British submarine HMS Audacious completed a 363-day mission

LONDON, UK — Announced as fully operational in September 2021, Britain’s nuclear-powered submarine HMS Audacious, the fourth Astute class delivered to the Royal Navy, will not be going on a mission any time soon. Indeed, shortly after the start of the war in Ukraine, she sailed from Faslane [Scotland] Naval Base for deployment to the Eastern Mediterranean. And then we didn’t know how long the submarine’s mission would last.

British nuclear submarine HMS Audacious completed a 363-day mission
Photo credit: Royal Navy

However, this has just ended, after 363 days… while, as a general rule, a nuclear submarine, whether attack [SNA] or ballistic missile [SNLE], conducts patrols for an average of three to four months… Even if, due to their mode of propulsion, their autonomy is theoretically unlimited.

The Astute-class submarines “are capable of circumnavigating the globe, producing oxygen and drinking water for their crews during long deployments,” the Royal Navy stressed.

Apparently, HMS Audacious did not remain submerged during all this time spent in the eastern Mediterranean, several stopovers were made, notably at the base in Sude [Greece] or in Cyprus, where her submariners were briefly able to find their families in the event of Christmas, thanks to the Royal Marines Charity and the Royal Navy, who highlighted its deployment. These breaks also allowed some members of his crew to take a few days off before resuming the mission.

During this period, HMS Audacious took part in particular NATO operations, such as “Sea Guardian”, the purpose of which was in part to document the movements of ships – whether regular or not – in the sea lanes passing through the Mediterranean. The submarine also participated in bilateral exercises. However, the Royal Navy did not detail all of its activities.

However, even if it is designed to carry out missions of a very long duration, the fact remains that a nuclear submarine may need to undergo maintenance operations after a few months. This a little-known fact, but when a submarine enters a maintenance process, its hull is stripped of its attached mines. Very often, their presence on the hull of the submarine affects the “silent movement”.

HMS Audacious is no exception: after six months of deployment, specialist divers were sent from the UK to La Sude for a major clean-up. At the same time, the sensors and other sensitive systems of the sailors of the submarine were overhauled.

“We have maintained a highly capable, quiet nuclear submarine on high alert for almost a year. In doing so, we operated remotely from the UK, providing support to NATO and our partners in the region,” said the commanding officer of HMS Audacious.

“It has also demonstrated that the UK can provide a covert, flexible, and proportionate response to any situation if necessary,” he added.


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