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A £1.4 billion contract has been agreed for a new nuclear attack submarine, HMS Agamemnon. The vessel is the sixth in a total fleet of seven.

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said:

“This latest investment means we are well on our way to completing our fleet of Astute submarines. These are the most advanced submarines ever operated by the Royal Navy and are already providing unprecedented levels of stealth and attack capability across the world.”

In November 2009, a House of Commons Defence Select Committee found that delays due to technical and programme issues brought the Astute class to a position of being 57 months late and 53% (or £1.35 billion) over-budget, with a forecast cost of £3.9 billion for the first three boats.

Rear Admiral Paul Methven, Director Submarines Acquisition for the Submarine Delivery Agency, said:

“The signature of this contract secures another world-class nuclear submarine for the Royal Navy. These are the most technologically advanced submarines we have ever operated, offering much greater firepower, better communications and more advanced stealth technology than their predecessors.

Today marks another significant milestone for the Astute programme, that demonstrates the UK’s ability to deliver complex engineering projects, providing a fleet of submarines which will protect the UK’s interests around the globe.”

BAE Infographic of the Astute class.

Will Blamey, Managing Director of BAE Systems Submarines, said:

“Securing the contract for the sixth Astute class submarine is a significant milestone for BAE Systems and the result of many years of hard work by our highly skilled workforce. The Astute class submarines are amongst the most highly capable and technologically advanced in the world and we’re immensely proud to build them for the Royal Navy.

Alongside work on the Astute Class, BAE Systems is also the industrial lead for the Dreadnought programme, the Royal Navy’s next generation of nuclear deterrent submarines.”

Construction of the 7,400 tonne submarine started in Barrow in 2012.

43 COMMENTS

  1. I hope this isn’t £1.4bn for a single Sub as they should be coming in at £1bn each by now. Having said that this is a class asset for the RN and UK and provides a lifeline for the Barrow workforce who have been professional and loyal to the RN throughout.

    Well done to everyone who makes this world class vessel.

  2. I wish they’d get a move on with them, we (errr, the UK) need these apparently excellent SSNs like now, man. Plus another 2 or 3.

      • Morning Geoff. Even after Independence I’ll still be fond of the rest of the UK. For me it’s not anti-UK it’s pro-Scotland. It’s also getting worse as resentment builds up in England – and rightly too as England doesn’t have its own parliament to bat for it and set its own priorities. The asymetric devolution settlement, 3 out of 4, was very short-sighted.

        Anyway I’d still follow its defence with interest, but meantime we’re still part of it 🙂

        • Morning Dadsarmy-agree-leaving Westminster to try and function as British and ad hoc English Parliament is an absurdity. Let’s hope we get some of a reduced overseas aid Budget for Defence-one more Astute would be nice!
          As an Ethnic Scot born in London(along with Angus Robertson 🙂 ) and brought up in England and NI I can only be British! If the unhappy split between Scotland and rUK ever occurs I think of Joe Gargerys words to Pip from Great Expectations “Ever the best of friends Old chap”
          Cheers Geoff

          • Indeed, and let’s hope relations actually improve – one of the reasons I’ve had for Independence for decades. There’s a lot of common stuff in history which unites, but a lot too that divides. Going our separate ways ends all that and we become – neighbours! Sounds like a cue for Kylie 🙂

  3. From what I read none of them will come in much below £1.4b. As with much else on the shopping list I would like to see more whilst we are in build mode. I would add an eight but not more, even though it seems it’s truly world class.

    It is an attack sub most scary when freed from general defensive duties (CSAD & CVW apart).

    I believe there is a strong case for ‘small sub’ defence of UK shores and our interests in Gib / Bahrain / Falk etc. With personnel of c 30-60 people AIP / Diesel subs offer a powerful compliment to our layered defence which allow the Astutes to optimise the ‘we’re not going to hurt each other, are we’ deterrence.

    • An argument for having more than 8 is that they are actually warships (I’d prefer the term warboat), and can replace some / augment surface escorts. From that point of view, the more the merrier!

      • Hi Dadsarmy,

        Would I turn down 10 Astute warboats – not in a million years 🙂

        Just in terms of balance between defence, attack and spread I would rather have 8 Astute Warboats and 12 AIPs than 10 Astutes.

          • You’re teasing me now 🙂

            My broad calcs; 1 Astute = 6(ish) AIPs both Opex & Capex

            I’d like enough AIPs for DotR and overseas interests (I reckon that’s c12) so whatever number of Astutes we have can prowl.

  4. UK Defence, you are such a tease. I read the first bit of the headline, “BAE awarded £1.4bn contract for new nuclear attack submarine …” and for a second thought that HMG had funded an 8th Astute. £1.4bn does seem a lot though. I would have hoped that the contract price would have been pre-negotiated and lower on the basis of the commitment to build the original 7. Still, by all accounts it is a world-class design so at least we are getting the best.

  5. Good to see the UK’s standard unit of measurement (# x Double decker busses) still going strong!

    6 of these submarines could be ordered EVERY YEAR with the MOD monies spent on foreign aid instead of defence.

  6. The main reason the Astute’s are late and over budget is a government decision to build 1 every 2 years not the original contract for 1 each year.

    This in tern is because they didn’t want to approve Vanguard replacement on time, and has caused the over working of Trafalgar class. With maintenance cost and issues.

    Why ? Because in the short term it appeared to save money. But in the long term has cost us billions and reduced the fleet in numbers AND capability.

    At 1 per year we would have had a rolling 10 SSN ( 2 class ) fleet, now we will be down to 7.

    • ‘Why ? Because in the short term it appeared to save money. But in the long term has cost us billions and reduced the fleet in numbers AND capability.’

      Standard UK government attitude – short term and ‘save’ money.

  7. The Royal Navy and UK need to spend a few more £1.4 billions and order boats 8,9,10.
    Just 15 years ago the RN could muster a fleet of 12 SSNs and 4 upholder class SSKs.
    Now we have just 7 SSNs, with a belligerent Russia building Improven Kilo and Yassen class submarines to a high tempo. Time we rearmed and put some much needed hull numbers into the RN.
    Barrow yard with some expansion could manage simultaneous construction of a follow on batch of astute and the dreadnought ssbn class. Just needs some political will and acknowledgement that our previous defence cuts have gone to far.

  8. Now all we need are astute hull numbers 8,9+10 ordering.
    £1.4 billion is equivalent to US navies Virginia class SSNs which the Astute in previous exercises defeats in sub to sub engagements.
    The Astute is a world beating sub but they can only be at sea 30-40% of the time as an absolute maximum. Thus 7 subs only deliver 1-2 astutes available for deployment. 10 subs would deliver a much more credible 3-4 Astutes available. Enough to screen the nuclear deterrent force and deliver training.

  9. as capable as these vessels are i do wonder if we should trade one astute for 4 or 5 non nuclear subs – take an off the shelf design and use them for the jobs you dont need a nuclear sub for

    • It wouldn’t be “4 or 5”.

      Remember, this is all for the benefit of BAE.
      Once they get their claws into such an idea watch the costs explode.

  10. Foreign Aid about £12 Bn + EU contributions about £13 Bn = £25 Bn every year …..

    That should cover a few extra Astutes, more Type 26, the Type 31 and a third QE Carrier

  11. Now that’s crazy talk! I’m glad to see these subs being built but their reliance on heavy-weight torpedoes for anti-ship work seems overly limiting. Russian subs are so much better armed. How would one of these sink a highly manoeuverable 2000 ton corvette? The Russian fleet seems to be stuffed with such ships.

  12. The Successor class will cost so much more. And we are putting more money into Scotland to host all our subs at the expense of Plymouth when we are likely to have subs for longer than we will have Faslane.

    I think a cut down Trident should be developed. One that is only 30 feet instead of 45 so that it can fit into a modified Astute. Then have 12 Astutes, 8 as SSK and 4 as SSBN. That will be cheaper than Successor and they can all be hosted in England. When we lose Scotland it will also be easier to build new facilities for 10 ton missiles instead of replicating the 60 ton missile storage at Coulport. Perhaps South Devon near Plymouth or Lake District near Barrow.

    • I used to think that about Astutes as well. But someone pointed out to me that then when an Astute turns up say near Argentina or on some courtesy call, nobody would know whether it was conventionally armed or had nuke missiles. Fair point I think.

  13. Building a replacement nuclear deterrent site to Faslane and Couplort will cost the UK taxpayer billions and take some time to achieve. Much better to hope that the SNP fail in their nationalistic party political dogma and the Scots are not going to vote for independence.
    I do think there is merit in constructing a cruise missle capable SSK as a supplement to the world wide reach and capability of the Astute class. German U220 class is AiP capable or French baracuda class that the Australians have just ordered as their future SSK, we could probably purchase 2-3 hulls per cost of an Astute. However i would still think there is a huge need for more astutes and some ssks that have AiP capability. Taking us back to force levels in the cold war would seem sensible to face down the rapid proliferation of Russian improved kilo class and Yassen class submarines. Say 10 astutes and 6 U220/ baracuda class would be excellent and cover uk deployment, training and contingency needs.

  14. Part 1 – let’s go for it before I get back to some work. Relocation of the subs, particularly the SSBNs from Faslane and Coulport is going to be a hot topic for some time, and since most people in Scotland believe we will become Independent including those who don’t currently support Independence, it’s just a question of when, the UK Government can’t sit back any more and hope for a NO vote whenever an Indy Ref is mooted. The first time they could I guess as support to start with was only about 25%-28%, perhaps in the event they got a bit of a shock at the 45% actual vote. Supposedly they had no plan. Shrug, I kind of don’t believe that.

    The Independence White Paper indicated a transition time for Faslane becoming the HQ of the SDF, and other indications led me to believe the Scottish Government of the time would accept with successful negotiations a 10 year program to move, and from Hammond with his statement that 10 years was the minimum, there was the basis for a mutual agreement. Personally I’d add on 20% for delays which would inevitably happen. With Independence then planned in 2016, that makes 2026-2028 the end date for keeping Trident at Faslane, and the missile to warhead storage and matching at Coulport.

    At that time the first Dreadnought wouldn’t be commissioned, so it would have been a case of moving the Vanguards – getting old, and with old reactors (even if renewed this century). Hence a bit of a safety problem for any base taking them, and any local population. And with the distance from Coulport from Aldermaston, storage needed for warheads as well as missiles. But it used to take about 3 days for the warhead convoys and a round route to stop off in secure bases. With the new transporters and crew rotation it can now be done in a oner, in 24 hours, even from Coulport.

    • Where are you getting that idea from? Certainly not from the polls. The independence white paper is useless for anything other than substitute bog roll. There is not going to be a second referendum until the 2020s and by that time the world could look very different. SNP are already starting to receive flack for the poor handling of Scotland during the last 8 years. They are a disaster in power and more people are beginning to see this. After we get out of the EU support from many leave voters will evaporate. Independence is financial suicide for Scotland and a complete removal from the worlds political elite. I will never understand the desire of some people to destroy the union for absolutely zero gains. There are many other scots who feel the same as I do we are just not as vocal as the left wing rabble.

  15. Part 2.
    The story changes now. First off wtih an Indy Ref early 2019 say, that’s Independence in 2021 – 5 years later. The UK is dismantling 3 warheads a year, reducing the stockpile apparently from 225 to about 150 or less. That’s less storage needed. Secondly the 10 year (12 with contingency) makes it 2031-33 for getting out of Scotland, and the first Dreadnought is due in 2028. A tight schedule, but in theory at least no need to have Vanguards at the new base. As well as having new reactors, perhaps the Dreadnoughts will be a bit cleaner as well – new designs and materials.

    And who knows, perhaps easier and safer to load a 55 ton missile into them. A more clever approach like even a cave with access from the top could also make marrying warhead to missile more stable and again, safer., all taking away the need for the floating dock. Added to that, if the base is nearer Aldermaston / Burghfield, the convoys have just a short distance to travel, and perhaps therefore a greatly reduced need for on-site storage at a Coulport facility which is the big problem in movement of Trident out of Scotland. The load of an on-patrol boat is 48 warheads around 16 missiles, with a “spare” boat ready to go.

    So it’s easier than it was way back specially as the only need now is to worry about the Trident and warhead, no WE-177s since 1998.

    And this is where it gets interesting. All the SSNs are being moved to Faslane, which means they’re being moved out of Devonport. Perhaps, who knows, this is part of the plan – to empty Devonport of the SSNs and allow it to be redevoloped to take the SSBNs (and SSNs again). And, if neccessary, some site in the nearby Dartmoor could be used for storage of the rest of the 120 ready missiles. The MOD still own loads of it.

    There you go 🙂

    • Nice. I made a similar comment last year against this article:

      http://www.savetheroyalnavy.org/why-relocating-trident-away-from-scotland-is-virtually-impossible/#comment-73504

      I’m certain Scotland will go soon enough, but like all things with UK Gov the spend is all about today, like F35B in 2020 to save on Catapults in 2015. That aside I don’t know why we still use road convoys, Aldermaston is only 1 mile from a railway line and that goes straight to Marchwood (just an idea!) and also to Devon.

      • Marchwood / Portsmouth is interesting. Yes, read your comment and skimmed the article. Possibly just as well I didn’t see the article at the time, a bit one-sided politically to say the least, never mind! I see it mentions the NHS property, something I spied out on the map back in 2013 but kept my mouth shut (loose lips and that), as it could put costs up to be forewarned about CPO. A lot of MOD roads still there I think, at least in outline.

        There’s basically two attitudes to the relocation. 1: it just can’t be done, woe and betides, problems problems. Most of RUSI used to think that way. Then there’s 2: it’s a doddle, costs a bit, but exaggerated cost because of reduced needs – Francis Tusa was like that. I’m a 2 – if something needs to be done, then it gets done.

        And it doesn’t need a like for like, times have changed. Whatever the CND crowd might think, the increased safety reports of C and D categories like forgetting to date a form which have increased is much to do with stricter reporting standards. There have been no Bs or As (thanks be). And that includes when we used to have Holy Loch in the Clyde. Yes, there have been a couple of “incidents”, crashes even 🙂

        Seems to me though the safety record is OK, as long as they keep the budget up.

      • That SaveTheRoyalNavy thread is unpleasant. I read a few of the comments but the level of vitriol was just too much. I felt like I needed a shower after reading some of that stuff.

  16. Back to the article, although the relocation of uk nuclear deterrent is interesting.
    does anyone think the UK will ever go back to a mixed submarine fleet of ssks and ssns? Would love the RN to have a fleet of 8-10 Astutes and 4-6 scorpene or U212NG series AiP subs. Would make the Russian navy very cautious about shadowing NATO standing groups or trying to follow out to sea our nuclear deterrent subs. If and it is an IF Scotland voted for independence there would be a need for a small Scottish submarine force so maybe some forward planning is needed. 4 ssks for RN and 2-3 for the Scots. If we ordered an off the shelf design like u212NG or French Scorpene class there would be ZERO developmental costs.

    • Well, Norway which had considered packing in subs completely, has formed a partnership with Germany, with a view to getting some based on the 212-design already in service in Germany and Italy, contract perhaps in 2019. They currently have 6 Ula class.

      The 2013 (private) paper I posted the URL of about the Scottish defence forces does consider subs for us. Personally I leave them out at the moment, it’s a different set of skills, training, maintenance, engineering and logistics, and I think beyond us to start with as far as budget is concerned.

      But if relations are good, and if the UK did consider the likes of the 212 or Scorpene, it would make sense for Scotland to have some, and pay the UK perhaps for shared training and repair – or exchange for other shared facilities like the bombing ranges and exercise areas.

      Got to admit I couldn’t stand Fallon to start with, thought him inept, but am reconsidering. And even in 2011 was it, Sarkosy walked past Cameron’s outstretched hand in Brussels, the UK and France still co-operated on defence, e.g. supplying a T45 I think for the Charles de Gaulle.

  17. Base the subs in Devonport and built the ordnance facility at Falmouth.Deepwater port,sound geology for the required tunnels,thousands of well paid skilled jobs for Cornwall and Devon.Good access to the Atlantic.What’s not to like?

  18. Agree nuclear deterrent and submarine basing could go to falmouth or marchwood. Both would be suitable deep channel ports.
    That is all based on IF there is a 2nd Scots independence referendum and if they vote yes to that.
    otherwise happy for the subs to stay in the north. Although i would really like to see more submarine capacity built back up. The MOD could easily afford an 8th or 9th astute and some ssks. Maybe ssks based in the south as they would be better suited for channel and close in shore work due to their decreased size/ draught compared to Astute class which are large SSNs.

  19. Where is all this Scotands going Indy cobblers coming from. Indy peaked and is on down spiral.

    On another note RN is spectacularly short in every area. Should go 10 astute with a 6 others, as for Frigates and Destroyers sad times to see short number, stripped of capability

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