BAE has launched the third Astute-class nuclear-powered Artful submarine into the dock at its Barrow-in-Furness shipyard in Cumbria, UK, marking the beginning of the next phase of its test and commissioning process prior to sea trials in 2015.
Designed and built for the UK Royal Navy, the 97m-long, 7,400t vessel is the third of seven highly complex Astute-class submarines.
BAE Systems Astute programme director Stuart Godden said the launch of Artful is another significant step forward in the programme.
"This allows us to now fully concentrate on the test and commissioning activities required to get her to sea," Godden said.
The vessel will now undergo a chain of complex analysis to demonstrate the safety and operability of its systems before it departs the company's site for sea trials.
The Ministry of Defence's Director of Submarines rear admiral Mike Wareham said the Astute programme is 'making real progress'.
"The launch of this submarine brings it a step closer to entering into service, where it will provide a key capability for the Royal Navy and an essential component of the submarine service into the future."
Christened as HMS Artful (S121) in September 2013, the submarine will replace the Royal Navy's existing Swiftsure and Trafalgar-class vessels.
The Astute-class vessels can accommodate 98 crew members, and incorporate the thales sensors outfit (UAP4) electronic support measures.
They are also armed with Tomahawk block IV (tactical tomahawk) cruise missiles, in addition to Spearfish torpedoes and mines.
Artful will join its sister vessels HMS Astute and HMS Ambush in the Royal Navy fleet.
Image: The Royal Navy's third Astute-class submarine being launched into dock at BAE's Barrow shipyard. Photo: courtesy of BAE Systems.