UK Prime Minister Theresa May announced in Parliament on March 28 an unexpected boost for defense spending: an extra £600 million ($850 million) for the new Dreadnought class of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs). The funds, allocated for fiscal year 2019, will be withdrawn from the £10 billion ($14.2 billion) contingency fund set aside for the Dreadnought program in the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review. The use of the contingency funds follows a supplemental £200 million Defence Ministry budget increase announced in February.
The Dreadnought program will comprise four new submarines designed to replace the United Kingdom’s existing Vanguard-class SSBNs, which are responsible for the country’s nuclear deterrence. Construction on the first submarine began in September 2016. The mainstay of the submarine will be the Common Missile Compartment (CMC), which is designed to support not-yet-developed ballistic missiles that will succeed the Trident D5 nuclear-armed ballistic missile. The CMC will contain 12 missile launch tubes and will house Trident D5s until their replacement in the early 2040s. The first Vanguard-class SSBN will reach the end of its extended service life in 2028, and the first Dreadnought submarine is expected to enter service in the early 2030s. The total cost of the Dreadnought program is estimated at £31 billion ($43.9 billion), and the submarines will have service lives of 30 years.—RYAN FEDASIUK