The disaster prone Royal Navy submarine HMS Astute finally fired its first missile in the Gulf of Mexico during a training mission, the Ministry of Defence has reported. A series of Tomahawk missiles were fired from the sub. Tomahawks can travel at up to 550 miles per hour and are 5.5 metres long, weigh 1,300 kg and have a range of 1,000 miles. The mission, which was deemed a success by the Ministry of Defence, has come just seven months after a crew member was murdered on the submarine by another crew member during a shooting while the submarine was in port at Southampton. The sub’s commanding officer said he was happy with the missile launch and that the sub “will be able to provide the UK’s strike capability for many years to come”.
The submarine is currently in the Gulf of Mexico for the first test of its system. It has the largest weapons capacity of all the submarines in the Royal Navy’s possession and can hold a combination of up to 38 Tomahawk missiles and Spearfish torpedoes. The UK is the only country the USA has supplied with Tomahawk missiles. The Astute Class of submarines are the most advanced submarines the Royal Navy has in its possession and they will slowly replace the Trafalgar Class. All Astute submarines are nuclear powered. They have been designed with modern operations in mind.
The HMS Astute is expected to continue testing its systems in the Gulf of Mexico, off the US coast until early spring when it will return to the UK for training before its first operation deployment. The submarine has a troubled past, having hit the headlines in October 2010 when it ran aground of the Isle of Skye. The commander at the time was relieved of his duties. Six months later a fatal shooting onboard led to the death of Lieutenant Commander Ian Molyneux. Able Seaman Ryan Donovan was convicted of one charge of murder and three of attempted murder over the incident.