John Woodcock, MP for Barrow and Furness where the Astute class submarines are built, has expressed concern over the future of the 7th submarine amid budget squeeze.
Concerns have arisen due to the fact the seventh boat is still currently unfunded going into a new defence review.
Woodcock said that losing the seventh submarine after decades of campaigning to secure it would be a terrible blow for Barrow adding that it would damage the Royal Navy’s sub-surface capability. Fears were compounded after Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson refused to commit to the 7th boat earlier today in Parliament.
The MP also said on Twitter that “industry and the MoD privately admit their ability to fund boat 7 is in doubt.”
Losing Astute boat 7 after decades of campaigning to secure it would be a terrible blow for Barrow shipyard and the UK supply chain; and it would severely restrict the Royal Navy’s capacity to defend our waters from increasingly aggressive Russian encroachment.
— John Woodcock (@JWoodcockMP) January 25, 2018
Woodcock later tweeted:
“To be clear – we are not there yet. The defence secretary will clearly fight for the funds to cover the defence equipment programme, including boat 7. But the fact our submarine programme is under threat shows the terrible funding pressure being imposed by the Treasury.”
This comes not long after the fourth Astute class submarine, Audacious, which is being built by BAE Systems for the Royal Navy, completed her first ever dive.
The trim and basin dive took place over two days in Devonshire Dock, at the Company’s site in Barrow-in-Furness last week. The company said in a statement:
“The operation, which saw Audacious submerge fully under water for the first time, tested many of her on-board systems, and proved the safety and stability of the 7,400-tonne, 97 metre-long attack submarine. Employees from BAE Systems worked alongside Audacious’ crew, including its Commanding Officer, Captain Scott Bower, to complete the test.”
Officially named in December 2016 and launched in April last year, Audacious is scheduled to leave Barrow for sea trials later this year.
HMS Astute, HMS Artful and HMS Ambush are already in-service with the Royal Navy. Boats 5 and 6, Anson and Agamemnon, along with a seventh, as yet unnamed but likely to be Ajax, Astute-class submarine are in different stages of construction at the Barrow site.
The Astute Class is being built by BAE Systems, which employs around 8,000 people in its Submarines business, including those that work on the Astute programme, with thousands more working in the UK submarine supply chain. BAE Systems is also the industrial lead for the Dreadnought programme, the Royal Navy’s next generation of nuclear deterrent submarines.