A Nuclear Submarine How to Build...


A Nuclear Submarine

Documentary following the construction of the Astute nuclear submarine, which has been fourteen years in the making and cost over a billion pounds.


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Transcript


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The submarine's huge. It's 100 metres long.

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It's three decks deep.

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There is no inch of the submarine that's similar to another inch of it.

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I would definitely put it in the same league as the Space Shuttle

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or projects of that size.

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To my mind, this is a 7,000-tonne Swiss watch.

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There's an extraordinary amount of expertise

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in putting one of these submarines together.

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There are stages when it's like blacksmithing

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and there are stages when it's like brain surgery.

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The team what I've got have been working together for over 20-odd years.

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I mean, we're used to a lot heavier. This is a baby.

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I'll be fully qualified in September 2010, which is really daunting -

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being able to say, "I will be a qualified electrician."

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I'm in charge of purchasing submarines

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for the Ministry of Defence and it's my job to make sure that

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the programmes that we're hearing from the company are sensible

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and real and we're getting value for money out of them.

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This is number-one sea gate,

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and at the moment, she's laying down in the recess and we can't shut it,

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and make this area non-tidal.

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It's obviously quite a serious thing when a 380-tonne gate

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has collapsed on the bottom.

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It's a big, big engineering challenge.

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Without that gate in place, this submarine will not leave Barrow.

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This is a key point for the Royal Navy, bringing Astute out.

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If I get that wrong, I'm certainly aware of the amount of scrutiny that will be coming down on me.

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Anthony, my son, he said, "What do you do, Daddy?"

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He said, "I build submarines for the Queen."

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It's a wet and windy weekend in the middle of November.

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And the first new British submarine to be built for ten years

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is now preparing to sail out into the open sea

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for the very first time.

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-Is my cap badge in the middle?

-Yes. You're perfect.

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Good. Because often it's round there.

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14 years in the making

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and costing over £1 billion,

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she is one of the most technologically advanced machines in the world.

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She's a world class submarine,

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in her sense of technology underwater and above water,

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the weapons she can carry to sea

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that attack not only ships, but the land targets.

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She's an awesome vessel.

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Impressive as she is,

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her final exit into the open sea is not going to be an easy one.

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Much of Britain has experienced the worst storms of the year,

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with strong winds and heavy rain

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causing flooding and damage across the country.

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We have very strict criteria for making sure we have a safe exit.

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And the rain only affects the visibility on the day.

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It's the wind that matters.

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This is the story of

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how one of the world's most complicated machines is built.

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And the people that build it.

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It's about five to seven and I'm going to work.

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I've been in the Navy almost 30 years now

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and I've spent probably literally about 15 years underwater in submarines.

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It's the start of a typical working day

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for the people who build Britain's nuclear submarines.

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There is a lot of people that I know that work in the yard.

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Obviously there's Ged, my husband. My sister-in-law works in there.

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My brother-in-law works in there. My brother works in there.

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I would say every family that I know,

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at least one or two people actually work in the yard.

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Barrow-in-Furness is a town of 62,000 people

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on the edge of the English Lake District.

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The town has an amazing history of building submarines,

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launching its first in 1887.

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It only takes me about ten minutes, if that, to get to work.

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And generations of the same families from all around the area

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still build them today.

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I'm just swiping on.

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This is electronic timekeeping to make sure we're in at the right time and not late.

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The capability of our submarines is something that we want to keep to ourselves,

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because if other countries, other organisations, know the capability of the units, which we operate,

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then they can develop ways of defeating that capability.

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So that's why we're very careful about who comes on this site

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and also what information we're allowed to give as well.

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The current owner of the shipyard is British defence company BAE Systems.

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The business employs over 35,000 people across the UK,

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with around 5,000 of them in Barrow alone.

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BAE Systems is not without its critics.

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But in this town, the company forms the very backbone of the local economy.

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We have extraordinary numbers of people working here,

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with all sorts of family relationships. And the business has

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a real family feel to it as well. We play a vital part in the community.

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A lot of salaries and money goes back into the community through our shipyard.

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Britain's need for submarines splits opinion.

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Some think they're critical for defence,

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others that they're a waste of taxpayers' money.

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But with a potential order book of seven Astute submarines,

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Barrow depends on them to prosper into the next decade and beyond.

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This is the only site in the UK where we design, build, test and commission

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nuclear submarines for the Royal Navy.

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Britain's current fleet of attack submarines are coming to the end of their working lives,

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and the Royal Navy are desperate to get their hands on this new class.

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One of the world's most technologically advanced machines,

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they pack weaponry, life support and all the sensitive equipment

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a submarine needs to operate -

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including a nuclear reactor that will power its engine for 25 years

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and never need refuelling.

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At almost £1 billion, this submarine doesn't come cheaply.

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Or quickly.

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The submarines take years to manufacture. But what we do have

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on-site here are four submarines in various stages of their build.

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The first one is afloat, outside the Devonshire Dock Hall.

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The second submarine is behind me. The third submarine is just about whole.

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We've got a few more units to weld together.

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And the fourth submarine is, at the moment,

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in a series of units being outfitted.

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So you can look around the site here and see from first rolling the steel

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to actually operating the systems and preparing to go to sea.

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Building four boats with a staggered production schedule,

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the range of skills needed on site is extraordinary.

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The people here are unique - in not only what they do,

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but how they do it.

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I'm just changing into my overalls.

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I have to wear them so you don't cut yourself or hurt yourself.

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But they're not very flattering, to say the least.

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I work on that boat. Boat two, Ambush.

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This one closer to us is boat three.

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We're going down there, to the toolbox talk.

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That's Nige, the team leader.

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Morning, Nige.

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Erin Browne will be trained in the electrical systems

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of the submarine and is one of only 300 electricians on the build.

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When she's qualified, she'll be part of a very elite and highly-skilled club.

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That was our toolbox talk. We have one every morning at half past seven,

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telling us any health and safety issues from the day before,

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any communications - basically keeping us in touch with what's going on around the yard.

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The whole site covers 169 acres,

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making it Britain's biggest shipyard.

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And as a hub of high technology,

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nuclear submarines aren't just built in Barrow - they're designed here, too.

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The submarine is designed to operate in a very hostile environment,

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which is under the sea, at pressure.

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It's a salty environment - it wants to corrode.

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At the same time, it has to keep its crew

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of 97 crew safe

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for about a three-month period without surfacing.

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So it has to make it on air, its own water. Carries its own food.

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It has to operate as a war-fighting machine as well.

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The submarine has to be able to withstand underwater strikes and explosions.

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And so computer simulations put the hull through extreme testing,

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to ensure it will keep its crew safe if attacked.

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With around 600 people involved in the design process alone,

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this is one of the largest concentrations of such expertise in the world.

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This is the most complex submarine we've ever built.

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It's got 250,000 miles' worth of cable onboard the boat.

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It's got something like about 25,000 valves.

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We have to produce more than 100,000 drawings,

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so all the drawings originate from our computer-aided model.

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It took four years to design the Astute,

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which will contain more than a million individual components.

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Designed on a computer,

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but built by hand.

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My job is steelwork team leader.

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Started off as a shipwright in 1982

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and worked my way through the business.

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I've been in this shop now for about 12 years.

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This is the place where all the submarines start out life.

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This is where the raw plates come in by road.

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The wagons back into the shop,

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the magnet crane removes them and puts them into the piles.

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Using a plasma cutting machine,

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each plate has carefully designed patterns burnt into them.

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When each plate comes off the burning machine,

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what we do, we leave a small stitch of metal,

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which stops all the individual pieces falling out on the floor.

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Peter, the burner, what he's doing now is cutting through all the little stitches

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so the piece parts will fall out.

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They all go where they need to be, to be built in the right time, just like a massive Airfix model.

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The steel that makes the hull

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is shaped and rolled until the massive sections are completed.

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Peel away the special coating and the pressure hull is simply a watertight tube,

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capped at both ends with tanks that fill with water,

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to help it dive and surface.

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And finally, there's a fin section on top.

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The hull is made of eight separate steel sections,

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each around 11 metres in diameter.

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The boat is 97 metres long and when finished, weighs 7,400 tonnes.

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The huge sections are made in a different part of the yard

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and when completed, need to be transported down a public road

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to the building where the vessel is actually put together.

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At 260 metres long,

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58 metres wide and 51 metres tall,

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this building is one of Britain's biggest sheds!

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This is the DDH, which stands for Devonshire Dock Hall.

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The submarines are built in here because it's where all the top-secret stuff is,

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where people can't see, so it's housed and it's hidden. It's where the magic happens, I suppose.

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The Astute is the first class of British submarine

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in which sections are worked on vertically.

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This allows easy access for the team,

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before the section is turned the right way up, or ship-wise.

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Right. What we've got is a unit like this.

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We'll lower it down until it's on its two turning shoes at the far end there.

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What we'll then do is rig Frank up to the shop crane up here.

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He'll start turning it over like this, so it's rolling on the two turning shoes.

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My job is just a second set of eyes, just to make sure

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that everything's running smoothly.

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I'm the appointed person. If anything goes wrong.

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It's me that gets it in the neck.

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We're at a critical stage now in this turn

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where we've transferred the weight of the unit onto the mobile crane.

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The mobile crane is holding the load.

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We're now going to derig the shop crane and

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rerig it onto these eyeplates on this lower side of the unit.

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It's a critical point now. If either of these two cranes fail...

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Well, I wouldn't like to be standing here. I'll put it that way.

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A submarine packs in three times more machinery and equipment than any surface ship.

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But most of the back of the boat is taken up with the nuclear reactor,

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the engine and all the different back-up systems.

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We're now in the diesel generator space.

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Should we lose a reactor at sea, then we would rely on these diesel engines to provide

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the electrical power for running the minimum of equipment that we need to live as human beings.

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If you really need them at sea, then it's a bad hair day and you've got some problems, yeah.

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For a submarine to operate effectively, it has to be virtually undetectable.

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To do this, machinery is isolated from shocks, noise and vibration.

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This mounting here is an example of how you decouple the noise or the vibration

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generated from the diesel engine here from a sensitive piece of equipment.

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You can see here that this allows this piece of equipment to move.

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We expect the Astute class to be one of the,

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if not THE, quietest submarine in the world.

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One of the reasons for that is the technology we employ on here

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to prevent the vibration being transmitted to the hull.

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MUSIC: "The Blue Danube"

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Today, boat three is taking shape as some of her biggest sections are moved into position.

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Submarines take on water to help them dive.

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And a lot of it comes into the streamlined 270 tonne forward end construction.

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This unit also houses the submarine's sonar equipment.

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Active sonar works by emitting a pulse of sound and then calculates

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the amount of time it takes to hit an object and bounce back, which determines the distance.

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But the Astute will normally use passive sonar,

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which simply listens to the sea to detect and identify objects.

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It's claimed this technology is sensitive enough to hear a boat

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leaving New York harbour from Southampton.

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The other end of the submarine is capped with the after-end construction.

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Weighing in at around 230 tonnes, this also takes on water when the submarine dives and

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houses the mechanisms that control the submarine's rudder and propeller shaft.

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My name is Derek Parker and I work for Production Services team.

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We're in charge of all major movements in the DDH.

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Do all the heavy lifting, do all the shipping and modules

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and moving of the units.

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We're setting up now ready to move the aft-end construction

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up to the after dome.

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There's four transfer cars.

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They can actually pick up to 250 tonne per car.

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We're moving 39 metres

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and it's a metre a minute it travels.

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Everything's away, so...

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we're ready for this. We're ready to go then, boys.

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Green button. Let's go. Thank you.

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The team what I've got have been working together

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for over 20-odd years,

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so they know the system inside out.

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I mean, we're used to a lot heavier.

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We're used to something like 600 tonne,

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putting it together against another unit. This is a baby.

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This is a little baby!

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As we get six foot off the unit, we have to put people inside.

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So we bring more people in cos we've got to watch as we go up towards the dome,

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so that we don't hit that unit.

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As you can see, we've only got three inches to go now.

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Now we're going to go on an inch button, where we can do it an inch at a time.

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Inch it up, Tony. That's right, mate.

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Just the last inch, now, boys.

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That's it. Thank you.

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We can't do anything more with the transfer system. That's as close as we can get it.

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And it's within half an inch.

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It's gone well.

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One of the biggest and most complicated areas of the submarine

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is the command deck - the nerve centre of the boat,

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built as a separate module in another part of the shipyard,

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The command deck module is 22 metres long and weighs 180 tonnes.

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It contains the navigational controls, sonar, communications and weapons systems.

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The captain's cabin is on the top deck, while the second deck

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is where food is prepared and the crew eat, sleep and relax.

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We put all the the combat system together here,

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make it talk to each other and then the boat gets fleeted from here

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down to the submarine, then set back in the submarine.

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This is called the sonar cab space.

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Various equipment in here - the processing for the sonar,

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for the networks, for the command systems.

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I'll show you the sound room.

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This is where the sonar sets up.

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This is all the command system.

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All the sonars and all the other equipment on board

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pass all their information across to these desks.

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OK, carrying on aft, this is the commanding officer's cabin.

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Again, at the moment, it's pretty bare.

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The captain is the only man onboard who has a cabin to himself.

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He's the sole occupant of this one.

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This is the lower deck of the CDM, which is mainly accommodation.

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There's 19 bunks in this space - quite cramped.

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But nothing different to what submariners are used to and have been used to for many years.

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When I was in the Navy, all we had was a bunk light.

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Nowadays, they have iPod chargers, they have all sorts.

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OK, coming to the after-end of the command deck now,

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we have both the junior eights' and the senior eights' messes.

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This is where they live when they're off watch as well.

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And the final compartment is the galley.

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Or the kitchen.

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It's got every possible modern convenience.

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Everything. I don't know - it's got more than my kitchen has!

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There's a little bit of finishing off still to do,

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but we're not far off completion, whereby this will then be transported

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down to the DDH and slotted into the submarine.

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Once the units are fully fitted out, they can be joined together.

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We're going right through this unit into the next unit, and we're going to go down the tank.

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A job for the welding team.

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There's always one squad on nights, one squad on days.

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We will be on the job until it's finished.

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It's hard work. I'm on my second T-shirt now. I'm sweating.

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I'm tired. I'm going to be here till about seven o'clock tonight. So...

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We all have a section each. Start at the same time, finish at the same time, more or less.

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Hopefully, the results are all the same - the welding's good.

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Compared to some of the spaces on this submarine, this space is big.

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This is my job down here.

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I've got to crawl down this gap on this ladder to get down.

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The job will take over two kilometres of welding to complete,

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so the team will have to work in unison,

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with accuracy being key to ensure the units are in perfect alignment.

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Other side of that bulk head is the nuclear reactor.

0:23:370:23:39

To the right, the command deck module goes in this side.

0:23:390:23:44

This is my gun. Press the trigger and the gas comes out first.

0:23:440:23:48

Then you let go of the trigger.

0:23:480:23:49

The wire obviously feeds out with the power going through it.

0:23:490:23:53

If you get too hot or get too dry mouth or lose too much fluid, you've got to come out.

0:23:530:23:56

Heat-wise, it's the same everywhere.

0:24:050:24:08

It's extremely hot wherever you are, as you can see.

0:24:080:24:11

It is hot. It's hard work. It is a hard job to do.

0:24:110:24:14

It will take eight welders working day and night shifts

0:24:140:24:17

three weeks to join just two parts of the submarine together.

0:24:170:24:21

And the tanks they work in can reach temperatures of up to 130 degrees.

0:24:210:24:26

On a job like this, we'll be doing miles of welding.

0:24:280:24:31

Absolutely.

0:24:310:24:32

We used coils of wire and I think they hold about about 10lb of wire.

0:24:320:24:37

We can put one or two of them in in a shift, easy.

0:24:370:24:40

So...there's a lot of welding involved.

0:24:400:24:43

I take pride in my work. I think a lot of the welders do.

0:24:430:24:46

It's a bit of a challenge now and again, so yeah.

0:24:460:24:49

Bit of a challenge with each other as well.

0:24:490:24:51

When you're welding, it's got to be right.

0:24:510:24:54

We have a bit of a laugh over it -

0:24:540:24:56

bit of a dig at each other - so you take pride in your work that way.

0:24:560:25:00

Ged's worked in the yard

0:25:000:25:03

for about 25 years now.

0:25:030:25:05

He left school when he was 16 and went straight into the yard.

0:25:050:25:08

Left in the June and went in the September.

0:25:080:25:10

I like it because I think it's permanent, it's stable.

0:25:100:25:16

You know, he's got a good job there

0:25:160:25:18

and he's home from work within five minutes.

0:25:180:25:20

A welder's a very, very manual job. Very dirty.

0:25:200:25:24

And he has to get into some sort of tight spots that I certainly couldn't get into, so...

0:25:240:25:29

Once the welding is finished inside, the team move to the outside of the hull to complete the job.

0:25:320:25:38

It's quite an important job.

0:25:430:25:45

If anything goes wrong with the job,

0:25:450:25:48

it goes on my record. I did my first one of these age 18.

0:25:480:25:52

I think I'm the youngest one to do one.

0:25:520:25:54

Quite proud of it as well, really.

0:25:560:25:58

This is finished now. They'll crack-detect it.

0:26:010:26:03

Then it'll get ultrasonic tested,

0:26:030:26:06

which is just like a baby scan, really.

0:26:060:26:08

You put jelly on it, put a probe over it.

0:26:080:26:10

Just to make sure there's no muck or defects in the metal.

0:26:100:26:13

Then they'll X-ray it just to further check it again. Just to make sure.

0:26:130:26:17

There's lives at risk, so it's got to be right.

0:26:170:26:20

Where there is a join,

0:26:220:26:24

there is usually a weakness.

0:26:240:26:26

But in the case of the Astute,

0:26:260:26:28

the metal used by the welders is actually stronger than the hull.

0:26:280:26:32

This innovative work is done on-site by a team of scientists and engineers.

0:26:320:26:37

In the mechanical test area,

0:26:400:26:41

there are various pieces of equipment and techniques

0:26:410:26:45

which allow us to characterise the way materials behave,

0:26:450:26:49

such as tensile testing, which we use to pull material apart.

0:26:490:26:52

Or impact testing.

0:26:540:26:57

When two sections of the submarine are joined together,

0:26:570:27:00

we will have specified the materials that have been joined together.

0:27:000:27:04

We will have developed the process which joins the material together.

0:27:040:27:09

And we will have assessed the suitability of the material that goes into joining the two pieces together.

0:27:090:27:15

Boat two is ready to be out-fitted.

0:27:220:27:24

The vessel will eventually contain over one million components,

0:27:240:27:28

which includes 23,000 pipes and over 100 kilometres of electrical cabling.

0:27:280:27:34

Just going to go into the workshop now -

0:27:340:27:36

go see Carl and see what the plan of action is for today.

0:27:360:27:39

With a maximum of 290 people allowed onboard boat two at any one time,

0:27:390:27:44

the different teams need to work together.

0:27:440:27:47

They will literally build her by hand.

0:27:470:27:49

The job that we're doing today is going to be in the captain's cabin,

0:27:490:27:52

so it's quite a small compartment.

0:27:520:27:55

Just been to the PAM cabin to get our PAMs - personal air monitors.

0:27:580:28:02

We need them for gases or there's a gas leak, such as argon.

0:28:020:28:06

Argon's really dangerous. They say two lungfuls and it kills you straightaway. So, nasty!

0:28:060:28:11

Before we go onboard, the last thing we've got to do is swipe on with our passes.

0:28:110:28:16

That's just so they know how many people are onboard,

0:28:160:28:19

so that if there's a fire, they know how many people to get off-board. Things like that.

0:28:190:28:23

Erin is one of 500 apprentices and graduates working in the shipyard.

0:28:280:28:33

Apprentice schemes all over Britain are now being reintroduced,

0:28:330:28:36

to stop the decline of traditional skills.

0:28:360:28:40

And this is especially essential for the survival of Barrow.

0:28:400:28:43

This is the captain's cabin space. Ooh!

0:28:430:28:46

This is a call signal station.

0:28:500:28:53

So if the power goes down on the boat and you can't contact other areas,

0:28:530:28:58

this will have a handset on it.

0:28:580:28:59

So it's like a wind-up phone.

0:28:590:29:02

Apprentices always work with someone already qualified,

0:29:020:29:06

known as a journeyman.

0:29:060:29:07

I basically get a step-by-step guide through how to do something

0:29:090:29:12

until I've learned - until I'm confident I can do it myself,

0:29:120:29:16

and then I do them on my own. But I've never done one of these before, so Carl'll tell me what to do.

0:29:160:29:21

These cables are going to be going into the tops of the terminals,

0:29:330:29:37

which are connected to the bottoms of the terminals.

0:29:370:29:39

All these colours go up the side and then they're all connected in there.

0:29:390:29:43

We've got blue and black, red and black, then there's three white and black ones.

0:29:430:29:47

-We'll be able to work out on the drawing which one goes where.

-So just them ones?

0:29:470:29:51

Yeah.

0:29:510:29:52

-What next?

-Three and four.

0:29:530:29:55

These are the first submarines we've built for ten years and a lot of the skills have been lost.

0:29:550:30:00

We had a spell with no apprentices coming through. We've had to start it up again.

0:30:000:30:04

If you didn't have apprentices, you'd be struggling in the future.

0:30:040:30:07

This is the big employer of the town.

0:30:070:30:10

We need this to keep going.

0:30:100:30:11

-Good?

-All right. Yeah.

0:30:110:30:14

Sorted.

0:30:140:30:16

Erin did well. She looked at it, she did well.

0:30:160:30:18

-Nice and neat. So, good job.

-We opened it and there's

0:30:180:30:21

loads of terminals and I thought, "Looks complicated."

0:30:210:30:24

But once you read the drawing and understood it, it was pretty easy.

0:30:240:30:29

While the teams continue to finish the inside,

0:30:290:30:31

a very special process is beginning on the outside.

0:30:310:30:35

The surface of the boat is covered with around 40,000 rubber tiles,

0:30:350:30:39

designed to make the boat almost invisible.

0:30:390:30:41

The rubber absorbs and then breaks up enemy sonar waves,

0:30:410:30:45

stopping the signal returning and giving the Astute's position away.

0:30:450:30:49

This rubber blanket also gives added sound insulation,

0:30:490:30:53

making the submarine even quieter.

0:30:530:30:55

Each submarine will spend around five years inside the Devonshire Dock Hall,

0:30:550:30:59

before being removed and lowered into the dock outside by a massive ship lift,

0:30:590:31:04

capable of handling vessels weighing more than 16,000 tonnes.

0:31:040:31:08

Once in the Wet Dock,

0:31:090:31:11

the submarine can be fine-tuned and finished.

0:31:110:31:14

-Stop!

-Unlocked.

0:31:350:31:37

The weapons storage department,

0:31:380:31:40

or torpedo room, is where weapons are loaded, stored and fired from.

0:31:400:31:45

The Astute is armed with Spearfish torpedoes, that have

0:31:450:31:49

a range of over 65 kilometres and weigh two tonnes each,

0:31:490:31:52

and Tomahawk cruise missiles,

0:31:520:31:54

able to accurately hit targets more than 1,000 kilometres inland.

0:31:540:31:58

However, as an attack submarine, the Astute is not built to carry

0:31:580:32:02

the controversial Trident missile system.

0:32:020:32:04

Today, the crew are engaging in a war-game exercise,

0:32:040:32:07

to test that all the equipment is talking to each other correctly.

0:32:070:32:11

The plan today is to run three scenarios.

0:32:110:32:13

These scenarios will test all aspects of the system,

0:32:130:32:17

both, er, physically

0:32:170:32:20

and the crew as well. It will test them as well.

0:32:200:32:23

OK, listen up, guys. This is your brief. Your task.

0:32:230:32:26

You've been allocated a patrol area in the Norwegian Sea

0:32:260:32:29

with an assigned role of surveillance and intelligence gathering.

0:32:290:32:32

Patrol the area and attempt to covertly trail

0:32:320:32:34

any deploying submarines which you detect and classify.

0:32:340:32:38

You are to maintain a fire control solution at all times whilst on the trail.

0:32:380:32:41

If you detect a Delta Four preparing for a weapon firing,

0:32:410:32:44

you are to conduct a simulated Spearfish engagement,

0:32:440:32:47

including water shots to ensure counter-detection.

0:32:470:32:50

You have two hours and 30 minutes to save the world.

0:32:500:32:53

Dangerous submarine contact.

0:32:550:32:57

The control room up here is where we prepare the fire control solution for firing a weapon

0:32:570:33:02

and then down below in the weapon stowage compartment, or bomb shop,

0:33:020:33:06

that's where we actually fire the weapons from.

0:33:060:33:08

It's simulating the submarine being used for what it's intended.

0:33:080:33:12

Classified Oscar.

0:33:120:33:13

'Stand by Spearfish tactic, track 35 is targeting Classified Oscar.

0:33:130:33:17

'From two tube.'

0:33:170:33:19

Valid active contact.

0:33:190:33:21

Valid active contact. Weapon two.

0:33:210:33:24

DISTORTED SPEECH OVER RADIO

0:33:240:33:26

The command system uses its various algorithms

0:33:310:33:34

to work out where we think the target's going to be.

0:33:340:33:36

And then once we've got a good fire control solution on the target,

0:33:360:33:40

we'll try and fire a weapon at it.

0:33:400:33:41

Valid active contact bearing 146, range 10,700 yards.

0:33:410:33:46

-That is the target. Continue the attack.

-Roger. Continue the attack.

0:33:460:33:50

Starboard fire. Track 35.

0:33:500:33:52

Starboard fire. Track 35.

0:33:520:33:54

Weapon is in weapon mode.

0:33:590:34:00

It's gone very well. I think the crew were very impressed

0:34:000:34:03

and certainly, our team were very impressed.

0:34:030:34:06

We all worked very hard. It's been a very long day. I think we've all got something out of this.

0:34:060:34:10

With the command deck fully operational,

0:34:140:34:16

the last major engineering feat to overcome is also the most difficult.

0:34:160:34:21

The submarine's nuclear reactor will need to be switched on.

0:34:210:34:25

Safety is the first priority.

0:34:310:34:34

And the people of Barrow need to be prepared for the unlikely event of a nuclear accident.

0:34:340:34:39

SIREN WAILS

0:34:390:34:41

This is the first time in ten years since we've last operated a nuclear reactor.

0:34:410:34:45

There are plans that have been put in place by the civil authorities that we've signed up to.

0:34:450:34:50

There's a lot of eyes watching how we do our business here.

0:34:520:34:55

There's a lot of auditing done on a very regular basis.

0:34:550:34:57

So, yes, we're watched and very open in what we do here.

0:34:570:35:01

Doesn't bother me. It's just part of the town and part of my growing up.

0:35:030:35:07

If there's an emergency, they will sound that buzzer.

0:35:090:35:12

If you hear that buzzer going, you know there's something wrong.

0:35:120:35:15

The shipyard sends out leaflets -

0:35:150:35:19

what to do in an emergency.

0:35:190:35:22

Innocuous looking packet of tablets.

0:35:220:35:24

These tablets are there to protect your thyroid.

0:35:240:35:28

but we've never had a nuclear emergency in all those years.

0:35:280:35:32

So, why worry? I think what people worry about round here

0:35:320:35:36

is where the next shilling's coming from to buy the tea.

0:35:360:35:39

STEEL DRUMS PLAY "In The Mood"

0:35:390:35:41

For a town that's been building nuclear submarines for 50 years,

0:35:440:35:48

testing the warning systems is just a routine event and doesn't interrupt everyday life.

0:35:480:35:53

Usually I'm wearing big blue overalls, nice and baggy.

0:35:570:36:01

But you can't have a carnival without all the sparkles.

0:36:010:36:04

This is obviously a lot sparklier and a lot more colourful!

0:36:040:36:08

It's nice to be able to come out of work and have a totally different life.

0:36:080:36:11

You have to have a different personality to be able to get on with the guys.

0:36:110:36:15

But it's good to come and have a little break from it.

0:36:150:36:18

I don't miss out on any of the girly stuff,

0:36:180:36:20

because I see these twice a week.

0:36:200:36:22

-What do you think about me working in the yard?

-I think it's cool!

0:36:220:36:26

-Why is it cool?

-Because you can fix my plugs.

0:36:260:36:29

That's all I'm good for, is it? Fix your plugs!

0:36:310:36:33

Landing is fine, land at your discretion.

0:36:420:36:44

The wind 180, four knots.

0:36:440:36:46

'Roger that.'

0:36:460:36:48

As the summer turns into the autumn,

0:36:500:36:52

boat one is nearing the end of its testing phase

0:36:520:36:54

and closer to having its reactor switched on.

0:36:540:36:57

So it's now coming under close scrutiny by the man charged with

0:36:570:37:01

ensuring the vessel is safe and ready to be delivered to the Royal Navy.

0:37:010:37:06

-It's all kind of coming together.

-Right. Thank you.

0:37:060:37:09

We're going to test everything.

0:37:090:37:10

Cooking a curry and lasagne.

0:37:100:37:12

We're going to serve it to an admiral in about an hour's time.

0:37:120:37:15

I've been on two different types of submarines

0:37:180:37:21

and this is the biggest gallery I've ever been on. It's absolutely massive.

0:37:210:37:25

The admiral has come to hear first-hand how close they are to switching the nuclear reactor on

0:37:250:37:30

and taking the submarine to sea.

0:37:300:37:32

Hello. How do you do? Hello, Coxon.

0:37:340:37:37

Generally, just a normal working environment, it's not bad at all.

0:37:370:37:41

It's not so hot that you can't work in it.

0:37:410:37:45

-Where are we having lunch? Here?

-In here, sir.

-Good.

0:37:450:37:47

-Him having a bit of dinner is a bit of a bonus for him.

-I'm keen to hear what it's like at grassroots level.

0:37:470:37:52

The main priority is just to make sure everything works and we can actually work in here.

0:37:520:37:57

Which other defects have emerged that give you a sense that we're going to have a tricky month ahead of us?

0:37:570:38:03

I'm in charge of purchasing submarines for the Ministry of Defence.

0:38:050:38:08

It's my job to make sure that the purchasing operation

0:38:080:38:11

is well-founded

0:38:110:38:12

and that we're...

0:38:120:38:14

That the programmes that we're hearing from the company

0:38:140:38:17

are sensible and real and we're getting value for money out of them.

0:38:170:38:21

Wrestling the boat from the dock - that sounds like an negative thing -

0:38:210:38:25

but wrestling the boat out of the hands of the dockyard that have loved it is what we do.

0:38:250:38:31

After his inspection and discussions with the crew,

0:38:310:38:34

Admiral Lister needs to take his findings to the managers of the shipyard.

0:38:340:38:38

We have meetings with Admiral Lister at least once a fortnight.

0:38:380:38:42

We had originally hoped to be ready to go to sea late summer.

0:38:420:38:45

We're a little bit later than that now.

0:38:450:38:47

We've had no fundamental issues, but we have had some minor teething problems and difficulties.

0:38:470:38:51

Nothing major, but a few obstacles that we've had to overcome.

0:38:510:38:55

The meeting will last late into the night.

0:38:550:38:59

Obviously, we're interested in your reflections on the visit on the boat we've just done.

0:39:010:39:05

Then I wouldn't mind quickly going through the agenda for tomorrow, to make sure we've got that done.

0:39:050:39:10

Right. In terms of technical progress,

0:39:100:39:13

where you've handed over compartments, they're impressive.

0:39:130:39:18

The wardroom and the junior eights are very good indeed.

0:39:180:39:23

The people who've fitted them out should be congratulated.

0:39:230:39:27

Overall, though, I'd have expected you to make more progress in handover.

0:39:270:39:32

My quiz to Alan and Paul as they showed me round was,

0:39:320:39:35

"Why haven't you moved on forward more than this?"

0:39:350:39:38

And they were telling me they've been clearing defects like nobody's business.

0:39:380:39:42

Yeah, the word "defects" is something we've debated.

0:39:420:39:46

In the construction industry, I think they use the word "snagging".

0:39:460:39:50

I know in the US, they the word "unsats" - unsatisfactories.

0:39:500:39:54

We use the word defects. Anything that doesn't comply with the requirements or the specification.

0:39:540:39:59

So the vast majority of defects are pretty modest. They're things like paint spills,

0:39:590:40:03

tally plates missing, chips in varnish. Those sorts of things.

0:40:030:40:06

That's my challenge to you. Is this going at the pace that we need it?

0:40:060:40:11

We need this submarine. We absolutely need this submarine.

0:40:110:40:14

It's hugely frustrating - not just for me, but for the whole company.

0:40:140:40:18

We really do want to see Astute go to sea. We want to show what a capable submarine it is.

0:40:180:40:22

The Astute is almost four years late on its delivery

0:40:220:40:26

and estimated to be overspent by around £800 million.

0:40:260:40:30

BAE Systems inherited some of these problems back in the 1990s,

0:40:300:40:35

before they owned the company.

0:40:350:40:38

Design and contractual issues hampered the early stages of the project

0:40:380:40:42

and apprentice schemes had been stopped, which meant skills were being lost from an aging workforce.

0:40:420:40:47

In 1999, when they took over the shipyard,

0:40:470:40:50

BAE Systems had to implement new design technology and reintroduce the apprentice scheme.

0:40:500:40:56

Only now is the first of seven vessels about to be delivered to the Royal Navy.

0:40:560:41:02

What drew me to the submarine service,

0:41:040:41:06

particularly as an engineer, was the nuclear aspect.

0:41:060:41:11

I find it quite fascinating that we can produce so much energy

0:41:110:41:15

for a submarine all in such a small tube,

0:41:150:41:19

going around the world for months at a time.

0:41:190:41:22

Doing things that people don't necessarily know about.

0:41:220:41:26

I'm a keen biker. It's a beautiful ride in.

0:41:260:41:29

The Lake District is my favourite place in the country.

0:41:290:41:32

And living in Bardsey is a beautiful little village as well,

0:41:320:41:35

with some special attractions.

0:41:350:41:37

Commander Paul Knight is overseeing the nuclear reactor being switched on -

0:41:390:41:43

the last job before the boat can leave the dock.

0:41:430:41:46

The design of our reactor is confidential.

0:41:470:41:50

We don't want to let the design out

0:41:500:41:52

because it does give indications of the performance of the submarine.

0:41:520:41:56

And also, the technology that's behind it is obviously valuable to the nation,

0:41:560:42:01

and we wouldn't want to share it with other nations.

0:42:010:42:04

You take the reactor critical by taking the control rods out of the reactor core.

0:42:040:42:08

It starts off very low power,

0:42:080:42:11

producing a power which you can barely light a lightbulb with,

0:42:110:42:14

all the way up to full power, which is obviously a confidential figure.

0:42:140:42:18

I can't tell you.

0:42:180:42:20

But is enough really to power a city the size of Southampton, really,

0:42:200:42:23

is the comparison we make.

0:42:230:42:25

It's the first time in ten years

0:42:270:42:29

a nuclear reactor is being switched on anywhere in the UK.

0:42:290:42:33

But the people of Barrow take it in their stride -

0:42:330:42:37

including former shipbuilders who've seen it all before.

0:42:370:42:40

It's just an everyday occurrence for us.

0:42:420:42:45

Not that it happens every day or every week.

0:42:450:42:47

It only happens at the tail-end of the build of a submarine.

0:42:470:42:51

There's never been an accident. The things are totally safe.

0:42:510:42:55

Hopefully. Touch wood.

0:42:550:42:57

It is a bit of a strange thing to be used to, obviously.

0:42:570:43:01

-It's summat you grow up with in the town.

-Yeah, I-I-I can't see...

0:43:010:43:05

There's nothing to be frightened of.

0:43:050:43:07

We're all doomed, sir!

0:43:070:43:08

It's Saturday morning,

0:43:290:43:31

September the fifth, and we're starting power range testing today.

0:43:310:43:36

Good morning.

0:43:360:43:38

It's just a day like any other in Barrow.

0:43:450:43:48

But inside the shipyard, the reactor is carefully being switched on and monitored by nuclear engineers.

0:43:480:43:53

OK.

0:43:560:43:58

We've started. That's good.

0:44:000:44:01

That's the first time we've taken a new design of a reactor critical

0:44:010:44:06

on a submarine for ten years as well, so it's a very big milestone -

0:44:060:44:10

not only for the Astute project, but also for the UK as a whole.

0:44:100:44:13

The design of the reactor is top secret,

0:44:140:44:17

but there are some elements that are unclassified.

0:44:170:44:20

It's protected by special shielding

0:44:200:44:22

that weighs around 100 tonnes and protects the crew from radiation.

0:44:220:44:26

It's fuelled with an incredibly radioactive substance, enriched uranium.

0:44:260:44:32

When the reactor is started up for the first time, a neutron is fired at a uranium atom.

0:44:320:44:37

That uranium atom splits, or fissions,

0:44:370:44:40

releasing energy and freeing more neutrons

0:44:400:44:42

that trigger the same process of splitting in surrounding uranium atoms.

0:44:420:44:46

Once this chain reaction becomes self-sustaining,

0:44:460:44:49

the reactor is said to be critical and is generating an enormous amount of heat.

0:44:490:44:55

Once we've ensured the design is correct, the instrumentation is correct,

0:44:550:44:58

we then move up in power in gradual steps,

0:44:580:45:01

resulting in, in two weeks' time, full power operations.

0:45:010:45:05

The huge amount of energy the reactor is creating is used to heat water.

0:45:060:45:12

The water, under extremely high pressure,

0:45:120:45:15

which prevents it from boiling, passes a heat exchanger,

0:45:150:45:18

which contains another circuit of water at a much lower pressure.

0:45:180:45:22

This water DOES boil and creates steam.

0:45:220:45:26

The steam drives turbines and the turbines generate all the power the submarine needs.

0:45:260:45:31

The Astute is, in part, an old-fashioned steam engine -

0:45:310:45:35

though coupled with 21st Century nuclear technology.

0:45:350:45:38

Yeah, it's been not just a tough week - it's been a tough few months, really, getting here.

0:45:400:45:44

Yeah, definitely. It's a relief, I guess, for a lot of people who've worked very, very hard.

0:45:440:45:50

And fingers crossed, it should all go smoothly

0:45:500:45:52

and we're one step closer to exiting Barrow

0:45:520:45:55

and taking the submarine to sea and handing it over to the Royal Navy.

0:45:550:45:59

But as that moment gets closer,

0:46:050:46:07

an unexpected and unforeseen obstacle appears from nowhere.

0:46:070:46:12

And this one could stop the submarine leaving Barrow altogether.

0:46:120:46:15

This is number one seagate, a flap gate by design. It's rather like a drawbridge.

0:46:170:46:21

At the moment, she's laying down in the recess.

0:46:210:46:24

We're unable to shut the gate and make this area non-tidal.

0:46:240:46:28

The submarine only has a certain amount of time to get from the dock to the deep water.

0:46:280:46:33

And without the gate, this timing is next to impossible to control,

0:46:330:46:37

meaning the Astute's exit would become a huge gamble.

0:46:370:46:40

The only way we can take the submarine out now, with one gate out of operation,

0:46:400:46:45

is to time it precisely such that we're in the lock

0:46:450:46:48

at the right height of tide and then take her straight out to sea.

0:46:480:46:51

You then have to accelerate the exit speed through the channel.

0:46:510:46:55

You'd be doing handbrake spins round the corner. It's just not something we would consider.

0:46:550:47:00

With the risk of grounding the submarine a serious one,

0:47:030:47:06

the only choice is to raise the lock gate from the seabed -

0:47:060:47:09

and although the gate is actually owned by Barrow's Port Authority,

0:47:090:47:13

everybody agrees to work together to find out why it isn't working.

0:47:130:47:17

And then hopefully fix it.

0:47:170:47:20

With daylight, the fault is clearly evident.

0:47:200:47:24

This is the side one where you can see a crack on the north side.

0:47:240:47:28

On the far side, this actually sheered off completely.

0:47:280:47:32

It's a big pain, yes. It's a lot of work.

0:47:320:47:34

It's a mammoth task - the gate is over 20 years old -

0:47:350:47:39

but a team of engineers will have to figure out a way to fix it.

0:47:390:47:42

We do want the nuclear submarine going out and so we have a very vested interest

0:47:420:47:46

in getting this gate up and running and operable.

0:47:460:47:49

It's been a few weeks now since you guys have been in town.

0:47:500:47:53

The gate has moved on significantly from where we were three weeks ago.

0:47:530:47:58

The main issue we had was the fact that this bracket here had failed.

0:47:580:48:03

When we recovered the gate,

0:48:040:48:06

we weren't given an awful lot of surprise in terms of

0:48:060:48:09

the extent of the work. We have fitted initial brackets to the structure,

0:48:090:48:14

basically just to make the structure a bit more integral.

0:48:140:48:18

The gate may be fixed, but the job isn't over.

0:48:180:48:22

It's no easy task to re-install the 324-tonne piece of steel.

0:48:220:48:27

It's about the same position it was in when we took it out about two and a half months ago.

0:48:270:48:31

It's a drawbridge-action gate.

0:48:310:48:33

Four times a day, it's cycled - on each tide.

0:48:330:48:36

It's operated from the winch-house, which is located just behind.

0:48:360:48:39

For the next two days, divers and engineers will work around the clock to hit their deadline...

0:48:390:48:45

Without that gate in place, this submarine will not leave Barrow.

0:48:450:48:48

..until it's back where it belongs.

0:48:480:48:52

It's gone very close to programme and most programmes slip quite a lot.

0:49:010:49:04

But this one hasn't slipped too much and today's the big day. It is a big sigh of relief.

0:49:040:49:10

With the gate back in place and the dock fully functional,

0:49:100:49:14

there's nothing left to stop the Astute from finally leaving Barrow.

0:49:140:49:18

Except the weather. And the events of the last few months mean the warm summer is a distant memory.

0:49:180:49:23

She will be sailing in November.

0:49:230:49:26

Commander Andy Coles, the captain of the boat, is preparing his crew for the exit.

0:49:270:49:31

We're just doing the final preparations and final checks, ready to sail tomorrow.

0:49:330:49:37

I'll show you as much as I can within the bounds of legality.

0:49:370:49:40

Welcome onboard.

0:49:400:49:42

Just come this way, please.

0:49:420:49:45

We're in the centre of the control room

0:49:480:49:50

and in front of me, I've got ship control.

0:49:500:49:53

To the left, I've got the sonar and to the right, the combat system.

0:49:530:49:56

This is where I sit and when I'm not here, where the officer of the watch sits.

0:49:560:50:00

And this is my cabin. This is where I sleep and work.

0:50:090:50:12

So I spend my time between the control room and here.

0:50:120:50:16

I have screens here which show me the tactical picture and I can see what's going on on the periscope.

0:50:160:50:22

I'm now converting my chair into the bunk, where I sleep at night.

0:50:220:50:26

I've got communications right next to me and everything's been aligned up so it's above the level of the bunk,

0:50:290:50:35

so in bed when they call me, I can see everything from bed. So it's quite good.

0:50:350:50:39

You can tell what day of the week it is by the food.

0:50:480:50:51

For example, you always have fish and chips on a Friday.

0:50:520:50:55

And you get to look forward to those nights as well.

0:50:550:50:58

Get all the ugly ones out. This is the senior eights' mess.

0:50:580:51:01

If you'd like to follow me.

0:51:010:51:03

OK. This is the senior eights' mess.

0:51:030:51:05

This is one of the three messes we have onboard.

0:51:050:51:07

On the other side of the corridor, the junior eights' mess -

0:51:070:51:10

exactly the same, but this is for the junior eights.

0:51:100:51:12

It's a little more homely now.

0:51:120:51:14

We've gone nice chairs and more comfortable living arrangements.

0:51:140:51:19

It's got a PlayStation, Xbox, big telly, media centre,

0:51:190:51:22

and it's just coming together now, so we're all ready to go to sea in all respects.

0:51:220:51:26

I think you have to have a certain temperament to be a submariner.

0:51:340:51:38

You have to be able to get on with people and work in a very small space.

0:51:380:51:42

We don't tend to be quite so clipped and so formal as other areas of the Navy.

0:51:420:51:46

It's just a matter of the environment we live in. The senior eights live in two different mess decks.

0:51:460:51:51

This is one of them. We utilise the maximum amount of space,

0:51:510:51:54

using three racks on either side.

0:51:540:51:58

Each man has at least one locker,

0:51:580:52:00

and underneath each bunk is stowage as well.

0:52:000:52:02

But we're experts at living on the minimum amount of clothing.

0:52:020:52:05

We're up on the forward navigation position, commonly known as the bridge on the submarine.

0:52:110:52:16

As you can see, we get a very good view from here.

0:52:160:52:20

It's even more precise, I think, than being on the bridge of a ship

0:52:200:52:23

because you can feel the elements working with you or against you.

0:52:230:52:26

You're able to take action against them quickly.

0:52:260:52:29

Tomorrow represents a really key point for us,

0:52:300:52:32

wich is the move away from this dock down to Ramsden Dock and so

0:52:320:52:36

therefore with the tugs' assistance, we'll be going through that bridge and down to Ramsden Dock tomorrow.

0:52:360:52:42

Clearly trying to sail in mid November is a risk with the weather.

0:52:420:52:46

And the weather forecast over the next two days is not ideal.

0:52:460:52:49

We've already got a freshening wind which we can feel in our hair now.

0:52:490:52:52

It's going to get stronger over the next 24 hours.

0:52:520:52:55

But everybody's attention is on us at the moment. This is a key point for the Royal Navy, bringing Astute out.

0:52:550:53:00

I get that wrong, I'm certainly aware of the amount of scrutiny that will be coming down on me.

0:53:000:53:05

It's November the 14th, 2009.

0:53:130:53:15

And the first new British submarine for 10 years

0:53:150:53:19

is about to sail out into the open sea for the very first time.

0:53:190:53:23

Originally planned for the summer, the submarine's last hurdle to exit

0:53:230:53:27

is the uncertainty of the British weather.

0:53:270:53:31

Submarines manoeuvre extremely well underwater.

0:53:310:53:33

But on the surface, they're not quite so good at manoeuvring, so we need some tug assistance.

0:53:330:53:39

They're going to bring alongside four very powerful tugs

0:53:390:53:42

and then we will manoeuvre the submarine through the lock system,

0:53:420:53:46

under the Michaelson Road Bridge, round to Ramsden Dock in preparation for exit.

0:53:460:53:50

There has been a lot of effort from everyone involved here.

0:53:580:54:01

It's been fraught with interesting conversations and emotions that have come out.

0:54:010:54:05

The crew are ready, the tugs are ready.

0:54:050:54:07

The wind has finally dropped. So we've got one window of opportunity before it starts getting dark.

0:54:070:54:12

So, it's a good day.

0:54:120:54:13

It's quite narrow here -

0:54:560:54:58

it's 28 metres wide - so it is quite a challenging thing.

0:54:580:55:00

You can see the challenge to be able to get through this narrow gap.

0:55:000:55:04

We've been eating, drinking, breathing the submarine

0:55:300:55:33

and getting it ready for this moment.

0:55:330:55:35

Now that we can step back and watch it go through,

0:55:350:55:38

it's really a great moment, actually.

0:55:380:55:40

It's something that the country should be really proud of.

0:55:510:55:54

The first time that we've launched a new submarine out of here for ten years.

0:55:540:55:58

It's a hell of an achievement, actually.

0:55:580:56:00

The whole process will take two days,

0:56:180:56:20

but at 9.15 on Sunday 15th November,

0:56:200:56:25

the gate holding back the sea has been safely lowered

0:56:250:56:29

and the submarine leaves Barrow for the first time.

0:56:290:56:32

She'll never return.

0:56:330:56:35

Once free of shallow water,

0:56:530:56:55

the tugs will depart and her reactor will take over,

0:56:550:56:58

silently powering the Astute through the ocean.

0:56:580:57:01

Started off as a team leader on the Astute that's just gone out.

0:57:050:57:09

Fantastic pride.

0:57:090:57:11

That's what I felt. We want to see more of these.

0:57:110:57:14

And not with ten-year gaps, either.

0:57:140:57:17

I work on boat two. We need to make sure we knuckle down and we can have a day like this in years to come.

0:57:230:57:28

It was built slowly and carefully by a lot of dedicated people.

0:57:350:57:38

It's a wonderful thing to see it go.

0:57:380:57:40

I was surprised, actually, to see how fast it was cruising along there.

0:57:400:57:44

It's taken 14 years to get to this moment.

0:57:450:57:49

But for almost 5,000 people in the shipyard,

0:57:490:57:53

tomorrow is another working day.

0:57:530:57:55

They'll clock on as usual and continue building the next Astute submarine -

0:57:550:58:00

one of the world's most complicated and secretive machines.

0:58:000:58:04

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:58:420:58:46

E-mail [email protected]

0:58:460:58:48

Fourteen years in the making and costing over a billion pounds, the Astute nuclear submarine is one of the most technologically advanced machines in the world, and for over a year the BBC filmed its construction inside one of the most secure and secret places in the country.

An amazing piece of British engineering or a controversial waste of tax payer's money? This documentary allows viewers to make up their own minds.

Among many of the workers the film features Erin Browne, a 19-year-old apprentice electrician who wires up the boat; Commander Paul Knight, responsible for the safety of the nuclear reactor; and Derek Parker, whose job involves moving massive pieces of a submarine that weigh hundreds of tons into position before the welding team join them together.

Amazing computer graphics take us inside the construction of the submarine itself, giving a blueprint of the design, the life-support systems and the weaponry, and help illustrate the areas that national security precluded filming in.

The story also takes a dramatic turn when an unforeseen event means the submarine has to sail into the open sea - for the first time - during one of the wettest and windiest weekends of the year.


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