Ben Gaze, Daily Record
13 August 2015
A £10BILLION project for a new fleet of Royal Navy submarines faces “substantial risks and challenges”, Whitehall watchdogs have warned.
Seven nuclear-powered Astute-class boats will spearhead Britain’s underwater protection in the coming decades, under a huge scheme to replace ageing Trafalgar-class subs.
But the state-of-the-art hunter-killer Astutes – which will be based at Faslane on the Clyde – have been hit by a string of delays and cost overruns since the first boat was ordered.
The mammoth project was expected to cost another £87.5million more than planned last year – up from £558.1million to £645.6million.
Just two of the 7400-ton 34mph subs have so far been commissioned into the Navy, with a third undergoing sea trials.
The first of the 318ft vessels delivered to the Navy – HMS Astute – ran aground during sea trials off the Isle of Skye in 2010. It was damaged when a towing boat slammed into it during a rescue effort.
And the latest Major Projects Authority report revealed that while the ambitious project remains on time against a revised schedule, major challenges remain.
The MPA rang alarm bells as part of their annual audit of big-spending Government schemes. They issued an “amber/red” alert for the deal, meaning “successful delivery of the project is in doubt, with major risks or issues apparent in a number of key areas”.
The authority warned: “The project remains a very technically demanding endeavour and the schedule to deliver the remaining five boats is challenging.
“Whilst the Ministry of Defence, shipbuilder and supply chain have all learned much from the construction of the first two boats, challenges remain, and a number of performance improvement projects, recommended by the MPA, have been established to address the main technical, logistical and management risks and issues.”
Other flaws in the subs reportedly included flooding during a routine dive that led to one being forced to perform an emergency surfacing, corrosion, the replacement or moving
of computer circuit boards because they did not meet safety standards and fears over the instruments monitoring the nuclear reactor, as the wrong type of lead was used.
The contract for the boats was given to BAE Systems and the subs are being built at Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria. The latest cost overrun was blamed on the third boat, Artful, “remaining in
Barrow longer than originally scheduled”, according to the report.
Other factors include: “Early investment in activities to reduce risks in boats four to seven including batch buying of materials, outsourcing a greater quantity of production work, and increasing the volume of work above that originally planned; and investment in improving supply chain capabilities”.
An MoD spokesman said: “Submarine build programmes are extremely complex and significant steps have been taken to address the issues raised by the MPA.
“The Astute programme is progressing to deliver world-class submarines with the third, of seven, planned to enter service with the Royal Navy towards the end of the
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