The crew of HMS Vigilant received a trophy for being the Navy’s No.1 ballistic missile submarine – as proven by a successful test firing last autumn. The Faslane-based boat was awarded the SSBN Efficiency Trophy at a ceremony in her home port.
The first test firing of the Royal Navy’s ultimate weapon in three years – and the months of extremely demanding work which led up to the launch off the coast of Florida last October – have earned the crew of HMS Vigilant a trophy.
The launch of the unarmed Trident ballistic missile was the climax of a good six months to prepare the Faslane-based submarine for front-line duties after a major revamp in Devonport.
Vigilant – the third of the Royal Navy’s four Vanguard-class nuclear deterrence submarines – was out of action for 40 months as she underwent a Long Overhaul Period (Refuel), a £300m revamp which took a team of 2,000 experts 2.3 million man hours to complete.
With that work done in March 2012, the crew worked tirelessly to turn Vigilant into a premier fighting machine once more – including the ultimate test, firing one test variant of the Trident II D5 missile, as each V-boat does once per commission.
That successfully occurred on a range off Florida, an event widely reported in the national media, and now recognised with the SSBN Efficiency Trophy as the best boat in the Submarine Service’s ‘bomber’ fleet.
The Captain of the Faslane Flotilla, Capt Ian McGhie, presented the rather fine trophy to the ship’s company at ceremonial divisions on a rather fine spring day in Vigilant’s home base.
Cdr Mark Lister, Vigilant’s Commanding Officer, said he had been blessed with “an extremely hard-working and dedicated team”.
“Vigilant has completed each milestone to date with exceptional enthusiasm – and to a consistently high standard.
“I am honoured to think that this has been recognised outside the submarine.”
WO ‘Jack’ Hawkins, Vigilant’s coxswain said the trophy was, “true recognition of the hard work and endeavour by all of team Vigilant”.
Before heading to the Eastern Seaboard for the four weeks of what is known as DASO – Demonstration and Shakedown Period – which culminated in the test launch, the 130 crew went through thorough trials, tests and training, including rigorous safety and damage control assessments by the staff of the Flag Officer Sea Training organisation.
The Trident was fired on October 23 from the range off Cape Canaveral and the boat’s operations officer, Lt Dean Ingram, said every man aboard should be “justifiably proud” of the moment.
It’s the tenth time one of the test missiles has been fired by a Royal Navy submarine, going back to 20 years to the first launch from HMS Vanguard.
Of the quartet of V-boats, the youngest HMS Vengeance is going through her mid-life revamp presently.
The remaining trio of Vanguard, Victorious and Vigilant take it in turns to carry out deterrence patrols of roughly three months duration – a mission the Royal Navy has carried out consistently since the late 1960s.
Press Release, June 5, 2013; Image: Royal Navy