BAE Systems plans to launch Astute on 8 June — seven weeks ahead of schedule — thanks to an innovative construction technique.
First of its class, Astute and its two sister ships, Ambush and Artful, are currently being built at BAE’s Submarine Solutions at Barrow-in-Furness.
Using the company’s new approach to building submarines, modules are constructed off the ship.
The cylindrical sections, each several storeys high, can be lowered to a horizontal position to be worked on. According to BAE engineers, this makes installation of the equipment a far quicker and more comfortable task than their usual challenge of having to squeeze under units or reach up to overhead fixtures.
Once each module is completed and tested, it is ‘shipped’, or slotted, into the pressure hull — hooped sections of outer vessel.
Each section has scaffolding-style staging on all sides, allowing 360º access during construction and testing. This makes it much easier to track down any fault and fix it, or to drop in new equipment.
According to BAE, the process has enabled it to de-risk the programme significantly.
The company demonstrated this by inviting celebrity chef James Martin to fire up the galley in the command deck module (CDM) of Ambush for the first time to cook pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. The modular construction meant the galley could be fired up and tested on vessel two before even being fitted to vessel one.
Facility manager Nigel Curry said: ‘We are delighted to be in the position of testing the galley ahead of schedule — it wasn’t even due to be completed until the end of May.’
As well as eating and sleeping areas, the 250-tonne Astute CDM contains much of the radar and sensor equipment, and is where the captain controls and ‘fights’ — nautical-speak for engaging in combat — the sub.
Off-ship modular construction makes for faster, easier equipment installation