3 October 2016
LONDON — Construction work is set to get underway soon on Britain’s £31 billion (US $40 billion) program to build a fleet of new nuclear missile submarines for the Royal Navy, the UK government has announced.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon is due to visit the BAE Systems shipyard at Barrow-in-Furness, northern England, on Oct. 5 to signal the start of the construction phase of the program with the largely symbolic exercise of cutting the first steel on the first of four nuclear submarines set to be built over the next two decades to replace the existing Vanguard-class boats
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced a nearly £1.3 billion investment over the weekend covering initial manufacture, long-lead item procurement, improving the infrastructure at the BAE yard and work on further design maturity.
The go-ahead follows July’s parliamentary approval for the four-boat program designed to give the Royal Navy a continuous, at-sea deterrence capability.
“Britain’s ballistic missile submarines are the ultimate guarantee of our nation’s safety — we use them every day to deter the most extreme threats. We cannot know what new dangers we might face in the 2030s, 2040s and 2050s, so we are acting now to replace them,” Fallon said.
The deal with BAE takes the Successor program into what is known as "delivery phase 1," with manufacturing work getting underway on structural steel work for the auxiliary machine space, which contains switchboards and control panels for the first submarine's reactor.
The Successor boats are being built in a similar module process to that being used in the BAE yard's construction of seven Astute-class nuclear hunter-killer submarines. The first of class became fully operational in 2014.
Like the new Type 26 anti-submarine warfare frigate program, the MoD contracting for the Successor boats is in phases rather than awarding a single development and manufacturing deal.
No date has been given for completion of the first submarine, and so far all the government has said officially about timings is the statement in last year’s Strategic Defence and Security Review that the first boat will enter service in the early 2030s.
The build program, however, is expected to take about 10 years between the first cut of metal and the submarine leaving the yard for sea trials, said a BAE spokesman.
The review said the program would cost £31 billion but that the MoD was also putting aside £10 billion as a contingency.
The latest contract signed with BAE brings total government investment in the Successor program to more than £5 billion.
Most of the money has gone to BAE, but nuclear propulsion-builder Rolls-Royce and nuclear submarine support company Babcock have also been awarded sizable elements of work.
The British are also investing alongside the US Department of Defense in developing a common missile compartment for the Trident D5 nuclear weapon to be used in Successor and the US Navy’s Ohio replacement program.
Tony Johns, managing director of BAE’s submarine-building operations, said: “We have been designing the new class of submarine for more than five years and thanks to the maturity of our design, we're now in a position to start production on the date we set back in 2011. This is a terrific achievement.”