Today marks the 50th anniversary of the United Kingdom’s nuclear weapons taking to sea on-board submarines.
50 years ago today HMS RESOLUTION, armed with Polaris missiles, sailed for her first deterrent patrol, marking the start of the submarine-based nuclear deterrent as the ultimate guarantor of our nation’s security. pic.twitter.com/CtebgKJPfS
— First Sea Lord (@AdmPhilipJones) June 15, 2018
The Royal Navy has operated the UK’s Continuous at Sea Deterrent since 1967 when the first SSBN – or Ship Submersible Ballistic Nuclear – HMS Resolution began patrolling armed with the Polaris missile system. The British Polaris programme was announced in December 1962 following the Nassau Agreement between the US and the UK. The Polaris Sales Agreement provided the formal framework for cooperation. Construction of the submarines began in 1964, and the first patrol took place in June 1968.
All four boats were operational in December 1969. They were operated by the Royal Navy, and based at Clyde Naval Base on Scotland’s west coast, a few miles from Glasgow. At least one submarine was always on patrol to provide a continuous at-sea deterrent, this has now been happening for 50 years.
Today, the Trident missile system is housed on the UK’s four Vanguard class submarines which form the UK’s strategic nuclear missile force. Each of the four boats are armed with up to 16 Trident II D5 SLBMs, carrying up to 8 warheads each. In 1996 HMS Vanguard, the first submarine armed with the Trident missile system, arrived on the Clyde and took over deterrent patrol duties from the Resolution Class. The four Vanguard-class submarines form the UK’s strategic nuclear deterrent force.
Each of the four boats are armed with Trident 2 D5 nuclear missiles. Like all submarines the Vanguard Class are steam powered, their reactors converting water into steam to drive the engines and generate electricity.