On Saturday 4th April HMS Audacious was moved from Devonshire Dock in Barrow towards Walney Channel. Despite the ongoing pandemic and delays to her construction, it is pleasing to report that today she finally sailed for the first time.
3 Astute-class boats have already been delivered to the fleet but the construction of boat 4, HMS Audacious has been plagued by delays. As recently as February 2017, the MoD said it expected Audacious to enter service in November 2018 but in October 2019 the MoD announced she would join the fleet sometime in January 2021. Having managed to leave the builders in April, it is possible she may be able to join the fleet before 2021. The boat will head to her home in Faslane where she is likely to undergo further work before the next round of trials.
Audacious’ crew has, unusually, been living onboard for the last two weeks while the boat has been alongside making final preparations to sail. This was an attempt to isolate the crew from potential infection, although social distancing is clearly entirely impractical on a submarine. The MoD will not confirm or deny confirmed cases in the forces but it would appear Audacious is virus-free. BAES says new ways of working and amended protocols were introduced in Barrow to enabled a small team to safely provide vital support ahead of the boat’s departure.
Usually, when a submarine leaves Barrow, Roa Island and Walney area are packed with well-wishers but due to the coronavirus lockdown, local residents were to told to stay at home.
Despite the delays and enormous expense, it should be remembered that the Astute class are probably the most effective (and finest looking:) SSNs in the world. There are three main reasons for this; (1) they are crewed by Royal Navy submariners – the best of the best, (2) they are reputedly the quietest nuclear boats of all, (3) they are equipped with outstanding UK submarine sonar technology.