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.
While taking part in naval exercises off the coast of California during late March and early April, the recently modernized Canadian frigate HMCS Vancouver successfully test-fired a Harpoon Block II antiship missile in land-attack mode. Although the capability was first tested by the U.S. Navy in 2001, this recent launch marked the first time a Canadian warship has demonstrated the ability to conduct surface-to-surface land-attack missions. The Harpoon Block II missile uses GPS-aided inertial navigation enabling warships to conduct both antiship and coastal attack operations at ranges in excess of 75 miles. All 12 of Canada’s Halifax-class frigates, which first entered service in the early and mid-1990s, are undergoing weapon and sensor upgrades that are due to be completed by 2018. The Vancouver and her sisters can each carry up to eight Harpoon missiles as well as a 57-mm gun, the Phalanx close-in weapon system, Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missiles, torpedoes, and a helicopter.
As Ukraine struggles to rebuild its naval infrastructure, the government has awarded a contract to modernize the country’s largest surface combatant, the Krivak-III-class (Project 11351) frigate Hetman Sahaydachniy. Built in the Crimean city of Kerch during the early 1990s, the 3,600-ton warship now serves as flagship of the Ukrainian Navy. The 403-foot vessel has a beam of 47 feet and typically carries a crew of 180 personnel. Modernization of the ship, which is now homeported in Odessa, is expected to improve crew habitability, enhance warfighting capabilities, and extend her overall service life. These enhancements are expected to be completed by the end of 2018. In addition to work on the Hetman Sahaydachniy, construction has also recently begun on four new Gyurza-M-class (project 58155) armored riverine boats being built under a March 2016 contract. These 51-ton, 75-foot attack craft are intended for a wide array of riverine and border-patrol missions in Ukrainian service.