2016-10-26 The UK government is committed to replacing the Trident submarines with a new class of strategic nuclear submarines.
According to a story published on the UK Ministry of Defence website on October 21, 2016, this new class will be known as the Dreadnaught Class, something which would make Sir Francis Drake happy!
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has today announced that, to mark Trafalgar Day, Her Majesty the Queen has graciously approved that ‘Dreadnought’, one of the most famous names in the Royal Navy, will become the lead boat and class name for the Royal Navy’s new successor submarines.
Named fifty six years after the launch of Britain’s first nuclear-powered submarine of the same name, Dreadnought has extensive historical significance, borne by no fewer than nine Royal Navy ships.
A previous Dreadnought sailed with Sir Francis Drake to repel the Spanish Armada; another was present with Nelson at Trafalgar, where her gunnery was acknowledged to be the most devastating of any ship present. But the most famous of all was the ninth Dreadnought – a battleship so advanced that it rendered all others obsolete at a stroke. And it was 99 years ago this December, that the United States Navy sent four of its own dreadnoughts to join the Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet in Scapa Flow.
Such historical resonance will continue through the names of boats, 2, 3 and 4.
Today, the name remains synonymous with technical accomplishment and fighting power: not just in the United Kingdom, but around the world.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:
Every day our ballistic missile submarines are used to deter the most extreme threats to Britain’s security.
We cannot know what dangers we might face in the 2030s, 2040s and 2050s, so we are building the new >Dreadnought class.Along with increasing the defence budget to buy new ships, more planes, and armoured vehicles, this commitment shows we will never gamble with our security.
Construction began last month on the successor programme, which will deliver the most advanced and quietest submarine ever conceived by the Royal Navy, and the first to be designed to accommodate both male and female submariners from the outset.
As part of our £178 billion equipment plan, the programme will be supported by a defence budget that will rise every year until the end of the decade, meeting the NATO commitment to spend two per cent of GDP on defence.
Several hundred suppliers will be involved in the programme at its peak, almost 85 per cent of those based across the UK – securing jobs from Scotland to the South of England.
And according to the Royal Navy website:
The Dreadnought class of ballistic submarines for the Royal Navy is now being built.
Successor was the name for the programme of delivering these submarines for the Royal Navy until the first boat was named in October 2016.
This is the enduring commitment of the Navy’s dedication to continuous at sea deterrence (CASD) since April 1969.
The UK Defence Journal has provided a guide to the new class of submarines.
Government approved initial gate for the Dreadnought submarine programme to replace the the Vanguard class in May 2011.
While details remain sketchy at best regarding the Dreadnought class, one of the key features the new boats will have is a Common Missile Compartment (CMC). CMC aims to define the missile tubes and accompanying systems that would be used to launch new ballistic missiles, successors to the current Trident II/ D5 missile fleet used by the USA and Britain.
As key trends like cheaper sensors, increasing autonomy and artificial intelligence march onward, the next 40 years will see big changes in the underwater environment. SSBNs will need the flexibility to adapt to these changes if they intend to survive.
For the USA and Britain, the CMC needs to be part of that adaptation. Key options under consideration include a widened diameter for each tube from 2.21m – 3.04m, and the potential for flexibility beyond nuclear missiles, this would provide incredible future-proofing while delivery a (to some unwise), multirole capability.
The British government took the first steps in 2006 towards a joint US-UK missile compartment and the project was launched in 2008, initial gate approval for Britain’s ‘Successor’ project followed in 2011. Other contracts have followed, covering design and even the new kind of nuclear reactor the submarines are expected to use.
There is a precedent for this in the United States, the Virginia Class Block III fast attack submarine replaced their 12 vertical-launch cruise missile tubes with 2 Common Weapon Launcher (CWL). The size of those CWLs allows Virginia Class Block III submarines to launch cruise missiles, UAVs, UUVs, and more from their tubes.
British and American collaboration will also benefit and informs the Dreadnought class missile capability. The 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review stated the submarine will have eight operational missiles, carrying no more than 40 operational warheads between them. Furthermore, an important feature of the collaboration between the UK and the US has been collaboration between the UK and the US on the new and advanced PWR-3 pressurised water reactor nuclear.
PWR-3, representing the third generation of British pressurised water reactors, builds on cutting edge nuclear propulsion research undertaken by the MoD and Rolls-Royce in the last few decades and is rumoured to be at a very advanced stage of development.
The exact nature of the UK’s industrial access to US reactor technology remains largely unknown in the public domain, the Royal Institution of Naval Architects reported previously that it is likely that the UK has been given a good look at the S9G reactor design that equips the US Navy’s Virginia Class submarines.
Back to the missile compartments, there is no question that the future Common Missile Compartment will be built around the nuclear deterrence mission as its primary focus. That is unlikely to be its sole use, however, and it would not be surprising if some of those other potential uses ended up influencing the CMC’s design. As is the case with a force more focused on multi role capability, versatility is key. Industry is unsurprisingly quiet on the specifics of the engineering and technology but industry has given some intriguing glimpses at what we may see in the water, one day.
According to BAE, the lead partner for the Dreadnought programme, work on the concept design phase had been ongoing since 2007, but this has now completed, and an outline submarine design has been selected.
Following the Government’s approval of the Initial Gate Business Case in May, 2011, the programme moved into the Assessment Phase, which is the first major stage of the new submarine’s design and development. This is where the vessel concept and requirements are fleshed out and finalised into a detailed hull form and systems.
First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope recently commented that
“The Royal Navy has been operating continuous at-sea deterrent patrols for more than 40 years, the Successor submarines will allow us to do so well into the future with cutting-edge equipment.”
The project will now move into the next stage, known as ‘Delivery Phase 1’, with manufacturing work beginning on structural steel work for the ‘auxiliary machine spaces’ of the first submarine: this contains switchboards and control panels for the reactor.
The money will also be spent furthering the design of the submarine, purchasing materials and long lead items, and investing in facilities at the BAE Systems yard in Barrow-in-Furness where the submarines will be built.
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