It's not every day that a nuclear submarine is finished and ready for the open seas. In the next few days, nuclear attack submarine Ambush will be towed out of its builders yard at Barrow-in-Furness and set off on its first sea trial with the Royal Navy.
Depending on the weather tomorrow, the bridge at Barrow-in-Furness will open and Ambush will disembark with its 98-strong crew.
The 7,400 tonne Ambush is the second in the Astute class, a £1bn seven boat programme developing nuclear powered hunter-killer subs, and has taken BAE Systems nearly 12 years to manufacture.
All the Astute Class subs use nuclear technology, giving them phenomenal capabilities such as being able to circumnavigate the globe without needing to surface. The subs produce their own fresh water from the sea and create their own breathable air. The only reasons these vessels need to surface are to restock on supplies and for the sanity of all those onboard.
Ambush and the other vessels in the Astute Class are the most powerful and advanced attack submarines ever ordered for the Royal Navy.
The Astute Class are replacing the Trafalgar and Swiftsure Class and two of the Astute Class, the Artful and Audacious, are in various stages of completion in the Devonshire Dock Hall nearby.
These two subs will follow Ambush into the sea over the next few years, and as BAE become more proficient in manufacturing these particular types of subs, its manufacturing processes become quicker, more efficient and leaner.
The predecessor to Ambush, HMS Astute, took BAE Systems 15 years to produce – three years more than Ambush.
BAE Systems’ managing director John Hudson said: “One of the challenges we face is that we do not build many nuclear submarines, unlike mass manufacturing, but we have learned a lot of lessons from making Ambush. The quality gets better as we build more and we are making improvements all the time, for example in the number of man-hours needed.”
BAE operations director Alan Dunn said: “It just gets better and better each time, as we continually make improvements, even in subtle sectors such as the amount of scrap and recycling we do. It makes us more efficient and leaner.”
The newly appointed Minister for Defence Equipment, Support and Technology Philip Dunne, visited Ambush at Barrow in Furness. He said: “It is an astonishing engineering feat. This is the first time I have been to visit her and I think she is a piece of world class engineering.”
Ambush has had its systems and equipment tested and integrated, and has been handed over to the Royal Navy. They will be testing the sub for major proving events such as the operation of the nuclear plant and its basin diving capability.
Once commissioned by the Royal Navy, the submarine will then become known at HMS Ambush and the Royal Navy will become her custodian for the next 30 years.
The MoD’s director general of submarines, Rear Admiral Simon Lister, said: “It is a major milestone. The ship’s crew are ready for the challenge and we are delighted to finally get our hands on Ambush.”
Commanding Officer Peter Green who is in charge of the submarine couldn’t wait to set sail. He said: “It is now time to start putting Ambush through her paces on sea trials and prove that this amazing piece of equipment is ready for operations.”