Navy Britain's Dreadnought-class missile submarines will use fly-by-wire


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By David Szondy
March 30, 2021
Artist's concept of HMS Dreadnought

Artist's concept of HMS Dreadnought
BAE Systems

When the first of the Royal Navy's Dreadnought-class nuclear missile submarines takes to the sea late in this decade, it will be steered by the same fly-by-wire technology used in aircraft. Called the Active Vehicle Control Management (AVCM) system, it will control all the major facets of the giant boat's maneuvering.

At first, there doesn't seem to be much in common between a Typhoon fighter jet and a 17,200-tonne nuclear-powered submarine stuffed with Trident missiles. Obviously, the two are designed for very different purposes and operate in very different environments that often make them polar opposites. This is why flying submarines remain the inhabitants of bad science fiction.

However, submarines and planes are very similar in one important aspect. Both, in a sense, fly. True, one operates in the air and the other underwater, but the way air and water flow over a vehicle is very similar in a surprising number of ways. In fact, many submarine hull designs are based on the aerodynamics of airships and how a sub's control systems work is very like those of an aircraft.
Therefore, it isn't surprising that BAE Systems engineers thought of taking avionics and adapting them to the Dreadnought-class boats. When fully functional, the AVCM system will use computers to oversee the vessel's heading, pitch, depth, buoyancy, and other aspects while making sure it remains within a safe performance envelope.

Based on the Astute attack submarine, the four Dreadnought-class submarines will replace Britain's aging Vanguard-class Trident submarine when they enter service sometime after 2030. Each will be powered by a Rolls-Royce PWR3 nuclear reactor, which will never need refueling during the submarine's service life into the 2050s. They will carry up to 12 US-built Trident D5 missiles in the US/UK Common Missile Compartment, each armed with multiple British designed and built nuclear warheads on MIRVs (Multiple Independently targetable Re-entry Vehicles).
"With over 50 years of avionics experience, we already have a great understanding of how to develop complex, control systems for hi-tech platforms," says Jon Tucker, Director for Maritime Controls at BAE Systems Controls and Avionics. "However, taking our technology underwater brings exciting new challenges, and we are proud to support the Dreadnought program and play an important part in our national security effort."
Source: BAE Systems


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