No These Aren't Starships In Space Dock, They Are Nuclear Submarines Under Construction

Nuclear submarines have many parallels to fictional starships, but in this case, these super high-tech vessels are made to dive down, not fly up.

BAE Systems

The image above looks like it could be ripped from a space action science-fiction thriller, the classic shot of hulking and futuristic starships under construction in orbit, but its origin is far more down to earth than that. It was taken at BAE Systems' Devonshire Dock Hall located in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, England. The massive enclosure is the largest of its kind in Europe and it is where modern Royal Navy submarines are born. 

The 270,000 square foot installation was built in the mid-1980s for Vickers Shipbuilding. Shortly after opening in 1986, it garnered the nickname "Maggie's Farm" as Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was a staunch supporter of making the upgrade from the Polaris submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) system to the Trident SLBM system and building the submarines that were required to accommodate it. These were the Royal Navy's Vanguard class nuclear ballistic submarines, all four of which were constructed at Devonshire Dock Hall. The Trident-Vanguard class pairing continues to exist as the U.K.'s sole nuclear deterrent to this day. 

SteveMi/Wikicommons

Profile view of BAE Systems Devonshire Dock Hall. It is a gigantic and strategic facility for the United Kingdom's Ministry of Defense and the industry it depends on.

Since 2001, the facility has supported the Astute class nuclear fast attack submarine program. Many would argue that the Astutes are the most advanced fast attack submarines ever constructed and their striking and futuristic physical appearance can look more spaceship than submarine. 

BAE Systems

The banner image shows three of the planned seven Astute class submarines under construction in Devonshire Dock Hall. Here are some other images of their construction in the cavernous facility: 

BAE Systems
BAE Systems
Andrew Linnett/MOD
BAE Systems
BAE Systems
BAE Systems
BAE Systems

As Astute class production winds down in the first half of the next decade, BAE's big submarine construction facility will undergo an upgrade at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, which includes an enlargement that will allow it to build the giant Dreadnought class. These huge nuclear ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) will replace the Vanguard class and assure the Royal Navy's nuclear deterrence mission well into the second half of the century. 

BAE Systems

Nuclear submarines are often compared to fighting starships as they are sort of the closest thing we have in reality to such a thing. Of course, their domain is the innermost space on our planet, not outer space, but the general idea is similar. In fact, this is a reason why space adventures often steal plots from famous submarines films. 

Regardless, the future is very much alive at Devonshire Dock Hall, even if they aren't building space frigates just yet. 

Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com