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Naval Warfare

HMS Vanguard (S28)

Ballistic Missile Submarine [ 1994 ]

HMS Vanguard S28 is the lead ship of her class of four and was commissioned on August 14th, 1993 - succeeding the Resolution-class boats.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 02/12/2018 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

HMS Vanguard (S28) is similar in operational scope to the nuclear-powered, missile-laden American Ohio-class breed of boats. The Vanguard-class type submarine itself is the largest submarine ever built in Britain while also being the third largest vessel to ever see service with the British Royal Navy. The Vanguard-class was developed as a replacement for the Resolution-class which were similar strategically-minded submarines though armed with the Lockheed Polaris nuclear submarine-launched ballistic missile. The newer Vanguard, armed with the Lockheed Trident ballistic missile, is represented by her badge featuring a golden lion in profile grasping a spear with its front claws and is a well-armed and well-constructed boat. HMS Vanguard is the 11th vessel of the Royal Navy to carry the "Vanguard name".

On July 15th, 1980, the UK government moved forward with their purchase of American-built Trident I (C-4) ballistic missiles to serve from submarines. The missiles became a proven commodity for the engagement and destruction of enemy missile silos and fortifications deep underground. Two years later, the decision was made to acquire the improved Trident II (D5) missiles as well as four nuclear-powered, ballistic missile submarines from which to launch them. These four submarines became the Vanguard-class lead by HMS Vanguard and soon joined by her sisters - HMS Victorious, HMS Vigilant and HMS Vengeance. Each boat would have its launch tube section designed similarly to the Ohio-class submarine to help facilitate design and construction of these critical systems though the overall design beyond these launch tubes and missiles would be wholly British. Whereas the Ohio-class submarine could field up to 24 Trident II missiles, the Vanguard-class would wield 16 of these weapons across its reusable launch tubes. Following the decommissioning of the WE177 tactical nuclear gravity/depth bomb in 1988, the Vanguard-class became the United Kingdom's last nuclear-capable weapon systems. At the end of it all, the "Trident Fleet" as a whole featured a price tag in the vicinity of 12.57 billion pounds with a yearly cost to operate the group reportedly near 200 million pounds.

HMS Vanguard was ordered on May 30th, 1986 with Vickers Shipbuilding and Engineering Ltd (later becoming BAe Systems Marine and then BAe Systems Submarines) of Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, as the contracting activity. A special facility - known as the "Devonshire Dock Hall" - was erected to support the expected size of the Vanguard at completion before construction had officially begun. She was laid down on September 3rd, 1986 and she was launched on March 4th, 1992. HMS Vanguard was officially commissioned on August 14th, 1993 and entered service in December of 1994 with Captain David Russell at the helm. Since then, she has made her home port out of Her Majesty's Naval Base (HMNB) "Clyde" at Faslane - one of the three available Royal Navy bases. Each Vanguard submarine would undergo a refit every eight or nine years. HMS Vanguard underwent her refit (lasting the period of two years) beginning in February of 2002. Of the four boats available, at least one would always be placed on "deterrence" patrol with a second awaiting in reserve if needed.

HMS Vanguard maintained a length of 491 feet, 10 inches, a beam of 42 feet even and a draught of 39 feet, 4 inches. Her design was impressively sleek but conventional in its tubular appearance. Her sail was set well-forward with the Trident launch tubes just aft of the tower, these in a bulged section of flattened upper hull. The dive planes are also located well-forward along the hull sides, ahead of the conning tower, and were distinctly attached to the upper hull facing via a flat-formed structure point. This provided the Vanguard with a somewhat imposing front view when surfaced. The overall hull shape featured a blunt nose cone at the bow and the design tapered off sharply aft to create the stern housing the single propeller shaft and vertical rudder planes - one above and below the aft hull. Her crew complement consisted of 14 officers along with 121 enlisted sailors, the total complement usually being between 132 and 135 crew to manage her various systems. In comparison, the old Resolution-class of boats operated with a standard crew of 149 personnel.©MilitaryFactory.com
Power was derived from a series of propulsion methods but all stemmed from the Rolls-Royce PWR2 (Pressurized Water Reactor) nuclear reactor. The reactor was coupled with a pair of General Electric Company (GEC) brand turbines to deliver some 27,500 horsepower to a single shaft pump jet. Additionally, there were two retractable auxiliary propulsion motors, two W.H. Allen turbo generators and a pair of Paxman diesel alternators. All told, this powerplant supplied the Vanguard with a top dive speed of up to 25 knots (29mph; 46 kmh). Her surface speed - largely unreported in many publications - is most likely in the vicinity of 12 to 15 knots. Due to her nuclear-based reactor, she sports virtually unlimited range and an endurance marked for approximately 20 years of service, perhaps even 30 - though refueling takes place within every 10 years of operation.

The Vanguard was fitted with an array of key sensors and processing systems to make for a complete - and lethal - tool under the seas, be they offensive or defensive in nature. The Thales Underwater System Type 2054 composite sonar suite was made up of the Type 2046 towed sonar array, the Type 2043 active /passive search sonar, the Kelvin Hughes Type 1007 I band navigation radar system and the Pilkington Optronics CK51 search periscope (the latter with thermal imager and television camera). The Thales UPM intercept Electronic Support Measures (ESM) system, coupled with a pair of Mk10 series Type 2066/Typ2071 decoy launchers, form the Vanguard's Electronic Warfare (EW) suite.

In terms of armament, the Vanguard was prepped to deliver either torpedoes or sea-launched missiles. The former was comprised of 4 x 21-inch (533mm) tubes for the launching of Spearfish heavy torpedoes. These 80-knot speed torpedoes could operate through autonomous active or passive homing sonar or could be equally wire-guided to their target. The Spearfish became a dual-purpose weapon system suitable for engaging enemy submarines under the surface of the water or surface vessels as needed. The sea-launched missile component was made up of 16 x Trident D5 SLBMs (Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles). These large missiles, like the Polaris before them, were American in origin an designed by the defense firm of Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Sunnyvale, California. Each missile was designed to deliver a total of 128 warheads between them (192 maximum). In actuality, the number of warheads fielded was - as stated by the Royal Navy - never exceeding 96 and this was further reduced after the UK Strategic Defense Review to just 48. There were sixteen total vertical launch tubes for the sixteen Trident missiles meaning that once the salvo was loosed, the tubes remained empty until refit. With the end of the Cold War, growing economic considerations, arms reduction treaties and the like, the strategic role of such missile-minded vessels were reduced in turn. As such, the Vanguard-class has had their fire readiness status lowered from "minutes" to "days".

On February 4th, 2009, HMS Vanguard collided with the French submarine "Triomphant" in Atlantic waters. The crash resulted in structural damage but HMS Vanguard was allowed back to Faslane, Scotland for repairs under her own power. She maintains an active presence for the Royal Navy as of this writing.©MilitaryFactory.com
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United Kingdom
Operators National flag of the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
National Origin
Hull Class
HMS Vanguard (S28); HMS Victorious (S29); HMS Vigilant (S30); HMS Vengeance (S31)

Submerged Attack
Traveling under the surface to search, track, and / or engage or reconnoiter areas.
Maritime Patrol
Active patroling of vital waterways and maritime areas; can also serve as local deterrence against airborne and seaborne threats.
Fleet Support
Serving in support (either firepower or material) of the main surface fleet in Blue Water environments.

491.9 feet
(149.93 meters)
42.0 feet
(12.80 meters)
39.3 feet
(11.98 meters)
Displacement (Submerged)

1 x Rolls-Royce PWR2 nuclear reactor; 2 x GEC turbines; 1 x shaft pump jet delivering 27,500 horsepower; 2 x auxiliary retractable propulsion motors; 2 x WH Allen turbo generators; 2 x Paxman diesel alternators; 2 x 2,700 horsepower.
15.0 knots
(17.3 mph)
Surface Speed
25.0 knots
(28.8 mph)
Submerged Speed
Essentially Unlimited

1 knot = 1.15 mph; 1 nm = 1.15 mile; 1 nm = 1.85 km

4 x 21-inch (533mm) torpedo tubes for Spearfish torpedoes.
16 x ballistic missile tubes for 16 x Lockheed Trident D5 SLBMs with up to 192 varying warheads.


Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War period
Military lapel ribbon for early warship designs
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Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
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Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2


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Image of the HMS Vanguard (S28)
Front left side view of the HMS Vanguard being assisted into harbor by tugboats
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Image of the HMS Vanguard (S28)
Rear right side view of the HMS Vanguard; note squared-off hull top facing and bulge for ballistic missile tubes
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Image of the HMS Vanguard (S28)
Rear left side view of the HMS Vanguard
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Image of the HMS Vanguard (S28)
Front left side view of the approaching HMS Vanguard with a tugboat alongside; note size of people on submarine deck
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Image of the HMS Vanguard (S28)
Front left side view of the HMS Vanguard being assisted by an American tugboat

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