Dreadnought (S101)

Built By: Vickers (Barrow)
Build Group: SSN Group 1
Fate: Decommissioned Rosyth

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Launched on trafalger day by HM Queen, the first nuclear powered submarine in the Royal Navy. Dreadnought's preliminary trials, which began early in 1962 progressed very satisfactorily considering that Britain had not built a nuclear-powered submarine before. At the time of her completion she was one of the most formidable attack submarines in the world.

Nations unite to produce Dreadnought

These details about the construction of Britain's first nuclear-powered submarine are taken from a special brochure produced ahead of the October 1960 launch ceremony for Dreadnought at Barrow.

It was clearly a collaborative project between Britain and the United States with nuclear machinery brought in from across the Atlantic to cut the development time needed to build an all-British product from scratch. That development work was pressing ahead even while Dreadnought was under construction - resulting in the first boat being effectively in a class of its own.

The brochure notes:

The major advance in submerged endurance has been demonstrated dramatically by the American nuclear submarine USS Nautilus, which travelled submerged under the Arctic ice-cap from near Alaska to near Iceland via the North Pole, and by USS Triton, which circumnavigated the globe in 84 days without fully surfacing.

The increased submerged speed of the nuclear submarine, and the fact that it operates primarily submerged, have caused a change in the hull form.

Dreadnought is similar in shape to USS Skipjack, one of the latest American boats, with a full, rounded bow and tapering stern.

This shape is appropriate for submerged operation but is a departure from the conventional submarine shape, which has a sharp bow similar to that of a surface ship.

Dreadnought is an attack submarine, her most important role being to hunt down and destroy enemy submarines.

Although her machinery is American, the remainder of her equipment is British; the armament is torpedoes, and she is equipped with the latest devices for detection of the enemy, navigation and communication.

Because of her long submerged endurance she has comprehensive air conditioning and purification equipment, and the accommodation for her officers and crew is of a much higher standard than in her predecessors.

The nuclear machinery for Dreadnought is being purchased from the United States and personnel from the Admiralty, Vickers-Armstrongs and Rolls-Royce and Associates were trained in the United States in the design, installation and operation techniques for this machinery.

The machinery and the training facilities have been provided by Westinghouse Electric Corporation and by Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corporation, and the excellent co-operation and assistance which has been, and is being, given by our friends in America deserves the highest praise.

Here at Barrow we are particularly glad of the opportunity to renew with Electric Boat an association which goes back to the very early days of submarines.

The United States Navy, as is well known, has pioneered nuclear ship propulsion, and the first nuclear vessel, USS Nautilus went into service in 1955.

By the end of 2000 the United States Navy will have commissioned some 20 or more nuclear submarines.

In Britain the first development work on nuclear reactors was directed towards the power station application, in order to meet the long-term requirements for electrical power for industrial and domestic use, which are expected to exceed the power available from coal and oil fuels in the foreseeable future.

The power station reactors are not suitable for submarine application and therefore, when it was subsequently decided to build a British nuclear submarine, considerable development work was necessary, culminating in building a land-based prototype to prove the machinery, and finally building the submarine itself.

This process is expensive and takes time.

However, the purchase of the Dreadnought machinery from America, together with the know-how associated with it, will have two main effects.

First, Dreadnought will be operational much sooner, to give the Royal Navy valuable operating experience; second, the elimination of a great deal of development work will enable us to produce British nuclear machinery of advanced design more quickly.

The land-based prototype of was constructed at Dounreay in Scotland, and this type of machinery was used in the second nuclear submarine for the Royal Navy.


12-06-1959 : Laid Down
21-10-1960 : Launched
10-01-1963 : Britains first nuclear sub made her first dive in Ramsden Dock, Barrow.
17-04-1963 : Completed
03-03-1971 : Dreadnought became the first British submarine to surface at the North Pole.


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