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.
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 Vanguards 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, 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.
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.
|Name||Launched||Commissioned||Test launch 1||Test launch 2||Maiden patrol|
|HMS Vanguard (S28)||March 1992||August 1993||May 26, 1994||June 20, 1994||December 1994|
|HMS Victorious (S29)||September 1993||January 1995||July 24, 1995||August 22, 1995||December 1995|
|HMS Vigilant (S30)||October 1995||November 1996||October 10, 1997||October 10, 1997||June 1998|
|HMS Vengeance (S31)||September 1998||27 November 1999||September 21, 2000||N/A||February 2001|
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).