Vanguard class submarine: Wikis


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HMS Vanguard April 1994.jpg
A starboard quarter view of the British nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine HMS Vanguard (S28) arriving in port.
Class overview
Builders: Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd, Barrow-in-Furness
Operators:  Royal Navy
Preceded by: Resolution-class
Succeeded by: N/A
In service: 1993 -
Completed: 4
Active: Vanguard (S28)
Victorious (S29)
Vigilant (S30)
Vengeance (S31)
General characteristics
Displacement: Dived: 15,680 long tons (17,560 short tons)
Length: 149.9 m (491 ft 10 in)
Beam: 12.8 m (42 ft 0 in)
Draught: 12 m (39 ft 4 in)
Propulsion: 1 × Rolls-Royce PWR2 nuclear reactor
2 × GEC turbines
1 × shaft pump jet
 27,500 hp (20.5 MW)
2 × auxiliary retractable propulsion motors
2 × W H Allen turbo generators
 6 MW
2 × Paxman diesel alternators
 2 × 2,700 hp (4 MW)
Speed: Dived: 25 knots (46 km/h; 29 mph)
Range: Essentially unlimited distance; 20 years
Complement: 14 officers
121 enlisted
Sensors and
processing systems:
BAE Systems SMCS
Thales Underwater Systems Type 2054 composite sonar suite comprising:
 Type 2046 towed array sonar
 Type 2043 hull-mounted active and passive search sonar
 Type 2082 passive intercept and ranging sonar
1 × Kelvin Hughes Type 1007 I band navigation radar
1 × Pilkington Optronics CK51 search periscope
1 × Pilkington Optronics CH91 attack periscope

The Vanguard class are the Royal Navy's current nuclear ballistic missile submarines (Ship Submersible Ballistic Nuclear or SSBN), each armed with up to 16 Trident II Submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). The class was introduced in 1994 as part of the UK government's Trident nuclear weapons programme.

The class includes four boats: Vanguard (S28), Victorious (S29), Vigilant (S30), and Vengeance (S31), all built at Barrow-in-Furness by Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd between 1986 and 1999.

All four boats are based at Her Majesty's Naval Base Clyde (HMS Neptune), 40 km (25 miles) west of Glasgow, Scotland. Since the decommissioning of all WE.177 free-fall nuclear bombs in 1998, and the removal of all nuclear weapons from the British Army, the Royal Air Force, and all surface ships of the Royal Navy, the Vanguard submarines' Trident SLBM system is the sole holder of all the United Kingdom's nuclear weapons.



The Vanguards were designed from the outset as an unlimited-range nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine, unlike the previous Resolution class which was adapted from the then existing Valiant class and the American Lafayette class of nuclear powered fleet ballistic missile submarines (SSBN in US terms). At 149.9 metres (492 ft) long and 15,980 tonnes (15,730 long tons) submerged displacement the Vanguards are roughly twice the size of the Resolutions, and are the third largest submarines ever built, by displacement when surfaced, after the Soviet Typhoon and American Ohio classes. The great increase in size is largely related to the much larger size of the Trident D-5 missile as compared to Polaris.

The Vanguards were designed and built at Barrow-in-Furness by Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Limited (VSEL), now BAE Systems Submarine Solutions. The Devonshire Dock Hall was built specifically to build these submarines. The missile compartment is based on the system used on the Ohio class, though only 16 missiles are carried rather than the 24 of the Ohio.

In addition to the missile tubes the Vanguard class is fitted with four 21 inches (53 cm) torpedo tubes and carries the Spearfish heavyweight torpedo[1], allowing it to engage submerged or surface targets at ranges up to 65 kilometres (40 mi; 35 nmi). Two SSE Mark 10 launchers are also fitted to allow the boats to deploy Type 2066 and Type 2071 decoys, and a UAP Mark 3 electronic support measures (ESM) intercept system is fitted.

HMS Vanguard, Victorious, Vigilant and Vengeance were commissioned in 1993, 1995, 1996 and 2000 respectively.


Vanguard carries the Thales Underwater Systems Type 2054 composite sonar. The Type 2054 is a multi-mode, multi-frequency system, which incorporates the 2046, 2043 and 2082 sonars. The fleet is in the process of having their sonars refitted to include open architecture processing using commercial off the shelf technology.

A Type 2043 hull-mounted active/passive search sonar is also carried, as is a Type 2082 passive intercept and ranging sonar. Finally a Type 2046 towed array is carried. This operates at very low frequency, giving a passive search capability.

Two periscopes are carried, a CK51 search model and a CH91 attack model. Both have a TV camera and thermal imager as well as conventional optics.

A Type 1007 I-band navigation radar is also carried.

Command system

A specialised Submarine Command System (SMCS) was originally developed for the Vanguard boats and was later used on other Royal Navy submarines.[2]


A new pressurised water reactor, the PWR 2, was designed for the Vanguard class. This has double the service life of previous models, and it is estimated that a Vanguard class submarine could circumnavigate the world 40 times without refuelling. This should allow the class to carry out their entire service life without the need for expensive refuelling. The reactor drives two GEC turbines linked to a single shaft pump jet propulsor. This propulsion system gives the Vanguards a maximum submerged speed of 25 knots (46 km/h; 29 mph). Auxiliary power requirements are provided by a pair of 6MW Steam-turbine generators supplied by WH Allen, (later known as NEI Allen, Allen Power & Rolls-Royce) with two Paxman diesel alternators for provision of backup power supply.


Table 1 Vanguard class—significant dates
Name Launched Commissioned Test launch 1 Test launch 2 Maiden patrol
HMS Vanguard (S28) March 1992 August 1993 May 26, 1994 June 20, 1994 December 1994
HMS Victorious (S29) September 1993 January 1995 July 24, 1995 August 22, 1995 December 1995
HMS Vigilant (S30) October 1995 November 1996 October 10, 1997 October 10, 1997 June 1998
HMS Vengeance (S31) September 1998 27 November 1999 September 21, 2000 N/A February 2001

The Trident II D-5 achieved an initial operational capability with the U.S. Navy in March 1990. Following launch and commissioning the vessels deployed on Demonstration and Shakedown Operations (DASOs). The major part of this was the test firing of Trident missiles at the United States' SLBM Launch Area, Eastern Test Range, Cape Canaveral, off the coast of Florida (see table above).


A decision on the replacement of Trident was made on the 4 December, 2006. Then-Prime Minister Tony Blair told MPs it would be "unwise and dangerous" for the UK to give up its nuclear weapons. He outlined plans to spend up to £20 billion on a new generation of submarines for Trident missiles. He said submarine numbers may be cut from four to three, while the number of nuclear warheads would be cut by 20 percent to 160. Blair said although the Cold War had ended, the UK needed nuclear weapons, as no-one could be sure another nuclear threat would not emerge in the future.

On 23 September, 2009, Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced that he was considering reducing the Trident carrying submarine fleet from four to three submarines, as part of plans to cut costs and to promote nuclear disarmament.[3]


  1. ^ Royal Naval Website. "Vanguard Class Ballistic Subs (SSBN)". Retrieved 2007-06-18. 
  2. ^ See "The Royal Navy Handbook" 2003, Conway Maritime Press, ISBN 0-85177-952-2
  3. ^ BBC News. "Brown move to cut UK nuclear subs". Retrieved 2009-09-23. 

See also

External links



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