TechVanguard submarine near miss: a dive into nuclear deterrence

Vanguard submarine near miss: a dive into nuclear deterrence

The submarine HMS Victorious (Vanguard class)
The submarine HMS Victorious (Vanguard class)
Images source: © LA(Phot) | Will Haigh

5:46 PM EST, November 20, 2023

A Vanguard-class nuclear submarine of the British Royal Navy stood at the brink of disaster, according to Bulgarian Military reports. A malfunction in one of the sensors caused the vessel to descend to a critical depth. This article sheds light on the specifications of Vanguard submarines and what sets them apart.

Vanguard-class submarines form a central part of Great Britain's nuclear deterrent strategy. An ongoing program places these units in unidentified regions since 1969. The British Navy routinely rotates all operational submarines, assigning different units to varying missions. Consistently, at least one team operates in a concealed maritime location.

On Monday, November 20th, one of the four ships escaped catastrophe - writes Bulgarian Military. However, the report does not furnish specific details about the untoward incident for security reasons. As such, there's uncertainty as to which unit faced this near calamity, at what location, and what depth the mishap took place.

Despite the vagueness, it is known that this submarine, bearing a 140-member crew, submerged to an unsafe depth due to a faulty dive sensor. "The ship almost breached a danger zone, but a disaster was averted thanks to the alert engineers at the stern who noticed the uncontrolled dive," informs the report.

Indeed, even though the submarine was operating within its depth capability, every additional meter underwater heightened the risk of sinking. A spokesperson for the Royal Navy reassures that submarines continue to be deployed globally, while the incident involving the Vanguard-class unit will undergo investigation.

About Vanguard-class Submarines

The distinguishing feature of this class of submarines serving Great Britain is their ability to host 16 UGM-133 Trident II D-5 ballistic missiles with an operational range of approximately 6843 miles. Supplementing their armament are four torpedo launchers equipped with Spearfish type missiles.

A noteworthy fact about the Vanguard type submarines is that they house government-prepared action plans to be followed in the event of a nuclear strike. These Letters of Last Resort are present on each of the four naval vessels.

In addition, the Vanguard units display nearly 17637 tons of displacement when submerged and measure just under 492 feet in length. For perspective, popular narrow-bodied Boeing 737-800 airplanes measure "only" 131 feet in length. Powering these submarines are nuclear reactors of the PWR type (water-cooled), that thrust the underwater machine to nearly 31 mph.

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