HMS Sovereign

  • PDF
  • Print
  • E-mail

Article Highlights

Royal Navy Submarines in the Cold War

The role of the Royal Navy initially declined after the close of World War Two, due to the growing power of the United States and also the decline of the British Empire. However, the threat posed by Soviet submarines during the Cold War created a new purpose for the Royal Navy Submarine Service. It was no longer affordable for the Navy to maintain a large surface fleet, so submarines became the main means of intercepting and, potentially, destroying the Soviet fleet.

Nuclear power led to the creation of the true submarine. Boats were now able to stay underwater permanently, limited only by the endurance of the crew. Submarines also became the most important means of military defence for the United Kingdom as they were responsible for carrying the British nuclear deterrent, Polaris ballistic missiles, throughout the Cold War. Trident missiles then replaced these during the 1990s.

The most important operations carried out by Royal Navy ballistic submarines (SSBNs) from the 1960s onwards were nuclear deterrent patrols. The patrols had to remain undetected for weeks on end, ready to fire their missiles at a moment's notice. Hunter/killer attack submarines (SSNs) also played an important surveillance role during the Cold War, tracking the Soviet submarine fleet.


Related External Links