The Defence Secretary has confirmed that first of class nuclear missile submarine HMS Dreadnought is “on track” for delivery in the early 2030s.

Simon Clarke, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, asked:

“What progress is being made on the development of the Dreadnought class nuclear submarine; and when he plans for the first of that class to enter service.”

Ben Wallace, Secretary of State for Defence, responded:

“The 2020 annual update to Parliament on the United Kingdom’s future nuclear deterrent provides progress details on the Dreadnought submarine programme. The programme, underpinned by around 30,000 defence nuclear enterprise jobs across the United Kingdom, remains on track to deliver the first of class in the early 2030s. The programme will sustain thousands of jobs across the United Kingdom, including in Scotland.”

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The update referenced above states:

“Despite the effects of Covid-19, the Dreadnought ballistic missile submarine programme continues to remain within overall budget and on track for the First of Class, HMS Dreadnought, to enter service in the early 2030s. Recognising the high-levels of uncertainty caused by the pandemic, and the short to medium term uncertainty in Industrial Partners and Supply Chains, Delivery Phase 2 will continue until March 2022.

In February 2020 BAE Systems announced the award of a contract worth around £330-million to Thales UK for the manufacture of the sonar system for all four Dreadnought Class submarines. The Dreadnought sonar system will be developed at Thales sites in Templecombe and Stockport. The periscope, known as the ‘Combat System Mast’, will be developed and manufactured in Govan with technical input from the workforce in Crawley, securing and creating over 500 highly-skilled jobs across the UK.

As previously reported, production and delivery of the Missile Tubes (MT) that will form part of the Common Missile Compartment have been subject to quality shortfalls across the supply chain resulting in their delayed delivery. In April 2020, the first four MT for HMS Dreadnought were delivered to the submarine building facility at Barrow-in-Furness, and welding of the UK Quad Pack, a unit comprised of four MT, is complete. Its integration into the Pressure Hull is progressing well. A further two MT were received on site in July 2020. This means half of the MT for HMS Dreadnought have been delivered. We are working closely with our US counterparts to ensure future MT deliveries continue in a timely manner to support the Dreadnought submarine programme.”


The 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review estimated that the programme is likely to cost a total of £31-billion (including inflation over the lifetime of the programme) and set a contingency of £10-billion.

As of the 31st of March 2020, £8.5-billion had been spent in total on concept, assessment and delivery phases, of which £1.6-billion was spent in financial year 2019-20.

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How much are the US Boats in comparison ?

Chris Jones

Approx $9.1bn per boat at 2021 prices inc. R&D and build costs, but I’m not sure if that takes account of inflation over the life of the programme like the UK pricing does.

Trevor G

Worth bearing in mind that the Columbia class have 16 tubes vs 12 and that USN boats have a 42 year design service life vs typically 25/30 for RN.

Josh P

To be honest I find the number of tubes to be somewhat academic when we’re talking about the nuclear deterrent. It’s more a policy decision than a design decision.

Valid point about the design life though, that’s a significant saving.


According to Wikipedia (so maybe take with a pinch of salt), the design life for these boats is 35-40 years, so looks like they are designing them now with a longer life in mind.

Aaran button

The Uk design life for these boats is around the 35-40 year mark. RN have stated that they will have a service life 30% longer than the current vanguard class.


Could someone knowledgeable tell me why they are fitted for 12 tubes but will only carry 8 and what is the reason behind that?


Nuclear non-proliferation and treaty compliance I suspect. It will also limit the number of warheads carried by each missile


Also the warheads have got more accurate and with better decoys. The difference between hitting a kilometer from the target and a few tens of meters from the target may not sound like much but when you are targeting a subterranean bunker or mountain complex it increases the kill rate significantly so warheads can be reduced/substituted with more dummies.

The Big Man

First steel was cut for HMS Dreadnought in October 2016 and work on the second boat, HMS Valiant, was begun in September 2019. 
I know these boats are big and a new class, but 15+ years from first steel to service?

Chris Jones

I notice that both the Dreadnought and US Columbia classes show an X-plane configuration, just curious as to the benefits of X-plane versus a more traditional setup?


Have heard that X plane makes the boat more manoeuvrable and also makes it easier if they need to “land” the boat on the sea floor.

No idea how true that is but it seems somehow logical


It’s reduces noise vibration as well from the main sail. If the rear fin is also verticle the turbulence from the main sail crashes into it rather than pass through an x configuration.

Trevor G

The X configuration was extensively tested by the USN with Albacore, which enjoyed fantastic manoeuverable but there were some serious control problems in the turn at high speeds. With the boat heeling over up to 40 degrees in the turn the rudder turned into a dive plane so that depth keeping got a bit hairy.
High speed turns not likely to be a problem in SSBNs tho!


As I remember almost all the main control surfaces on the Albacore were aft of the propeller which gave her very low drag but very twitchy control. In one of her later refits they fixed this issue by installing (or rather reinstalling after they had removed it at the same time they installed the X configuration) a rudder on the conning tower and only using the stern control surfaces sparingly. If they had used a bow diveplane like on British submarines they would have had much better control of her tendency to pitch herself straight down when the aft rudders… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Watcherzero
Chris Jones

Interesting responses, thanks folks. I know a bit more today than I did yesterday.

Andy P

Just hope all four are ready on time, the V boats are shall we say…. a bit shabby.


The burning issue is now the cost of building a Faslane size depot in England. How this will be paid for needs careful consideration, but some form of compensation by an independent Scotland should not be dismissed. There is no way the UK nuclear deterrent can remain in the Scottish Highlands, as any retention would be extremely problematic for so many reasons.

Andy P

Um, Faslane and Coulport are hardly in the Scottish Highlands.


Anything north of the Clyde is the Highlands.

Andrew Fyfe

Possibly anything north of Stirling or maybe even Fort William can be considered the ‘Highlands’; but not just north of the Clyde!

Also, Faslane is effectively ‘on the Clyde’ (Gare Loch is a small tidal sea loch) and Coulport is on Loch Long; both open onto the Clyde.

Order of the Ditch

Totally agree that this issue needs to be looked at in more detail. I see two options in the event of Scottish separation: 1) Hold a referendum where the good people of Argyll and Bute get a vote to remain part of the UK and keep the base. There are only 88,000 people living their and the base is a big employer. The government could then give them a £60 million a year top up grant and give them their own assembly in condition for keeping the base. This could also reduce the changes of a Yes vote winning in… Read more »


I doubt there is anything in law to stop what you suggest. After all, the IOM is a fully governed island and a dependency of the UK. Relocation will have to be in an area of low population, so the Cumbrian coast could be ideal, plus it already has a significant role in British nuclear energy disposal?


The Isle of Man much like the Channel Islands are fully internally self governing. They are Crown Dependencies relying on the UK for defence and foreign affairs only. The only occasion a UK government can step in is if their internal governments fail to function. They are not part of the UK. Even their passport covers show that difference. I can well see this being the offer made to Scotland.


They are fully governing but they do piggyback a mass majority of UK policies and standards whilst keeping certain specific areas unique which has benefits to the individual islands economies.

Andy P

“I can well see this being the offer made to Scotland.” That’s an interesting option Mike and as someone who doesn’t want independence its something ‘different’. I saw an interview with Peter Hitchens (not somebody I warm to) where he was saying he cant see anything other than an Indy ref at some point and rUK ‘keeping the light on for them’, maybe a bit too ‘prodigal son’ for some and I can get that but another option that I hadn’t considered. Something that I reckon would upset a few on here going by a lot of the comments. In… Read more »


An independent Scotland is a financial fairy tale according to some economists. An IOM / Channel Island status might be the best option for the Scottish people? The retention of Faslane would be part of the deal, otherwise, the deterrent has to move south.

Andy P

“2) Seriously look at moving all subs to Plymouth.”

A ‘light’ bomber coming out of refit can only get out of GUZ on certain tides. I’ve not taken an A boat in or out but even the S & T boats required a bit more thought than an entrance to Faslane. I’m sure other options are available but Plymouth really isn’t one of them.

Steve Salt

Falmouth`s plenty deep enough.


The Tamar has needed dredging for years, once upon a time our largest Warships came and went with ease from Guz. Just get the dredgers in.


Move them to Portland… better then the waste incinerator they want to put in.


The British Government missed the perfect opportunity in the Newfoundland referendums in 1948 to secure a huge landmass and lifeboat for the UK.

A secondary dispersal port in NF would have been a perfect solution for our nuclear deterrent.

As usual after the wars the UK Government could not wait to give away everything that previous generations had gifted them.


8bn already spent mostly on R&D. When they are using the same tubes as the US subs I wonder how much of that spend was specific to the icbm requirement. If the astute replacement came anywhere close to that in terms of cost we will be lucky to get 4 replacements.


Hi folks hope all are well.
Can any of you experts please inform me how this new class of subs compare with new Russian and Chinese subs?
Many thanks,

Paul T

Look on YouTube for a Channel called Subrief, it’s a Goldmine for that sort of information.


Cheers PaulT👍


It’s all highly classified, no one on the internet can answer that credibly. I doubt the intelligence agencies know all on Chinese and Russian subs though i am sure they try.


Since we are moving away from hydrocarbons now, with planned haste. What residual life expectancy remains for the depots at Milford Haven? Could a window of opportunity be opening to relocate the Faslane facility there should Scotland choose independence?

As fuel imports reduce, would there not be the capacity to drop loads off at different terminals and thereby bring that opportunity forward a few years?

Daddy Mack

Doubt MH is big or wide enough for subs, and the access to the open sea means you have to go around Ireland, makes it easier for potential enemies to know where your prized posessions are going to be.
The reason Faslane exists is for the subs and it’s strategic access.
Besides, if Scotland goes on it’s own what’s to stop the Welsh?


I always admire the French for their abilities.

The Isle of Man much like the Channel Islands are fully internally self governing. They are Crown Dependencies relying on the UK for defence and foreign affairs only. The only occasion a UK government can step in is if their internal governments fail to function. They are not part of the UK. Even their passport covers show that difference. I can well see this being the offer made to Scotland.

Gemma H

If Scotland ever became independent build submarine base on one of the Isles of Scilly, Islands. 45 km (28 mi) south west of the Cornish peninsular.Maybe a good idea.


It seems to me that when the stated delivery date for this boat is as wonderfully vague as ‘sometime in the early 2030’s’ then claiming the project is on schedule really doesn’t mean all that much. HMS Dreadnaught could be delivered at any point between 2030 and 2035 and still plausibly be described as being on schedule. Much the same might be said regarding the delivery of this programme on budget – ie with such a massive contingency fund built into the programme at the outset expected costs could spiral significantly and still remain somehow ‘in budget’. Clearly what we… Read more »

Robert Blay

I think in the unlikely event Scotland gets independence during the next 30 years. A deal will be done that makes the Faslane area a Sovereign UK base territory, much like Akrotiri in Cyprus. The sheer cost of moving the whole show south would be astronomical.

George Royce

Bloody nora, 2030s??

Why does it take soooo long for anything to be made?

Gemma H

They could probably build a modern warship in War Time Conditions from start to commissioning in around a year or less but in Peace Time its all about keeping people in work with a wide skill set.Just my thoughts on subject.


I remember reading something similar for why the yanks build new large ships rather than refurbing old ones.