UK Awards $700M Contract for Refit of Ballistic-Missile Sub

HMS Victorious under tow (Image courtesy Royal Navy)

Published Mar 3, 2024 9:32 PM by The Maritime Executive


The UK has awarded a $700 million contract to defense shipbuilder Babcock to undertake a major refit of HMS Victorious, one of Britain's four Vanguard-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines. Victorious will be the second sub to undergo the multiyear overhaul. 

UK Defense Secretary Grant Shapps said that the refit is designed to keep the submarine in operation into the 2030s, preserving the Royal Navy's second-strike capability. The service has a record of over 55 years of uninterrupted nuclear deterrence patrols. 

The life extension contract, signed with the UK’s Submarine Delivery Agency (SDA), will be carried out at Babcock’s Devonport facility. It will deliver Victorious back to the Royal Navy modernized and improved. 

Work on the submarine is already underway, following a commitment to authorize early work beginning in July last year.

Victorious will be the second in her class to undergo a life extension program, after Vanguard. The overhaul for Vanguard had difficulties: it ran about $380 million over budget and three years late, thanks to COVID disruption and technical problems with refueling her reactors. The refit was marred by a minor scandal when contracting officials found that bolts in her reactor cooling system had been broken and glued back together by yard workers. 

Unlike Vanguard, Victorious does not need to be refueled in this yard period, according to the UK Ministry of Defense.

“In an increasingly dangerous world, it is crucial that we continue to invest in one of our most important assets, our nuclear deterrent. This is another UK partnership with Babcock that will help keep the UK safe, while boosting the local economy and supporting 1,000 jobs,” said Shapps.

The overhaul of Victorious will allow the boat to carry out deterrent patrols until the next generation of submarines, the Dreadnought-class, enter service. The UK government is investing approximately $47 billion in four Dreadnought-class nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines, with the first expected to enter service in the 2030s.

The boats, christened Dreadnought, Valiant, Warspite and King George VI, are being built at BAE Systems at its Barrow-in-Furness shipyard in Cumbria.

The UK government has also committed a $950 million funding boost to the Devonport naval base to improve infrastructure and enable it to support the maintenance of existing and future submarines.