‘Fly-by-wire’ technology, often used in aircraft, will be used by Dreadnought class submarines, say the Royal Navy.

BAE believes it can adapt fly-by-wire technology – where computers replace the manual input from operators – to Dreadnought and her sisters.

The Active Vehicle Control Management system will oversee all major aspects of the Dreadnoughts’ manoeuvring with added safety benefits.

More than 130 engineers, technicians and experts are already working on the system at BAE’s Rochester site – the first major work for the Royal Navy conducted in the area since Chatham dockyard closed nearly 40 years ago.

“With over 50 years of avionics experience, we already have a great understanding of how to develop complex, control systems for hi-tech platforms,” said Jon Tucker, Director for Maritime Controls at BAE Systems Controls and Avionics.

“However, taking our technology underwater brings exciting new challenges and we are proud to support the Dreadnought programme and play an important part in our national security effort.”

According to a BAE press release:

“The project marks the first time that major Royal Navy work has taken place in the Medway Towns since the Chatham Dockyard closure more than 25 years ago. The Dockyard itself was synonymous with the building of ships and submarines for centuries, up to the Royal Navy Submarine, HMS Ocelot, being built there in 1962. The innovation has been developed in Rochester with engineers in our Electronic Systems business working closely with colleagues across the Company’s Maritime and Air sectors to develop a world-class system as part of our Active Vehicle Control One-Team. Our engineers will continue to develop the technologies with a view to expanding its applications to both other underwater and surface vessels. “

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John Clark

Surely detailed design work was completed years ago???

The Big Man

Exactly what I was thinking.
Perhaps all the cost overruns are based on the principle of make it up as you go along.
Surely control systems are fundamental to so many parts of the design.

Gavin Gordon

Yes, surely?

Peter S

I don’t understand the benefits on a slow moving submarine. Fly by wire allows aircraft to be aerodynamically unstable with computers constantly adjusting control surfaces. The advantages are lower weight and greater and faster manoeuvrability. Are those necessary on a submarine?
I agree with others that the detailed design work must have been completed before now.

Peter S

Forgot the other benefit: reduced pilot workload.


Fly-by-Wire in this instance means everything being controlled from the bridge electronically, you dont have to use manual controls such as pulling levers or turning valves in the engine room to execute the bridges instructions. Soviet subs have had it for decades due to their tiny crews and heavy use of automation.

Peter S

I had no idea. Apparently the US Virginia class already have fly by wire. The advantages are said to be better and quicker manoeuvrability in shallow waters and of course reduced human work load.

Mark F

Classic cost overrun. Utter madness now let’s whose ssbn enters service first US or UK?


…. and after the Royal Navy submarine Dreadnought was accidentally beached at Brighton due to a ‘navigation algorithm error’, a spokesperson for BAE Systems stated :

“There are always teething problems with any new system but we are confident with a little more work and a small injection of new funding from the MOD, we can have this technical error permanently fixed in a matter of months.”