Tag Archives: Hunter-killer

No British submarines to patrol Falkland Islands

THE Navy is finding it “increasingly difficult” to deploy a nuclear hunter-killer submarine to patrol British waters around the Falkland Islands.

The-HMS-Tireless-is-out-of-actionThe HMS Tireless is out of action

Senior sources made the warning last night, three weeks after the Sunday Express reported exclusively that the forced return of HMS Tireless means that just one of Britain’s five Trafalgar-class submarines is fully operational and even that is about to undergo a brief period of maintenance after duties in the Middle East.

Submarines proved their effectiveness in the Falklands War when HMS Conqueror sank the General Belgrano. However, the Conqueror was decommissioned in 1990 and the hunter-killer fleet is “now well beyond its sell-by date”.

I have always argued that we need to have a submarine on permanent deployment in the South Atlantic but this was reduced to occasional deployment. Now we seem not able to do that, either.

Admiral Sandy Woodward

Last night Admiral Sandy Woodward, who led the Task Force to recapture the islands in 1982, called the situation “very worrying”. He said: “I have always argued that we need to have a submarine on permanent deployment in the South Atlantic but this was reduced to occasional deployment. Now we seem not able to do that, either.”

Hunter-killer submarines are needed to carry out vital duties, including protecting Britain’s Trident missile-carrying Vanguard submarines which patrol the North Atlantic.

However, HMS Torbay is undergoing maintenance, HMS Trenchant will need servicing after its deployment in the Middle East, HMS Talent is awaiting decommissioning and HMS Triumph, which should have been decommissioned last year, is being used for training .

HMS Astute, the first of our new £1.2billion Astute class submarines, is still not fully operational.

Tireless, dubbed HMS Tired, was forced to return to base last month due to a coolant leak in its nuclear reactor. Sources suggest it could be out of action for 10 months.

Last night naval sources suggested the likelihood of an Argentine seaborne invasion was “almost non-existent”. However, submarines have long been regarded as the “secret weapon of ultimate deterrence” against Argentine aggression.

Details of their deployment are never made public but last year Navy sources let it be known when HMS Talent was sent to the islands to put a lid on any threat of Argentine aggression during the 30th anniversary of the conflict.

The Navy aims to send a hunter-killer nuclear submarine to South Atlantic waters at least twice in 12 months.

Last night former First Sea Lord Admiral Lord West said Britain is “now paying the price” for the 10-year delay in ordering the Astute-class replacements.

“Even when they come on line fully, we will not have the eight submarines which, I believe, is the minimum number we should have in our locker to undertake the tasks required.”

Last night a Ministry of Defence spokesman said there were contingency plans to increase the military footprint in the South Atlantic if required but there was no suggestion of any need to do this at present.

Source – The Express

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Troubled Trafalgar class nuclear submarine, HMS Tireless, in new reactor coolant leak

HMS Tireless was the third of the Trafalgar class hunter-killer nuclear submarines. These are not nuclear armed but nuclear powered and conventionally armed.

Tireless was launched in 1985 and, at  28 years old, was due to be decommissioned this year. However, her service was extended for another four years due to the delay in the rollout of the new Astute class submarines.

Ten days ago, Tireless was taking part in a training exercise for new officers off the west coast, when a coolant leak developed within its sealed reactor unit. The Ministry of Defence has said that no risk was involved  to the public the environment or the crew.

Tireless was ordered back to the Faslane naval base on the Clyde where engineers inspected the leak; and then returned to her home base at Devonport.

She is said to face up to 10 months in dry dock while repair work is carried out.

Tireless is most famous for a series of troubling incidents.

She collided with an iceberg at 60 metres down on 13th May 2003 [it would have been the 13th]. This was the first return of the navy to under-ice operations since 1996. Neither her passive sonar nor other onboard sensors had given any warning of the proximity of the iceberg.  Tireless’s bow was forced down 9 degrees and she subsequently broke free of the iceberg at a depth of 78 metres. Some damage was done to her upper section.

She suffered an earlier leak  of her reactor coolant , in May 2000 in the Mediterranean. This saw her nuclear propulsion system shut down, with backup diesel power getting her into Gibraltar. She spent a year there under extensive repairs,  becoming the focus of serious diplomatic strain.

In March 2007, on deployment back in the Arctic, it was Tireless that had an internal explosion  in her forward section – later found to be caused by a defective or obsolete oxygen candle.This killed two of her crew – Leading Operator Mechanic Paul McCann; and Operator Maintainer (Weapons Submariner) 2 Anthony Huntrod.

Following the current incident, there is real concert that the cost of the failures experienced by  the new Astute hunter-killers – in forcing the extension of the lives of ageing Trafagar class submarines like Tireless – may be asking the impossible or the dangerous.

The problems in with commissioning of the Astute submarines are having a knock on effect on the nuclear safety of the older Tralfalgar hunter-killers that were due for decommissioned.

This latest reactor coolant leak is seen as potential evidence that this ship is actually reaching the end of her life. It may be that she has to be decommissioned and will not emerge from the extensive repair period now necessary.

Her preceding two siblings – class leader, HMS Trafalgar and HMS Turbulent have already been decommissioned, Tralfalgar in 2009 and Turbulent in JUly last year, 2012.

The current incident has reduced the hunter-killer fleet to a maximum of five instead of the recommended seven plus a spare needed to carry out vital duties, including protecting the UK’s Trident missile-carrying Vanguard submarines.

Of those five, Astute, Britain’s brand new £1.2billion attack submarine which – gloriously – ran aground in 2010 for the ultimate photo opportunity – just beside the Skye Bridge –  is still not fully operational. One other, possibly two, are in maintenance.

This latest incident comes just weeks after the Clyde-based Trident submarine,  HMS Vigilant ,was stranded in the US after its rudder broke, just after her £350million refit.

The leak will also fuel the heated political debate about nuclear submarines operating in Scottish waters.

Last night, local MSP, Michael Russell MSP for Argyll and Bute, called on the Ministry of Defence to clarify exactly what had happened. He said: “This is the latest in a long line of alarming incidents involving nuclear submarines off the coast of Scotland. ‘

Andy Smith of the UK National Defence Association, says: ‘The problems with HMS Tireless illustrate the folly of trying to have ‘defence on the cheap’ and failing to upgrade or replace equipment due to political short-sightedness and a defence policy dictated by the treasury rather than the military.’

Source – For Argyll