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Royal Navy SSN Numbers.

Pirate Pete

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Sorry if this has been flagged previously, I have tried searching, but so far, to no avail.
I am (still) reading Hennessy and Jinks' 'The Silent Deep', and have to say it is a very informative tome.
There is reference made to discussions held during the period when Dennis Healy was Defence Minister regarding numbers of nuclear powered fleet submarines (SSN's in modern parlance). The discussions at the time seem to have been incomplete, and no 'final' numbers for the Navy were quoted. Later in the book, there is mention of the maximum number that Industry and Facilities can support (seemingly about 20), but saying that that is not what the Navy wanted (they wanted more).
Does anyone have any information on the Royal Navy's 'wish list' for the number of SSN they would have liked to have achieved?
 

JFC Fuller

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I have covered this in a few places, see the below links:

https://www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,8164.msg139835.html#msg139835

https://www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,2255.msg139349.html#msg139349

https://www.secretprojects.co.uk/forum/index.php/topic,26398.msg300881.html#msg300881

Summary; the SSN/Fleet Submarine target force stayed fixed at 20 throughout the 60s and 70s all the way to the Nott Review in 1981 when it dropped to 17; its then harder to pin down and may well have crept back up to 20 by the late 1980s. Most submarine target fleet size adjustments were (tellingly) to the SSK/Patrol Submarine fleet.
 

PMN1

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Currently reading that book now, makes for some interesting reading though a lot I have read previously on other books about RN submarines.
 

Pirate Pete

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Thanks for the guidance on your postings JFC.
I know it is probably difficult to locate, but from "The Silent Deep", there is reference to what Infrastructure and Industry could support (this seems to be 20 SSN's), and reference to 'what the Navy wanted'.
I was wondering if anyone had come across anything relating to the latter.
By comparison, when the Navy were looking at replacement aircraft carriers, it was clear that the Navy would have liked 5, but compromised on asking for 4, and we all know where that ended up!
 

JFC Fuller

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This is very different from the carrier issue. The 20 number, with the exception of the dip in the early-mid 80s, seems to have remained constant throughout the Cold War period of the SSN programme even if the build programme ended up being spread out (thus meaning the RN never achieved the 20 number due to the end of the Cold War).

Infrastructure in this context applies three elements:

Production: Actually doesn't seem to have been such a big issue as is often made out, at least not until the Trident programme came into view. Cammell Laird and VSEL Barrow built nuclear boats in the UK but the former stopped building them after HMS Conqueror. Some consideration seems to have been given to restarting production at Cammell Laird in the late 1970s but sufficient capacity was found at Barrow with the construction of the Devonshire dock hall.

Basing: Actually a bigger issue than is often considered. Of the three RN submarine bases only Devonport and Faslane were considered viable as nuclear submarine bases as HMS Dolphin at Gosport was regarded as too small.

Refit/Refueling: Cold War built submarines received multiple refuellings through their lives so dedicated support infrastructure was required. Three facilities were used; Chatham, Devonport and Rosyth. There doesn't seem to have been an issue generating refit/refueling facilities.
 

Pirate Pete

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Thanks for those. They are the constraining points which ultimately are the controlling factors with Royal Navy SSN numbers.
The extract from 'The Silent Deep' I was referring to is as follows:

The 1982 Statement on the Defence Estimates stressed " In the field of anti-submarine warfare, we attach particular importance to increasing the size of the nuclear-powered submarine force as rapidly as resources will permit". (Good old Politic-speak for jam tomorrow no doubt). - My italics...
In Nott's mind, the future belonged to the SSN's, but there was a constraining factor of which the Royal Navy was well aware. In June 1977 a paper had been submitted to the Fleet Requirements Committee on the size and shape of the Submarine Flotilla. The paper argued that because of industrial and support constraints, the maximum number of SSNs that the Royal Navy could build and support was less than that required to meet operational tasks.

Now, as is well known, there are NEVER enough hulls in the water, be they on or below the surface.
What my original query regarding Royal Navy SSN numbers was is, does anyone have any idea what the Fleet Requirements Committee paper 'claimed' was the number of SSNs needed to cover operational requirements?
This would seem to indicate that there was a figure indicated. I appreciate that it is a bit Nelsonian "for the want of frigates" scenario, but thought there might be something out there which shed some light on the Navys' 'wishes'.
 

JFC Fuller

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The constraining factor was money. As demonstrated by the use of Cammell Laird, the construction of the Devonshire Dock Hall and the development of Faslane all of these factors could be dealt with through investment.

The answer to your numbers question likely exists in DEFE 24/1378.
 

Grey Havoc

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It probably didn't help the case of the SSN advocates that Nott and his 1981 review were totally discredited by the Falklands War.
 
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