Fifth Astute Class Nuclear-Powered Submarines Named HMS Anson (S123)

The fifth Astute class submarine has officially been named Anson in a ceremony at BAE Systems’ Submarines site in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria.
In line with tradition, Anson was blessed by The Venerable Martyn Gough QHC, Chaplain of the Fleet and Archdeacon for the Royal Navy and then christened with a bottle of cider being smashed against her hull. The 97 metre long, 7,400 tonne submarine is due to be launched into the water in Barrow early next year, ahead of leaving for sea trials in 2022. More than 1,700 people work on the Astute programme, which is delivering seven attack submarines to the Royal Navy.

Work is also well under way in Barrow on Astute boats six and seven, as well as the first two boats in the Dreadnought class, which is the next generation of nuclear deterrent submarines. Each submarine has a sponsor whose role includes carrying out the official naming. Anson’s sponsor is Julie Weale, the wife of Rear Admiral John Weale, who retired from the Royal Navy as Head of Submarine Service and Flag Officer Scotland and North Ireland earlier this year. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, work on both Astute and Dreadnought has continued throughout this year, with major changes being implemented across its Barrow and satellite sites to enable employees to work safely and adhere to social distancing. It is for that reason that only a handful of people were able to witness the naming ceremony.

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Rare picture of the fifth Astute-class submarine being built in Barrow, Cumbria
Rare picture of the fifth Astute-class (HMS Anson) submarine being built in Barrow, Cumbria

The Astute class is the latest class of nuclear-powered fleet submarines (SSNs) in service with the Royal Navy. The class sets a new standard for the Royal Navy in terms of weapons load, communication facilities and stealth. Anson’s nuclear reactor will not need to be refuelled during the boat’s 25-year service. Since the submarine can purify water and air, she will be able to circumnavigate the planet without resurfacing. The main limit is that the submarine will only be able to carry three months’ supply of food for 98 officers and ratings. Anson will have provision for up-to 38 weapons in six 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes. The submarine will be capable of using Tomahawk Block IV land-attack missiles with a range of 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometres) and Spearfish heavyweight torpedoes.

The Astute class are the largest and most advanced attack submarines ever built for the Royal Navy. HMS Astute, HMS Ambush, HMS Artful are already in service and were joined in April 2020 by HMS Audacious and operate from HMNB Faslane. A further three boats – named Anson, Agamemnon and Agincourt – currently under construction at BAE Systems in Barrow will complete the class. As well as Astute BAE Systems are also constructing the Dreadnought class submarine which will replace the Barrow-built Vanguard class submarines to maintain the UK’s continuous at sea deterrent (CASD). The Astute is the latest in a long line of achievements at the Barrow shipyard. With locations around the UK including Frimley Park, Weymouth and Filton, BAE Systems Submarines offer a wide variety of career opportunities.

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