The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory won a $133.5 million modification
to provide research into the applications of technologies to meet guidance requirements for operations on the Common Missile Compartment for the US Columbia Class program and the United Kingdom Dreadnought Class
program; provide specialized technical knowledge and support for the hypersonic guidance, navigation and control application; and provide technical and engineering services to support the guidance, navigation and control system that will support the Navy’s hypersonic flight experiments. The Columbia Class is an upcoming class of nuclear submarines. The Columbia SSBN program consists of a minimum of 12 submarines to meet the requirements for U.S. strategic deterrent force structure as set forth in the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review. The Columbia Class program completed Acquisition Milestone B on January 4, 2017 and is in the Engineering and Manufacturing Development Phase. The British Navy has also planned to acquire Columbia-class submarine under the name of Dreadnought-class SSBN. This submarine will be armed with eight D-5 SLBMs, or half the number to be carried by the Columbia class. The modular design of the CMC (Common Missile Compartment) will accommodate this difference. The UK provided some of the funding for the design of the CMC, including a large portion of the initial funding. Work will take place in Massachusetts and California. Estimated completion date is September 30, 2021.
“We are committed to working towards a safer world in which there is no requirement for nuclear weapons… However, the continuing risk from the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and the certainty that a number of other countries will retain substantial nuclear arsenals, mean that our minimum nuclear deterrent capability, currently represented by Trident, is likely to remain a necessary element of our security.” — UK SDSR, 1998
Britain has a big decision to make: do they remain a nuclear weapons power, or not? In an age of collapsing public finances and an uncertain long-term economic future, the money needed to design new nuclear missile submarines is a huge cost commitment that could crowd out other needs. Then again, in an age of collapsing non-proliferation frameworks, clear hostility from ideologies that want nuclear weapons, and allies who are less capable and dependable, the downside of renouncing nuclear weapons is a huge risk commitment. Pick one, or the other. There is no free lunch.
This article covers that momentous decision for Britain, and the contracts and debates associated with it.