Submarines planned in the UK's Successor program (concept shown here) will replace the Vanguard-class vessels. (BAE Concept)
LONDON — The British government is to spend over £300 million (US $498.5 million) improving the facilities at BAE Systems’ Barrow-in-Furness shipyard ahead of the construction of a new generation of ballistic missile submarines for the Royal Navy.
Assembly, fabrication and logistics facilities are to be built or revamped to handle up to four successor submarines to the Trident missile-carrying Vanguard-class boats due to be replaced toward the end of the next decade.
The infrastructure spending is being provided by the government as part of preparations for building the nuclear deterrent submarines in a program known as Successor.
“The Successor program, to replace the Vanguard-class submarines, remains subject to final approval in 2016, but it is vital we begin these improvements now in order to achieve the government’s target of having the first submarines in service by 2028,” said Tony Johns, managing director of BAE Systems Maritime-Submarines.
Press material released today by BAE said more than £300 million was being invested by the company while the MoD release said it was being part funded by the government.
However, an MoD spokeswoman confirmed that the government would be providing virtually all of the cash.
The eight-year construction program was announced during a visit to the northwest England submarine yard by Defence Secretary Philip Hammond and his Australian counterpart, David Johnston.
The infrastructure upgrade at Britain’s only nuclear submarine building yard came just weeks after BAE revealed it hoped to spend up to £200 million consolidating and improving its surface warship building facilities on the Clyde in Scotland.
Johnston also visited the Clyde yards where they are preparing to build the Type 26 frigates for the Royal Navy later in the decade. Britain and Australia have previously discussed possible collaboration in the program.
In an interview with Australia’s ABC Radio March 14, Hammond said discussions were underway this week on future collaboration “around our respective submarine and frigate programs where there is much that we can learn from each other and much efficiency that we can derive from co-operation together.”
ABC said Johnston’s interest in the submarine yard was likely more about the way BAE builds Royal Navy boats than any suggestion Australia would reverse its position against nuclear to power a new fleet of submarines.
The facilities investment capped a busy week for announcements on the naval front in Britain.
BAE revealed that steel had been cut on the seventh and last Astute-class submarine being built for the Royal Navy and announced a £23 million deal with the MoD to provide support to in-service submarines.
Earlier in the week, the government announced it was spending £20 million to start building long-lead items for the three offshore patrol vessels being built by BAE for the Royal Navy.