The Astute Class Submarine: The Biggest Threat to the Russian Navy?
HMS Astute entered service in August 2010, some nine years after being laid down. It was followed by HMS Ambush in 2013 and HMS Artful in 2016. HMS Audacious should enter service later this year, with Anson, Agamemnon and Ajax following at two-year intervals. Still, the Astutes represent a step back from a numerical perspective. From 1993 until 2004, the Royal Navy operated five Swiftsure-class SSNs and seven Trafalgars. The Swiftsures began to leave service in 2004, leaving the Trafalgars and the Astutes, which began to come into service in 2010. But the RN decided to retire the Trafalgars because of excessive hull wear beginning in 2009. Three of the boats remain in service, but by 2022 the Astutes will be the only nuclear attack submarines serving in the RN. In effect, the Royal Navy has gone from having a force of twelve SSNs to a force of seven SSNs, notwithstanding the greater size and capabilities of the Astutes.
The Astutes are the largest SSNs ever operated by the Royal Navy, half again as large as the Trafalgar class. At 7,700 tons, they are roughly the same size as the U.S. Navy’s Virginia-class boats