Meet Britain's new sub-sea war machine

Dec. 16, 2010 at 3:01 PM
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LONDON, Dec. 16 (UPI) -- It can hit enemies more than 1,200 miles away, its nuclear reactor could power an entire city and it makes less noise than a baby dolphin -- meet HMS Ambush, Britain's new super submarine.

The British navy's largest-ever nuclear sub was officially named Thursday during a ceremony at a BAE Systems shipyard in the northwestern English seaport of Barrow-in-Furness.

The ceremony, attended by around 2,000 people, took place inside the dock as a technical glitch prevented the sub from being laid down to water, the local newspaper North West Evening Mail reports.

"Due to a last-minute technical issue involving some of the equipment required to move the submarine," the $1.9 billion HMS Ambush won't leave the dock Thursday, a BAE Systems spokesman told the newspaper.

Expected to enter service next year, the 291-foot long HMS Ambush is Britain's most modern submarine.

Using saltwater, it can produce oxygen and fresh water to keep its crew of 98 under water for months, if necessary.

Its advanced radar and sonar equipment allow the craft to spot enemy vessels at a distance of up to 3,000 nautical miles, meaning the submarine could comfortably screen the U.S. East Coast while diving in Scottish waters, the Daily Mail newspaper writes.

Armed with a mixture of Tomahawk long-range cruise missiles and Spearfish heavyweight torpedoes, the Ambush can pulverize targets at sea, on land and in the air. The nuclear-powered engine, which has a lifetime of 25 years, enables the submarine to propel through the water at more than 20 knots, meaning the vessel can travel 500 miles in one day.

The submarine was built by BAE Systems Submarine Solutions, which operates one of the few shipyards in the world capable of building nuclear submarines.

The company has been building the Astute class submarine, the first of which, the HMS Astute, was launched in 2007. The HMS Ambush is the second submarine of the Astute class, with five more being built over the next decade. While the $10 billion project is delayed and nearly $2.2 billion over budget, Britain in its latest defense review nevertheless decided to go ahead with the full complement of seven sub orders.

The HMS Astute dominated headlines when it ran aground on a sandbank off the Isle of Skye in October. Bad luck continued when a tug collided with the sub during the rescue and another technical failure at sea. The incident cost at least $12 million. The sub's commander has since been fired.

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