HMS Sceptre (S104)

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HMS Sceptre
Career RN Ensign
Ordered: 1 November 1971
Laid down: 19th February 1974
Launched: 20th November 1976
Commissioned: 14th February 1978
Fate: Template:Active in service
General Characteristics
Displacement: 4,900 tonnes (dived)
Length: 82.9 metres
Beam: 9.8 metres
Draught: 8.5 metres
Complement: 116 officers and men
Armament: five 21-inch torpedo tubes, Spearfish torpedoes, RN Sub Harpoon missiles, Tomahawk missiles

The fifth HMS Sceptre (S104) is a Swiftsure-class submarine built by Vickers in Barrow-in-Furness. She was commissioned on February 14, 1978, by Lady Audrey White. She was the tenth nuclear fleet submarine to enter service with the Royal Navy.

Sceptre suffered several accidents. In the early 1980s she collided with a Russian submarine and her reactor's protection systems would have performed an automatic emergency shutdown (scrammed the reactor), but her captain ordered the safety mechanisms overridden (battleshort enabled). The crew were told to say that they had hit an iceberg. This incident was disclosed when David Forghan, former Weapons Officer on the submarine, gave a television interview that was broadcast on September 19, 1991.

In 1987, Sceptre was fitted with an improved reactor core (Core Z). In March 1990, there was a coolant leak while Sceptre was at Devonport. On October 20, 1991, there was a fire onboard while the boat was moored at Faslane. In August 1995 Sceptre was forced to abort her patrol and return to Faslane after suffering, in the words of the Ministry of Defense, "an unspecified fault in the propulsion system." A defect in Sceptre's reactor was discovered in 1998, though its seriousness was not appreciated until after the investigation of another serious accident.

On March 6, 2000, Sceptre suffered a serious accident while inside a drydock at the Rosyth yards while undergoing trials towards the end of a major refit. The test involved flooding the drydock, and running the main engines slowly with steam supplied from the shore. However, too much steam was used and the engines went to full speed. Sceptre broke her moorings and shot forward off the cradle she rested on. The steam line ruptured, scaffolding buckled, a crane was pushed forward some 15 feet, and the submarine moved forward some 30 feet inside the dock.

The investigation into the runaway also looked at Sceptre’s reactor problems, and recommended that the boat be scrapped. In January 2002, with Sceptre still laid up, Defence Minister Adam Ingram declared that the problem was "small original fabrication imperfections" in the reactor pressure vessel. He could not say how long it would take to inspect and repair the problem. In December 2003, Sceptre was accepted back into the Fleet after rigorous sea-trials.

On 3 February 2005 Sceptre put in at Gibraltar for repairs, expecting to leave within six days. British officials assured Spanish officials that damage is in the cooling system of the boat's diesel generator, not to the nuclear propulsion system. (Tireless (S88) spent much of 2000 at Gibraltar repairing a leak in her reactor coolant system.) Nonetheless Spain's Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos registered Spainís "firm protest" with Jack Straw, and insisted that Sceptre be the last British submarine repaired at Gibraltar. In addition, Peter Caruana, Gibraltar's Chief Minister, claimed that he had been misinformed about the repairs by the British Ministry of Defence, and that he had learned the true extent of the problems from Spanish sources. Apparently London officials had told him that the repairs were all external, neglecting to mention the diesel generator's cooling system. On 7 February 2005, British military spokeswoman Katherine Purdhoe announced that repairs had been completed; the boat left Gibraltar on 9 February.

See HMS Sceptre for other ships of the same name.

Swiftsure-class submarine

Swiftsure | Sovereign | Superb | Sceptre | Spartan | Splendid

List of submarines of the Royal Navy
List of submarine classes of the Royal Navy

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