A Vanguard-class nuclear submarine has returned from a six month patrol, a commendable feat that also highlights growing safety concerns surrounding the ageing Royal Navy fleet.
The submarine, which recently returned to Faslane, was noticeably encrusted with barnacles and covered in algae after what is believed to have been a taxing six-month-long tour.
Such extended periods at sea not only place a considerable strain on the submarine’s crew but also on their families waiting back home.
The exceptional duration of this patrol has amplified questions regarding the UK’s diminishing submarine resources. With multiple boats currently sidelined for repairs and maintenance, there’s mounting pressure on the operational vessels to fill the void.
Currently, the UK has four Vanguard-class submarines. At least one submarine from this class is patrolling the seas at any given time. However, only HMS Vigilant and HMS Vengeance have been active this year due to extended repair works.
In response to concerns, the Royal Navy stated, “We don’t discuss the length of patrols. We deeply value the commitment and dedication of our submariners and their families. To acknowledge the challenges they face, all submariners on Vanguard-class submarines receive an extra payment after an extended period at sea.”
This latest patrol, marking the 55th year of the continuous Operation Relentless, was met with much celebration. Operation Relentless represents the UK’s longest sustained military operation, ensuring that a British submarine armed with the nation’s ultimate weapon is always patrolling the world’s oceans, ready to act since 1969.
Welcoming the submarine home at the Clyde Naval Base were Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden and First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Ben Key. Families eagerly waved to their returning loved ones, knowing that another Vanguard-class submarine has already taken its place at sea.
Deputy Prime Minister Dowden expressed his gratitude, stating, “The Continuous At Sea Deterrent is vital to the UK. I’m humbled by their service and understand the sacrifices made by our crew and their families.”
Echoing these sentiments, Admiral Sir Ben Key remarked, “It’s an honor to welcome our crew back. Their dedication is unmatched, and I extend my heartfelt gratitude to their families. The continuous efforts of our Defence Nuclear Enterprise, industrial partners, and government have enabled 55 years of unbroken deterrent patrols.”