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.”

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.

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Stephen G.

7 is not enough, never mind less. Start cutting the “foreign aid” budget.

andy reeves,

TREASON against the country and its people will it ever end? if we can afford the damn f 35 we can afford a submarine. the same treasury mandarins managed to pay for two aircraft carriers, where’s the money gone?


Foreign Aid



Annually and rising


A percentage of foreign aid is defence in an indirect way. A number of Current and future trade deals will depend on either military or monetary help, to achieve trade agreements. We must not forget that some countries do not enjoy our climate, and if harvest fail or Mother Earth decides to wreak havoc, then we need to show a responsibility toward those who have little room for manoeuver. I fear we have a massive disconnect in Whitehall between the Foreign Office, MOD, and the Treasury, that continues to create friction especially when it effects capital military projects. I suspect… Read more »


can’t be too long a delay as they’re gearing up to build the Dreadnoughts


Foreign Aid is manifestly NOT defense. The only thin it is robbery form the taxpayers, poor, the welfare state and the Military. All so a bunch of self-righteous pricks can feel good about themselves by stealing from their own people to give to others. The countries that are receiving aid 99% of the time did it to themselves. Their is no responsibility to rescue others from their own incompetence. All you create is a dole program for dictators and terrorists. All you wind up doing by helping them is keeping tyrants in power, allow corruption to continue, and destroy their… Read more »


Thankfully, I do believe not all of us agree with Elliott and his live and let die approach. Not all poverty is due to incompetence and corruption as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tropical storms, drought, wildfires, and floods have some part to play too! No, we all need to ensure that money is made available. As for foreign aid and defence not being related, then what is the RN doing in the West Indies? Part of the new carrier’s role is to assist in humanitarian relief, and that has been planned into the build of both ships. I rest my case.


Natural disasters are the local governments duty to prepare for. Not doing so is either dereliction, corruption, or criminal incompetence. Have you been to many of these places aid is sent? I have, multiple times for decades. They DO NOT get better. Their governments have no incentive to make it better. Do you think the farmers and shopkeepers in west and east African countries want aid? Talk to me after you see a hoard of newly or soon to be homeless farmers attempt to burn the aid supplies. That is of course unless one of the local militias doesn’t steal… Read more »

Barry Larking

Fourteen billion that is borrowed by the U.K. taxpayer. No one here has very suggested cutting aid to disaster victims or funding healthcare and schooling in countries where it is urgently needed. But much aid goes to countries run by serial kleptomaniacs and their extended families or others that boast weekly that they have sp ace programmes, nuclear weapons and patent dislike of Blighty. Most vote against the U.K. at the U.N. on top of it all. Cut the aid and support our services including those who, having served us, face really hard futures here in this country.

Adrian Palmer

Or make the rich pay their share of tax instead of sitting back and condoning their ability to avoid paying.


6 seems to be the dirty number for the Royal Navy.


I would like to hear what Labour would do with defence because the Tories track record is shocking, they most definitely are not the party of defence. Its just cut after cut across the board. I written to my MP again but expect nothing less than a bland standard response, again.


*have written


It will be ten times worse under Cobryn.

John Clark

I don’t think Labour would be any better or worse ….. It’s hard to f*#k up any more than the current shambles, though I am sure comrade Cobryn would give it a good go!

Barry Larking

It would not be worse. There would be nothing left to be worse. Instead, we would have a militia trained by Hezbollah to ‘keep an eye’ on the slaves – er, workers; North Korean bases and ‘re-education’ camps.


It usually looks that way because the Tories always come into power after Labour has bankrupted the country, so they’re the ones who have to make the tough decisions on what to cut, not just in defence…


‘ the Tories always come into power after Labour has bankrupted the country’ The country wasn’t bankrupt after the last Labour government. It was a banking crisis caused by the tories funders worldwide that caused the problems. They should have been regulated more, but Cameron and the tories said they were still too regulated. The Tories than took a recovering economy (which Osborne was claiming credit for before slamming it into reverse with ‘austerity’ aka ‘make the rich richer’. Technically speaking you can’t bankrupt a country in control of its own currency, so we couldn’t ‘be like Greece’ or… Read more »


Goddamn those Tories overseeing the 2007 banking crisis eh!

Barry Larking

To be fair, it started in Iceland (Blimey!), moved swiftly to the U.S. and then went global. It could happen again. Some think it will. Soon.

Barry White

I take it your not a fan of the tories then?
Would never have guessed
I to dislike them but as your a Guardian reader theres no point in having a debate with you as its obvious where you stand
If you believe what you read in that paper then theres no hope whatever for our country when you main man gets in becouse the next time with his policies we will be bankrupted then you wont be able to blame anyone else except the commies oh sorry Labour


Some unhelpful comments there Barry – this is a forum for debate about defence, not for regurgitating tabloid headlines. That’s what Twitter is for.

Regardless of anyone’s political views it’s perhaps worth making an effort to keep the comments on UKDJ respectful. Have a pleasant evening 🙂


Olly – when someone makes a completely false accusation and peddles a set of myths then it is absolutely right to refute them as Barry did. There was no abuse (unless accusing someone of reading the Guardian is abuse) and I saw no disrespect.

And with respect to you Sir the politics of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition is entirely relevant given ‘Jezzah’ is saying he will be PM soon …


HF – Regardless of apportioning blame the fact remains the country was skint in 2010. ‘There is no money left’ was more accurate than people knew. On defence matters there was a £35 Bn black hole in its budget. Labour had ordered kit for which ‘there was no money’. The reality of 2010 was we had to cut huge amounts of expenditure to reduce the inherited £150 Bn a year deficit. It has taken 7 years to reduce it to pre-2007 levels @ £50 Bn. That is still far too high. And what does Labour say? ‘You failed to do… Read more »


As Woodcock is a Labour politician, could this be political game playing?


You are probably right but whatever his reasons are we all win if the 7th boat gets built.


OK, I’ve said this before but here we go again anyway. Whatever you think about foreign aid, cutting it would not result in a beefed up defence budget. Any money saved from the FA budget would head straight into the NHS, social care and education budgets – very little into defence because it is not a vote winner. On the matter at hand, I happen to think that 10 SSNs or 7 + a number of SSKs to free up the Astutes for work only they can do should be the minimum requirement. Six Astutes would be a dangerously low… Read more »

Paul Beetham

John Woodcock is he is pro defence pro 4 new Trident boats and pro the Astute class programme unlike alot of Tory MPs.


I believe the seventh boat is in early build – so may be difficult to stop now. Once again however we have gone from 13 Swiftsure and Trafalgars to 7 (or 6) Astutes which are once again (T45 all over again) hugely expensive and delayed due to our previous industrial strategy that saw us lose a highly valuable workforce on the false premise that we could re-train quickly- which is now (hopefully)accepted you can’t. We need a minimum of 10 of these, probably more not less. I am just so disappointed in all our politicians (apart from those few lonely… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli

Long lead items and other parts already under way so no, just speculation IMHO.


Are you so sure? I understood that the Astutes in build had been cannibalized for those in service… so actually, given the current financial situation, I could foresee the 7th being put out to pasture – for the good of the service, you understand.

Question, will the new SSBN share the same reactor as the Astutes? Should the answer be yes, then the 7th is not going to be built.

John West

Dreadnought will have the PWT3, Astute uses the PWR2, same as Vanguard.

This has compromised Astute a bit as the reactor is larger than ideal for an attack sub.

Does anyone know the expected end date for the Trafalgar boats? Is there significant overlap with the Astutes (I.e. will we actually have 10 SSN’s available?)

Alternatively ( I have asked this before) can the Vanguard’s be converted to credible SSN large Astutes? I believe they are under stressed.

John Pattullo

they should cancel it and replace it with 2 or 3 AIP subs – ok they aren’t as good but we need the hulls


False economy at this point in time John We need critical mass to validate the costs of the nuclear reactors – I believe we should go AIP after this class – as the technology should be a lot better. I agree, we do need the hulls – but we also need to stop dumbing down everything as well. These things cost £1.3bn or £650m per year if ordered at a steady drumbeat – realistically £1bn per year should be enough to build the 14/15 boats we need (10 SSN – 4 SSBN) – once we get the drumbeat going these… Read more »


Funny, no-one from the MOD is spouting the ‘178Bn equipment plan’ rubbish any longer….. If true and boat #7 is cancelled, then it shows the equipment plan that the government kept harping on about was never funded as it should have been and begs the question – what else on the shopping list isn’t funded across the 3 Services? The state of our Armed Forces and the government’s total apathy toward defence is sickening….. it’s a complete dereliction of duty and totally irresponsible! I’m sorry but the buck stops with Theresa May – she is the PM and she has… Read more »


David – Yes the buck stops at No 10. But she can only spend what she has coming in plus borrowing. And if you think she could get away with increasing borrowing to fund Defence more you are deluded. Sadly she is trapped between a rock (no money due to deficit) and a hard place (Labour happy to peddle lies to score points). My hope as a Brexiteer is that as we stop paying the EU we can apportion that £13 Bn a year between agriculture, fisheries, NHS / care and defence. And lets remember that is £13 Bn extra… Read more »

John Clark

I totally agree David, spot on…
«The state of our Armed Forces and the government’s total apathy toward defence is sickening….. it’s a complete dereliction of duty and totally irresponsible! I’m sorry but the buck stops with Theresa May – she is the PM and she has done nothing to turnaround the state of the Services.”

I am no Labour voter either, just as hopeless…
Both parties have behaved in a disgraceful manner towards our armed forces, 20 years of underfunding and bad planning. Shame on them both



The Foreign Aid budget is often stated as being ‘vital’ for our defence and that argument could in fact hold some water if it was targeted and administered with that in mind. The truth however is that the luvvies deciding where and how our taxpayers money is invested have no interest in projects that improve UK security at all. The Foreign Office and the MoD are hardly ever involved in spending decisions. The cynical would suspect that the whole thing is a vanity project for our representatives in Parliament but that couldn’t be could it? As a middle aged white… Read more »


Realistically, at this stage, cancelling the 7th boat won’t save £1.3 billion if that’s the cost, it’ll save no more than £500 million, and perhaps not even that.

Nick Bowman

I’ve suspected this issue with #7 for some time. If the build sequence had been maintained, #7 would have been laid down in 2015. I suspect the decision to not build the boat was made some time ago. The ongoing “entente cordiale” with the French over naval cooperation has only reinforced my suspicion. The French, after all, operate 4 SSBNs, 6 SSNs, 3 amphibious ships, 12 (what you might call) Fleet destroyers and frigates and a number of light frigates. Their naval doctrine calls for two carriers but they only funded one. Do you notice a certain mirroring in the… Read more »


Yep, also note this article from Jan 2nd where I wondered about it being a sign of the 7th Astute being scrapped…


Elliott, your view is too one-sided, a lot of what you say is true but that does not qualify it as constructive. All I’ve attempted to outline is that a lot of wrecked economies, are not all down to corruption or mismanagement. However, I do have to concede to being very angry on witnessing a group of African leaders arriving at the Claridges Hotel in London (a TV documentary), where it is believed, they spent a considerable amount of time there? One wonders if they were recipients of British foreign aid? Our foreign aid is in need of overall and… Read more »


Oh dear. It’s now looking as if my comment (plea for reassurance) on an article here a few weeks ago might have been quite prescient… This is not looking good at all. If things pan out as feared we seem to be heading to the tipping point when we really do have to adopt the TH philosophy and retreat from all overseas operations, or maybe a token handful of troops in non-frontline roles here and there, and focus only at home water/airspace protection. I don’t want that to be where we end up but ultimately, if our capabilities really… Read more »


Prescient indeed Julian


I am quite shocked by the level of total ignorance of the people commenting above. There is only a certain amount of funds, we have a spending plan of £814 billion for this year (2018) and an expected income of £780 billion to pay for it all, we have to borrow the rest. The government needs to find £34 billion of savings over the next decade… with hospitals, schools, care homes and infrastructure all in the line for wanting more, do you seriously think the military would be able to jump the queue to fight a war that isn’t yet… Read more »


Aaron I do think there is another way. 1. £42b is actually a lot of money and needs to be spent more wisely 2. We need to focus on what we can do and get that to scale (which will save money) Example: should we be build 25 T31’s instead of 5? 3. The Foreign Aid budget should be governed far more strictly and can provide back up for the military Example: The FAB could fund a 48 strong helicopter force and 4 Karen Doorman style humanitarian aid/hospital ships. That can then take British products around the globe where needed.… Read more »


Gosh our Russian friends will be just so happy that we may lose another SSN…
However, the worst enemy of the UK military is not Russia – but our own Treasury.
What a bunch of idiots.
A short look back in history, and we can witness how each time we spend money upgrading vessels, within a few years these same vessels are either sold or scrapped.
Super intelligent work… the Russians will be proud.

Ian L

Question the six ordered high speed antenna systems are they part of the new submarine common combat system. If so would they be the to retrofit to the earlier Astute and Vanguard class subs.


An original procurement order not being fulfilled at the 11th hour? Whatever next?!