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some cracking photo,s

Last edited 1 year ago by andy

Very cool photos. Very risky use of a irreplacable asset however.


Reminds me of the RN use of the carrier Courageous to ‘hunt submarines’ in the first weeks of WW2. Of course the inevitable happened and it was sunk by submarine U29 on 17 Sept 1939 in Western approaches. ( 15 days after war declared). Ark Royal luckily escaped a similar fate 3 days earlier.
Using high value ships for tasks they are not suited seems to have escaped collective memory of the RN


Submarine worth billions hanging around while Marine tries to start outboard motor on dinghy? Time for an upgrade…..

John Hartley

This months Warships IFR mag, has artwork on the Russian submarine developer, Rubin, proposal for a submersible patrol ship. A way to sneak up to a foreign coast. Not deep diving, so can have surface gunboat style armament (20-57mm gun, surface to surface & SAM missiles) as well as torpedoes. Looks a bit fantasy fleets, but an interesting concept.

David MacDonald

Great stuff but this is not really a job for an SSN. For this and other reasons we need some conventional subs too, perhaps a derivative of the German 212 class. They could be built at Devonport or/and Birkenhead.

stephen ball

Germany sub in 2016 did not have one sub out on patrol, due to zero maintained.


Hi Stephen…are still or back at the Senate? Canada need to get 12 new top version of the German 212 Attack Subs…our Arctic will melt into Chinas hands…


I agree however the utility of an SSN in the type of operation/exercise shown here is that it could perform it anywhere on the globe along any coastline without logistical support, whereas an SSK would be limited by range, speed, the requirement to surface and replenish oxygen supplies, and the requirement to refuel periodically which would give the enemy some intelligence as to it’s approach vector and likely time of arrival. SSKs could circumvent these problems, for the UK’s purposes, if such operations were performed around Scandinavia, the Baltics, or perhaps the Med. as they could probably reach all those areas without surfacing, but for the wider world the SSNs are the better/only real option.

I think our SSNs are our most potent conventional assets and tasking between hunting down enemy SSBNs and inserting commandos certainly means we should have more of them.

Last edited 1 year ago by Gareth
David MacDonald

Yes more SSNs would be nice to have but we are not going be able to build any more Astutes since Barrow will be fully occupied with the Dreadnaughts for many years before it can start on the Astute replacements. So there is no chance of having more than 7 SSNs for about a couple of decades.

However Devonport (and possibly Cammell Laird with a lot of upskilling and some help from Barrow) could build a few SSKs which, as you write, would be suitable for North Atlantic and Mediterranean deployment and could also relieve the Astutes from some training tasks (of both submariners and ASW aircraft/ships) and keeping the approaches to the Clyde clear.


The sub building skills are the same for SSK or SSN. A submarine hull is the same, the torpedo tubes and handling the same. All the attack systems, sensors and periscopes are the same. The Nuclear power plant is separately built by RR and probably includes the steam turbine section

Its a fantasy fleet that the UK will buy or build a SSK. Their interest and emphasis in this area will be on the large underwater autonomous vessels.


how would a 212 get from faslane to say Murmansk undetected, and how long would it take…

Steven Alfred Rake

It is good to see, but with only 7 SSN’s I would prefer them to be at sea doing what they do best. If we are not going to build some SSKs for this type of thing why can’t we keep a couple of T boats in service to help relieve the pressure on the Astute’ s. Yes the T’s are well past there sell by date but they could be rededicated to the SF community and I am pretty sur that they can still transport some bods along with their kit and still fire a could of torpedoes if needed.


I think you will find that they aren’t far off running on empty! There also comes a point where it’s just not economically viable to keep such a old unit running, it would be cheaper in the long run to have a small number of SSKs to help out, if we could build/man and afford them.

Steven Alfred Rake

I could not agree more, but the government in their wisdom dose not seem to want to entertain the idea of SSKs back into the UK’s inventory. So to relieve a bit of the pressure on the few SSN’s we have up and running may be we could look to the old stock of SSN’s or even look at the old Resolution class like the American’s have done with the Ohio’s. Yes the Ohio’s were a lot younger when they were converted but as long as they can stay underwater and deliver their cargo that is all that they have to do.
We have to pay shed loads of cash to keep them at Devonport so why not pay a bit of money towards getting a few seaworthy so at least they can deploy the SF when needed. They could even carry drones into the area of operations and act as underwater ferries for sensitive kit and personnel leaving the Astute’ s to do there real job.


The R’s have been sitting idle for years, they must be rust buckets by now. I know one had rusty ballast tanks back in the early 90s.

Supportive Bloke

It would be suicidal to try and resurrect the R boats now.

Crew safety alone would dictate that the R’s have done their hull dive life cycle and that is that.

Add to that: all of the systems would be massively out of date and the nuclear stuff has been permanently decommissioned and not in a way that allows it to be recommissioned.

Sorry non starter.

If there was funding for an uplift the SSK idea has more legs. But that requires funding and people. I suspect it may become necessary as the Russians smart from their Ukranian mishap and try and assert themselves at the Big Boy’s table by making mischief aided and abetted by China and Iran.

I find India’s position on this most perplexing as they don’t seem to realise that by helping Russia now they are actually helping China? And why do the Indian’s want Russia useless arms exports? We have now have a massive field test of all of their systems in Ukraine and none of them have impressed anyone.

Supportive Bloke

Problem is: where do you find the skills to build more pressure hulls in the UK?

The rest is not so safety critical but you cannot afford a single tiny area of dud weld in a pressure hull……

I suppose there could be an analogue of the T31 in submarine terms? Non nuclear and built as a large hull with a good defensive fit out?


This is the problem, we wouldn’t have enough skilled engineers et Al to design and build a new type of SM. Couldn’t even build one if we bought the design from say Sweden or Germany.
We last had those skills in the early 90’s when we built the Upholders, but no follow on orders allowed that skill base to perish.
It will prove interesting as to how we help the Aussies with their future SSN aspirations also. Barrow is going to be v busy as it is.


T boats are worn out.

Steven Alfred Rake

I understand that they are worn out, but if we are not going to invest in a small fleet of SSK’s then instead of having the hulls sitting around in Devonport for countles years costing shed loads of money while we wait to find out how we are going to dispose of them, we could spend some money converting one or two hulls for the use of underwater delivery of the SF and underwater drones. If they are just going to be underwater taxi’s then there is no need for a lot of the kit onboard at the moment.

The best solution of cause would be more SSN’s but at the rate that they are being delivered it will be 2050 before we could get our numbers up to about 12 vessels.
The next best solution would be to have a small fleet of SSK’s to police the home waters and to mount a taxi service for the SF but then that would still take some time 2030 to 2035 before we have enough.
So the quickest way of getting hull numbers at sea is to revamp a few of the older boats that are waiting for disposal.


Hi mate, unfortunately that’s not how it works with SSN/SSBNs, the bits you need /can’t get rid of are the bits that are worn out and are horrendously expensive to replace. They just can’t be used as secondhand taxis.
As an example, Vanguard is still in refit needing a unscheduled refuelling. She is currently 18months late with no firm completion date. Lots of problems have been encountered during this refit, hence the drawn out refit. It is currently estimated that costs will exceed £250 million over budget. Hence cheaper to buy a SSK.

Steven Alfred Rake

You are right, one of the best ways would be to acquire a small number of SSKs but the government seems intrenched in not going down this road.
Vanguard’s problems have a lot to do with mis-management and the fact that we have so few SSN’s and SSBN’s that the spear parts cost as much as a new vessel in a lot of cases plus we have just come through the pandemic which has impacted quite a lot on the shipbuilding/maintenance industry in the UK.
Maybe it is time to look at Titanium hulls that can be updated with new internal refit but the same hull can have a far longer life span (just a thought)
The Russian’s started down this road some time ago but I believe that the technology just was not there then so ended up as an expensive experiment but we have come on leaps and bounds since then and the fact that to design and build an SSN/SSBN in the UK costs £billions so we should be looking at getting a hull that can be be updated and with an Titanium hull there is every possibility we could get 100+ years out of the hulls.
But that dose not solve the immediate problem of getting more vessels at sea, so that is why I am suggesting revamping some of the T boats, yes it is going to cost but at the moment it is the only short term option on the table.


Titanium hulls wasnt exactly a experiment for the Soviet Navy. One or two classes were experimental
these were series production
7 Alpha class
4 Sierra class
The claims you make about titanium hulls seem bizarre

Steven Alfred Rake

Titanium hulls last longer, are quieter, can go deeper and faster than conventionally built steel hulls.


From where would we buy several submarines’ worth of titanium?

Do you know from where most of the world’s titanium comes?

Steven Alfred Rake

Again you are right to question the comments above and yes indeed the Americans had previously have to smuggle titanium out from under the noses of the Russians to build the SR71’s back in the 1960’s but today a lot of places now produce titanium the main ones are Japan, Kazakhstan, China and the Ukraine (but due to the war the Ukraine is off the list for the time being) but titanium is the 9th most plentiful component on earth but only can be mined in viable quantities in only a few areas around the world but there are new places opening up all the time as the price goes up and several new mines have opened up in Canada and Alaska.
The American’s originally were agaist the idea of building vessels from titanium as they could not secure enough titanium to be 100% sure they could complete the vessel but now there are moves afoot to start looking at the idea again. Maybe we (UK) could link up with the Canadians to build some subs using Canadian titanium and in the process help the Canadians replace the Upholder’s (just a thought)


Just as long as you know the majority of it comes currently from Eurasian states who may not be very sympathetic to our security needs now. I think the cost and coming financial problems will rule it out.


A simple mistake many make but Titanium is only the 9th most common metallic element , not all elements. And thats because its present in miniscule quantities in most rocks, actual mineable ores is less common.
The idea of any country building future subs with titanium hulls ( its non magnetic too) is out of the question once the Russians stopped. Their main reason was the deeper diving rather than lasting twice as long.
Conflict of interest: I have a titanium watch case for its lightness


Submarines are extremely complicated. And once worn out are worn out. It would cost nearly as much to take one apart, manufacture spares, and rebuild as to build a new one. It isn’t just valves and mechanical bits. The hulls are fatigued too. Not worth it.

Yes we should have just carried on building SSN’s without a pause, but government. An 8th Astute would have been nice. Yes we need SSK’s.


Sorry but this is ridiculous, in plain daylight with noisy off boards?

Armchair Admiral

It’s a photo exercise to demonstrate what we COULD do if we wanted, not what we necessarily WOULD do, or that’s my take on it.

Navigating a massive ssn in those waters and very slowly diving and indeed surfacing to recover a dingy…impressive stuff. Useful? Perhaps… show off? Very.


Here they are doing it at night……..Can’t hear them either…………

comment image


If it was some explosive motorboats!


The submarines contain 18400 sausages, 2500 loaves of bread, 3000 cans of baked beans and 2400 mushrooms. 400 litres of tomato ketchup and an eye watering 15000 fish fingers! It doesn’t contain effective defences or anything like acceptable number of weapons but that is not important.
Our aircraft carriers are big enough to contain three soccer pitches or 22 tennis courts. And they are as high as Nelson’s Column. As there will only be 3 planes on each carrier the staff will have ample room to play football until their hearts are content.
For protection they have two guns and some cannons but don’t worry as when they are not conked out in the middle of the ocean due to engine issues the Type 45s are always on hand to help out provided the attack is from an aircraft and not another ship.

Last edited 1 year ago by Rob

Dont forget the 3 bars …


That is just awesome. The skill of everyone involved is just mind boggling. Making that huge machine move around so precisely… just incredible.

Commonwealth Loyalist

Great photo essay as usual.

There seem to be many comments about the “impossibility” of building more submarines due to the shortages of skills, capacity of Barrow and other yards, etc. But that seems to be a circular argument, there is not enough capacity or skilled workforce because of decades of not paying for them. A sufficient and sustained commitment to more funding could over time regenerate shipbuilding capacity and skills.

According to recent articles here it seems UK is pretending to follow the 2% rule but is closer to 1.3% in actual cash expenses, the massive “depreciation” charge is a purely accounting gimmick, and that is not even to mention pensions and the like. In other words there is not a serious commitment to credible defence spending, a lot like the period between WWI and WWII.


It would take a decade at least.

And we won’t have the money to do it.


It seems I was incorrect about the effect of depreciation budget items

The depreciation funding isnt counted as part of spending but removed when looking at nett figure


How does the Surveillance and Reconnaissance Squadron compare to the SBS? Is it like Pathfinders and SAS?


many commando units are pretty dam high end!

Scott Elaurant

Hello from Australia and my apology for hijacking this thread but seeing the discussion about Astute numbers and (lack of) prospects for further construction I was interested in it relative to discussions of the AUKUS project in Australia. The Australian election campaign has now started and both sides are promising to build the SSNs for the RAN

There has been talk at RUSI by a well informed source (Capt Chris Skinner, Ret) that Astutes will in fact be the preferred option for the RAN. This would involve Barrow building the sub stern section (reactor compartment and engines) and the Adelaide ASC yard would build the bow section and join the two together after transport. See this video, especially discussion at 39 to 53 minute mark.

Barrow and Adelaide are both BAE run and both familiar with digital engineering and modular construction. Hence this approach would be feasible in engineering terms (and would guarantee a 20 year workstream for both yards for 8 boats).

But I see from comments here considerable scepticism about Barrow’s capability. Is it that bad? If Barrow can build the reactor compartments, Adelaide can build the pressure hulls.