22nd October 2010

Nuclear submarine runs aground off Skye

The Royal Navy’s largest and most expensive submarine ran aground on shingle off the coast of Skye while undergoing sea trials. Astute, which had cost more than £1bn to build, had been ordered in 1997, laid down in 2001 and launched in 2007. She had officially joined the Royal Navy on 27 August 2010 and was based at HM Naval Base Clyde, better known as Faslane.

Unlimited operating range

Displacing 16,000 tonnes, the 97m (318ft) long nuclear vessel carries a crew of 100 personnel and has a top speed of 35 miles an hour (56km / 30 knots). It has an unlimited operating range, although in practice this will be limited by staff and supply issues. It was just a few miles from the Skye Bridge when she ran aground, and was clearly visible to passers-by.

Astute had dropped some crew ashore and was putting back out to sea at the time of its grounding. “ As the tide rapidly ebbed it is thought the skipper of Astute, Commander Andy Coles, decided not to power it off the obstruction as it would risk damaging the hull that carries some of the most advanced acoustic tiles that make Astute virtually undetectable beneath the seas,” said the Daily Telegraph of 22 October 2010.

The submarine was pulled free the same day by a tug that had been earmarked to be scrapped. A subsequent inquiry estimated the cost of putting right damage caused to the hull of the vessel at around £81,000. The officer who had been in charge of the submarine at the point of running aground was relieved of his command and reassigned within the Royal Navy.

Further embarrassment

The submarine returned to service in December, but broke down on its first day back in use and a fault in its power system forced it to return to Faslane. In 2011, while docked in Southampton, the submarine was involved in a shooting, when one officer fired seven shots at colleagues in the control room, killing one and injuring others.

This was the second submarine to carry the name Astute. The original, which was launched on 30 January 1945 and was officially assigned to the Royal Navy on 30 June, was driven by diesel rather than nuclear fusion and remained in service until 1970, when it was sold for scrap.



Other events that occured in October

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