|Builders:||BAE Systems, Barrow-in-Furness, England|
|Preceded by:||Vanguard class|
|Built:||First expected by 2028|
|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|
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. They will carry Trident D-5 missiles – the vehicle for delivering the UK's nuclear weapons. 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.
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. 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. Construction started in late 2016 at the Barrow-in-Furness shipyard operated by BAE Systems Maritime – Submarines. The first submarine is originally expected to enter service in 2028.
Successor has generated controversy because of its cost 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.
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. The next three boats will also be given names with "historical resonance".
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 (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 (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. The majority of this system is based in Scotland at HM Naval Base Clyde (HMS Neptune), which includes the Faslane home of the Vanguard submarines, and at the Coulport nuclear depot. The oldest Vanguard-class submarine is expected to remain in service until 2019 without a refit. Since 1998, the system has also provided the Government with the option of a lower-yield, "sub-strategic" nuclear strike capability.
- Letters of last resort
- United Kingdom and weapons of mass destruction
- Nuclear weapons and the United Kingdom
- Trident nuclear programme
- List of submarines of the Royal Navy
- Future of the Royal Navy
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- Dreadnaught Class Guide - 21 October 2016
- Meet the Dreadnought class, new nuclear submarines named - 16 December 2016