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Future: Dreadnought Class

Originally referred to as 'Successor' which is the name for the programme developing the next generation of Trident-missile submarines for the Royal Navy continuing the commitment of the Navy's dedication to continuous at sea deterrence (CASD) since April 1969.

This commitment began in 1969 with the four Resolution class submarines, this core tasking in support of UK defence has been sustained non-stop by the Royal Navy. With their advent in 1992 the role was handed over to the four Vanguard class boats, which are due to stay in service until the 2030's. The Successor programme is identifying and developing the hulls which will take over the mantle of CASD in the future.


Artists impression

To mark Trafalgar Day in 2016, Defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon announced that her Majesty the Queen has approved the name Dreadnought, for the lead Successor submarine which will protect our national security for years to come.

Construction officially began on the new Successor fleet in earlier in October 2016 when Sir Michael flew to Barrow to cut the first piece of steel for one of the boats. The Defence secretary 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.

The £41bn project will deliver the largest and quietest submarine ever conceived by the Royal Navy and the first to accommodate both male and female submariners from the outset.

The four boats will be the largest submarines ever built for the Royal Navy—displacing 17,200 tons with a length of about 502ft but they will only have 12 missile tubes rather than the 16 found on-board the current Vanguard class. They will also share technology with their USN counterparts, the Columbia class, Ohio Replacement Program SSBNs, using a common missile compartment (CMC) design. Once completed, the new boats will enter service in the 2030s.

There is not much information available about the technical characteristics of the design. While the 17,200 ton boats will be larger than their 15,900 ton Vanguard class predecessors, the new SSBNs will carry four fewer missiles. Part of the reason for the vessels' larger size is likely due to the need for enhanced stealth (larger submarines are inherently quieter), But also they have adopted an all electric permanent magnet motor to drive the boat, similar to what is planned for the USN Columbia class for their new SSBNs, which might also account for the increased displacement.

The CMCs will be built in modular units of four tubes or Quad-Packs. While the Columbia class will use four Quad-Packs for a total of 16 missiles, the smaller British boats will use only three for a total of 12 tubes. The tubes are the same 87 inch diameter vessels as the current Trident II D5 launchers on the present Vanguard class, but are a foot longer—leaving some margin for a future missile design.

Other innovations found on-board the new boats focus on crew comforts. The new submarines will have separate classrooms and study areas, a sickbay with a doctor, a gym as well as separate berthing for female crewmembers. Additionally, the submarine will have a new lighting system to better simulate night and daytime. Thus, life on-board a Dreadnought should be more pleasant than on board a Vanguard.


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