LONDON — The British Royal Navy’s nuclear attack submarine plans have been boosted by a Ministry of Defence announcement that it has awarded contracts for building two Astute-class boats and production of long-lead items for a further two vessels.
A large portion of the cash will go toward completion of the fourth of class, Audacious. The boat is already nearly halfway through its build at the BAE Systems shipyard at Barrow-in-Furness, northern England.
The MoD said the Audacious deal was worth 1.2 billion pounds ($1.9 billion). That figure, though, includes cash spent earlier on designing and building the submarine. BAE said in a statement that some 640 million pounds of the total contract monies had already been spent.
Audacious features a number of design changes compared with the three earlier boats. Most of these relate to its command, navigation and sonar systems.
BAE said the changes mean that for the first time, a Royal Navy submarine will use a shared computer environment for the different systems, common consoles and cabinets, and commercial off-the-shelf hardware and software.
The redesign will make the system cheaper to build and easier to maintain and update, BAE said in a statement. The system has already been back-fitted to Artful, and the aim is to install the new equipment in Astute and Ambush at some point.
A further 1.5 billion pounds has also been committed to the remaining three of the seven Astute-class nuclear attack submarines, the MoD said.
The money will go toward early build work on the fifth boat in the class, Anson, and long-lead items to be ordered for the as-yet unnamed boats six and seven.
The first two boats in the class, Astute and Ambush, are undergoing sea trials, and the third, Artful, is in the closing stages of construction.
Last month, it emerged that the Astute trials had encountered a number of problems related to performance and reliability of equipment on the submarine.
“This funding demonstrated our commitment not only to the Royal Navy capability but also to the submarine industry in Barrow,” said Defence Secretary Philip Hammond.
Earlier this year, the MoD announced 700 million pounds in contracts to BAE and others for early design work on the Successor program to replace the Royal Navy’s Vanguard class of ballistic missile-armed nuclear submarines starting around 2028.