Government announces £1.6bn submarine contract in Cumbria

HMS Astute

Defence secretary Gavin Williamson is set to make an announcement on spending that will safeguard thousands of jobs in Cumbria.

The minister will announce £2.5bn worth of spending on submarines during a visit to BAE Systems in Cumbria.

The spending includes a £1.6bn contract to build the seventh and last Astute submarine in Barrow-in-Furness. There had been fears that the submarine would be axed as a result of a freeze on spending.

Work on the submarine, named Agincourt, has already been agreed in principle but will now go ahead. The work is due to be completed by 2025.

Mr Williamson will also confirm a further £960m worth of contracts linked to the construction of four Dreadnought submarines which will replace the current Vanguards.

The Dreadnoughts, work on the first of which began in October 2016, are not due to enter service until the 2030s, and are predicted to remain operational at least through to the 2060s.

The Dreadnoughts will carry the Trident missile and the nuclear deterrent has been ringfenced in the face of a freeze on Government spending.

Mr Williamson said: “This multibillion-pound investment in our nuclear submarines shows our unwavering commitment to keeping the UK safe and secure from intensifying threats.

“Agincourt will complete the Royal Navy’s seven-strong fleet of hunter-killer attack subs, the most powerful to ever enter British service, whilst our nuclear deterrent is the ultimate defence against the most extreme dangers we could possibly face.

“Not only is this a massive boost for our armed forces, but it’s huge for Barrow, the heart of sub-building in this country. Today’s news supports 8,000 BAE Systems’ submarine jobs, as well as thousands more in the supply chain, protecting prosperity and providing opportunity right across the country.”

Cliff Robson, BAE Systems submarines managing director, added: “Securing this latest funding for our submarines programmes is excellent news for BAE Systems and the 8,700 employees in our submarines business, as well as our local community in Barrow and the thousands of people across our UK supply chain who help deliver these nationally important programmes for the Royal Navy.

“We continue to make progress on these highly complex and technical programmes and today’s announcements will allow us to move forward with greater certainty and stability.”

The first three submarines in the Astute class – HMS Astute, HMS Ambush and HMS Artful – are already in service with the Royal Navy.

Earlier funding allowed work to start on the seventh submarine in 2014, while the fourth, fifth and sixth submarines are also under various stages of construction in Barrow having been previously awarded full contracts.

At 97m long and displacing more than 7,400 tonnes, they are the largest and most powerful nuclear-powered attack submarines ever built for the Royal Navy.

Dreadnought is the programme to replace the four Vanguard class submarines, which carry the UK’s independent nuclear deterrent.

Once built, they will measure 153.6m long, with a displacement of 17,200 tonnes.

They are being delivered by the newly-formed Dreadnought Alliance, a joint management team established between the MoD, BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce.

The delivery of the Astute and Dreadnought programmes is a national endeavour with a supply base spanning the length and breadth of the UK.

In 2017 alone, BAE Systems spent around £700m with more than 700 suppliers.

To support the build of Dreadnought, the Barrow site is undergoing major redevelopment that will provide a range of new and upgraded capabilities, including an extension to the Devonshire Dock Hall, a 28,000 sq m off-site logistics facility and an 8,000 sq m central training facility as well as the recently completed central yard facility.

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