£330m 'eyes and ears' ordered for Dreadnought submarines

The underwater ‘eyes and ears’ of the nation’s next-generation nuclear submarines have been ordered in a £330m deal.

Defence firm Thales has been selected to provide all four Dreadnought-class boats – which will carry the UK’s nuclear deterrent submarines through the middle decades of this century – with their sonar and periscope system.

The outlay – part of a £31bn investment by Whitehall in the nation’s ultimate weapon – will see the latest Sonar 2076 suite (which encompasses bow, flank and towed array systems and is used by Trafalgar and Astute-class boats) fitted to HM Submarines Dreadnought, Valiant, Warspite and King George VI.

And an updated version of the digital periscopes – now renamed Combat System Masts – which are used by Astute class of hunter-killer submarines, have been ordered.

The Dreadnoughts will be equipped with second-generation optronic periscopes, combining electronic warfare technology with cameras.

The scopes will be fitted with many of the same features (night vision, the ability to record hi-resolution imagery) but inside a smaller, less obtrusive mast to make it even harder to locate the boat.

The same firm which has been providing the Submarine Service with all its periscopes since 1917 – Barr and Stroud, which is now part of the Thales group – will design and build the mast at its Govan site, assisted by experts in Crawley.

The sonar system will be developed at Thales’ sites in Templecombe, Somerset, and Stockport.

The double contract will create 170 jobs and secure 350 more across the UK.

Work on Dreadnought and Valiant is well under way with the former due to take over from the first Vanguard-class submarine to retire in the early 2030s.

The outlay – part of a £31bn investment by Whitehall in the nation’s ultimate weapon – will see the latest Sonar 2076 suite (which encompasses bow, flank and towed array systems and is used by Trafalgar and Astute-class boats) fitted to HM Submarines Dreadnought, Valiant, Warspite and King George VI.