1983 - Present: Trafalgar Class
The Trafalgar-class is a class of nuclear-powered attack submarines in service with the Royal Navy, the successor to the Swiftsure Class.
Submarines from the class have seen service in a wide range of locations, and have fired missiles at targets in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. HMS Torbay, Trenchant, Talent, and Triumph have been fitted with the Sonar 2076 system, which the Royal Navy describes as the most advanced sonar in service with any navy in the world.
Three of the Trafalgar class boats have been involved in conflicts which on each occasion saw the launch of live cruise missiles. In 2001 Trafalgar took part in Operation Veritas, the attack on Al-Qaeda and Taliban forces following the 9/11 attacks in the United States, becoming the first Royal Navy submarine to launch Tomahawk cruise missiles against Afghanistan. On 16 April 2003, Turbulent was the first Royal Navy vessel to return home from the invasion against Iraq, Operation Telic. She arrived in Plymouth flying the Jolly Roger after having launched thirty Tomahawk cruise missiles. In March 2011, Triumph participated in Operation Ellamy, firing Tomahawk cruise missiles on 19 March and again on 20 March at Libyan air defence targets. The MOD also confirmed that on 24 March a further series of missiles were fired into Libya by a Trafalgar class submarine at air defence targets around the city of Sabha. The boat involved in this attack was later revealed to have also been Triumph. Triumph returned to Devonport on the 3 April 2011 flying a Jolly Roger adorned with six small Tomahawk axes to indicate the missiles fired by the submarine in the operation.
The Trafalgar class is a refinement of the Swiftsure Class and was designed six years later than its predecessor. The design includes a new reactor core and Type 2020 sonar (now replaced by Sonar 2076 on some boats). The internal layout is similar to the Swiftsure, and is only 2.5 metres longer. However at a dived displacement of 5,300 tonnes the Trafalgar class is significantly larger. Some major improvements over the Swiftsure Class include several features to reduce underwater radiated noise. These comprise a new reactor system, a pumpjet propulsion system rather than a conventional propeller, and the hull being covered in anechoic tiles which are designed to absorb sound rather than reflect it, making the boats quieter and more difficult to detect with active sonar. Like all Royal Navy submarines, the Trafalgar class have strengthened fins and retractable hydroplanes, allowing them to surface through thick ice.
The Trafalgar class is equipped with 5 x 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes with accommodation for a mixture of up-to 30 weapons
The introduction of the 2076 towed array passive search sonar equipped on at least four boats of the Trafalgar class has significantly improved their capabilities. BAE claimed that the 2076 represented a "step change" over previous sonars and the world's most advanced and effective sonar system.