Claims that ‘underwater drones’ will render Trident carrying submarines vulnerable to attack have been dismissed by experts.
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.
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.
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.
Fitted with world beating sonar, the system is so sensitive they can hear vessels over 50 miles away.
In a letter to the Guardian, Captain Nick Batho (Rtd) said:
“All those who claim that submarines carrying Trident missiles are vulnerable to “emerging technologies” such as underwater drones should spend some time at sea. They would then realise the world’s oceans are vast, deep, impenetrable to sound and radio waves, and terminally hostile to the sort of small, battery powered, autonomous drone they envisage.
Submarines are just as difficult to detect now as they were in the second world war. I don’t see that changing during the lifetime of the projected replacements to the Vanguard-class submarines.”
The Minister for Defence Procurement also said:
“Don’t hold your breath. Admiral Lord Boyce, former First Sea Lord and submarine commander, says we’re more likely to put a man on Mars within the next six months than make the seas transparent within the next 30 years.
Such fears aren’t stopping the US and Russia spending billions upgrading their submarine fleets.”
While vessels can be detected, sometimes, from space the issue at the core of all of this is knowing where to look.