Dreadnought-class submarine

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Successor-class submarine program.jpg
Artist's rendering of Dreadnought-class submarine
Class overview
BuildersBAE Systems, Barrow-in-Furness, England
Operators Royal Navy
Preceded byVanguard class
  • GB£31 billion (2016)[1] lifetime cost of total programme (est.)
  • GB£7.75 billion (2016) per unit (est.)
BuiltFirst expected by early 2030s[2]
General characteristics
TypeNuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine
Displacement17,200 t (16,900 long tons; 19,000 short tons)
Length153.6 metres (504 ft)[3]
Beam12.8 m (42 ft 0 in)[citation needed]
Draught12 m (39 ft 4 in)[citation needed]
PropulsionRolls-Royce PWR3 nuclear reactor, turbo-electric drive, pump-jet
RangeLimited only by food and mechanical components

The Dreadnought class is the future replacement for the Vanguard class of ballistic missile submarines.[1] Like their predecessors they will carry Trident II D-5 missiles.[4] The Vanguard submarines entered service in the United Kingdom in the 1990s with an intended service life of 25 years.[5] Their replacement is necessary if the Royal Navy is to maintain a continuous at-sea deterrent (CASD), the principle of operation behind the Trident system.[6]

Provisionally named "Successor" (being the successor to the Vanguard class SSBNs), it was officially announced in 2016 that the first of class would be named Dreadnought, and that the class would be the Dreadnought class.[7][8] The next three boats will be called Valiant,[9] Warspite and King George VI.[10]


A Trident missile launches from a 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. It 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 (SDR), the UK has maintained a stockpile of around 215 warheads, with around 120 active (usable). Under the continuous at sea deterrence policy, at least one Vanguard-class SSBN 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.[11] The majority of this system is based in Scotland at HMNB Clyde (HMS Neptune), which includes the Faslane home of the Vanguard submarines, and at RNAD Coulport on Loch Long. The oldest Vanguard-class submarine had been expected to remain in service until 2019 without a refit.[12] Since 1998, the system has also provided the Government with the option of a lower-yield, "sub-strategic" nuclear strike capability.[13] Under both the Strategic Defence and Security Review 2010 and the Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015, the total number of warheads for the submarine on patrol will be 40 and the maximum total number of ballistic missiles will be 8.[14][15]


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.[16] The final decision to commit to the Successor programme was approved on 18 July 2016 when the House of Commons voted to renew Trident by 472 votes to 117.[17] Successor generated controversy because of its cost,[18] and because some political parties and campaign groups such as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and Trident Ploughshares oppose the retention of CASD or any nuclear weapons by the UK on moral or financial grounds.[19][20]


Construction started in late 2016 at the Barrow-in-Furness shipyard operated by BAE Systems Submarines, when the first submarine was provisionally expected to enter service in 2028.[21] The start of construction of the second phase was announced in May 2018.[22] As of 2018, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) expects the first submarine to enter service in the early 2030s. Total programme cost is expected to be £31 billion.

The submarines will have an intended service life of around 35 to 40 years, an increase of around 50% over the previous class.[23]

The MoD said in December 2018 that construction of the first submarine was on schedule and within budget.[24] In April 2021, The Sunday Times reported that delays on the Astute class submarines may impact the Dreadnought class, which will be built in the same dock hall. Related concerns are a 19 month delay to an extension of the Barrow facility and a five year delay to a Rolls-Royce factory which will build the nuclear reactors.[25] However, the Ministry of Defence commented that "the Dreadnought programme remains on track to deliver to schedule, with the first in class expected to enter service in the early 2030s."[25]

Boats of the class[edit]

Name Builder Steel cut Launched Commissioned Status
Dreadnought BAE Systems Submarines,
6 October 2016[26] Expected early 2030s Under construction
Valiant September 2019 Under construction
Warspite Announced
King George VI Announced

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Successor submarine programme: factsheet". MoD. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  2. ^ "HMS Audacious: 6 Feb 2020: UIN 10350 Hansard Written Answers". UK Parliament.
  3. ^ "Dreadnought". BAE Systems.
  4. ^ "The Future of the United Kingdom's Nuclear Deterrent, Factsheet 4 The Current System" (PDF). Gov.uk. December 2006. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
  5. ^ Vanguard class Military-Today.com. Retrieved 21 July 2018.
  6. ^ "Supporting the UK's deterrent". AWE. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  7. ^ "New Successor Submarines Named" (Press release). Gov.uk. 21 October 2016. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  8. ^ "First of Barrow's new Successor submarines given historically celebrated name". North West Evening Mail. 21 October 2016. Retrieved 21 October 2016.
  9. ^ "Defence Secretary announces £400m investment for nuclear-armed submarines" (Press release). Ministry of Defence. 6 December 2018. Retrieved 6 December 2018.
  10. ^ "Defence Secretary praises 50 years of nuclear service as new submarine is named" (Press release). Ministry of Defence. 3 May 2019. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
  11. ^ "The Future of the UK's Strategic Nuclear Deterrent" (PDF). House of Commons Defence Committee. 30 June 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 February 2007. Retrieved 1 December 2006.
  12. ^ "The Future of the UK's Strategic Nuclear Deterrent: the White Paper" (PDF). House of Commons Defence Committee. 7 March 2007. Retrieved 15 March 2007.
  13. ^ "Annex A: Making Trident more usable and more threatening". Select Committee on Defence Written Evidence. Greenpeace. 20 June 2006. Retrieved 2 June 2012 – via House of Commons.
  14. ^ "National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review 2015 A Secure and Prosperous United Kingdom" (PDF). gov.uk. 23 November 2015. Retrieved 17 November 2018.
  15. ^ "Securing Britain in an Age of Uncertainty: The Strategic Defence and Security Review" (PDF). HM Government. 19 October 2010. Retrieved 17 November 2018.
  16. ^ "Conservative Party Manifesto 2015" (PDF). Conservative Party. p. 77. Retrieved 16 May 2015.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ "Britain denies report nuclear deterrent to cost 167 billion pounds". Reuters. 10 November 2015. Retrieved 7 March 2018.
  19. ^ "Trident debate to top CND agenda". BBC News. 14 October 2006. Retrieved 1 December 2006.
  20. ^ "Unions oppose replacing Trident". BBC News. 13 September 2006. Retrieved 1 December 2006.
  21. ^ "Successor submarine shipyard gets £300m investment". BBC News. 13 March 2014. Retrieved 21 June 2014.
  22. ^ "Defence Secretary announces massive £2.5bn investment in UK nuclear submarines". Gov.UK. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  23. ^ Ministry of Defence nuclear programme (PDF). Committee of Public Accounts (Report). UK Parliament. 10 September 2018. HC 1028. Retrieved 21 September 2018.
  24. ^ "UK Dreadnought submarine programme within budget and on track, says latest MoD report".
  25. ^ a b Collingridge, John (25 April 2021). "Are Britain's nuclear subs slipping below the waves?; First they were due in 2024, then 2028, then 'the 2030s'. Doubts are mounting over the new Trident boats". The Sunday Times.
  26. ^ "Building begins on new nuclear submarines". Royal Navy. 6 October 2016. Retrieved 7 December 2018.

Further reading[edit]

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