Dreadnought Submarine

Dreadnought Submarine

HMS Dreadnought (S101)


Dreadnought - Crown Copyright
 
The Royal Navy were quick to appreciate the potential use of nuclear power for submarines, with an initial paper presented in 1948 to the Institution of Naval Architects and a first study undertaken in 1950. This early work considered the bulky gas-cooled reactors, as used in UK civil Nuclear power generation at Calder Hall. The US Navy had been evaluating water-cooled reactors and their prototype reactor ‘went critical’ in 1953, with the world’s first nuclear submarine, the Nautilus, commissioned in 1954.
 
By 1956, HM Treasury approval had been given to build a shore-based prototype reactor with the aim of having it running by the start of 1960, and then installed into a submarine by mid-1962.  Vickers were appointed as main contractor, with Rolls Royce as the sub-contractor responsible for the reactor. 
 
Construction of a full-size wooden mock-up of the reactor together with the machinery spaces originally started at the Atomic Energy Authority (AEA) site at Dounreay but it was then moved by Vickers to the old Vickers Supermarine factory at Southampton. Whilst work on designing thr British reactor continued, during 1957 the US offered to release nuclear information to the UK which would then enable the UK to get a nuclear submarine into service much earlier. 
 
In January 1958, the US - UK Mutual Defence Agreement was signed. Amongst other things the agreement included the UK purchase of a complete nuclear propulsion plant. This type of design was already entering US Navy service in the Skipjack-class submarines, for which the Electric Boat Company built the first of class.
 
This required that the aft end of the submarine had to be identical to the Skipjack-class, whilst the fore-end and its combat systems was derived from earlier British studies. As can be imagined, there was considerable effort put into ensuring that there were no mismatches between the US and UK technologies.  This involved a huge collaboration by many Government and industry personnel from both countries to ensure that issues were identified and overcome. In view of their previous collaborations, the relationship between Vickers and the Electric Boat Company ensured they co-operated very happily.
 
Nuclear propulsion would revolutionise submarines in the same way as shipbuilding technology had been transformed in 1906 by the battleship HMS Dreadnought.  Therefore, the name Dreadnought-class and HMS Dreadnought was an obvious choice for the type and first of class. HMS Dreadnought was laid down at Vickers Armstrong Barrow-in-Furness shipyard in June 1959 and launched by HM The Queen on Trafalgar Day (21st October) 1960. 
 
The reactor was installed in HMS Dreadnought during 1962 and she was commissioned into the Royal Navy on 17th April 1963, on time and on budget.  She proved to be a reliable and popular vessel and apart from minor issues she carried out visits around the world and during which she completed a sustained high-speed run to Singapore in 1967, covering 4,640 miles surfaced and 26,545 miles submerged. In September 1970 she underwent a refit at Rosyth where her nuclear core was refueled and a number of noise reducing modifications were carried out.
 
During her service, HMS Dreadnought achieved a number of firsts, including during March 1971 when she became the first British Nuclear Submarine to surface at the North Pole. 
 
Machinery damage and limited refit facilities saw HMS Dreadnought withdrawn from service in 1980 and remains stored at Rosyth Dockyard for eventual disposal.  Her nuclear fuel has been safely removed although much of her interior remains intact. It is hoped that at some time in the future she may return to Barrow-in-Furnace to feature as a tourist attraction at the Dockyard Museum.
 
She provided valuable experience to the Royal Navy, Vickers Armstrong and other UK companies including Rolls Royce, in the new skills and capabilities required for the design, manufacture, sustainment and operation of Nuclear Submarines that continue to this day through the Astute Class programme.
 
In addition, as the UK looks to replace its current Vanguard Class submarines, it is probably no coincidence that Royal Navy has decided to name the new submarines as the Dreadnought-class. 
 

Specification

 
Displacement
 3,500 tons (surfaced) / 4,000 tons (submerged)           
Length
 265.7 ft / 81.0 mts
Beam
 31.2 ft / 9.5 mts
Draught
 25.9 ft / 7.9 mts
Propulsion  1 x Westinghouse S5W reactor / 2 x geared steam turbines / 1 propellor shaft
Speed  20 knots  / 23 mph (surfaced) - 28 knots / 32 mph (submerged)
Compliment 133
Armament
6 x Bow Torpedo Tubes with 24 Torpedoes

 

Other information