Britain’s Ministry of Defence has awarded an additional 353 million pounds of work to continue design of a new generation of nuclear-armed submarines for the Royal Navy.
BAE Systems gets the lion’s share of the work with a 318-million-pound deal. The remainder of the work goes to Babcock.
The announcement was scheduled to be made Oct 29, just ahead of a visit by Defence Secretary Philip Hammond to Britain’s nuclear submarine base at Faslane in Scotland.
The award of the work comes just days after a parliamentary committee warned Britain could face unilateral nuclear disarmament if an upcoming independence referendum in Scotland — set for 2014 — results in a win for the Scottish Nationalist Party.
The SNP wants nuclear weapons removed from the country as quickly as is safely possible.
The design work is the latest in a string of announcements by the British government ramping up work on the Successor nuclear missile-armed submarine program, which is aimed at replacing the current Vanguard class of boats starting in 2028.
In May, the MoD announced a 350-million-pound deal with BAE, Babcock and Rolls-Royce to undertake design work. BAE is responsible for designing the submarine, Babcock the in-service support and Rolls-Royce a new generation pressurized water reactor for Successor.
June saw further investment announcements with Rolls-Royce securing work worth 1.1 billion pounds to refurbish its nuclear reactor facilities in Derby, England, along with building the last of the reactor cores for the seventh and final Astute class nuclear attack submarine and the first of the Successor reactors.
Last year, the Conservative-led coalition government announced it was putting aside 3 billion pounds for the design phase of the Trident missile-armed Successor submarine.
A decision by the government is expected in 2016 on build goahead. The submarines will be built at BAE’s Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, yard.
The government’s 2015 strategic defense and security review is expected to decide whether the Royal Navy will get to operate four submarines, as it does with the Vanguard class, or slim down to a three-boat fleet.
Britain’s entire nuclear deterrent is based on the Clyde in Scotland. Astute and Trafalgar attack submarines are scheduled to move to Faslane from Plymouth, southern England, by 2017.
The future of Faslane and the nearby Coulport missile warhead storage base as the home of Britain’s nuclear deterrent effort have been called into question by the independence vote in Scotland scheduled for 2014.
A U.K. parliamentary committee report last week warned that Britain could face unilateral disarmament if the Scottish Nationalist Party were to win the independence vote.
The SNP policy is to remove the Trident nuclear deterrent as quickly as possible should it secure independence.
The Scottish Affairs Committee said it could take up to 20 years to provide alternative bases in Britain for the nuclear deterrent. One possible solution would be an agreement to allow the submarines to remain until a suitable alternative in England or Wales was built, said the committee.
Hammond said in a statement that the government had no plans to move the nuclear deterrent from the Clyde, and he was confident the Scots would vote no in the referendum.
“The Scottish government needs to explain how their policy would benefit Scotland’s economy and safeguard Scottish jobs,” said Hammond.
As things stand, the Faslane base will provide more than 8,000 jobs by 2022.
Early opinion polls put the continued union with England, Northern Ireland and Wales as the favorite to win the referendum.