The newest section of the first Dreadnought submarine to be built at BAE Systems’ yard in Barrow has been moved, as work on the first of class continues.

The Dreadnought programme is one of the most complex engineering projects ever undertaken and employs more than 7,000 people across industry and MoD, with thousands more in the supply chain.

Image via BAE Systems.

BAE Systems say that the unit was the first to make use of new material designed to improve protection for submarine sections as they are moved around the site during construction.

Four Dreadnought-Class submarines will be built in Barrow to replace the Vanguard-Class that are currently in service with the Royal Navy. HMS Dreadnought, the first of the new fleet, is scheduled to be delivered in the early 2030s.

The United Kingdom’s nuclear deterrent today is hosted by the Vanguard Class submarine.

Click to enlarge.

The UK Government approved initial gate for their replacement in the form of the Dreadnought submarine programme to replace the the Vanguard class in May 2011.

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From a purely logical point of view, the warheads each Dreadnought will carry, even if ‘only’ 8 missiles, will ruin any country’s day in the event they ever have to be used, so they have the required deterrent effect. These aren’t weapons anyone actually wants to ever launch.

If there is a perceived need to add more missiles, at least there are tubes available. The ultimate in FFBNW!


The Trident D5 has the capacity of carrying up to 14 MIRVs depending on the required yield. However, as part of the START Treaty the number of warheads is limited. This has the bonus of freeing up some space for MIRV decoys. But also because the payload is less, the missile’s range is increased as it can now reach a higher apogee.

Peter Crisp

Let’s say we only hit 5 targets. That’s 5 cities having a really, really bad day. Would any nation really want 5 random large cities flattened?

The medical care required for the survivors is going to screw them as well.
I think we have enough firepower with one Sub.


China would not notice. or care.

Robert Blay

You only need 1 to do the job and the required deterrent. 8 missiles and X number of warheads is more then enough. You can guarantee the American and Russian missiles boats won’t be full either.


I havent looked it up but isn’t each war head 10 times more powerful than the ones used in WW2? I don’t think we need to do much more fire power than that. Once they are launched the world is as good as over anyway.


BB little boy was 15kt and fat man was 21kt. In theory “Holbrook” is a variable yield device between 5-100kt if they are ever used let’s be honest they’ll be maxed.


Holbrook is supposed to be replaced by the time the Dreadnaughts come into service. So who knows what the new yield will be.


Both due for 2030s I reckon the boat will beat the warhead to service


But doubt there will be a substantial rise in yield.

David Flandry

Not necessarily. UK warhead yield has decreased greatly, from over 1 MT in the 1960s to about 0.1 MT today. It was found that large yields waste energy around the center of the explosion(overkill). Same thing happened with US warheads.


Also the big yields were a practical response to rather limited accuracy in those days

Andy P

The pictures don’t do justice to how big those ‘trucks’ are, or the bits they carry. They’re an impressive sight.

Good to see Dreadnought progressing though, I’m sure we’ll be gnashing and wailing at the delay but they’re needed, the V boats are getting a bit shabby.


That’s gotta be one of the biggest RC cars going? I wonder what you need to put on your CV to get that job?

David Barry

If that piece of fantastic manufacturing was done with pride, is the wrapping not the wrong colour?




The system has a long service life and it would have made more sense to me to build with 16 tubes, since the number of missiles could then be fairly easily increased if the international situation deteriorates and ABM defence tech advances. It’s also worth noting that- while each missile can carry more warheads than currently deploy- the increased payload reduces the range. As long as Russia is the de facto target that probably doesn’t matter- but it’s always wise to hedge against other possibilities.


Putin made a point around ABM defense that he had 8,000 missiles and he only needed one to land. For all the money being invested to take out an incoming missile the chances of it being successful are pretty slim.


Just wondering – was it ever considered to give the Dreadnoughts or its predecessors some kind of conventional strike capability? That would increase the “business case” for the class considerably – even if it would mean compromising on its primary mission.


Ive seen it talked about but the concensus was they would never be dual role because it would put them to much in harms way. When the US converted 4 ohios into TLAM carriers they no longer had Icbms so their sole purpose became land attack. When carrying icbms they hide in ocean valleys nowhere near intended targets.

John Clark

I absolutely agree, any secondary missions should only be considered if they don’t compromise the subs primary mission in any way.

Some limited sticky beak work perhaps….

One would hope that hot on the heels of Astute batch 2, we should have the right people and technical capabilities, to stop Dreadnought going massively over budget and delivered very late.

It’s very sad that in this day and age they are still needed, silently cruising the depths, but needed they are, they are the absolute guarantor of our freedom.

Daniele Mandelli

If that happens, and they use their conventional capability, their location is compromised. They are meant to disappear into the oceans, going at a few knots, and undetectable. They are our main insurance against the ultimate threat. For me, leave the conventional to other assets.


Good Day Daniele. Agree.

Dave G

I always liked the idea of a modular cruise launcher that could be role fitted into the icbm tubes and having an extra sub or 2 (i assume at reduced unit cost) to get one bomber and one cruise missile ship available at any time. This would free up an ssn from tlam duties and give a much larger strike capability while not risking the casd.

You would have to ensure it was a cruise missile secondary role not a conventional ballistic missile as the opposition would not wait to see what sort of ballistic missile lands….


I think the tubes are compatible with the 6 cell TLAM launchers used on either the new US subs but could be making that up. I believe the astute replacement is expected to be a shortened version of dreadnought with the same multiple launchers used on the Virginia class subs. But I’m curious if loading the subs with TLAM compromises their hunter killer roll with the added weight.

David Nicholls

What might be interesting is to build a common SSBN and SSN with the Dreadnought design but only 1 x 4 tube missile section each. Then you have 2 operational ones tasked with SSBN role with 4 Tridents each and the rest with 24 TLAM tasked as SSNs? In time of strategic threat you could re-role the SSN ones? Could that lead to 12 common boats?

Andy P

As I mind it, their ‘secondary role’ was after launching their ICBM’s they were to act as SSN’s and go and kill ‘commie’ submarines with spearfish.


A thought, and I know this has arisen before but could we get away with reducing the number to be built to three? On the face of it this should result in a big saving in terms of build and operating costs. On the other hand maybe Bae have their usual fat cancellation costs built in to the contract. In addition there must be a large fixed cost in design and tooling which would have to be spread over the numbers so the cost per head for four should be less than that per head of three. Am I answering… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

I read a rumour in the papers, forget who it was, maybe the Telegraph, so probably cobblers, that the CoS were looking at reducing the current 3 V boats to 3, by not refitting one. Whether that is even feasible to maintain CASD, I’d leave to the experts. The Lib Dems proposed it, suggesting an end to CASD and occasional patrols.


Join the discussion…Hi Daniele. One would think that CASD could be maintained with three hulls unless it was required that two subs were on patrol at any one time. Supposedly 20 deg C here at present but feels like about 10! bloody freezing. Cheers g

Daniele Mandelli

Have you gone soft with that lovely weather Africa spoils you with?!
Here, best one can say is it’s not raining! Our summer seemed to stop weeks back. Probably because Wimbledon should be on.

If CASD can be maintained with 3 why not. However, from what I read I don’t think it can.


England vs West Indies today and guess what….yes it’s raining!


There’s been significant issues with the current boat in refit,its delayed and may never get completed,watch out for it being scrapped for parts in the next review.

Dave G

As i understand it, Reducing to three does not save much as the design costs and first build are a huge percentage of the overall costs. At the same time, you lose the resilience of always having one available to deploy. If you only have 3 and one breaks then keeping 1 deployed from 2 is very hard if not impossible.

Imo, Better to build an extra couple and fit them out as tlam boats to free the ssn from this and reduce the overall dreadnought unit costs.


Would be a good idea but doubt it could be done in the present climate


Also gives the option to temporarily deploy 2 in times of heightened tension

Robert Blay

It never works out that way, and you will still have a very expensive sub, with very expensive operating costs just to carry around TLAM.


Reducing to 3 does not make sense as said already if there is an issue with one sub CASD is put at risk. There is also the issue of continuous build rates between attack subs and ballistic subs we basically need a continuous cycle so the subs are replaced every 25 to 30 years.

Paul T

Studies were done i believe when the planning for the Vanguard Replacement started,from memory 5 Subs were optimal but 4 were the minimum required for the CASD role taking into account maintenance and refits etc.


Running CASD with four is a minor miracle which does not get enough credit for the RN and the civilian and contractor support that make it happen.
Anyone thinking it could be done with three doesn’t understand the complexity of a modern SSBN.
The USN cannot believe we manage to do it with four boats.
51 years of CASD and counting.

Sceptical Richard

The French manage it as well

Andy P

It has been an achievement, even with the shrinking budgets and CASD taking up a disproportionate amount of it, the work that goes into putting the boats to sea is worthy of respect.

If you want (as a nation) to have a CASD then you either make it happen or wrap your hand in and just say you have nuclear weapons, whether its a good thing or a bad thing, the UK has (more or less) managed it and on limited platforms. We can’t go less than 4 and even think about the ‘C’ in CASD.

Andy P

Running with 4 isn’t easy, fine when the boats are all relatively new but as the platforms age they require more maintenance, both the V’s and the previous R’s struggled to keep CASD going. I guess it comes down to how important you consider the CASD option. The UK could run with a nuclear deterrent that isn’t submarine based, its an expensive way to run it, we could put the tridents in silos somewhere and have tactical missiles both air and surface/sub surface launched (TLAM or replacement) but if you’re going to go to the hassle of CASD then you… Read more »


Wiki quotes Trident D5, with a reduced payload, has a range around 12,000km. Which on the face of it doesn’t seem bad, especially when you consider the distance from London to Beijing is 8160km and Moscow’s only 2500km away. However, now you have to factor in where in the UK you place the Tridents, probably a remote Scottish island etc. With today’s commercial satellite technology it is relatively easy to spot building work, especially on say a remote island that has lots of new security. You just have to look at the pictures of the Chinese occupied atolls in the… Read more »


London (2), Cardiff, Belfast, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham = 8 warheads.


The dimwits in Westminster is the answer.


Quad pack tomahawks or cruise missiles in the spare 6 tubes 😁


Or Anti ship missile is was what I meant to say after tomahawk!


V of D boats rerolled as SLCM, anti-ship or UAV would expensive and hard to understand their utility. They would be like stealth bombers, just more expensive and less flexible.

A air portable crate full of smaller precision guided would be better.

This RAND document may add something to the arguement that there is less of a role for single use standoff strike versus conventional precision guided munitions on aircraft.

The only error on the following is the use of B-52 data as this changes the cost data, but would question the utility of carpet bombing now.


Thanks for reply m8, but I was joking about quad packing tomahawk ect lol… But what about ballistic missile decoys? Surely that would work out better.