26 May 2006

HMS Astute (left) and HMS Ambush are under construction in the Devonshire Dock Hall at BAE Systems in Barrow, Cumbria, England.

BAE Systems in Barrow-in-Furness has announced 8 June 2007 as the launch date for the first of class Astute nuclear powered attack submarine – which means the Navy’s most advanced vessel will go into the water seven weeks ahead of the latest schedule.

The date has been agreed with the office of the First Sea Lord, which oversees the launch arrangements on behalf of the Navy and the Ministry of Defence and plans are already underway for an event that will see hundreds of VIP guests in attendance and a spectacle to be enjoyed by tens of thousands of people in the town and surrounding area.

Arrangements remain to be finalised but BAE Systems is promising a day to remember as the first of the Astute Class submarines emerges from the Devonshire Dock Hall for the first time.

The launch will be conducted by a senior Royal – their identity will be revealed closer to the time.

The Astute class submarine has been behind a major renaissance for the yard as the project has gone from strength to strength. Since the restructuring of the contract in February 2003, steady progress has been made on the project’s recovery. The build of Astute is on-track to meet the revised In-Service date.

In 2005 the yard’s workforce succeeded in achieving every target and stretch target laid out in an ambitious all-employee bonus scheme, and in 2006 the first of a set of 12 common and bonus objectives was achieved when the switchboards on board Astute became operational 18 days early, enabling the boat to provide its own power for the first time.

The Astute Class are the biggest and most powerful attack submarines ever ordered for the UK Royal Navy. Compared with previous boats, they will have improved capability for joint operations, will deploy greater firepower and be equipped with improved communication systems. The Astute class will come into service from the end of this decade and will replace the capability currently provided by the Swiftsure and Trafalgar class submarines.

Around 5,500 people at sites across the UK are working on Astute related programmes, including 3,000 directly employed on the project in Barrow.

Murray Easton, BAE Systems Submarines managing director commented: “The confidence of the business in agreeing an early date for the launch of Astute reflects the determination of the workforce in the yard and across all our sites to constantly improve the way we work and the way we build submarines and surface vessels. It is an extraordinary achievement for everyone involved that we are now in a position to make this commitment on such a complex and challenging project.”

The new Astute class submarines will be the biggest and most powerful submarines ever operated by the Royal Navy.

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