LONDON — The British government has awarded industry 350 million pounds ($553.5 million) in contracts to continue design work on the Royal Navy’s replacement for its current nuclear missile-equipped submarines.
BAE Systems was the main beneficiary of the May 22 contract announcement by the Ministry of Defence. The submarine builder accounted for 328 million pounds of the spending, while Babcock secured a 15 million pound deal on designing parts of the in-service support and nuclear reactor builder Rolls-Royce has been awarded a 4 million pound contract.
The contracts are part of a 3 billion pound design effort the MoD announced 12 months ago.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said the contracts were an “important step” toward renewing the U.K.’s nuclear deterrent.
Britain is in the early stages of designing a new submarine to replace its four Vanguard-class boats. The first of the new Successor program submarines is due to be delivered to the Royal Navy in 2028. The submarine is expected to provide the deterrent capability into the 2060s. A final decision on the design and build program for the Trident missile-equipped submarine is not scheduled to be made until 2016.
No decision has been announced on whether the British will build three or four new submarines.
BAE is currently building the seven-strong Astute class of nuclear attack submarines for the Royal Navy at its yard in Barrow-in-Furness, northeast England.
John Hudson, the managing director for BAE’s submarine building operation, said the new deal was a key step in sustaining and growing jobs and skills through the Astute program and into the Successor effort.
The design contracts awards come as the Conservative-led coalition government continues a review into alternative, less expensive ways of maintaining the nuclear deterrent to appease its junior partners, the Liberal Democrats. A report is expected later this year.
Last week, the MoD announced it was spending 5 billion pounds over five years at the Atomic Weapons Establishment to help keep the existing warhead used on Trident in service, as well as retain the ability to design and build a new warhead. About 40 percent of the spending is on capital projects.