Remember when HMS Vanguard
and Le Triomphant
Well now HMS Astute
managed to run aground:
HMS Astute: operation underway to refloat world's most advanced nuclear submarine
Efforts to free HMS Astute, the Royal Navy's nuclear-powered submarine, were underway today after it ran aground in shallow waters off the Isle of Skye in Scotland.
Published: 4:02PM BST 22 Oct 2010
HMS Astute was on sea trials when the rudder of the vessel is thought to have become stuck on a shingle bank on the west coast of Scotland at around 8am today.
The incident happened between the mainland and the Isle of Skye.
There were no reports of any injuries and the Ministry of Defence said it was not a "nuclear incident".
The coastguard was at the scene and an earlier attempt to tow the submarine failed, according to eye witnesses. Royal Navy vessels and a tug are now trying to help free the submarine as high tide approaches.
It is believed a crew transfer from the shore to the submarine was being carried out when the incident happened. The rudder will be inspected once the vessel is freed.
A spokesman for the Maritime and Coastguard Agency said: "We have sent a coastguard tug to where the submarine ran aground at the Kyle of Lochalsh near the Skye bridge.
"It will stand by and monitor what will be going on. We think on the rising tide, at around 6pm, there should be some movement of the vessel."
Eyewitness Rachel Browett, who runs the Bright Water Visitor Centre on Skye, said: "It's not too far from the shore and clearly visible from the bridge.
"I could see steam or smoke coming from the top and about half the sub was visible. A few boats were around about it in the water and a helicopter went overhead at one point, though I don't know if it was involved."
Miss Browett, of Kyleakin, said the tide was still on the way out, adding: "It's a concern. Anything with the word nuclear in it is obviously a worry, but I don't know enough about it to say more."
In June 2007 the mammoth £3.5 billion nuclear-powered HMS Astute was named and launched by the Duchess of Cornwall.
In August this year, HMS Astute was welcomed into the Royal Navy during a commissioning ceremony at Faslane Naval Base on the Clyde.
The submarine weighs 7,800 tonnes, equivalent to nearly 1,000 double-decker buses, and is almost 100 metres (328ft) long.
Its Spearfish torpedoes and Tomahawk cruise missiles are capable of delivering pin-point strikes from 2,000km (1,240 miles) with conventional weapons.
The submarine's nuclear reactor means that it will not need refuelling once in its entire 25-year life and it makes its own air and water, enabling it to circumnavigate the globe without needing to surface.
Built by defence giant BAE Systems at Barrow in Furness, Cumbria, it is the first in a fleet of six which will replace the Trafalgar class submarine.
As the base port of all the Navy's submarines from 2016, Faslane will be home to the whole Astute class.
Scottish CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) expressed concern at the incident.
John Ainslie, co-ordinator of Scottish CND, said: "This is just the latest in a long line of incidents involving nuclear submarines off the west coast of Scotland. These vessels are regular visitors to the seas around Skye.
"The Navy has several submarine trials areas near Raasay and Applecross.
"Inquiries into previous incidents have shown an appalling lack of common sense and basic navigation skills on these hi-tech submarines."
The accident happened almost exactly 50 years after the UK's first nuclear submarine was launched. HMS Dreadnought was launched on October 21, 1960 by the Queen.
The Defence Secretary, Dr Liam Fox, said: "The submarine is stable in calm waters. Normal safety procedures are being undertaken. There is no risk to the public or to those on board."
Professor Carl Ross, a lecturer in the mechanical and design engineering department at the University of Portsmouth, worked on the structural engineering of HMS Dreadnought before its launch in 1960.
Asked whether he was surprised by today's incident, he said: "They shouldn't go aground. Something has gone wrong. I'm not sure what it is, whether it is man-made or machine made. It could be either."
Professor Ross said submarines like the Astute would have an outer casing, around half an inch thick with water either side of it, and a pressure hull, which was around two to three inches thick.
"It's pretty unlikely it will sink," he added.
He said if the casing was damaged it "was not a problem" and could be repaired later.
On freeing the submarine, he said: "I think they will float it again. They might have to take some of the weight off it, from inside it, to move it. When the high tide comes up they will lift it up and then they can drag it away."
Asked whether rudders of submarines like the Astute damaged easily, the 75-year-old said: "They do damage easily. The rudders can be caught easily in shallow waters.
"It might even damage quite a lot of it. So, it could be expensive to repair."
I'd laugh, but then something similar would happen to the US.