Slow, Leaky, Rusty: Britain's £10bn Submarine Beset By Design Flaws (excerpt)
(Source: The Guardian; published Nov. 16, 2012)
HMS Astute, the Royal Navy’s latest nuclear-powered attack submarine, is beset by design and construction flaws, notably to its propulsion system, and cannot reach its top speed. (RN photo)
The Royal Navy's new multibillion pound hunter-killer submarine, HMS Astute, has been beset by design and construction flaws that have raised doubts about its performance and potential safety.

The Guardian can reveal that Astute, the first of seven new submarines costing £9.75bn, has been unable to reach its intended top speed.

At the moment, the boat, heralded as the most sophisticated submarine ever built for the navy, cannot sprint to emergencies or away from an attack – an essential requirement for a hunter-killer boat.

It would also be incapable of keeping pace with the Royal Navy's new aircraft carriers, which will be able to travel at more than 30 knots and need the submarines to protect them. One source told the Guardian the boat had a "V8 engine with a Morris Minor gearbox".

Other problems that have affected the boat in recent months include:

• Flooding during a routine dive that led to Astute performing an emergency surfacing.

• Corrosion even though the boat is essentially new.

• The replacement or moving of computer circuit boards because they did not meet safety standards.

• Concern over the instruments monitoring the nuclear reactor because the wrong type of lead was used.

• Questions being raised about the quality and installation of other pieces of equipment.

• Concern reported among some crew members about the Astute's pioneering periscope, that does not allow officers to look at the surface "live".

The MoD confirmed Astute had suffered some "teething problems" during sea trials. "It is normal for first of class trials to identify areas where modifications are required and these are then incorporated into later vessels of the class," a spokesman said.

Though the MoD said it cannot discuss the speed of submarines, the spokesman said Astute would "provide an outstanding capability for decades to come".

However, if the propulsion problems persist, they would represent one of the biggest procurement disasters the MoD has ever had to deal with, and potentially leave the Astute fleet struggling to perform all the duties it was built for. (end of excerpt)

Click here for the full story, on the Guardian website.


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