IT is not the sort of place designed to accommodate clumsy people.

And that’s what worried me as I stood on the safety of dry land at Southampton’s Eastern Docks, staring in awe at the Royal Navy’s latest class of submarine.

Fatal shooting on board HMS Astute

At 97 metres long and weighing more than 7,000 tonnes, it’s hard not to be captivated by this remarkable vessel.

HMS Astute, equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles, is certainly not your stereotypical submarine.

There’s no periscope for a start.

Periscopes have made way for a towering ‘Optronic Mast,’ gathering information via fibre optic cables and transmitting images to the control room in high definition format.

And no periscopes mean fewer penetrations to the hull, allowing the submarine to sink much lower. Its 39,000 acoustic panels mask its sonar signature, meaning it can go undetected at sea and can even listen to mobile phone conversations.

What’s more, its nuclear reactor will not need to be refuelled once during its projected 25 years of service. Hearing all of this before even setting foot on the £1bn monster certainly didn’t instil me with confidence. All this twenty first century technology on board meant there was a lot more equipment for me to break. Inside, you are immediately hit with a feeling of claustrophobia.

The stair wells and corridors are narrow, the ceilings are low and bunk spaces that are the size of a reasonable double bedroom sleep up to 18 seamen.

• See more pictures from HMS Astute in today's Daily Echo.

HMS Astute’s 98-strong crew had spent 46 days at sea before docking in Southampton – an achievement in itself.

But once you get over the feeling of claustrophobia, you begin to appreciate what a magnificent vessel this is.

The technology is second to none and there is no doubt it will be a vital weapon in our defence strategy for years to come.

“She can carry about 50 per cent more weapons than her predecessors, but what really sets her apart is the new technology,” Commander Ian Breckeridge said.

“We’ve gone from 1970’s, 1980’s technology into turn of the century equipment, with touch screens, a more advanced management system, optronic masts and night time imaging capability which turns night into day. I feel very honoured to be working with such fantastic ship’s company on such a fantastic submarine.”