The Academy for Skills and Knowledge, at BAE Systems’ Submarines site in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, will be officially opened today by the Secretary of State for Defence, Gavin Williamson.

The training academy covers 89,340 sq ft and was built to develop engineering skills required to design, build and deliver complex submarine programmes to the Royal Navy. Featuring classrooms, workshops, a virtual reality suite and scale-model sized submarine units, the academy will provide bespoke training to almost 9,000 employees, including nearly 800 apprentices.

Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Defence, said:

“The Dreadnought programme is truly a national endeavour, employing some of the brightest engineers and scientists in this country. This new Academy for Skills and Knowledge is a vital part of this programme as, alongside our industry partners, we strive to upskill and maintain the talented workforce building these state-of-the-art submarines.”

Cliff Robson, Managing Director of BAE Systems Submarines, said:

“This is a fantastic facility that will provide a unique environment in which to train our growing workforce. Our investment in skills will not only ensure we have a pipeline of world-class talent available to deliver our complex programmes, but will also positively contribute to the economic prosperity of the region and the UK’s engineering industry.

The new academy will give our current and future workforce access to the very latest in learning and development, demonstrating our lasting commitment not just to our current employees but to those who will join our company in years to come. To support this, we continue to work closely with local schools and colleges and we see the academy as another positive step towards helping to raise standards of education in the area.”

BAE say that the academy is part of a substantial site investment programme that will provide a range of new and upgraded facilities to the workforce – from experienced naval architects and systems engineers to new apprentices and graduates – working to deliver the Astute and Dreadnought class submarines for the Royal Navy.

The academy will deliver a range of training, from mechanical and electrical skills in its 10 workshops to design and project management in its 30 classrooms. Resources such as the virtual reality training suite will allow employees to hone their skills in a simulated environment, before working on the real product.

It also forms part of the Company’s ongoing commitment to developing future talent, with more than 280 employees being recruited to join Submarines on early careers programmes in 2019 say BAE. This follows more than 250 employees that joined as apprentices, higher apprentices or graduates earlier this year, as the business continues to support the ramp-up of production on the Dreadnought programme.


  1. So what will we build after the 4 dreadnoughts? Will BAE lay if workers! We need to build submarines for export, maybe a smaller Astute type submarine for export…. why can’t BAE with all its might secure orders for ships and submarines to be built in the uk… OH yeah money! But the more you build th cheaper each unit costs!

    • No, the expectation is that the successor to the Astute class will be in development when the Dreadnought class is delivered.

      Barrow will be busy until the mid 2030’s at least with Dreadnought.

      Whilst there are arguments that could be made to re-start SSK production it is a saturated market .

      • If the brass/civil servant busybodies were serious about upgrading the anti-ship capabilities of the RN, they’d push for a large fleet of small SSKs, similar to Spain’s S-80s, Sweden’s Gotlands or France’s Shortfins. Useless though those are for power projection, there really is nothing better at defending sea lanes close to home. Absolutely lethal little blighters they are

      • The SSK market probably is saturated wrt potential UK exports given new or recent designs from Japan (Soryu) and France/Australia (Shortfin) with German and Swedish designs likely to be updated and remain relevant in their size class. However, I do wonder what the cost of an Astute would be with diesel/lithium ion power and electric drive instead of nuclear and steam. Lithium Ion is a game changer for submarine operation and it will only get better.

        Such a solution would be primarily for UK use with an SSK fleet of 6-8 in addition to the 7 SSN. Exports might be possible but an export version with derated capabilities would probably be required due to the advanced technology and export isn’t my primary rationale. A UK use solution would preserve all the Astute’s proven leading edge attack submarine capabilities except for sustained submerged high speed and range but at a fraction of the cost of a nuclear powered solution without undertaking a completely new design.

        The latest Soryu class subs which seem to cost somewhere around a quarter to a third of an Astute have switched from Stirling AIP to lithium ion batteries and extended endurance by doing so. Exotic AIP solutions may be in decline as Lithium Ion technology rapidly advances. Doing similar for Astute would require redesign with significantly larger diesel generators than those currently fitted but a huge amount of space is freed up by removing the nuclear reactor and steam system. Note that diesels would not directly drive propulsion, they are only there for charging batteries and can be optimised for that role. Astute is not dissimilar in length to Shortfin albeit with larger displacement, Trafalgar has similar displacement to Shortfin. So Astute would be a large SSK but not unreasonably so.

        But why do this? Why not just buy/licence a design off the shelf? Well apart from UK jobs/maintaining a more robust submarine industry etc, there’s the more fundamental reason of increased capability and role. The RN would benefit from a submarine which while it might spend most of its life in the Arctic, Atlantic and Med, has a robust capability for WW deployment. A WW role reduces suppliers to those building large enough subs for this use but then who has better attack submarine technology than the UK? Building or procuring smaller subs for just a local UK home waters type role would be too limiting IMHO, especially because NATO already has and will continue to have multiple countries with smaller boats for such use. Its all about maintaining flexibility for operations by doubling the submarine fleet for an additional £3Bn or less vs the one and bit Astutes this would buy using using current prices for both comparisons.

  2. BAe had better hope Labour gets rid of Jeremy Corbin and the maniac Dianne Abbot et al before they get into power or this is going to become redundant rather quickly.
    It’s good to see an industry investing heavily into the future of UK engineering. I am critical of the BAe monopoly, but at least they develop engineers and associated trades in the UK, rather than just pulling them from around the globe and dropping apprentice schemes as so many other companies have done.

    • BAE at Barrow did pull engineers form around the world until the 1st cut of steel for Successor.
      The only thing that stopped this are issues around ITAR & the Common Missile Department.
      As for developing them, then again this is only a recent thing & was born out of the yard ceasing both apprentice & graduate schemes in the late 90’s & early 2000’s, then failing to spot until too late that they’d have a massive skills gap due to retirement & redundancy & not recruiting graduates.

    • What Corbin say’s from the comfort of opposition could be different in office. Under Foot, defence and the deterrent weren’t damaged as much as some feared. He even (if reluctantly) gave his approval to support the Falkland war even if he added a few caveats, which melted away as our service lads and lasses lost their lives.

      No Britsih government will unilaterally get rid of Trident, no matter the size of their majority. Why, because it would not get a majority vote in parliament.
      Once out of the EU (if it happens) the opportunities to trade more freely, will in all possibility, mean some form of military support or reassurances? Corbin will want to improve the UK’s manufacturing capability as a true Red Politician, and that in many ways will protect the navy, possibly more than the other services?

      • Unfortunately Corbin has already said he will never countenance the use of nuclear weapons under any circumstance. That means there is no deterrent value whatsoever in the CASD, and one can therefore argue there is no point in spending eye watering amounts to maintain it.
        Coupled with that he is still in the process of deselecting dissenting elements in his party, so it is rather presumptuous to say he will never get a voting majority in parliament to enable the reduction, and therefore ultimately cessation of the CASD.
        HMG have already put all of our eggs into one basket and moved almost all submarine infrastructure, vessels and personnel into the Clyde. Should the Scottish decide to leave the union, the capital and practical costs of starting again will make the decision almost inevitable to get rid of the SSBNs whilst retaining SSNs.
        With the way the clowns in government at the moment are operating, nothing can be ruled out.

        • Gfor, whatever Corbin says he will not have the full support of parliament, it’s bigger than him. remember, the more the British people witness his antics the greater the risks are for him and his like. His popularity was at its highest when he was a reasonably new face on the opposition front bench, but his next-door neighbour persona has frayed a fair bit since moving in, and his blasted dog is barking too much! A number of acquaintances are cooling about Corbin’s statesmanship?

          In regards to the Scotish base, the MOD should insist and get a thirty-year lease. The Current Scotish Assembly needs to consider the welfare and prosperity of the Western Highland economy, who must be pulling their hair out over the SNP position? This would ensure a sensible work up and commissioning of the Dreadnought programme. However, the UK will not give up on its Seabourn deterrent due to Scotish intransigence, a new base is probably already earmarked as we speak. No, the scrapping of the current system will only be considered, if it’s superseded or, the World decides to mutually dispense with the idea of self-destruction?

          • Maurice, I don’t think you are correct about Corbin’s popularity and impact. He has been around for long enough for the electorate to have a look at and the unelectable label is a thing of the distant past. Despite that, how do you think the current lot look to the majority of the country? What are the options for non Londoners and those who didn’t go to Eton?
            There is no option 2 for base porting the SSBNs. The Government has devastated Devonport for submarine facilities, not that I’m saying it ever was a realistic option for the SSBNs. If you look around the UK, where else can they go without massive disruption and truly colossal financial implications? A build time, without compulsory purchasing and public enquiries, appeals, demonstrations etc, of 10-15 years. As for insisting on a lease, that’s not a thing that any government can insist upon from a sovereign state. The Scots, if they elect to go, would be entitled to invite the nuclear components of the base to leave in a reasonable timescale, perhaps 3 to 5 years if they were being generous.
            As I say, if it’s an ornament, it’s not worth paying for, and only one, perhaps two things have to go the wrong way and it the CASD will be gone with him in charge.
            Another financial crisis, Scotland leaving the union, a UK nuclear accident, a fully functioning ballistic missile defence system, a readjustment of Russian foreign policy. Pick two and does it seem as implausible?

          • Gfor, a good conversation and thank you for your viewpoint. I hate to reiterate, but another location is earmarked and it goes back some considerable years I would guess? However, I would bet the War Office / MOD considered a number of locations both in England, Wales and alternative Scotish ones?

            I also believe that any political adventurism could be seen as unacceptable behaviour. Corbin’s heart is mostly in the right place, however, women don’t like to see other women pressured too far! May is far from beaten, and if she fails to win the vital vote on Tuesday, Brussels could begin to spin more than you think to be considerably more accommodating, that’s why she’s pressing ahead regardless? It’s the old adage, ‘Better to fight with the devil you know.’

            Happy Christmas

  3. Hopefully, most of the skills learnt there will be transferable across the shipbuilding and wider engineering market.

    • But your probably going to get paid shed loads more to weld high pressure hull sections together against rebar on a construction site. Nuclear subs are up there at the high end of engineering you’d want to keep as many as possible in the industry with there certifications in date.

    • Stephen ,although I understand and in many ways agree with your comment I do not think that it is wise to build a frigate factory on the Clyde until Scotland or at least the SNP stop shouting about independence.

  4. Is JC’s issue with Trident or nuclear power in general?

    I’d hope the SSN is safe at least should Trident be removed, which is in doubt since the party itself support it.

    • His problem is with the UK.

      The reason why we have SSN’s is CASD. Even though the only real standing task is the Indian Ocean. SSN’s don’t really defend the CASD boats as such. Their role is to interdict ‘things’ going towards where the CASD may be. The other reason is they keep they production line going. I suppose the question is China. We chose to buy carriers.

    • JC will have issue with ‘attack’ submarines. 🙂 JC has to keep the unions happy so imo he will shift spending to support ships for humanitarian purposes and ferrying migrants. He’s committed to 400k new ‘green jobs’ but with full employment these are either migrant labour or taken from another industries and parts of the defence industry are transferrable.
      I can see a scenario where if the economy takes a dive it allows Labour to state the deterrent is unaffordable.

      I do think Labour will place more UK orders to create jobs, there will be little focus on value because it will need to justify 2%. Nia Griffith speech at RUSI barely mentioned Trident and went to lengths to explain the UK humanitarian role. The equipment budget will be refocused around this so Ships, Transport A/C, Light infantry vehicles and Engineering equipment. Of course the stationary budget will need to increase to send more strongly worded letters 🙂

      I used to vote labour but with the current joker at the helm its just not going to happen.

      • There isn’t going to be a labour government as long as those idiots head it up!… I would rather see Tony Blair lead labour and I would vote for him….

      • Where do you get this idea of ” Full Employment ” from British papers and this feeble Government it’s so far from Reality .

        • Do you run your own company? Have you tried employing anyone recently?

          All my applicants for jobs are coming from existing roles non are unemployed and have had any for some time. So it comes from first hand experience of the job market

  5. No point in building an SSK fleet, they will rapidly be made redundant buy UUV’s. Anything an SSK can do can be done cheaper and better buy an unmanned craft.

    The facility at barrow is an amazing achievement, one of only a handful of such facilities on the planet that can make such weapons.

    The size of the RN surface fleet is fine, it’s has enough carriers and high end escorts to generate two Sizeable battle groups built around a carrier each but we should follow the lead of the USA, China and Russia and start knocking out as many SSN’s as we can. A batch 2 Astute with PWR3 and a payload moduke for 40 VLS would be a simple upgrade and if we build up the facilities at barrow and possibly involve cammail laird we could copy what electric boat are doing and continue building SSN’s with one every two years and then once the SSBN’s are finished we could begin building a new design with one a year hitting the water. We could do all this for just an extra couple of billion a year and build a navy unmatched outside the USA. All that for just 1.5% of the NHS Budget or 10% of the DFID Budget.

  6. Don’t forget all the decommissioning and recycling, decontaminating and deep storage of waste activties needed on all our old subs.

    We should build one and recycle one every 2 years or less and have a 24 year no refuel life. That is a permanant production line and a fleet of at least 12 Astute SSN’s. Have 4 of them stretched slightly with an 8 cell VLS for 4,000 km cut down Tridents with 4 warheads each.

  7. Morning all
    BAES at Barrow already build parts for other submarines, the pressure hull domes of the S-80 submarines for Spain were constructed there.
    Barrow has enough sustainment work now to take it through until the late 2030’s, the opportunity now for BAES is to generate extra business – the underwater drone should be something they should be looking at for example.
    With this new school coming to fruition other nations should have more confidence in the design and build capabilities of the yard, something that has taken nearly 20 years to fully build up again after the challenges of the late 90’s.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here