Government announces funds for future nuclear-armed subs

The government will today announce £350m of funding for the next design stage of the future generation of UK nuclear-armed submarines.

The contract to continue developing a replacement for the Vanguard-class submarines that currently carry the Trident nuclear missiles will sustain around 1,200 jobs in the UK, mostly with lead partner BAE Systems.

The £315m funding for BAE and the £38m for Babcock follows an initial award of £350m worth of work announced earlier this year to design the submarines for the Successor programme, which are due to replace the Vanguard vessels from 2028, assuming parliament approves their construction.

BAE has more than 1,000 employees working on the replacement programme, mostly developing the new submarine’s complex design, and earlier this year announced plans to add a further 280 positions to the programme.

John Hudson, managing director of BAE Systems Maritime — Submarines, said in a statement: ‘The design of a nuclear-powered submarine is one of the most complex and technically demanding engineering programmes undertaken by the maritime industry.

‘The design phase is gathering momentum, and behind the scenes we are working hard to maintain this by ensuring we have the correct skills and resources in place. While more than 1,000 people are involved in the programme, we continue to recruit many more professional design engineers.’

The company said there was still a requirement for mechanical, electrical power, propulsion, quality and safety engineers, as well as naval architects.  

The Ministry of Defence announced approval for the design phase of the Successor programme, costing £3bn, in May 2011.

But the final decision on whether to build the submarines won’t be made by parliament until 2016, and the issue splits the current coalition government, with Conservatives in favour of a like-for-like replacement and the Liberal Democrats leading a study considering cheaper options.

The Scottish independence referendum planned for 2014 could also upset the programme as Scottish first minister Alex Salmond has said an independent Scotland under his leadership would not host nuclear weapons, as it currently does at the Faslane base on the Clyde Estuary.

Commenting on the debate over Scottish independence, defence secretary Philip Hammond said in a statement: ‘We are confident that the Scottish people will choose to remain part of the UK.

‘The Faslane complex is the largest employment site in Scotland, with more than 6,500 jobs underpinning the local economy. We have no plans to move the nuclear deterrent from the Clyde.

‘On the contrary, we intend to move the Astute- and Trafalgar-class attack submarines to Faslane, creating a further 1,500 jobs. The Scottish government needs to explain how its policy would benefit Scotland’s economy and safeguard Scottish jobs.’

All Royal Navy submarines will be based at Faslane by 2017, including the Astute- and Trafalgar-class attack submarines, which — along with the Sandown-class mine countermeasure vessels — will increase the workforce at the site to more than 8,000 by 2022.