Wednesday , May 22 2024

The Royal Navy’s ‘silent enforcers’: How a new generation of nuclear submarines loaded with weaponry will keep the UK safe

Lurking stealthily below the surface and armed with devastating weaponry, the Royal Navy’s new generation of nuclear submarines is set to become a fearsome adversary in the oceans.

Dubbed the ‘silent enforcers’, the Dreadnought-class submarines are said to be as quiet as an idling car, allowing them to avoid detection.

The four vessels – HMS Dreadnought, HMS Valiant, HMS Warspite and HMS King George VI – will replace the ageing Vanguard fleet and become the nation’s main nuclear deterrents.

BAE Systems is working alongside Rolls-Royce and the Submarine Delivery Agency to deliver the programme, with the first of the vessels – HMS Dreadnought – to be completed in the 2030s.

Admiral Lord West said that the high-tech submarines would keep Britain ‘ahead of the game’.

HMS Dreadnought (mockup pictured) is one of the four vessels to replace the ageing Vanguard fleet.  It is due to be completed in the early 2030s

HMS Dreadnought (mockup pictured) is one of the four vessels to replace the ageing Vanguard fleet.  It is due to be completed in the early 2030s 

Pictured: The Royal Navy's submarine HMS Vanguard which carries trident missiles. The fleet will be replaced by the new vessels

Pictured: The Royal Navy’s submarine HMS Vanguard which carries trident missiles. The fleet will be replaced by the new vessels

‘They are quieter than the Vanguard class, so they are incredibly quiet,’ the former Chief of Naval Staff said. ‘We do everything we can to ensure they are undetectable and we are ahead of the game.’

He added that the multi-billion-pound programme to deliver the nuclear subs was as complicated as ‘putting a man on the moon’, but said he was pleased with the progress so far, and that his ‘only regret is that it was not started sooner.’

Lord West said that the new fleet would also see improvements to lighting and living facilities to ‘minimise the impact’ on submariners, who can spend several months submerged.

Each Dreadnought-class submarine will house a crew of 130 members, including three chefs and one doctor.

They will have separate female crew quarters, toilets and washing facilities for the first time since a ban on women joining the service was lifted in 2011. Other improvements include a state-of-the-art medical centre, a classroom, and a study area.

The submarines will also have fully-equipped gym facilities and a new lighting system will be used to simulate day and night, no doubt to improve crew wellbeing.

The submarines are able to generate their own oxygen and fresh water, meaning they can stay deep in the water for months at a time.

The largest class of submarine ever built for the Royal Navy, each will weigh 17,200 tons and measure 154 metres long – the length of three Olympic swimming pools.

HMS Vanguard - one of the older vessels that is due to be replaced (file pic)

HMS Vanguard – one of the older vessels that is due to be replaced (file pic) 

A section of the Royal Navy's new nuclear submarine is seen being moved along a street in Cumbria in September last year

A section of the Royal Navy’s new nuclear submarine is seen being moved along a street in Cumbria in September last year 

Rishi Sunak during a visit to BAE Systems, Submarines Academy for Skills and Knowledge on March 25 in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria

Rishi Sunak during a visit to BAE Systems, Submarines Academy for Skills and Knowledge on March 25 in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria 

Each submarine boasts 26.4 miles of pipework and more than 20,000 cables stretching 215 miles – which would cover the distance from London to Paris. They are also packed with sound reducing features, allowing them to glide undetected below the surface.

The submarines are powered by Rolls-Royce, with a nuclear propulsion system known as Pressurised Water Reactor 3.

1,500 firms to benefit 

The Dreadnought submarine programme involves 1,500 companies in the supply chain employing 11,800 staff around Britain.

Work is under way to build the four submarines for the UK’s nuclear deterrent at the BAE Systems shipyard in Barrow, Cumbria.

The scheme – the biggest in the defence sector in Britain today – will see BAE spend £7.5billion with firms in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The identity of many is protected for security reasons.

But among those known to benefit are Plymouth-based Babcock – an employer of around 22,000 UK workers.

Thales UK has been contracted to make periscopes for the submarines, supporting more than 150 jobs in Scotland.

Stephen Phipson, of manufacturing body Make UK, said: ‘The Dreadnought programme is a critically important project not just from a national security perspective but also in maintaining key engineering skills.’

It is said to make less noise than an idle modern car, but designed to have the power performance of a gas turbine.

It does not need refuelling, which has the benefit of giving the submarine unlimited range.

The Dreadnought class will also be the first British submarine to feature X-rudders, rather than the traditional type.

These will sit in front of the Pumpjet propulsor, which the Royal Navy has described as the ‘quietest yet’ and is designed to reduce the noise of the submarines, particularly at high speeds.

In addition, a new turbo electric drive will replace traditional steam, which will make it quieter than other subs.

An elongated and streamlined fin will minimise drag and reduce sonar reflections, while an outer hull will be angled to deflect incoming active sonar.

Describing the class as the ‘epitome of naval engineering’, the Royal Navy said the fleet will feature ballistic missile launchers, providing ‘unrivalled strength and security’ for the nation.

Each vessel will have the capability to launch 12 Trident II D5 ballistic missiles from four missile tubes, known as ‘Quad Pack’. 

The devastating weapons, which are each worth £17million, have the ability to reach enemy targets within a range of 12,000km.

The Dreadnought-class submarines will also feature four 533mm tubes for Spearfish heavyweight medium-range torpedoes.

The powerful underwater weapon is the Navy’s frontline defence against surface and underwater threats.

Welcoming the new generation of submarines, Rear Admiral Dr Chris Parry said: ‘If you’ve got to have nuclear deterrent you may as well as have the Rolls-Royce of nuclear deterrents. Otherwise there’s no point… and that is exactly what this is.’

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