Ethen Allen Polaris Submarines for the Royal Navy?

Graham1973

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Author Anthony Trew's first novel 'Two Hours to Darkness' (1963) is the first novel I know of that features the idea of a SSBN commander suffering a mental breakdown and deciding to carry out a live fire test of the missiles under his control.

But what is truly interesting about the novel is this, the submarine at the center of the plot HMS Retaliate is not a British designed Polaris missile submarine, but one of six Ethan Allen class submarines sold to the Royal Navy and now serving as the Missile class.

The plotline of the novel is clearly inspired by the controversy surrounding the British adoption of Polaris and the American demand that they have final say over when the missiles are fired. I have long been curious to find out whether or not the Americans ever actually offered to sell complete Polaris systems (Missiles & Submarines) or whether it is entirely the product of the authors imagination.
 

TomS

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D.K. Brown and George Moore's Rebuilding the Royal Navy states that after the Nassau Agreement gave Britain access to Polaris, the Royal Navy did consider building direct copies of US SSBNs or even buying US-built vessels. However, Brown and Moore state that the class under consideration was actually the James Madison (SSBN-627) class. That was a mild variation of the Lafayette (SSBN-616) class and a modest upgrade over the Ethan Allen (SSBN-608). Given the timing, that makes more sense -- Nassau was agreed in late 1962, by which time the 608s were already out of production and the 627s were in pre-production. (OTOH, there's footnote in Brown and Moore that suggests that Lafayette and George Washington are different names for the same class, from which I infer that they might be confused.)

I'm not sure how clearly the differences between the various classes were understood outside very focused technical communities. An author without inside access to the British Polaris program might have extrapolated from reports that procurement of current US designs was being considered straight to the Ethan Allens, which were just then being commissioned.
 

Arjen

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Jane's fighting ships 1973-74:
CLASSIFICATION. The Benjamin Franklin and later submarines officially are considered a separate class, however, differences are minimal (eg. quieter machinery) and all 31 submarines generally are considered as a single class.
This view is repeated in the 1978-79 and 1984-85 editions. In the 1986-87 edition the ships are separated in Lafayette-, James Madison- and Benjamin Franklin-class, while maintaining that it is only the Benjamin Franklin-class that is significantly different from the earlier ships - again mainly by having quieter machinery.

Conway's all the world's fighting ships 1947-1995:
This group is officially divided into three classes: Lafayette (SSBN616), James Madison (SSBN627), and Benjamin Franklin (SSBN640). The SSBN640s are quieter and have detail improvements. Four more were proposed in FY65 programme but were not built.

The George Washington-class was based on the Skipjack-SSN. The Ethan Allen- and Lafayette-class were based on the Thresher-SSN.
 

Graham1973

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TomS said:
D.K. Brown and George Moore's Rebuilding the Royal Navy states that after the Nassau Agreement gave Britain access to Polaris, the Royal Navy did consider building direct copies of US SSBNs or even buying US-built vessels. However, Brown and Moore state that the class under consideration was actually the James Madison (SSBN-627) class. That was a mild variation of the Lafayette (SSBN-616) class and a modest upgrade over the Ethan Allen (SSBN-608). Given the timing, that makes more sense -- Nassau was agreed in late 1962, by which time the 608s were already out of production and the 627s were in pre-production. (OTOH, there's footnote in Brown and Moore that suggests that Lafayette and George Washington are different names for the same class, from which I infer that they might be confused.)

I'm not sure how clearly the differences between the various classes were understood outside very focused technical communities. An author without inside access to the British Polaris program might have extrapolated from reports that procurement of current US designs was being considered straight to the Ethan Allens, which were just then being commissioned.

Thank you for clearing that up. I'll add here that the author does not specifically identify the sub as an Ethan Allen, simply having the commander of HMS Retaliate state:

"You know the importance of this submarine. You know that our U.S. friends stung the British taxpayer close on thirty million for each Polaris boat we took over."

Anthony Trew, Two Hours to Darkness, Fontana (1979 edition), pg 32

The identification of the submarine as an Ethan Allen was an educated guess on my part.
 

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