A £1.3 billion contract to build the latest Astute Class attack submarine, HMS Anson, has been awarded by the Ministry of Defence.

The Ministry of Defence have stated that savings of £50 million for the taxpayer have been achieved during negotiations with BAE Systems, and the agreed build time is to date the shortest ever for the Astute Class, with a current schedule some nine months ahead of that for Boat 3 (Artful).

Defence Minister Philip Dunne made the announcement as he visited the home of the UK’s submarine manufacturing industry based in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria and viewed progress already made on the new submarine.

The Astute class is the latest class of nuclear-powered attack submarines in service of the Royal Navy. The class sets a new standard for the Royal Navy in terms of weapons load, communication facilities and stealth.

Defence Minister Philip Dunne said:

“This £1.3 billion contract marks an important step in the progress of the Astute programme. This is a key part of our £166 billion plan to ensure that our armed forces have the equipment they need to defend the UK’s interests across the seas, in the skies and on land, both at home and abroad.

This new contract for Anson not only provides significant financial savings of £50 million to the taxpayer but also secures thousands of jobs in Barrow and across the UK supply chain, demonstrating the Government’s commitment to increase defence spending each year for the rest of the decade.”

Director Submarines at the MOD’s Defence Equipment and Support organisation, Rear Admiral Mike Wareham, said:

“The Astute Class provides the Royal Navy with the most technologically advanced submarines, offering much greater firepower, better communications, and more advanced stealth technology than their predecessors.

The first two of class, HMS Astute and HMS Ambush, are already in service and making a vital contribution to the defence of UK’s interest, both at home and overseas. Third of class Artful is undergoing sea trials and is due to be handed over to the Royal Navy by the end of 2015.”

An estimated 5,900 people are employed directly as a result of the project; 3,500 BAE Systems staff at Barrow and 2,400 other people around the UK.


  1. Let’s hope we are going to buy a whole load of Tomahawk’s, so that the ships are actually useful when we are not going against a high tech opponent.

  2. David Hollingworth – After SDSR 2010 a huge degree of pessimism is probably prudent but as a slightly cheery note re getting all 7 Astutes, I believe that there are some orders for long lead time items on the 7th Astute already placed so, if cancelled, there would be penalties and lost money. That effect probably saved the second carrier so hopefully will keep the run of Astutes safe as well although I would really love to see more than 7. Maybe if they’ve started getting the per-boat cost trending down and build times also coming down there might be enough slack in the timing of cutover to Successor build and a bit of underspend sufficient to at least add an eight boat.

    – Julian (being glass-half-full tonight)

  3. Did we only order seven because that was all that was affordable or doesn’t the Govt/MOD feel there is any operational requirement for more?

  4. It would also be incapable of keeping pace with the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers, which will be able to travel at more than 30 knots and need the submarines to protect them. One source told the Guardian the boat had a “V8 engine with a Morris Minor gearbox”.
    Other problems that have affected the boat in recent months include:
    • Flooding during a routine dive that led to Astute performing an emergency surfacing.
    • Corrosion even though the boat is essentially new.
    • The replacement or moving of computer circuit boards because they did not meet safety standards.
    • Concern over the instruments monitoring the nuclear reactor because the wrong type of lead was used.
    • Questions being raised about the quality and installation of other pieces of equipment.
    • Concern reported among some crew members about the Astute’s pioneering periscope, that does not allow officers to look at the surface “live”.during exercises off the east coast of the United States, a cap on one of the pipes that takes seawater from the back of the submarine to the reactor sprang a leak. A compartment began flooding with seawater, forcing the commander to surface immediately. Though nobody was hurt, an investigation revealed a cap was made from the wrong metal, even though construction records said the right metal had been installed.
    The cap was supposed to have been “level one quality assurance”. This means that BAE, which is responsible for building the boat, is supposed to give it the highest scrutiny.
    “The fact the cap failed is bad enough, but the most worrying thing is that there is no way of knowing whether the submarine has other pieces of equipment like this on board,” said a source. “The quality assurance tests are there to make sure this kind of thing doesn’t happen, but it did. So what else has been installed that we don’t know about? It is impossible to know. They fitted the wrong cap but it was still signed off.”
    I do not understand why Uk Government allow BAE to build these boats ???

    • According to the wiki, the new carriers’ speed is “in excess of 25 knots”. When I saw that error, I stopped reading your post. If you get something that basic wrong, well……

      • Agreed, although if you’d read another 2 lines you’d have found the next huge error, or at least misleading statement. “Other problems that have affected the boat in recent months include:”. For people’s information, the stuff then quoted is from 2012 reports – 3 years and hardly “in recent months”. An example of the 2012 article being quoted is here – http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/uk-world-news/15bn-submarine-compared-to-morris-minor-1441109

        Mistakes are embarrassing but this was the first-of-class boat and a lot of the issues emerged when it was still in sea trials so probably from 2009/2010. It’s reasonable to expect that most (hopefully all) of the issues have been addressed in future builds and as many fixes as possible back-fitted to Astute herself. Also, the top speed is classified so we’ll never know for sure.


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