Astute Class Nuclear Submarine: 2010 To Date Owners’ Workshop Manual by Jonathan Gates (book review).

May 24, 2018 | By | Reply More

In 2010, the BBC in the UK did a multi-part documentary called ‘How To Build A Nuclear Submarine’. It made a very strong impression on me at the time in how the new model submarine was put together in sections as it allowed more people to work on the parts than in the confines of a hull. With this book, ‘Astute Class Nuclear Submarine: 2010 To Date Owners’ Workshop Manual’ by Jonathan Gates, we get the fine details and this technique took 6 months off the building time. There is so much detail covered here, much of it to reduce building and later re-fits. This book is on the state of the art submarine manufacture.

The opening chapter covers some of the history of British nuclear submarines and looking at the diagram, the HMS Astute is shorter than the previous HMS Vanguard, although no real explanation is given why but considering in its tests, the Astute got beached, maybe a smaller frame made a lot more sense for mobility.

As with all Haynes books, seeing the design and construction is very informative. The original blueprints were done in 3D and a lot of potential problems, not to mention explaining to the workers what they were doing speeded up the construction. I suspect this technique will be used a lot more in the future. This book should also be used as a recognition of British industry, more so as many of the firms who worked on the Vanguard class are no longer around. Any big project such as this needs a lot of support industries and this applies to any country and hence the need for any government to look after the home industries first for when they are needed again.

I think the biggest surprise when looking at the schematics is not seeing the ballast tanks. Granted that I doubt if every detail is likely to be shown but understandable if you want to conceal how deep it can go, which is noted as classified. There is a protuberance on the top of the hull that is also not explained as well but you can’t expect everything to be revealed. In a similar way, there is a lot of attention to hide the submarine’s sonar and other signatures at sea makes for fascinating reading and if you’re planning to write stories on-board a submarine then this book is invaluable.

There are some gaps in my knowledge on submarines that are not only covered but explained. Submarines do have an anchor for Maritime regulation but rarely need to use it. The various masts on the vertical fin (you would call it the conning tower) only come out at a particular depth which should make a lot of film-makers rethink how they film submarines deep down. Already, I’m absorbing the correct terminology.

Something that puzzled me in the past is what happens on action stations to the crew who are asleep or off-duty but all are called on duty for various assignments. Saying that, no explanation is given as to who goes where when things go back to normal and who misses their sleep. It should hardly come as a surprise that the chefs of the galleys are kept very busy and on a single patrol 30,000 meals are made. Considering that they are underwater for at least 90 days at a time under somewhat austere conditions, there have been some improvements in their working conditions.

The details of how their sonar builds a picture outside of the submarine makes me wonder how far off 3D imagery is before its employed there. The passive and deliberate scanning is really interesting, as is the periscope which now relies looking at a TV screen now.

You can read about the armaments for yourself. I think the biggest surprise was seeing a submarine capable of firing an airborne torpedo and seeing the Astute capable of carrying a pod for additional equipment for specialised missions was another revelation.

This is a fascinating book and I learnt a lot, including a lot of the slang they use for various submarine activities. I doubt if many of us will get an opportunity to see inside a submarine for real. I did back at Plymouth Navy Days in the late 1960s and it stayed with me. As I doubt if this will happen anymore then this book is the next best thing.

GF Willmetts

May 2018

(pub: Haynes. 188 page illustrated indexed large hardback. Price: £25.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78521-071-6)

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About UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’
If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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