50 years of unbroken patrols
In 1962, with the “Skybolt crisis,” which arrived when the promised GAM-87 Skybolt cruise missile tanked, leaving British Vulcan bombers hamstrung, the Royal Navy announced they would add a ballistic missile program to HMs Submarines and moved to produce five Resolution-class SSBNs, a 8,400-ton vessels each armed with 16 U.S.-made UGM-27 Polaris A-3 ballistic missiles, each able to deliver three British-made 200 k ET.317 warheads in the general area of a single metropolitan-sized target. This enabled a single British Polaris boomer (they actually call them bombers) on patrol to plaster the 16 most strategic targets in the CCCP.
With all of the moving parts and ominous tasking, the Resolutions, a modified Valiant-class design, were given traditional battleship/battlecruiser names (Resolution, Repulse, Renown, Revenge, and Ramillies) although just four were ultimately completed.
On 15 February 1968, HMS Resolution fired the first British Polaris on a test range off Florida and on 15 June began her first deterrent patrol.
By the next April, with Repulse and Renown accepted and ready for action, the Brits had enough bombers to keep a boat at sea at all times.
Now, fast forward 50 years and the British are celebrating an unbroken chain of deterrent patrols, of which they have completed nearly 400, having long ago switched to Trident-based SSBNs.
“The Continuous At-Sea Deterrence is the longest sustained military operation ever undertaken by the UK and this 50th anniversary year presents a valuable opportunity to recognize and thank those from the Naval Service and their families, the wider Ministry of Defence and our many industrial partners who have contributed to this vital national endeavor,” said First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Jones in an RN presser this week.
To celebrate the feat, the RN will issue special patrol pins to bomber submariners this year.
As noted by the service, “Up to now, submariners who complete a single patrol have been awarded a pewter pin and those achieving 20 or more patrols presented with a gold deterrent pin. The new silver award bridges the gap between the two, being awarded after ten patrols.”