of windows on the front of the sail with curtains behind them.

Watcherzero

There are on Russian submarines, to help withstand the cold they have a room for the watch to get out of the weather.

pallet recycling near me

Vanguard has still not emerged from dry dock and as a non-fixed-price contract, cost to the MoD is thought to have ballooned to over £500 million.