Royal Navy celebrating 50 years of nuclear deterrence missions

The Royal Navy announced it would be staging a number of events to mark the 50th anniversary of nuclear deterrent patrols performed by Royal Navy submarines.

Patrols carried out as part of operation Resolute are the longest operation ever carried out by the UK armed forces.

Since April 1969 there has always been one submarine from Clyde Naval Base carrying out Operation Relentless.

To mark that commitment – and success – high-profile public events, including services of thanksgiving in London and Edinburgh, a parade through the home of the deterrent force on the Clyde and a new commemorative award for crew are all lined up.

“For half a century our nuclear submarines have patrolled waters around the world, deterring threats and providing the ultimate guarantee of our security,” said UK defense secretary Gavin Williamson.

“Operation Relentless is truly a national endeavor, from the families and friends who have supported our submariners for the past 50 years, to the thousands of British workers who continue to ensure our boats are among the best in the world.

“As we to look to the future, it is important we acknowledge the incredible commitment thousands of men and women have made in the past and continue to make, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Britain’s senior sailor First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Jones launched the year of commemoration by presenting new ‘badges of honor’ to veterans of patrols on a visit to HMS Vengeance – one of the four Vanguard-class submarines needed to provide the continuous at-sea deterrence.

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.

On patrol, the crew of over 160 are cut off from the rest of the world except for short messages of 120 words which can be sent by families each week that their loved ones are away – with no opportunity for submariners to communicate back.

“Delivery of our nation’s strategic nuclear deterrent is the first duty of the Royal Navy – and Defense as a whole; the importance of this operation and the incredible feat of engineering and logistics that underpins this enormously complex capability, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, cannot be underestimated,” Admiral Jones said.

“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 recognise 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 endeavour.


The first submarine to carry the nuclear deterrent was HMS Resolution which left Clyde on her maiden patrol in June 1968.

Continuous patrols began in April 1969 as the remaining R-boats – Repulse, Renown and Revenge – entered service, each armed with Polaris nuclear missiles.

The four conducted 229 deterrence patrols until they were retired in the 1990s as the much larger V-boats – HMS Vanguard, Victorious, Vigilant and Vengeance – replaced them.

As they approach the end of their lives, work has begun on the third generation of deterrent submarines, the Dreadnought class which will also equipped with Trident missiles. Built by BAE Systems at its facility in Barrow-in-Furness, the new boats will enter service in the early 2030s.