Royal Navy Nuclear-powered Submarine HMS Audacious Completes NATO Mediterranean Patrol
HMS Audacious completes latest Med mission

Royal Navy Submarine HMS Audacious Completes NATO Mediterranean Patrol

HMS Audacious – Britain’s newest operation nuclear submarine – has completed her second Med patrol, conducting maritime security operations for the UK and her NATO allies. The boat – normally based at Faslane on the Clyde, but operating out of NATO’s base in Souda Bay, Crete, for the past six months – has been working alongside NATO surface ships on Operation SEA GUARDIAN, monitoring tankers and cargo vessels. It is one of the alliance’s premier missions, building up a detailed picture of movements – regular and irregular – in the busiest sea lanes, sharing the intelligence gathered in real time with NATO authorities.

The unique abilities of the Astute-class submarine means the boat can remain submerged at periscope depth, take 360-degree images in an instant – day or night – and then return to the depths to pore over the photographs captured at leisure. Such visual capture of contacts of interest is just one of the methods of intelligence gathering HMS Audacious’ 98 crew can exploit from the boat’s impressive suite of sensors. When not assigned to SEA GUARDIAN, Audacious, which is the fourth boat in the Astute class, has been honing her anti-submarine warfare skills with the Italian Navy, in particular its frigate ITS Carlo Margottini.

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Royal Navy Nuclear-powered Submarine HMS Audacious completes latest Med mission
Royal Navy Astute-class nuclear-powered fleet submarine HMS Audacious alongside HMS Penzance in Souda Bay.(Royal Navy/Crown Copyright).

After six months of near continuous operations, Audacious returned to Souda Bay to undergo maintenance – not just on the hi-tech sensors and systems inside the boat, but her hull as well. As with all ships, barnacles grow on the side and underwater – especially the case when moving slowly or in warmer waters; the central Mediterranean in high summer is roughly twice as warm as Audacious’ home on the Clyde. Specialist divers were flown out from the UK, running over the entire length of the submarine’s 97-metre-long hull with what is effectively a giant, heavy duty dental hygienist’s tooth polisher – the bristles on the brushes strong enough to sweep away barnacles, but not too firmly that the black tiles which cover Audacious and are key to her stealth are not damaged or dislodged.

HMS Audacious is the fourth Astute-class nuclear-powered fleet submarine of the Royal Navy. Several previous vessels of the Royal Navy have borne the name. She was formally named on 16 December 2016 and was launched on 28 April 2017. Audacious was stated to be handed over in January 2021. A parliamentary written answer stated that Audacious was commissioned on 3 April 2020, but her public ceremonial commissioning took place on 23 September 2021. Audacious has provision for up-to 38 weapons in six 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes. The submarine is capable of firing Tomahawk Block IV land-attack missiles with a range of 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometres)[15] and Spearfish heavyweight torpedoes. The submarine can purify water and air, and will be able to circumnavigate the planet without surfacing. However, she carries three months’ supply of food for 98 officers and ratings.

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