Dreadnought-class submarine

This article is about the new ballistic missile submarine class and successor to Trident. For the first RN nuclear submarine, which was commissioned in 1963, see HMS Dreadnought.
Class overview
Builders: BAE Systems, Barrow-in-Furness, England
Operators:  Royal Navy
Preceded by: Vanguard-class submarine
Building: 1
Planned: 4
General characteristics
Type: Nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine
Displacement: 17,200 t (16,900 long tons; 19,000 short tons)
Length: 152.9 metres (502 ft)
Propulsion: Nuclear reactor, turbo-electric drive, pump-jet
Range: Unlimited
Complement: 130

The Dreadnought class is the replacement for the Vanguard class of ballistic missile submarines which entered service in the United Kingdom in the 1990s with an intended service life of 25 years.[1] They will carry Trident D-5 missiles – the vehicle for delivering the UK's nuclear weapons.[2] Replacing the Vanguard submarines is necessary if the Royal Navy is to maintain a "continuous at-sea deterrent" (CASD), the principle of operation behind the Trident system.[3]

In May 2011 the government approved the initial assessment phase for the new submarines and authorised the purchase of long lead-time items including steel for the hulls. In May 2015 the Conservative Party won the UK General Election on a manifesto which included a commitment to maintaining a CASD with four Successor submarines.[4] The final decision to commit to the Successor programme was voted through on the 18th of July 2016, the Commons voted to renew Trident by 472 votes to 117.[5] Construction is expected to start in late 2016 at the Barrow-in-Furness shipyard operated by BAE Systems Maritime – Submarines. The first submarine was originally expected to enter service in 2028.[6]

Successor has generated controversy because of its cost[7] and also as some political parties and campaign groups such as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) or Trident Ploughshares oppose the retention of CASD or any nuclear weapons by the UK on moral or financial grounds.[8][9]

Previously named Successor class, it was officially announced on 21 October 2016 (to mark Trafalgar Day) that the first of class would be named Dreadnought, and that the class would be the Dreadnought class.[10][11] The next three boats will also be given names with "historical resonance".[12]


A Trident missile launches from a submerged submarine

Since the retirement of the last Royal Air Force WE.177 nuclear bomb in 1998, the British nuclear arsenal has been wholly submarine-based. This is intended to deter a potential enemy because they cannot ensure eliminating the entire stockpile in a first strike if a ballistic missile submarine remains undetected.

Since the Strategic Defence Review, the UK has maintained a stockpile of around 200 warheads. In a policy known as "Continuous at Sea Deterrence", at least one Vanguard class SSBN (nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine) is kept on patrol with up to 16 Trident missiles sharing up to 48 warheads from the stockpile at any given time. The SDR considered this was the minimum number of warheads adequate for deterrence. It is collectively known as the Trident system.[13] The majority of this system is based in Scotland at HM Naval Base Clyde, which includes the Faslane home of the Vanguard submarines, and at the Coulport nuclear depot. Since 1998, the system has also provided the Government with the option of a lower-yield, "sub-strategic" nuclear strike capability.[14]

The oldest Vanguard-class submarine is expected to remain in service until 2019[15] without a refit, prompting consideration of a replacement before the end of 2010 to allow for development time.[13]

See also


  1. "Successor submarine programme: factsheet". MoD. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  2. "The Future of the United Kingdom's Nuclear Deterrent, Factsheet 4 The Current System" (PDF). Gov.uk. December 2006. Retrieved 2015-09-20.
  3. "Supporting the UK's deterrent". AWE. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  4. "Conservative Party Manifesto 2015" (PDF). Conservative Party. p. 77. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  5. Mills, Claire (13 August 2013). "Update on the Trident Successor Programme - Commons Library Standard Note". Standard Notes. House of Commons Library. Retrieved 21 June 2014.
  6. "Successor submarine shipyard gets £300m investment". BBC News. 13 March 2014. Retrieved 21 June 2014.
  7. http://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-defence-trident-idUKKCN0SZ2IC20151110
  8. "Trident debate to top CND agenda". BBC News. 14 October 2006. Retrieved 2006-12-01.
  9. "Unions oppose replacing Trident". BBC News. 13 September 2006. Retrieved 2006-12-01.
  10. "New Successor Submarines Named" (Press release). Gov.uk. 21 October 2016. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  11. "First of Barrow's new Successor submarines given historically celebrated name". North West Evening Mail. 21 October 2016. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  12. "New nuclear submarine given famous naval name". BBC News. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  13. 1 2 "The Future of the UK's Strategic Nuclear Deterrent" (PDF). House of Commons Defence Committee. 30 June 2006. Retrieved 2006-12-01.
  14. Greenpeace (June 20, 2006). "Annex A: Making Trident more usable and more threatening". Select Committee on Defence Written Evidence. House of Commons. Retrieved June 2, 2012.
  15. "The Future of the UK's Strategic Nuclear Deterrent: the White Paper" (PDF). House of Commons Defence Committee. 7 March 2007. Retrieved 2007-03-15.

Further reading

External links

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