THE UK Government has been urged to “come clean” on the state of the nuclear infrastructure at Faslane after new images of a submarine returning from patrol showed obvious rust and missing panelling.

The Vanguard-class submarine – one of four which are supposed to patrol the oceans carrying the UK’s nuclear weapon deterrent at all times – was photographed by locals near Helensburgh as it returned from a patrol mission which lasted in excess of six months.

READ MORE: 'It's not out of sight, out of mind': Pressure grows over 'rotting' Faslane claim

Patrols have grown longer and longer in recent years in order to cover for the fact that two of the UK’s four Vanguard-class nuclear submarines are currently in maintenance – and three of them should have already been retired.

The submarines each had a 25-year lifespan, limited by the lifespan of major components, and either commenced sea trials or saw their reactor go critical in 1992, 1994, 1996, and 1999.

The images of the Vanguard-class submarine returning to Faslane last weekend (below) show the anti-sonar anechoic tiling which lines the vehicle’s exterior was missing in parts, with large sections of rust also visible.

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Last year, reports which the Navy have not denied said that one submarine nearly met with disaster due to a broken depth gauge. The problem meant the crew was continuing to descend without knowing that they were approaching “crush depth” – the point at which the pressure on the submarine could cause it to implode.

And last month, it was reported that the test firing of a Trident missile from one of the Vanguard-class subs had failed for the second time in a row.

Martin Docherty-Hughes, the SNP defence spokesperson at Westminster, said: “We in the SNP have a long-held opposition to weapons of mass destruction; in addition we also regard the extended missions of the UK continuous at-sea deterrent a risk not only to members of the Royal Navy but critically to the people of Scotland.

“The well known failures in the nuclear deterrent infrastructure should concern not only those of us opposed to nuclear weapons but anyone who supports them. It’s time for the MoD to come clean on these failures.”

David Cullen, the executive director of the Nuclear Information Service research organisation, said: "This is the second consecutive patrol lasting more than six months, and the latest in a succession of long patrols.

“Even supporters of the UK's nuclear weapons have expressed concerns about the impact on crews from these patrols, which are the result of reliability problems and the increasing maintenance requirements of the Vanguard fleet.

“Alongside the massive cost-rises we are seeing in the nuclear weapon upgrade projects, the MoD is clearly struggling to maintain their nuclear posture."

READ MORE: Fresh plans to get rid of Rosyth nuclear subs left laid up for decades

Earlier this year, concerns were raised about the state of the UK’s nuclear infrastructure by Dominic Cummings, the former chief adviser to former prime minister Boris Johnson.

Cummings said that, in 2022, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had approached him for help with the next General Election campaign, and he had asked for several conditions in return.

One of these, he said, was addressing the “fundamentally critical” issue of “the scandal of nuclear weapons infrastructure which is a dangerous disaster and a budget nightmare of hard-to-believe and highly classified proportions”.

READ MORE: Nuclear submarine maintenance project in limbo amid fears over state of fleet

Lynn Jamieson, the chair of the Scottish CND, said: “The reality is that Britain has never been able to afford the nuclear weapon system the UK Government cling to as an act of irrational faith.

“The long duration of submarine patrols, the increased incidence of accidents and ‘incidents’ and the obvious physical deterioration of vessels all indicate the perilous state of the ‘British’ nuclear weapons system that is hosted in Scotland.”

Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer added: "Repeated serious safety concerns have been raised and the number of alarming incidents continue to rise, but even putting those very important issues to one side, there is simply no moral case for nuclear weapons. They are a grotesque and deadly cold war relic and have no place in Scotland.”

When a Vanguard-class returned to Faslane in 2023, images showed it caked in algae from the extended six-month patrol.

A reported £31 billion is to be spent on four Dreadnought-class nuclear submarines to replace the aging Vanguard class. The first is expected to came into service in the early 2030s.

A Royal Navy spokesperson said: “Our continuous at sea deterrent protects us and our NATO allies every moment of every day.

“We are immensely grateful to the submariners onboard, and their loved ones, for their commitment and dedication.

“While we do not comment on patrol lengths, we take safety very seriously and all submarines go through rigorous safety checks before any patrol.”