The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced plans to procure two new floating docks along with associated infrastructure for Faslane, the primary hub for the UK’s nuclear deterrent and the home of the Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarines.

This development comes as part of the Ministry’s Additional Fleet Time Docking Capability (AFTDC) programme, aimed at enhancing the maintenance capabilities of the Royal Navy’s submarine fleet.

The early engagement notice, released on 7 November, marks the beginning of a procurement process that has evolved from a thorough market engagement with various industry stakeholders.

The AFTDC Programme, as outlined in the MoD’s Prior Information Notice (PIN) published on 7 November 2023, details a strategic initiative to enhance the docking capabilities at HM Naval Base Clyde. The purpose of the notice is to invite industry participation in market engagement events, as part of the AFTDC Joint Project Team’s (JPT) efforts to procure two floating docks and associated infrastructure.

“The United Kingdom Ministry of Defence (‘the Authority’) has initiated the Additional Fleet Time Docking Capability (AFTDC) Programme to procure two floating docks and associated infrastructure to be located at HM Naval Base Clyde. As the single integrated operating base for UK Royal Navy Submarines, HM Naval Base Clyde is the home of fleet time docking capability to support submarine availability. Following completion of a period of market engagement with industry, the Authority intends to formally commence a procurement for AFTDC.”

John Healey, the Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, queried about the Ministry’s plans in relation to the National Audit Office (NAO) report titled “The Equipment Plan 2022 to 2032,” asking:

“To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, with reference to the report published by the NAO entitled The Equipment Plan 2022 to 2032, HC 907, published 29 November 2022, whether his Department plans to procure a submarine floating dock.”

In response, James Cartlidge, the Minister of State for the Ministry of Defence, highlighted the department’s proactive approach in assessing its needs, stating:

“The Ministry of Defence has conducted an assessment on its docking needs. This assessment has identified that two floating docks are required to enhance the out of water maintenance capability and meet future demand for submarine maintenance at His Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde.”

He further added:

“Market engagement has recently commenced to better understand the delivery strategy required to procure floating docks and the associated infrastructure necessary to create an additional out of water maintenance capability.”

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George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. He also previously worked for the NHS. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
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Gunbuster
Gunbuster
1 month ago

Back to what they used to have with AFD 70 then back in the day. What goes around comes around.

Rudeboy
Rudeboy
1 month ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

Was it not AFD60 up in Faslane. Think it ended up in Hafbarfjordur.

Dave
Dave
1 month ago
Reply to  Rudeboy

Yes, it was AFD60

Jim
Jim
1 month ago
Reply to  Gunbuster

Interesting article out in Forbes yesterday that states the USN lacks the dry docks for SSN(x) or even the enlarged Virginia class and currently their is not a single US navy dry dock able to handle a ford class CVN. Given the high costs for manufacturing in the US and lack of infrastructure you wonder if it could not be a growth area for the UK and actually being able to provide repair services for USN submarines. I can’t imagine any other country being allowed to do it. Obviously we need to sort our own back log out as well… Read more »

zavve
zavve
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim

Dry dock 8 in Norfolk can handle a Ford class but only with a temporary cooling water system. Permanent cooling water systems are due to be upgraded before CVN-78 enters her first planned docking.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
1 month ago

Deep and I talked of this the other day, was wondering if G would do an article.
There used to be one there in Cold War apparently?

Rudeboy
Rudeboy
1 month ago

Floating Dry Docks are pretty cheap….and the cost difference between different sizes is not linear.

Hopefully the RN seizes this opportunity to buy at least 1 really big one that could take a QE Class or FSS….you never know when you need one in a crisis…

One of the biggest to be built to date, that could handle ships over 100,000 tonnes cost around £60m….peanuts for the MoD.

ABCRodney
ABCRodney
1 month ago
Reply to  Rudeboy

With H&W coming back into the fold (they will be building the FSS) we will have access to one of the biggest Drydocks in Europe. It’s actually big enough for a USN CVN and is probably in the best location in the U.K in terms of access. It may seem strange but HMG actually paid for 2 Drydocks in the 1960’s that could accommodate a ship of that size (or CVA01), the others at Inchgreen. Both have superb access to deep water, with no tidal restrictions over the dock lip and smack next to the North Atlantic. So I don’t… Read more »

Rudeboy
Rudeboy
1 month ago
Reply to  ABCRodney

Dry Docks only tend to go wrong if they’re really badly maintained, which was the case for both Valiant and Kuznetsov.

ABCRodney
ABCRodney
1 month ago
Reply to  Rudeboy

Mmm you are wrong about Valiant, if you read the Admiralty report at Kew it was all down to negligence and miscalculation on the part of the Dry dock crew. The flooding down sequence was fundamentaly flawed and didn’t take account of the actual weight of HMS Valiant or how it was distributed. The the stress broke the Dock under Valiant and she was damaged to such an extent that she was never repaired as a fully operational ship. The odd thing was the supervising docking master was the most experienced man with a long History of outstanding service.

Defence thoughts
Defence thoughts
1 month ago

Been discussing this with boss for the past year. The more infrastructure the better.

ABCRodney
ABCRodney
1 month ago

Blimey talk about what goes around comes around. The RN started to build Iron floating docks in 1869 and eventually had them dotted all round the Globe. Post Suez and the retrenchment home we sold or scrapped them all. A bit of background about the use of them for Nucs, before the Synchro lift at Faslane they built a brand new purpose built Admiralty Floating Dock AFD.60 down at Portsmouth DY in 1966. For the nerds out there, the old world specs were 491 feet Length oa, 58 feet Breadth clear and 35 feet Max draft of ship, maximum lift… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
1 month ago
Reply to  ABCRodney

Thanks for this, mate. I know nothing on this subject.
How do these compare to the Faslane Shiplift?

ABCRodney
ABCRodney
1 month ago

Ask me when and if I ever see a spec 🤔 But the Faslane lift was designed to be perfectly capable of dealing with any SSBN we have now and with some considerable margin for growth. If you dig away in Hansard most of the info is in there and it’s an absolute beast. The glory of a free and reasonably open society is a lot of info is out there if you ask the right questions. IMHO the capacity should be sufficient to lift the next generation of SSBN and any logical follow on so 20K tonnes. The big… Read more »

ABCRodney
ABCRodney
1 month ago

Did some digging and this may explain why they want Drydocks. I was seriously Gob Smacked by it !
https://www.newcivilengineer.com/archive/faslane-11-11-1999/

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
1 month ago
Reply to  ABCRodney

Great article. The EHJ, of course, is at Coulport. I didn’t know such details of its construction, or the Shiplift.
One of the problems with relocation, if it ever came to it. Those facilities today would cost untold billions to replicate.

ABCRodney
ABCRodney
1 month ago

If you speak to Deep he will explain that HMNB Clyde and all the variouss bits of it are generally refered to in the RN as Faslane (even by the RN Website). Lovely thing about retirement is I get to do focus away from linear thinking about one narrow thing and do some latteral researching (Rand stuff is fascinating). As for if they had to be relocated I really don’t think that will occur in my lifetime and the economic impact on Scotland would be absolutely catastrophic. As for funding the remaining parts of the UK would be @£11 Billion… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by ABCRodney
Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
1 month ago
Reply to  ABCRodney

Another fine post mate, good insights.

Rudeboy
Rudeboy
1 month ago
Reply to  ABCRodney

AFD60 is still around. You can see it on Google at Hafnafjordur just south of Reykjavik.

https://maps.app.goo.gl/bSgtx5ztBnfS38CH6

ABCRodney
ABCRodney
1 month ago
Reply to  Rudeboy

Yep that’s her. Ta

John
John
1 month ago

I don’t believe that there are any contractors in the UK with the capability of building floating docks of the size and complexity required for nuclear submarine maintenance

Martin
Martin
1 month ago
Reply to  John

The American floating docks in WW2 came in sections each of which were smaller than the large battle ships they could lift out of the water.

ABCRodney
ABCRodney
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin

Yep and some were / are still in use. But a heavy floating dock is in way a substitute for a proper shore built concrete and stone Graving / Dry Dock. It’s a substitute and not as stable long term.

Martin
Martin
1 month ago

With regards to oversizing dry docks for larger ships I would have thought spending money to have them wind and water tight making what’s inside not visible would be better value for money rather than making them capable of lifting much bigger vessels.

It might make sense to give them some sea going capability so that they could be used in other locations as well as the Clyde.

ABCRodney
ABCRodney
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin

The very 1st Iron floating dry dock was towed by Battleships from U.K. to Bermuda in 1869 so I think they may have that covered.

David Barry
David Barry
1 month ago

What happened to the Sub floating dock at Barrow?

Always wondered on the train from Rīga at the numerous floating docks they had – unoccupied – on the Daugava.

ABCRodney
ABCRodney
1 month ago
Reply to  David Barry

Like many thing the size and complexity of the Boats grew to the point where it was just not Fit for Purpose so it’s long gone and to where I have no idea. These days when the Boat is rolled out it’s pretty well complete and is lowered into the Basin on thelift for the final equipment commisioning and the Basin Trials. Once that’s done they do any desnagging, commision and make the very well timed exit from Barrow. After that its up to Faslane and they can pretty well never return and to be fair there is no reason… Read more »

Andy reeves
Andy reeves
44 minutes ago

Do we really need them?