The work of the ballistic missile deterrent patrols is the most silent aspect of the Silent Service.
More than 300 deterrent patrols have been conducted by Royal Navy submarines since HMS Resolution headed out on the inaugural one in June 1968.
There is always a British ballistic missile boat on duty, 365 days a year, somewhere beneath the oceans.
It is a burden borne first by the R-boats carrying Polaris nuclear missiles and, since the 1990s, by the current breed of V-boats, known affectionally in the Service as ‘bombers'.
To recognise the dedication of the men carrying out these patrols – officially the Continuous At Sea Deterrence – the Navy Board has acceded to the wishes of the bomber community and agreed to award a pin.
The highly-classified nature of these patrols means the men who carry them out are cut off from the outside world; they cannot tell loved ones where they are going – or where they have been – and there's no way they can send outgoing communications to loved ones. In addition, there are the traditional hardships of submarine life – six hours on, six hours off for weeks on end in austere conditions.
The Royal Navy Deterrent Patrol Pin – a 2½in badge which features HMS Resolution with a Polaris missile and electron rings superimposed and a scroll inscribed with the motto ‘always ready' – will be issued to serving personnel from this October.
Deeps who've completed between one and 19 patrols – only those of 30 days' duration or more will be counted – will receive a silver pin, while veteran submarines who've taken part in 20 or more patrols will receive an identical pin badge, but in gold.
Although the pin will not be issued to bomber veterans who are no longer serving, it's anticipated that – like submariners' trademark dolphins – demand will provoke naval tailors and memorabilia to produce their own badges.
The Patrol Pin is a two level award, silver and gold. On completion of the initial qualifying patrol, the silver Patrol Pin is to be worn. The silver Patrol Pin recognises that an individual has undertaken between 1 and 19 deterrent patrols. On completion of a 20 th patrol an individual will be eligible to be awarded and wear the gold Patrol Pin. Only patrols in excess of 30 days are to be counted as eligible patrols.
Although the Royal Navy Deterrent Patrol Pin will not be issued on a gratuitous basis to personnel who are no longer serving in the Royal Navy, it is anticipated that, like the “Dolphins”, demand from the ex-service community will encourage a non-service provision from Naval Tailors or Memorabilia suppliers. Although the Royal Navy will not be able to authenticate eligibility to wear either silver of gold Patrol Pins, it is expected that the ex-service community will self regulate and authenticate their own eligibility to wear the Patrol Pin and which variant. It is likely that “accounting errors” may provoke discussion at reunions! Details of commercial sources of supply will be passed to the Submarine Association when known.
ROYAL NAVY DETERRENT PATROL PIN
This award recognises the professionalism, dedication and commitment displayed by submarine crews who have deployed upon United Kingdom Ballistic Missile Submarine (SSBN) patrols, maintaining Continuous At Sea Deterrence, for periods exceeding 30 days.
The assured invulnerability, survivability and delivery capabilities of an operational SSBN enable the UK to maintain a minimum deterrent that can endure through peace, crisis and war. To safeguard these tenets, the deterrent force must be operated in a manner that minimises the risk of counter-detection and attack while ensuring maximum availability of systems in support of the mission aim. Every crew member has a role in sustaining this extremely covert and alert posture over a prolonged period, invariably in excess of two months. Many will be watch-keeping 6 hours on watch followed by 6 hours off repeatedly, on the key sensors and specialist recording equipments required to achieve the mission's objectives, while collecting the necessary data to assess the success of the patrol. Others will be operating machinery and equipment in a manner that preserves the near silent noise signature of the dived submarine platform. Minimising any form of noise or other discharges from the submarine is vital to it remaining safe and undetected, so normal domestic activities can be suspended and signature discipline is paramount. Some will be operating and maintaining a nuclear weapon system within stringent safety and security regulations while sustaining availability that is measured in seconds throughout the patrol. Such a mission cannot be conducted safely and successfully unless every member of the crew plays his part and as such great responsibility is divested in even the most junior crew members. Attention to detail, thorough preparation and precise execution of procedures as well as technical innovation in maintaining and repairing equipments are key components in ensuring mission success. This is a rigorous and arduous activity that requires the fullest concentration for long periods, as well as the ability to react robustly and effectively to events at any moment. The absolute requirement to remain undetected by all forces, even allied or other UK units, combined with slow speeds and depth restrictions in the endeavour to maintain constant communication reception, place additional challenging restrictions on the crew. Operating in an area that includes major shipping lanes, extensive fishing grounds and scientific research areas, as well as other surface and submarine naval units, a missed detection of any threat could compromise this primary objective.
While the individual details of these prolonged and demanding missions must remain classified, each patrol confirms the abilities and resilience of a deterrent force vital to the defence of this nation and our close allies. Such patrols are conducted in complete isolation and usually at long distances from home, without the benefit of any form of external support. The crews are not permitted to tell their families where they are going or where they have been, and deployment and return dates cannot be disclosed. Radio silence means that for the duration of the patrol there is no outgoing communication with the outside world, including families. This discipline means that in addition to separation from their families, those on a deterrent patrol also have to tolerate extreme isolation from their loved ones. This award instead provides recognition of their great endeavours, professional skill, personal sacrifice and exceptional service in the maintenance of CASD.
MEN who bear the nation's greatest burden will finally be recognised for their unique service.