Resolution class, Royal Navy`s first ballistic missile submarines
The advantages of having a submarine based nuclear deterrent were obvious: nuclear weapons could be hidden beneath the waves and launched from anywhere. The submarines themselves, owing to their nuclear propulsion, had incredible endurance and would never need to surface whilst on patrol. Furthermore they were virtually undetectable and could roam the ocean depths unhindered. When the notion of a submarine based nuclear deterrent was originally proposed, it was thought that up to a dozen boats would be required. But as the project developed five submarines were planned: Resolution, Repulse, Renown, Revenge, and Ramillies. Traditional battleship and battle cruiser names were chosen, signifying that the nuclear submarine was now the capital ship of the atomic age. Ramillies was later on cancelled, after reviewing the Polaris program, it deemed expensive and unnecessary.
The design of the submarine itself was basically a modification of the Valiant class fleet submarine, but much enlarged to incorporate the missile compartment between the fin and the nuclear reactor. It also shared similarities in size and appearance with the US Lafayette class, although like all British submarines, the hydroplanes were located on the bow rather than the fin. Displacing 8,500 tons submerged, the Resolution class was much bigger than other fleet submarines and could carry 16 A3 Polaris missiles. A Polaris missile measured 31 feet long and had a range of 2,500 n/miles.
The class was part of the 10th Submarine Squadron, based at Faslane, Scotland. Upon embarking on a patrol, they would leave Faslane, submerge, and not resurface until they returned several months later.
Towards the end of their lives the Resolution class suffered maintenance problems but with the completion of Vanguard, the first Trident submarine, in 1992, all Resolutions were decommissioned gradually with each Vanguard commissioning, the last Polaris submarine, Repulse, decommissioned on August 28, 1996. Over the 28 years since first entering service the four Resolution class submarines had conducted 229 unbroken patrols, never having been detected, nor having fired their weapons in anger.
Upon decommissioning all four submarines were laid up at Rosyth Dockyard. Even with their reactors removed low level traces of radiation are still present in their hull so scrapping or sinking by conventional means is not possible at present.
Specifications, Resolution class:
Displacement (srf/sub tons): 7,500/8,400
Dimensions (L*B*D feet): 425`0*33`0*30`0
Propulsion: Rolls-Royce Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR-1) 15,000hp, 2*GEC geared steam turbine, one screw
Speed (sub knots): 25
Range (srf/sub miles@knots): not relevant
Diving depth (feet): 900
Complement: 13 officers 130 enlisted
Missile: 16*SLBM Polaris A-3 nuclear ballistic missiles
Torpedo: 6*21" (533 mm) bow torpedo tubes can fire Spearfish torpedoes, later on retrofitted for wire guided Tigerfish.
All four boats of the class were launched between 1966 and 1968 and commissioned 1967 to 1969. Resolution and Repulse were ordered from the lead yard, Vickers Armstrong in Barrow-in- Furness while Cammell Laird at Birkenhead won the contract for Renown and Revenge. The bow and stern of each submarine were constructed separately before being assembled with the American designed missile compartment in-between. The lead ship, Resolution, was laid down in February 1964.
In 1980 a decision was taken to replace Polaris with the American Trident missile. In the meantime the existing Polaris system was upgraded with a new warhead codenamed Chevaline, all four boats of the class were upgraded starting 1982 to 1988.
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