Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has announced the name of a new Dreadnought class submarine, HMS Warspite.

The Dreadnought class will replace the Vanguard class submarines from 2028 onwards and will host the United Kingdom’s nuclear deterrent.

The United Kingdom’s nuclear deterrent today is hosted by the Vanguard Class submarine. The class has been purpose-built as a nuclear powered ballistic missile carrier, incorporating a selection of successful design features from other British submarines. Due to this it is quite unlike its predecessor, itself an adaptation of the Valiant class.

Click to enlarge.

Government approved initial gate for the Dreadnought submarine programme to replace the the Vanguard class in May 2011.

While details remain sketchy at best regarding the Dreadnought class, one of the key features the new boats will have is a Common Missile Compartment (CMC). CMC aims to define the missile tubes and accompanying systems that would be used to launch new ballistic missiles, successors to the current Trident II/ D5 missile fleet used by the USA and Britain.

British and American collaboration will also benefit and inform the Dreadnought class missile capability. The 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review stated the submarine will have eight operational missiles, carrying no more than 40 operational warheads between them. Furthermore, an important feature of the collaboration between the UK and the US has been collaboration between the UK and the US on the new and advanced PWR-3 pressurised water reactor nuclear.

PWR-3, representing the third generation of British pressurised water reactors, builds on cutting edge nuclear propulsion research undertaken by the MoD and Rolls-Royce in the last few decades and is rumoured to be at a very advanced stage of development.

The exact nature of the UK’s industrial access to US reactor technology remains largely unknown in the public domain, the Royal Institution of Naval Architects reported previously that it is likely that the UK has been given a good look at the S9G reactor design that equips the US Navy’s Virginia Class submarines.

The project has moved into the next stage, known as ‘Delivery Phase 1’, with manufacturing work beginning on structural steel work for the ‘auxiliary machine spaces’ of the first submarine: this contains switchboards and control panels for the reactor.

The money will also be spent furthering the design of the submarine, purchasing materials and long lead items, and investing in facilities at the BAE Systems yard in Barrow-in-Furness where the submarines will be built.

142 COMMENTS

  1. As expected. Hope to see some names for the Type 31s coming out soon. My preference is on an F-class or R-class for them! Any thoughts on final Dreadnought class name?

  2. Good to see a Warspite back in the fleet was my Grandfathers first ship before she was damaged in the Med and he was then transferred to HMS Colossus.

      • The carriers were not named after the present royals, they are traditional names from past classes of battleships. Unfortunately the POW (A King George 5th class) was sunk by Japanese aircraft in 1941…lack of sufficient anti-aircraft weapons! Not that I’m making a point!

        • The main problem was the task group was shadowed by a Japanese submarine, that called in the air strikes. What made the problem worse is that the ships were supposed to be with an aircraft carrier (HMS Indomitable), she couldn’t make it as she was damaged. The RAF were supposed to provide air cover for the ships, who’d been tasked with intercepting troops ships and landing further North of Singapore, but they didn’t.

        • Actually it was because shock damaged knocked out the power supply to the AA weapons meaning they had to operated by hand and could not focus the defence.
          Also the flooding along the prop shaft eventually caused fatal damage to all power sources.
          It is interesting to note that one of the Japanese pilots involved in the attack said the repulse was handled like a destroyer and her captain showed incredible skill in how he handled his ship.

          • Interesting information…but AA armament was relatively small compared with later ships and redundancy features would have prevented total failures. Even so, it was quite clear that Capital Ships, with big guns, were becoming obsolescent!

        • Believe it or not I know that.

          24 hours after their sinking The japanese honoured the 2 ships sunk as they were so impressed by the bravery and seamnaship shown by the crew evading the japanese for 90 odd minutes.

          • The lead pilot of the attack was in awe of how the repulse was handled and said they feathered the torpedo attacks with elan .
            He went on to lead other attacks on naval ships but he said that no other opponents showed the skill that force z showed .
            He actually erected a shrine in his family temple in honour of the seamen of force z.

  3. Let’s hope some of the costs spent on the design work from this, particularly PWR-3 and presumably the latest and greatest stealth/silencing technologies, can be rolled straight onto starting the build program for the successor class for Astute. Maybe reusing some design elements plus practical lessons learned during the Dreadnought builds, plus no gap in Barrow yard utilisation and SSBN design teams already in place to move onto SSN rather than needing to rebuild lost expertise might result in cost efficiencies that could get us some increase in SSN numbers when we get to that point. Do the opposite of what we did with Trafalgar to Astute and this time actually get first successor-class SSN sub(s) into service before subs from the previous class start to get decommissioned would be a path to growing the SSN fleet going forward,

    I also hope that the CMC has ended up with the option to use it to host multiple cruise missiles as an alternative to ICBMs since that would make it another possible design component that might be able to be reused for our next-gen SSN to give enhanced combo torpedo plus land-attack capabilities and possibly enable other stuff too (rumours at one point of the CMC also being designed with an option to be able to host special forces equipment e.g. minisubs).

    • It’s inevitable that Astute replacement will use a lot of Dreadnaught bits as the cost of doing completely new is unaffordable.Doubt they will use anything but torpedo tubes though again for cost reasons.

    • its time to bin the ‘nuclear only ‘submarine policy, that would allow a LOT of money to be funneled into the surface fleet.£1.4 billion for one astute? the superb gotland class submarine which penetrated the gerald ford carrier screen, and carried out a four shot ‘dummy attack, then slunk away unseen costs just£100 million.the maths would suggest a significant number of conventional submarines could be built for a a far lower cost.putting all the ‘eggs’in one basket is putting handcuffs on yourself!

      • Then the question becomes, will the UK maintain both nukes & non-nukes? The submarine nuclear deterrent requires nuclear propulsion, along with Arctic & extended range operations. Will the RN Flags (mostly skimmers – U.S. sub slang for all vessels that sink only once) go along w/that kind of investment?

      • It did not penetrate the Gerald Ford defensive screen it was the USN Ronald Reagan in 2004 .
        Also the French Saphir did the same thing plus sunk most of the escorts of the USN Roosevelt in 2015.

  4. Two questions. Is this the second or third boat to be named? And although the standard load out of Trident missiles will be eight, are there more tubes in the CMC, ie the current boats have sixteen, although not all are used all the time? If there are more tubes it would make perfect sense to have some of them with cruise missiles embarked, which would give a useful increase in capability.
    I do get concerned about this naming of vessels that are not due in the fleet until goodness knows when. Bearing in mind that the Type 26’s have all been named, but the programme is moving at a glacial pace, am I correct in assuming that the first CO of the last ship to be built may still be in nappies, or even just a twinkle in his parents eyes?

    • Nick,

      I’m afraid I have to strongly object to your use of the term ‘glacial pace’! I have done a lot of research and your use of that term suggests almost warp speed progress compared to the actual speed which is ‘tectonic plate’ pace.

    • If Cruise missiles are embarked and we use a Bomber to launch them, does that not reveal the subs position, thus negating the deterrent value of being first strike proof?

      Leave that stuff to the SSN’s, defensive weapons like Spearfish for the SSBN.

      • Agreed Daniele. The utility of the CMC being able to host cruise if required (and if that requirement actually survived to the final design) seems to me to be more so that the USA, which as already added dedicated cruise launchers to some of its SSNs, can for future SSN classes use CMC in cruise-missile mode for more commonality to reduce costs. Sadly I do agree with GWM’s earlier comment that for the UK’s next-gen SSN budget constraints make it unlikely that we will be able to take up that option.

        Re one of Nick’s original questions I think the CMC comes in modules each with 4 tubes where the U.K. will be fitting 3 modules per SSBN (for a total of 3 x 4 = 12 tubes) and the USA will be fitting 4 modules per SSBN (giving 4 x 4 = 16 tubes). In cruise-missile mode there would be more that 1 missile per tube, probably 6 or 7 per tube – again with the caveat re whether the cruise option made it through to the final spec.

    • Bit of a hostage to fortune really. Who knows what our economic position might be when it comes to paying for them? Not going to mention the B word but 2% of a GDP of bugger all….is just that. But worse than that…two of the Labour MP’s that resigned from the party last week stated that Corbyn was a threat to our national security. It was largely glossed over by the press, but what a statement! Unprecedented to call the leader of a major political party a threat to national security. You all know what that means….no Trident replacement and a massively swollen foreign aid budget at the expense of defence. Just some of the happy days ahead folks!

  5. Id quite like HMS Churchill, just to rub it in the face of all the lunatics who keep proclaiming him a racist and no better than Hitler. (The Black Studies lecturer and that Idiot MP)

  6. While on the subject of ship names, any idea on the class name for Type 31? Empire class sounds good, especially if we plan to station them around the world. I’m thinking the name HMS Conqueror would be good of we plan to base any on the Falklands. Should send the right message.

  7. Great name, I’m glad to have a Warspite back in the fleet.

    I think the last one should be H.M.S. Victory, Trafalgar or Nelson. It’s a disgrace that our most famous maritime hero and naval victory do not have ships named after them.

  8. I think Warspite was a given, due to its illustrious and decorated history. It’s good to see it back in the fleet (albeit, the future fleet).

    What will the final name be? ‘Swiftsure’ and ‘Revenge’ might be appropriate, though I have a funny feeling that ‘Resolution’ might be selected, due to its history with the nuclear deterrent.

    • Revenge was a Polaris submarine as well, and together with Vengeance is quite possibly the greatest name for a second strike weapon platform.

      I think you’re definitely on the right track though. The theme for the names might technically be historic warships, but it probably isn’t a coincidence that Dreadnought, Valiant, and Warspite just so happen to be the first 3 nuclear submarines in the RN, in that order. That also lends a lot of credence to HMS Churchill, as that was the our 4th nuclear boat, but the issue there is that (aside from Winston) there isn’t any real history associated with the name. The other 3 have battle histories dating back to before the there was even a Royal Navy or a United Kingdom.

  9. Warspite is a Proper Name. Doesn’t leave much doubt as to it’s purpose so spot on.

    Contrast with the cousins who (and said with all due respect for their awesome capabilities) call their ships USS Random F. Bloke – or similar.

  10. It’s worth remembering the fate of all the Previous Nuclear Subs though. Can’t remember the Figures, think It’s 9 that are still waiting to be processed with a steady stream of boats to come in the next couple of decades.
    When you add the Russian and US Boats plus all the others belonging to other country’s, It’s a heck of a lot of nasty deadly material with untold security issues.

  11. Warspite will always conjure up the Battle of Jutland for me! Brilliant choice for such a formidable SSBN.

    I only hope we’ve passed the point of Corbyn’s reach of scrapping the program, should he ever cast a shadow on the steps of Number 10.

    Aeronautical engineer Sir Sydney Camm (designer of the Hawker Hurricane) said of the TSR-2: “All modern aircraft have four dimensions: span, length, height and politics. TSR-2 simply got the first three right.”

  12. There is a rich history of dreadnought names to choose from
    Warspite most famous of all with greatest number of battle honours. She should have been preserved and saved as a national monument.
    Iron Duke, although we have a piddly little type 23 with that name currently
    Rodney of sunk the Bismarck fame
    Nelson sister ship of Rodney sterling service in WW2.
    Barham was a great ship of the same class as warspite
    Dreadnought as the nameship of the class?

  13. RGR. I take your slap on the wrist about glacial pace, if climate change really does come in glacial may take on a whole new meaning. Tectonic it will be in the future.
    Regarding names, why not revive the names of the Type 14 Blackwood class? They were all named after Nelson’s Band of Brothers, and since HMS Nelson is the barracks in Portsmouth and liable to stay that way, what better way of keeping his name in the forefront. Or perhaps the Battle class, Agincourt, Crecy, etc. It might annoy the French though, which might not be viewed as PC in Whitehall!

  14. As they being named in the same sequence as the first SSNs from the early 1960s (Dreadnought, Valiant, Warspite) it would be logical for the fourth to be Churchill?

    • One guess for at least a contributing factor would be enhanced crew spaces which, if not mandated in some way (legislation), might have been done with an eye on enhancing crew recruitment and retention. The BAE graphic in the article mentions a few things that all would seem to require extra space, e.g. classroom/study area “set aside” which I take to mean dedicated space, separate female quarters and washroom facilities and the reference to the gym equipment makes me think that space might have got bigger too.

      From a pure mission perspective I would have thought that bigger would be a disadvantage since it might increase signatures particularly magnetic. Maybe mission capability enhancements might be extra food and other non-replenishables storage so that mission times could be extended, if not routinely then at least in an emergency.

      Also, and again a guess, but I wonder how the size of PWR3 compares with PWR2. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was bigger. A big part of PWR3 is passive safety features and I wouldn’t be surprised if those resulted in some size increase. Not sure how the power generation capacity compares but if PWR3 is a significant uplift on PWR2 then that’s another possible contributing factor.

      Finally, the CMC I believe comes in modular quad-packs with, at least in the initial concept stage, the ability to be configured to do other things such as host cruise missiles, special forces equipment etc. That might mean that they are not as space efficient as the designed-for-a-single-purpose tubes that I assume are in Vanguard so maybe less space saved than might be imagined from going from 16 to 12 tubes .

  15. What is really scary is that the last Warspite is still sitting by a dock waiting for someone to pay for its decommissioning.

    • Jonathan, I mentioned that earlier, Her and 8 others, All 4 Polaris subs yet to be Decommissioned. It’s a big problem very much Ignored.

      • Missed that sorry, but Yes it’s got to be sorted, part of the cost of running nuclear boats is safe disposable, if you can,t afford to dispose safely you really should not be in the game. It’s just not moral to knowingly stack up a problem for our children, we have had a bit to much of that going on to make me feel happy.

  16. Seen lots of comments on the possible future names for this class, Nelson seems to be one of the more popular ones. If we are going to use Admirals, fighting Admirals at that then why not name one of the subs after a real fighting Admiral, Cunningham. Just not sure what her nickname will be!
    I also noticed some discussion on the Prince of Wales, I am totally against this name for our carrier, the reason was the nickname given to her after the Bismarck encounter of “cowards ship”. I suppose as I am Welsh we could have an all Welsh Carrier strike group with PoW, Dragon and Cardiff all that is missing is either Monmouth or Black Prince, got to keep the black flag flying and one of the smaller countries (Principalities) in the world would have one of the best strike groups, Not bad Eh.
    However, it would be good to see a Warspite back in the fleet.

  17. How about HMS Rodney, HMS Royal Sovereign or just because it seems right why not HMS King George VI after our Wartime King.

  18. What about something that really describes what these boats are, they after all are not really warships in the traditional sense but are instead statements of national intent. So I vote for:

    HMS burn in hell
    HMS Eye for an Eye
    HMS from hells heart
    HMS for hates sake

    Just saying they would at least be thematically congruent for a nuclear deterrent.

  19. It will not be a name linked to a person, mythical entity or Royal title. It will be a descriptor. Courageous is the obvious choice, alas Conquer remains too controversial for the political establishment.

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