This past spring the United Kingdom commissioned its third Astute-class nuclear-powered attack submarine into service. HMS Artful was built by BAE Systems, launched in May 2014, and has now joined the fleet at naval base Clyde in Faslane, Scotland. A total of seven Astute-class SSNs are eventually planned for Royal Navy service by the mid-2020s. The Artful’s sisters include first-in-class HMS Astute and second unit HMS Ambush, which entered service in 2010 and 2013 respectively. Future members of the class are to bear the names Agamemnon, Anson, and Audacious, while the name of the seventh and final submarine has not yet been selected. The Astute-class boats are armed with a mix of Spearfish heavyweight torpedoes and Tomahawk land-attack missiles. The 318-foot attack submarines each have a top speed of 30 knots, displace 7,400 tons when submerged, and carry a crew of roughly 100 personnel.
By Eric Wertheim