BAE Systems are the industrial lead for the Dreadnought programme and, alongside partners Rolls-Royce, are designing and constructing a new generation of submarines to carry the UK’s independent nuclear deterrent. Credit: BAE Systems.

Now you hear it, now you don’t.

So how are you going to kill it, if you don’t know where it is.

There’s a heckuva lot of deep, blue ocean out there, and today’s stealth submarines — US, French and Russian — can hide, and stay submerged for months.

If one is to believe recent press reports, Britain’s Royal Navy intends to up the ante, and then some, with its new Dreadnought Class.

Currently under construction by BAE Systems at its Barrow-in-Furness shipyard in Cumbria, it includes innovative features which promise to take stealth, speed, depth and countermeasures to a whole new level, Naval News reported.

Four Dreadnought Class submarines — HMS Dreadnought, HMS Valiant, HMS Warspite and HMS King George VI — are being built to replace the current fleet of Vanguard Class boats. They will be armed with Trident D5 missiles to continue the United Kingdom’s continuous at-sea deterrent.

 The Trident II missiles were designed in the United States and are carried by US Ohio class ballistic missile submarines.

Each US Trident II missile can carry up to 8 re-entry vehicles. Even though the Trident II was originally designed to carry 14 re-entry vehicles, this number was reduced to 8 due to nuclear arms reduction agreements.

In other words, one Dreadnought submarine could potentially destroy most of continental China — a lethal weapon of mass destruction.

The total estimated cost for this undersea Armageddon is approximately £31bn ($47.07bn) and the first submarine is expected to enter service in the 2030s with a service life of a minimum of 30 years.

The new class will be slightly larger, mainly to incorporate a number of new stealth features.

The Royal Navy’s emphasis on stealth is already visible in the external appearance of their existing submarines. Since the 1980s submarines have been fitted sound reducing “anechoic tiles.”

And the current generation Astute Class has the anechoic coating designed in. This leads to a better fit and optimal performance compared to adding the tiles after it is built.

Added to this there is a distinct chine running around the bow and the upper hull and sail (fin) are angled to reduce sonar reflections.

Sources claim The Dreadnought Class takes this even further.

The official graphics used by the builder, BAE Systems, shows the chine running all the way along the hull. This is a strong hint to a completely new style of submarine design.

A thin outer hull, like an extended casing, entirely covers the regular cylindrical inner hull. This allows the sloping sides to extend right down the hull instead of being limited to the upper hull.

Dreadnought’s outer hull will be much lighter than the true “double hull” construction typical of Russian submarines. And its purpose is different.

We know from the common missile compartment, which will be the same as is used on the US Navy’s Columbia Class, that the submarine hull remains the single-hull type.

This means that it has its strengthening rings (called frames) on the inside. Russian boats have these frames on the outside, between the two hulls, and use the outer hull as part of their structure. On Dreadnought the outer hull is about stealth.

As well as being angled to deflect incoming active sonar, it will be coated with anechoic tiles. And it is a safe bet that the anechoic coatings will extend to the inside, in the flooded area between the inner and outer hulls.

The outer hull will also present some advantages, creating more space under the casing. Speculation is that this could accommodate underwater vehicles (UUVs) and countermeasures.

Other improvements to stealth will be internal.

Royal Navy boats are already considered very quiet in this regard, but the Dreadnought will incorporate new Turbo-Electric drive.

Turbo-electric drives use the nuclear reactor to generate electricity. This powers an electric motor which drives the propulsor.

While turbo-electric drives have been used aboard nuclear submarines before, this (together with the US Navy’s Columbia Class) will be the first time it has been used on serial production boats.

And on the Dreadnought it will be driving an improved, quieter, pumpjet propulsor.

These boats will have four 533 mm torpedo tubes for Spearfish heavyweight medium-range torpedoes. 

The Spearfish can hit targets located up to 65 km away. These torpedoes were specially designed to catch high-speed and deep-diving Soviet submarines such as the Alfa class and Sierra I and Sierra II class boats with titanium hulls.

 The new boats will be operated by 130 crew members. It is planned that there will be 150 bunks, so the boats will be capable of carrying additional passengers. 

Also it is the first Royal Navy submarine to be built with separate female crew quarters, toilets and washing facilities, along with gym facilities.

Credit: Naval News, BAE Systems, Naval Technology, Military-Today