UK Royal Navy Orders Astute Class WHLS from Babcock
Babcock has been awarded a contract to supply its state of the art weapon handling and launch system (WHLS) for the sixth and seventh Astute class submarines, representing optimum value to the MOD by bringing the two boat systems together under one contract.
This full system contract follows one awarded last year for long-lead items, amounting to a total value of circa £55m.
The Astute class WHLS is the first on a UK Royal Navy submarine to use Babcock’s advanced air turbine pump (ATP) and programmable firing valve (PFV) technology, which offers a number of valuable advantages. The ATP is an air driven rotary pump that displaces a volume of water to launch a weapon from a torpedo tube. The programmable firing valve (PFV) is used to control the ATP firing air profile, allowing the system to match the launch requirements precisely to a range of variables including weapon type, boat speed and depth.
The system is more compact than previous systems (with space saving benefits), more efficient (using substantially less firing air), and quieter with a lower noise signature, as well as having lower maintenance requirements and reduced through-life costs. Two ATP/PFV systems are installed per boat, giving independent port and starboard operation providing operational and reliability benefits.
Further, the Astute class WHLS from Babcock is capable of carrying more torpedoes and tube-launched missiles than any previous class of RN submarine, and comprises equipment to embark, store, reposition and load weapons into the torpedo tubes. Configuration of the weapons within the Weapon Stowage Compartment (WSC) has been developed to provide the highest weapon packing density, and the weapons are protected in the WSC using a unique method of shock mounting, providing adaptable protection according to the number of weapons stored on each stowage tier. This improves crew safety and maximises potential for the system to continue to function following a shock event.
Responding to the MoD challenge, Babcock has generated significant savings as a result of the combined two boat contract and the efficiencies and economies of scale this allows the project team to realise, both internally and with the ability to place two-boat orders with subcontractors.
Babcock has designed and supplied the WHLS for the first five Astute class boats (Astute, Ambush, Artful, Audacious and Anson) under previous contracts. The first of the equipment for boat 6 under this latest contract is scheduled for delivery in spring 2014.
Naval Today Staff, February 5, 2013; Image: Babcock