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The Trafalgar-class is a type of British tactical submarine, the first of which, HMS Trafalgar, entered service in 1983. There are currently 6 Trafalgar-class submarines in service with the Royal Navy.

All 7 Trafalgar-class submarines were built by Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering in Barrow-in-Furness. Turbulent was the second to enter service, in 1984, followed by Tireless in 1985, Torbay in 1987, Trenchant in 1989, Talent in 1990 and Triumph in 1991.[1] HMS Trafalgar was decommissioned in 2009, [2] to be the first vessel replaced by the Astute-class. Four Trafalgars, however, will have a final systems upgrade, bringing many of their electronics to the Astute standard. [3]

The Trafalgar-class is a development of the Swiftsure-class and despite being slightly longer is internally almost identical in design.[4]


All submarines face design tradeoffs. In Trafalgars, and the preceding Swiftsure-class, for a variety of reasons, small size was important. In the Cold War, this could limit the submarine's habitability, and other factors limiting it to European anti-submarine warfare — but that was precisely the NATO mission of Britain. Today, however, there is a role for small submarines in littoral warfare, in that they can operate in more confined waters than a submarine optimized for blue water operations.

As demonstrated in the Falklands War, a submarine, moving ahead of the main task force, has a key mission of sea denial. The Royal Navy describes this submarine mission as

The SSN is used to great effect when the submarine is deployed in advance of friendly forces in order to reduce the flexibility of an opposition force by denying the use of an area or region. This is known as regional sea denial. [5]

Small submarines also have advantages for intelligence collection, both strategic and tactical, and for surveillance and reconnaissance as part of combined operations.

The Astute-class, which will replace both the Trafalgars and Swiftsure-classes, has grown in size, with sensors and silencing mentioned as factors. Greater automation, however, will allow a smaller crew, and thus greater habitability and range. [6] Still, the Astutes were originally called Trafalgar Batch 2, possibly a political compromise such as calling earlier Royal Navy aircraft carriers "through-deck cruisers" since "carrier" was equated to "high cost". The Astute designation came into use when images of the design showed a radically different look in the bow design.


  • Displacement: 4,740 tons (surfaced), 5,208 tons (dived)
  • Length: 85.4m
  • Beam: 9.8m
  • Draught: 9.5m
  • Speed (dived): 32 knots
  • Crew: 130
  • Armament: Five 533mm torpedo tubes, compatible with BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles and Spearfish torpedoes
  • Defensive
    • Anechoic tiles covering the hull
    • SSE Mk 8 launchers for Type 2066 and Type 2071 torpedo decoys
    • Acoustic countermeasures system
  • Sensors[2]