HMS Victorious – one of four Vanguard-class nuclear-powered ballistic misisle (SSBN) submarines – has arrived at Babcock’s Devonport facility in Plymouth, UK, where the vessel will undergo a major refit.

The importance of HMS Victorious

Along with her three sister vessels – Vanguard, Vigilant and Vengeance –  Victorious’s role is to carry Trident – the UK’s strategic nuclear deterrent. She performs her duties silent and unheeded, patrolling the world’s oceans at depths greater than 250 metres beneath the surface and at a top speed of 35 knots, according to the Royal Navy.

Victorious and the rest of the Vanguard fleet are key components in the UK military’s longest operation – Operation Relentless. Since 1969, at least one SSBN is maintaining the continuous at sea deterrent posture at all times, deterring the most extreme threats to the UK.

The UK Royal Navy will replace the Vanguard fleet with the Dreadnought-class submarines from the early 2030s, when the current refit expires its optimal performance.

Victorious’ arrival is in tandem with significant investment in the naval base’s facilities. As well as supporting the maintenance of existing and future classes of submarine, the new facilities will enhance Devonport dockyard’s ability to deliver major defence projects.

This facility development marks a significant capacity for naval development. Refitting a submarine such as Victorious, a critical naval asset to the UK’s nuclear deterrent, represents Babcock’s future ambitions.

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Paul Watson, managing director of Babcock’s Devonport facility, noted: “As part of the UK’s critical continuous at sea deterrent, HMS Victorious represents one of the most complicated pieces of engineering there is.”

UK’s submarine market over the next decade

The global submarine market is valued at $30bn in 2023 and GlobalData expects this to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 4.3%, reaching a value of $45.6bn by 2033. The cumulative market for global submarines is anticipated to be valued at $422.4bn over the forecast period. 

The rising geopolitical tensions in the Indo-Pacific have led to a surge in military activities among the countries in the region. Mobilising the Vanguard fleet will be a critical factor for the UK to fulfil its Indo-Pacific tilt, as specified in its 2021 integrated Review and reinforced more strongly in its March Refresh. The UK, a key member of Nato, has signed a multibillion-dollar contract with BAE Systems for the delivery of its four Dreadnought-class SSBNs. This puts Babcock’s Devonport facility enhancement in a new light, as the two British companies compete over the next dacde.