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Work on construction of the UK’s third Dreadnaught-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) has begun, prime contractor BAE Systems announced on 9 February 2023.

To be called Warspite, the boat is the third of four SSBNs due to enter service with the Royal Navy from the early 2030s and operate for at least 30 years. Construction of the first two SSBNs, Dreadnaught and Valiant, is already underway. The boats are being constructed at BAE’s Barrow-in-Furness site in northwest England.

The Dreadnaught class will replace the Royal Navy’s fleet of four Vanguard-class SSBNs, which were commissioned from 1993 and currently provide the UK’s continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent. As with the Vanguard class, the Dreadnaught-class SSBNs will be armed with Trident D5 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), which are built by Lockheed Martin and also arm the US Navy’s SSBNs.

BAE Systems has stated that the Dreadnaught programme will involve an estimated GBP 7.7 Bn being spent with UK suppliers, supporting at least 11,800 jobs in the supply chain. The overall delivery phase of the Dreadnaught programme is planned to cost around GBP 10 Bn.

Alongside production of the Dreadnaught-class SSBNs, BAE Systems is also responsible for delivering seven Astute-class nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs), four of which – HMS Astute, HMS Ambush, HMS Artful and HMS Audacious – are already in service. HMS Anson, meanwhile, was commissioned on 31 August 2022 and is working towards operational status, while Agamemnon and Agincourt are under construction.

Peter Felstead