Barrow to benefit from Aukus submarines collaboration

The Barrow-in-Furness shipyard, owned by defence giant BAE Systems, will play a key part in the building of nuclear-powered submarines as part of the Aukus deal sealed yesterday (March 13) in San Diego, USA.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, US President Joe Biden, and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, signed off on the collaboration which will see the new SSN-Aukus submarines in operation with the Royal Navy by the late 2030s, also giving Australia its first nuclear-powered capability.

The UK’s submarines will mainly be built by BAE Systems at its Barrow-in-Furness shipyard, and also Rolls-Royce in Derby. They will replace the Royal Navy’s Astute-class boats when they enter into operation.

The trinational collaboration will create thousands of jobs.

Charles Woodburn, BAE Systems chief executive, said: “The Aukus agreement will further enhance and deepen the relationship between the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia.

“The selection of the UK’s next generation submarine design is a significant development in that partnership and is a testament to the skills, commitment and ingenuity of everyone involved in both our Submarines business and the wider UK submarine enterprise.

“We employ more than 10,000 people in our Barrow-in-Furness shipyard delivering the Astute and Dreadnought submarine programmes for the UK’s Royal Navy and we’re extremely proud to be selected as a major partner in this historic endeavour which will ultimately enable Australia to acquire its own sovereign nuclear powered submarine fleet.

“As a key player in the Australian maritime enterprise, we also look forward to working with the Australian government to explore how we could potentially provide additional support to this important tri-national programme through our business in Australia.”

BAE Systems has delivered five Astute class submarines to the UK Royal Navy, with the final two boats at advanced stages of construction at its shipyard in Barrow-in-Furness.

The first three of four Dreadnought submarines are also under construction at the site and the company’s engineers are undertaking early design work on the replacement for the Astute class under an £85m contract announced in September 2021.

More than £1bn has been invested to develop and expand infrastructure at Barrow over recent years, including £25m in a state of the art training academy.

Since 2020, BAE Systems has recruited more than 1,300 apprentices and graduates into its UK Submarines business, with plans to recruit a further 1,000 early careers trainees this year as it continues to invest in skills to support the delivery of the UK’s submarines programmes.

The GMB Union has welcomed news that vital manufacturing and design elements of the new Aukus defence pact will be undertaken in the UK, by highly skilled and unionised workers.

It is calling on the UK Government to fully grasp the opportunities presented by the trilateral security pact, including ensuing investment in the people, skills and infrastructure that will make this agreement a reality. Matt Roberts, GMB national officer, said: “GMB is unashamedly pro-defence and have been urging the UK Government to make the strong case for UK defence manufacturing and shipbuilding in the Aukus negotiations.

“In Barrow-in-Furness and in Derby, GMB Union members are at the cutting edge of defence design and manufacturing. As their union we welcome the news of a central role for UK defence manufacturing in this agreement, working closely with our Australian allies.

“It is crucial that UK skills utilisation is maximised in the coming years. GMB is calling on the Government to invest in the infrastructure and people that will deliver this agreement.”