The final shape of the U.K. Royal Navy’s Astute program is becoming clearer: three submarines are in service; three submarines are under construction; and one additional submarine is projected, though its future is uncertain. Additionally, items with long lead times have been ordered. Any hope that an eighth Astute class submarine would be ordered has vanished, and there are growing doubts that the seventh-of-class will be built. The current odds seem to favor the program being held at six submarines, with a new class being designed to make any required force structure enlargements.
The operational doctrine of submarines has changed significantly since the design of the Astute class was frozen. Unmanned underwater vehicles have become a significant part of the operational profile of modern submarines, to the point that the conventional torpedo compartment is evolving into a multimission area capable of operating unmanned underwater vehicles. This would be a major design change for the Astute class that would probably place it into a different class.
The possibility that the SSBN(R) could be an Astute derivative has now been officially excluded, and it has been stated that SSBN(R) will be a new design, with at least four submarines to be constructed. Thus, it appears that the existing build program of six or seven hulls will mark the end of the Astute program.
As the U.K. Royal Navy is adamant about having a common sonar suite across its submarine fleet, it is highly likely that the future Successor class SSBN(R) will also be equipped with the Type 2076 sonar.
FI’s Naval Systems Market Intelligence Services cover two distinct markets: anti-submarine warfare and warships. The Anti-Submarine Warfare Forecast provides market analysis of the sensors and weaponry used in the detection and prosecution of submarines, while the Warships product covers the full range of worldwide warship programs, including reports on key naval weapons and unmanned surface and subsurface vehicles.