The Royal Navy’s newest Astute-class nuclear-powered submarine entered service in a ceremony at the BAE Systems’ Barrow-in-Furness site on August 31, bringing the service’s attack boat fleet to five units.
HMS Anson entered service after launching in April 2021 and completing its first trial dive in February this year.
The submarine was officially named at a ceremony in December 2020, after the 18th Century Admiral George Anson who delivered victory over the French at Cape Finisterre in 1747 and went on to reform the Admiralty. HMS Anson is the first submarine to bear the name, while eight naval vessels previously carried the name.
Anson will remain in Barrow for several more weeks undergoing final checks, tests and tweaks to her system before she sails for her future home at HM Naval Base Clyde in Faslane, where she will prepare for sea trials.
The August 31 commissioning ceremony was attended by Australian defense minister Richard Marles, who is currently visiting the UK, France, and Germany for the first time since assuming office.
Marles revealed that Australian sailors would be welcomed onboard Royal Navy nuclear-powered submarines to allow them to prepare for the arrival of Australia’s own first-ever nuclear-powered submarines that would be acquired under the AUKUS pact.
AUKUS is a technology sharing agreement between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States that initially focused on providing Australia with nuclear-powered submarines, but was later expanded to undersea capabilities, quantum technologies, artificial intelligence and autonomy, cyber, hypersonic and counter-hypersonic capabilities, and electronic warfare.
While Marles made the announcement during a visit to the UK, Australia is yet to decide whether it will buy US, or UK-built submarines. The US is also working on a bill that could see Australian sailors board US Navy’s nuclear-powered Virginia-class submarines for training.
“Today is a significant milestone in the UK and Australia’s preparation to confront growing threats to the liberal democratic order, especially in the Indo Pacific,” UK defense secretary Ben Wallace said.
“Not only have we progressed our defense planning but minister Marles participated in the commissioning of our latest attack submarine, on which will Royal Australian Navy submariners will be embarked as we develop our shared capabilities in the years ahead.”
The Royal Navy expects to have a total of seven Astute-class submarines in service by 2026. The 7,400-ton, 97 meter-long boats feature advanced nuclear technology which eliminates the need for the to ever be refueled. Crewed by 98 submariners, they carry both Tomahawk Land Attack Cruise Missiles (TLAM) and Spearfish heavyweight torpedoes.
The vessels are capable of circumnavigating the globe while submerged, producing their own oxygen and drinking water.
Even though it is yet to receive all boats in the class, the Royal Navy has awarded contracts worth £170 million to BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce for early work on the design of the next-generation of attack submarines that would eventually take over from the Astutes.
The service is also investing into capability upgrades for the boats, setting aside £265 million in May this year for enhanced Tomahawk Block V standard missiles, which are capable of striking threats at a range of up to 1,000 miles.