Vanguard class submarine

Vanguard class submarine

The "Vanguard" class are the Royal Navy's current nuclear ballistic missile submarines (Ship Submersible Ballistic Nuclear or SSBN), each armed with up to 16 Trident II Submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). The class was introduced in 1994 as part of the UK government's Trident nuclear weapons programme.

The class includes four boats:
"Vanguard" (S28),
"Victorious" (S29),
"Vigilant" (S30), and
"Vengeance" (S31), all built at Barrow-in-Furness by Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd between 1986 and 1999.

All four boats are based at Her Majesty's Naval Base Clyde (HMS "Neptune"), 25 miles (40 km) west of Glasgow, Scotland. Since the decommissioning of all WE.177 free-fall nuclear bombs in 1998, and the removal of all nuclear weapons from the British Army, the RAF, and all surface ships of the RN, the "Vanguard" submarines' Trident SLBM system have the UK's only nuclear weapons.


The "Vanguard"s were designed from the outset as an unlimited-range nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine, unlike the previous "Resolution" class which was adapted from the then existing "Valiant" class and the American "Lafayette" class of nuclear powered fleet ballistic missile submarines (SSBN in US terms). At 149.9 metres long and 15,980 tonnes submerged displacement the "Vanguard"s are roughly twice the size of the "Resolution"s, and are the third largest submarines ever built, by displacement when surfaced, after the Russian "Typhoon" and American "Ohio" classes. The great increase in size is largely related to much larger size of the Trident D-5 missile as compared to Polaris.

The "Vanguard"s were designed and built at Barrow-in-Furness by Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Limited (VSEL), now BAE Systems Submarines. The Devonshire dock hall was built specifically to build these submarines. The missile compartment is based on the system used on the "Ohio" class, though only 16 missiles are carried rather than the 24 of the "Ohio".

In addition to the missile tubes the "Vanguard" class is fitted with four 21 inch (53.3 cm) torpedo tubes and carries the Spearfish heavyweight torpedo [cite web| url=| author=Royal Naval Website| title=Vanguard Class Ballistic Subs (SSBN)| accessdate=2007-06-18] , allowing it to engage submerged or surface targets at ranges up to 65 kilometres (40 miles). Two SSE Mark 10 launchers are also fitted to allow the boats to deploy Type 2066 and Type 2071 decoys, and a UAP Mark 3 electronic support measures (ESM) intercept system is fitted.

HMS "Vanguard", "Victorious", "Vigilant" and "Vengeance" were commissioned in 1993, 1995, 1996 and 2000 respectively.


"Vanguard" carries the Thales Underwater Systems Type 2054 composite sonar. The Type 2054 is a multi-mode, multi-frequency system, which incorporates the 2046, 2043 and 2082 sonars. The fleet is in the process of having their sonars refitted to include open architecture processing using commercial off the shelf technology.

A Type 2043 hull-mounted active/passive search sonar is also carried, as is a Type 2082 passive intercept and ranging sonar. Finally a Type 2046 towed array is carried. This operates at very low frequency, giving a passive search capability. Two periscopes are carried, a CK51 search model and a CH91 attack model. Both have a TV camera and thermal imager as well as conventional optics.

A Type 1007 I-band navigation radar is also carried.

Command System

A specialised Submarine Command System (SMCS) was originally developed for the "Vanguard" boats and was later used on other Royal Navy submarines. [See "The Royal Navy Handbook" 2003, Conway Maritime Press, ISBN 0-85177-952-2]


A new pressurised water reactor, the PWR 2, was designed for the "Vanguard" class. This has double the service life of previous models, and it is estimated that a "Vanguard" class submarine could circumnavigate the world 40 times without refuelling. This should allow the class to carry out their entire service life without the need for expensive refuelling. The reactor drives two GEC turbines linked to a single shaft pump jet propulsor. This propulsion system gives the "Vanguard"s a maximum submerged speed of 25 knots. Auxiliary power requirements are provided by a pair of 6MW Steam-turbine generators supplied by WH Allen, (later known as NEI Allen, Allen Power & Rolls-Royce) with two Paxman diesel alternators for provision of backup power supply.


The submarines were built in specially constructed facilities at Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd (now BAE Systems Submarine Solutions), Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria. The Trident II D-5 achieved an initial operational capability with the U.S. Navy in March 1990. Following launch and commissioning the vessels deployed on Demonstration and Shakedown Operations (DASOs). The major part of this was the test firing of Trident missiles at the United States' SLBM Launch Area, Eastern Test Range, Cape Canaveral, off the coast of Florida (see table above).

General characteristics

* Displacement: 15,980 tonnes submerged
* Length: 149.9 metres
* Beam: 12.8 metres
* Draught: 12 metres
* Complement: 14 officers, 121 ratings
* Propulsion: PWR2 reactor
* Armament:
** 16 missile tubes capable of firing Trident II (D5) missiles
** four 21 inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes capable of firing Spearfish or other 21 inch torpedoes.
* Sensors:
** sonar (bow array, active intercept, and towed arrays)
** periscopes: (attack and two search periscopes)
** collision avoidance radar
* Command System:
** SMCS at introduction of service
** SMCS-NG from 2006 onwards


ee also

*Nuclear weapons and the United Kingdom
*United Kingdom and weapons of mass destruction

External links

* cite video| title= HMS Vanguard Trident II test-launch
url =
format =
medium =
publisher = YouTube video
location =
accessdate = 2007-06-18


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