The lead boat of the Royal Navy’s Vanguard-class ballistic missile-armed submarines – HMS Vanguard – rejoined the fleet on July 16 after a lengthy overhaul period.
The boat was rededicated in a ceremony at Her Majesty’s Naval Base Devonport after undergoing a refueling and refit procedure that had been expected to conclude by 2018.
The process that began in 2015 was delayed by technical problems and is said to have gone significantly over budget.
Some of the issues encountered included the discovery of microscopic cracks in test nuclear fuel rods similar to those used on Vanguard, leading the UK defense ministry to order an unplanned, second refueling of Vanguard’s reactor. The radiation from the cracks also forced the UK MoD to invest £270 million in contingency measures to address the issues on other Vanguard and Astute-class submarines.
Now that HMS Vanguard has returned to service, it is expected to sail to the United States’ east coast to test fire its Trident weapon system, which represents the United Kingdom’s strategic nuclear deterrent.
HMS Vanguard entered service in 1993 as the first of four ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) of its class. One of the most notable events of its service is the 2009 underwater collision with the French submarine Le Triomphant. Neither of the boats sustained significant damage in the accident.
Vanguard boats are scheduled to be replaced by the new Dreadnought-class that is expected to start entering service in early 2030s.