Britain is spending £2.7 billion on new Astute Class nuclear submarines. The money will pay to finish HMS Audacious and fund early work on three sister ships. Billed as the most advanced the Royal Navy has ever had they are designed to lurk undetected and to protect the fleet, seek out enemy subs, launch missiles inland and even land special forces.
A series of setbacks have dogged the first in class HMS Astute, which arrived four years late and a billion pounds over budget before being launched. She is still not operational after five and a half years of sea trials. Now though, things are looking up: Astute is preparing for her first operational deployment and the MOD insists most of the problems are behind her, with the hard learned lessons from her sea trials being incorporated into the designs of her sister subs.
The MOD is spending £1.5 billion of the £2.7 billion pot to fund about half the work on fifth in class HMS Anson and for long lead items to be bought for the planned sixth and seventh subs.
The new contracts should protect skills needed to replace the ageing Trident missile submarines. Successor boats will have to be built in the same yard, which needs orders to stay in the sub building business. And with a political decision about Trident replacement put off until after the next election, keeping the workforce busy buys time.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said: “This contract marks an important step forward in the progress of our Attack Submarine programme and moves the Royal Navy closer to adding more of these highly advanced and powerful attack submarines to its fleet.
“Our ability to commit an additional £1.5 billion for boats five, six and seven underlines the benefits of a balanced budget and fully funded equipment programme that gives our Armed Forces greater certainty. This funding demonstrates our commitment not only to a key Royal Navy capability, but also to the submarine industry in Barrow which will play a vital role in Britain's defence for decades to come.”
Rear Admiral Simon Lister, MoD’s Director of Submarines, said: “The Astute Class will become the jewel in the crown of the Royal Navy’s Submarine Service and boasts much greater firepower and more advanced sonar and communications than ever before.
“These submarines represent a huge leap forward in technology and will operate all over the world with the Royal Navy. These boats provide the optimum capability a submarine can offer in land strike, strategic intelligence gathering, anti-submarine and surface ship warfare, and protection of the strategic deterrent.”
Featuring the latest nuclear-powered technology, the Astute Class never need to be refuelled and can circumnavigate the world submerged, manufacturing the crew's oxygen from seawater as they go.
The 7,400 tonne Astute Class is quieter than older submarines, and can operate covertly and remain undetected despite being fifty per cent bigger than the Royal Navy’s current Trafalgar Class submarines. (ends)