Why nuclear submarine HMS Vanguard has been brought back to Plymouth


NUCLEAR submarine HMS Vengeance sailed out of Devonport Dockyard ready to take to the sea again – as her sister ship HMS Vanguard came in.

The Trident vessel had been at the naval base for three-and-a-half years for repair and refuelling works worth £350million.

Her sister ship HMS Vanguard – the UK’s oldest nuclear submarine – arrived at the dockyard on Tuesday ahead a four-year refit.

The Ministry of Defence is due to sign a contract worth around £200 million with Babcock to undertake the planned period of maintenance for Vanguard.

The refit and refuel of Vanguard will secure the future of more than 2,000 jobs at Babcock and will involved more than 100 companies subcontracting through the project.

Projects like these are hugely important for both Babcock and the wider economy and nowhere else in the country has the resources to carry out this type of work.

Devonport Naval Base commander Ian Shipperley said he was very proud of the work the team at Devonport completed to HMS Vengeance.

He said: “We’ve just said goodbye to HMS Vengeance after a three-year refit and the skills that have gone into that from engineering, to project management and logistics are very important for Plymouth and the wider national economy.

“As we’ve seen this morning, moving a vessel of that size in such confined waters brings a real challenge and we’ve got a dedicated small team of pilots and tug masters and riggers who are practiced and trained for this.

“A lot of the workforce from Babcock are brought in as apprentices and are trained up right through the company.

“We made a very significant investment over many years and there isn’t a similar location anywhere else.

“It’s inconceivable that anywhere else would invest as we have here.”

All four Vanguard-class vessels – Vanguard, Vengeance, Victorious and Vigilant – are expected to have their refit work carried out at Devonport.

Gavin Leckie, submarine programme director at Babcock, has been involved throughout the entire Vanguard-class programme since it arrived in 2001.

He said: “I’ve been employed all the way so it’s nice to see all four come through and go out in such a good state.

“That is down to the ability of the team and the capability of the workforce.

“It’s good news and is very important to us to have one go out as one comes in.

“They are a good team and I’m very proud of them.”

The Herald previously reported that Vanguard will be fitted with a new nuclear core during its stay after low levels of radioactivity were discovered in the cooling waters of a test reactor facility at Dounreay, north Scotland, in 2012.

When asked whether Vanguard would be fitted with a new nuclear core due to this, the commodore said no such issue had been found.

He said: “The safety of our workforce and the public is our paramount priority.

“What we are doing is refuelling Vanguard as a precaution; there is no issue.”