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Scottish isles by the fi ery winter sky as she rides a crimson tide, the newest and most advanced submarine in Britain’s arsenal – HMS Ambush – is an almost serene sight.

Do not be fooled by appearances. The second of Britain’s Astute- class submarines is a truly formidable opponent for those who might hunt her.

Just ask HMS Westminster – the RN’s No.1 submarine hunters – who found the £1bn boat to be as elusive a foil as she’s ever likely to face.


The ‘capital ship’ is the lead anti-submarine

warfare frigate, purpose-built to hunt down – and destroy – underwater threats.

She’s commanded by the Captain Anti-Submarine Warfare, Capt Hugh Beard, and is fi tted with Sonar 2087 which is the best in the business.

Westminster joined Ambush for the latest stage of the boat’s trials; having left builders BAE in Barrow last autumn, the boat is at the beginning of the long road to operational service.

Westminster was on hand to provide support, test her ops room team in tracking an A-boat, and test her stokers

to see whether they could keep pace with Ambush. Among the trials, by far the most fun for hunter and hunted were the speed runs both on the surface – where, unlike in days of yore, submarines are slower – and whilst dived. So, game on.

While Ambush was being thrown around, Westminster was doing her utmost to track her – tricky on the surface because of Ambush’s speed, much trickier below because of her innate stealthiness.

With her gas turbines at full power, Westminster gave chase – and for good measure sent her Lynx Mk8, ‘Rosie’, from 815 Naval Air Squadron, into the air to keep pace with Ambush. “Ambush proved to be a truly invisible adversary and a swift one at that,” said Lt Cdr ‘Mickey’ Rooney, Westminster’s weapon engineer offi cer.

“Under the waves Ambush came

into her own. With an impressive turn of speed and her signature proving to be whisper-quiet, she is living up to the investment made in this next generation of technology.”

Lt Cdr ‘Sunny’ Lister, from the staff of Flag Offi cer Sea Training, who was aboard Westminster to observe the trials, added: “The silhouette of Ambush bow-on is an impressive sight – not too

dissimilar from the ‘bombers’ but much smaller. She looks awesome – and I am glad she is on our side.”

Whilst on the surface, the two warships practised a towing exercise – not an especially common occurrence between ship and submarine – before the tow rope was hauled back in by a good 20 exhausted sailors. How heavy is the tow rope? As

Westminster’s buffer, PO(Sea) ‘Smudge’ Smith, griped, “a lot heavier than it looks, shipmate.” Following the three days of trials,

Westminster turned for home leaving Ambush somewhere below, running silent and deep. It’s been a momentous few weeks in the life of the Mighty Bush. The White Ensign now billows over the boat (when she’s on the surface, that is) after she was officially handed over to the MOD following those successful trials.

across Gare Loch, AB George Sherwin – fittingly wearing

With flurries of snow sweeping the trademark

woollen white pullover of the Silent Service – raised the White Ensign for the first time on his boat. Saluting as the Royal Navy’s standard

was hoisted, Ambush’s Commanding Officer Cdr Peter Green said: “It is a proud day for all of us. To see the boat flying the flag of the Royal Navy is fantastic and shows just how far we

have come in such a short space of time.”

As for the man performing the honours, sonar specialist George said: “It was fantastic to see her become part of the Fleet. We’ve all worked really hard to get to this point and to be part of the handover has been memorable.”

The handover followed a

signing ceremony onboard the hunter-killer as Tony Wilcox, head of acceptance for BAE Systems, joined Cdr Green in signing the ‘certificate of acceptance’.

It means Ambush, which was launched at Barrow at the end of 2010 and arrived on the Clyde in September, had officially completed the first of two phases of contractor sea trials.

As well as the formal transfer to the MOD, Ambush – officially she doesn’t earn the prefix HMS until she’s commissioned later this year – hosted her sponsor, Lady Soar. It’s the first time she’s visited the boat in her new home on the Clyde, and the ship’s company were keen to appraise her of progress. As well as a presentational video

recalling the highlights of the trials around Scotland – which saw Ambush link up at sea with her older sister Astute for the first time – special

● Rosie turns the other cheek... Ambush glides past Westminster, whose Lynx Mk8 is readied for launch and (right) Capt Hugh Beard, Westminster’s CO, follows Ambush as the sun goes down while (below right) the frigate’s sea boat returns from a short trip to the hunter-killer






submarine’s systems were laid on, including the ‘optronics’ which have replaced traditional periscopes on this new class of boats. “The detail on the screen is amazing. It’s a clear demonstration of the technology


apart from previous submarines,” said Lady Soar, whose husband Admiral Sir Trevor was in charge of diesel boat HMS Ocelot and nuclear-powered hunter-killer HMS Talent.

On completion of the tour Lady Soar was hosted for lunch by the senior rates’ mess before undertaking a tour of the engine and manoeuvring rooms. “The boat looks remarkable and the

ship’s company are in excellent spirits. I’m exceptionally proud to be the sponsor of a boat that has achieved so much in such a short space of time,” Ambush’s sponsor added. AB Adam Scott, a tactical systems specialist, said: “It’s great to have a sponsor who is so interested in how we’re doing. It’s an opportunity to show off the boat – and brag a little about all we’ve done.”

Ambush is now undergoing a maintenance period before returning to sea in the spring to resume trials and training.

sets Ambush



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