The strategic deterrent submarine HMS Vigilant has docked today (11 October) at HM Naval Base Devonport, Plymouth, for a major refit and refuel of her nuclear power plant.
The long overhaul period and refuel will take about three years and provide work for hundreds of people in Devonport which is the only place in the UK which specialises in this work for the Royal Navy’s submarine fleet – the dedicated home of submarine maintenance.
HMS Vigilant, a nuclear-powered vessel, normally based at Faslane Naval Base in Scotland, was commissioned in 1996 and is the third of the Royal Navy’s Vanguard Class of submarines which is designed to carry the UK ‘s Trident nuclear missile and therefore, forms part of the UK ‘s strategic deterrent.
HMS Vigilant arrives in Devonport following the departure of HMS Victorious on completion of her successful overhaul earlier this year. HMS Victorious is now undergoing her sea trials.
The overhaul will include an intensive maintenance period and furnish HMS Vigilant with a number of enhanced capabilities. This demonstrates a considerable investment in effectively equipping our armed forces now and in the future.
The most significant element of the overhaul is the installation of a new reactor core for her power plant that will provide the submarine with propulsion for her remaining operational life. There will also be over 80 other design alterations and additions across a wide range of submarine systems.
The work programme will involve a major equipment overhaul, installation of improved strategic weapons system equipment, integration of the tactical weapons submarine command system (next generation), the installation of a new reactor core that provides the submarine with propulsion for its remaining operational life without further requirement for refuel, and 80 other submarine design alterations and additions.
HMS Vigilant needs to be refuelled because the life of the fuel in the reactor installed at build was less than the life of the submarine as the technology at the time did not allow fuel to be produced that would last as long as the submarine. However, improvements since then mean that future submarines, such as the next generation Astute class submarines, will not need to be refuelled. All nuclear powered submarines in the current fleet either have had, or will need, one refuel during their life. HMS Vanguard and HMS Victorious have already undergone their long overhaul and refuel and HMS Vengeance will undergo her’s once HMS Vigilant has completed her’s.