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), 40 km (25 miles) 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 Royal Air Force, and all surface ships of the Royal Navy, the Vanguard submarines' Trident SLBM system is the sole holder of the United Kingdom's nuclear weapons.
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher wrote to President Carter on July 10, 1980 to request that he approve supply of Trident I missiles. However in 1982 Thatcher wrote to President Reagan to request the United Kingdom be allowed to procure the Trident II (designated D5) system, the procurement of which had been accelerated by the US Navy. This was agreed in March 1982. Under the agreement, the United Kingdom made a 5% research and development contribution.
Thatcher laid the keel of the first boat, HMS Vanguard, on 3 September 1986.
The Vanguards 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 (492 ft) long and 15,980 tonnes (15,730 long tons) submerged displacement the Vanguards are roughly twice the size of the Resolutions, and are the third largest submarines ever built, by displacement when surfaced, after the Soviet Typhoon and American Ohio classes. The great increase in size is largely related to the much larger size of the Trident D-5 missile as compared to Polaris.
Full article ▸