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DSEI 2023: Can the Royal Navy's submarine fleet handle the pressure?

12th September 2023 - 11:15 GMT | by Tim Fish in Auckland

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HMS Anson departing for sea trials. Deliveries of the remaining two Astute-class submarines need to be completed within the next two or three years to prevent the RN's attack submarine force dipping too low (Photo: UK MoD/Crown Copyright)

The third and final instalment of Shephard’s focus on the UK Royal Navy (RN) examines the state of the submarine force. The SSN fleet is still in transition as the last Trafalgar-class boats retire and Astute-class boats struggles to get into service, and pressure on Vanguard-class SSBNs is increasing as the Dreadnought successor project gets under way following long delays.

Delivery of the RN's Astute-class SSNs has been a painful process going back decades. In February 2023 the fifth boat, HMS Anson (S123), left BAE’s shipyard at Barrow-in-Furness and is undertaking sea trials before being declared ready for service. 

Meanwhile the sixth and seventh boats Agamemnon (S124) and Ajax (S125) are still under construction and will not enter service until at least 2026. This is slow progress for a project that was first contracted in 1997.

A lack of submarine manufacturing experience and the technical challenges of building a new modern SSN meant that although production of first-of-class HMS Astute (S119)

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Tim Fish

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Tim Fish


Tim Fish is a special correspondent for Shephard Media. Formerly the editor of Land Warfare …

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