British Swiftsure class, SSN-nuclear attack fleet submarines

The Swiftsure class was conceived to supplement existing fleet submarines and build up nuclear submarine numbers. It terms of design it was a follow on from the successful Valiant Class. However, the opportunity was taken for a complete hull redesign, and major modifications were made to propulsion machinery in order to take into account experience gained with the Valiants and incorporate the latest quieting measures. The cylindrical portion of the hull was extended as far aft as possible to eliminate structural transitions which had led to stress problems in the Valiant. Improvements were made to sonar and torpedo systems. As a result they were quieter, faster and could dive to greater depths.

The principle role of these SSNs, `hunter-killer`, vessels is to attack ships and other submarines. In this capacity they could support and protect a convoy or taskforce. Additionally fleet submarines can be used in a surveillance role and since the introduction of Tomahawk, a land attack role.
When Argentine forces invaded the Falkland Islands in May 1982 two Swiftsure Class submarines- Splendid and Spartan- sailed to the South Atlantic and participated in the campaign to retake the islands

Specifications, Swiftsure class:
All boats were built by Vickers Shipbuilding & Engineering Ltd (VSEL).

Displacement (srf/sub tons):
Dimensions (L*B*D feet): 272`0*32`4*27`0
Propulsion: Rolls-Royce Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR-1) 15,000hp, 2*GEC geared steam turbine, one screw
Speed (sub knots): 30+
Range (srf/sub miles@knots): not relevant
Diving depth (feet): 800
Complement: 13 officers 103 enlisted
Missile: retro-fitted to fire Mc Donnell Douglas Sub Harpoon, SSM sub-launched anti-ship missiles, and in the case of Splendid and Spartan Hughes Tomahawk, SLCM sub-launched cruise missiles
Torpedo: 5*21" (533 mm) bow torpedo tubes, two at each side firing through the sides and one at the underside of the hull, can fire Spearfish and Tigerfish torpedoes, total of 15 torpedoes or missiles reloads.
Armament: none
two Stonefish or Sea Urchin can be carried in place of one torpedo


The contracts for the six boats were placed on an incremental basis - the lead ship, Swiftsure, all ordered from Vickers Shipbuilding & Engineering Ltd (VSEL), all completed between 1973 and 1980. Between 1987 and 1993 Spartan, Splendid, and Sceptre were fitted with improved nuclear reactor cores (Core Z). However, technical problems forced Swiftsure to decommission early in 1992.

Back to History Index

Image Country Year Description
United Kingdom 2001 100 th anni' of Royal Submarine Service (Booklet 2 X 1st Submarine SG 2207+4 X 1st Class SG 2040)
United Kingdom 2001 Swiftsure class 1973, SSN
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