On Saturday 18th February HMS Anson was moved out of Devonshire Dock in Barrow and subsequently sailed for the first time today to begin sea trials. She will not return to the yard and will arrive at her new home in Faslane soon.
Anson is the 5th Astute class boat, laid down in 2011, she cost £1.3Bn.
She was rolled out of the construction hall in April 2021 and conducted her first basin and trim dive in February 2022. Her formal commissioning ceremony was held at the shipyard in August 2022 and was attended by the former Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. She successfully completed Power Range Testing of her Nuclear Steam Raising Plant (NSRP) on 30th November.
The departure today was witnessed by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace who said “HMS Anson will play a vital role in defending the UK, providing a competitive edge for decades to come, and I am proud to see her make her journey up to her permanent home on the Clyde.”
Global interest in these boats is greater than usual at present due to ongoing speculation relating to the AUKUS agreement to build nuclear submarines for Australia. The Australian Prime Minister is due to meet with President Biden in early March and an announcement is expected detailing the RAN’s strategy for acquiring SSNs. There has been speculation in the Australian media that the RN could sell the last two Astute boats to the RAN but this is most unlikely. The SSNs are arguably the UK’s most important conventional defence assets and numbers are already woefully inadequate for their many tasks which include protecting the nuclear deterrent submarines and the carrier strike group as well as monitoring and deterring extensive Russian submarine activity.
Boat six, HMS Agamemnon and boat seven, HMS Agincourt are still under construction but the ‘magnificent seven’ should all be in commission by 2026. No more Astute class boats can or will be constructed, not least because PWR2 reactors are no longer being produced and future RN submarines are designed around the PWR3 plant. A much more viable possibility is RAN participation with the RN in the SSN(R) project which has already begun.