Britain’s newest submarine was launched – quietly – end of April, beginning of May, and it is built for stealth. HMS Audacious is, in theory, able to stay underwater for 25 years without the need to come to the surface.
HMS Audacious, which was launched at BAE Systems’ yard in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, is one of seven subs of the Astute class, which are designed to be the quietest subs in the world.
It is set to go into service in 2018 and is equipped with nuclear reactors which are big enough to power a city the size of Swindon. They are designed in such a way that they do not need refueling until 2043. They are also able to travel hundreds of miles and their maximum diving depth is a classified secret.
The seven Astute submarines will take over from the Swiftsure class, which have all now been retired, and the Trafalgar class, which were launched between 1983 and 1991 and will be decommissioned within the next ten years.
They are designed to remain hidden in the ocean somewhere around the globe for months on end, even years. Fresh water is made by distilling sea water and oxygen is produced by separating water (H2O). Carbon dioxide is removed using special gadgets.
But of course HMS Audacious and her sister ships — the Astute, Ambush, Artful, Anson, Agamemnon and Ajax — will have to return to port occasionally and submariners will not turn gray underwater.
Their food supplies will usually last around three months and being submerged — and away from natural light and fresh air — places a massive burden on the crew’s mental and physical health.
“The only restrictions on how much time they spend underwater and at sea is food. They can generate their own water and air. The longest patrol ever — for a Polaris submarine — was 108 days,” Lord West of Spithead, a former admiral and NATO Commander, told Sputnik.
“They are very good at intelligence gathering, sea denial and sinking other subs. They are even specially fit so that they can land special forces without surfacing,” Lord West added.
But he said, ideally, the Navy needed eight, not seven Astute class subs.