HMS Astute has fired Tomahawk missiles across the Gulf of Mexico as part of its first test-firing mission.
The vessel is the first of the Royal Navy’s new attack submarines and is currently undertaking a period of extensive sea trials before it is handed over for operational service.
The UK is the only country supplied with the Tomahawk technology — which has been in operation since 1999 — by the US.
The 5.5m-long cruise missile weighs 1,300kg and has a range of more than 1,000 miles (1,600km). In the firing tests this month, the Tomahawk weapons rocketed from HMS Astute at up to 550mph (885km/h) across the Gulf of Mexico.
The Astute-class nuclear-powered attack submarines, built at BAE Systems’ Barrow-in-Furness facility, are the most technologically advanced submarines to serve with the Royal Navy and will progressively replace the Trafalgar class currently in service.
They have been designed with modern operations in mind and are vastly different in shape, size, capacity and capability to their predecessors.
‘We have optronic masts instead of traditional periscopes, which means we have saved lots of space in the control room, as well as having the benefit of digital cameras instead of traditional optical periscopes,’ said commander Iain Breckenridge, HMS Astute’s Commanding Officer.
The Astute class is designed to perform a number of roles, including anti-submarine and surface-ship warfare and gathering intelligence to protect the UK’s strategic deterrent and surface shipping. It can also attack targets on land with Tomahawk-guided missiles. HMS Astute, the first of class, can hold a combination of up to 38 Tomahawk missiles and Spearfish torpedoes.