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.


    • 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?

          • 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 the 7th boat will enter service but possibly later than the RN would like?

          • 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 chances of economic growth by dumping massive amounts of “free” goods into their markets. Causing both shops and farmers to go unemployed due to not being able to sell what others are giving away. There by creating a self-sustaining system of poverty.
            Climate has next to nothing to do with the crop failures in the countries being given aid. When I was born they produced MORE food than the UK. The crops are failing or usually just being left unattended due to civil war, unrest, and government mismanagement.
            The lesson it seems no one will ever learn is that you can NEVER help people who REFUSE to help themselves.

          • 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 them and only distribute them to people who are loyal to them.
            Medical NGOs? Those would be the lovely people who will allow terrorists to hide weapon in their clinics. That or they will KNOW who just shot up your buddies convoy. Because their the ones who patched the terrorists wounded up, and when confronted about it they say, “Well we feared for our patients, or we feared for our lives.” Note no concern for their servicemen or their allied servicemen. Just their own insignificant feelings.
            They want to help the unfortunate? I am certain their are plenty of needy in their own country. Failing that they should do it on their on their own damn dime.

        • 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.

  1. 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.

      • 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!

      • 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 any other of the lies the tories and their friends in the press put about at that time.

          • 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.

        • HF
          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 it in 5 years’. Yeah right but then they scream ‘AUSTERITY!’. Spending within our means isn’t austerity. Its basic common sense. Something that Jezzah and McDonnell seem unable to comprehend.

          Given my personal background it broke me up to see the Harriers go. HMS Invincible had already been retired by Labour in August 2005, HMS Ark Royal was to be retired in 2016 anyway however this was moved forward in SDSR2010 and Lusty was retired in 2014 as it was pointless having one carrier. Nimrod was a disaster and not missed by me at all. BUT we saved Tornado so Typhoon can be even better in 2019 and we now have two huge carriers, new Astute subs, 4 new Tide Class tankers, new OPVs and 8 new Type 26 on their way. As well as new Voyager tankers, new A400M freighters and new F-35s. the Army has some excellent new kit coming on stream soon as well.

          So we had to make the cuts we did and we have come out in better shape. Labour was in charge when things went pear shaped and they must bear the blame. Its called ‘being in Government’.

  2. 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 number.

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

  4. 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 souls who actually stick up for core public services). If we do cancel the 7th Astute I then think we should cancel successor and get out of the nuclear game altogether as it is just too expensive with so little to show for it.

    Government will be held responsible for decimating an entire population as without the Yard Barrow is a ghost town and unemployment will be circa 70% – so the money will be spent on extra social services, hospitals, police, benefits etc.etc.

    People either work or claim – decide how you wish to spend the money to support 8k workers and probably 20k supporting businesses employees before you make this stupid decision HMG!!!

    • 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.

      • 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.

    • 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 things will drop in price dramatically – part of the current high cost is associated with re-instating the capability.

      Same applies to Carriers – we have had our period of cost saving – but it actually does cost a lot to re-instate a capability, especially ones so complex and dangerous.

  5. 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 done nothing to turnaround the state of the Services.

    • 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 EVERY year. But as a realist I suspect it will just be blown on the deep black political hole aka NHS and reducing our borrowing. Treasury people have no care for the country just balancing the books.

  6. 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


  7. 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 man who is probably not entitled to an opinion I suspect that an Astute class submarine off of an unfriendly nations coastline may contribute more to our security than bunging them a large sum to, for example, help factory workers stop smoking but the what do I know?

  8. 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.

  9. 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 capabilities of the two navies? Perhaps I’m too cynical, but I don’t think this is entirely coincidental. I suspect we’ll end up with virtually the same numbers of each class. There’s a plan we are not being told about.

  10. 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 with increasing poverty within our own shores, we must ensure we are not negligent in dealing with that in a positive way too!

  11. 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 do get cut to the extent where we have far too few resources to do certain things, then for the safety of our armed forces personnel I would at that point prefer it if we stopped trying to do those things that we simply were no longer equipped to do and if we kept on trying to do those things we would be setting ourselves up for failure, defeat, and significant loss of lives.

    This is all such un joined up thinking. Just when we are building and working up 2 strike carriers which really only make sense for global power projection, at the same time we seem to be dismantling all the other capabilities that need to go along with them. This is a crazy situation and total and utter incompetence on the part of the government.

  12. 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 happening….how the government MP’s would view it.

    On top of this, everything costs more. Ships of old with just guns on board are no longer the price tag. They are full of technology that costs a fortune, missiles at a million pounds a piece, helicopters at £57 million for a Merlin, £27 for the old Lynx. I always wondered at this as the Broadsword class could carry two, but was there any ever recorded time of a ship going to service with two helicopters. I imagine most of the ships missile magazines are empty as well?

    With this technology however, our ships can do much more than they once did. We wouldn’t send 50 warships to the Falklands next time, we wouldn’t need to, a carrier, our entire amphibious force, and a frigate and destroyer per strike group would likely be the order. The problem comes not with staffing a battle group, but when we have to send units to either side of the world. One technologically advance super frigate/destroyer as good as it is, cant be in the South Atlantic, Suez, the Caribbean and UK waters all at the same time? I imagine our budget £250 million frigates are the answer to this, as four for the price of one can do exactly that. They can be on station, can do limited work loads and can be a presence, but fight a war they might not. If anyone were to strike a UK warship it wouldn’t end there, so the ships ability to hold of the Argentine navy it might do, but to hold off an aggressive Soviet patrol pass by, the Iranian navy or the Chinese in the South China Sea is not a need. The moment our ships are attacked, the game is much larger than just having a sufficiently sized vessel to fight back.

    Realistically, the threat is still pirates, the need is still humanitarian, marauding ships at Gibraltar, passing through the channel, sciffs in the gulf and illegal immigrants crossing bodies of water are going to be the bread and butter of our navy for the next few years.

    There has been mention of spending the Foreign Aid budget. Someone above has already stated that if this money were released back into general use, the military very likely would not get a share. Buying ships or submarines to be in service in ten years time, does not trump someone lay on a hospital bed in a corridor.

    Our realistic only hope is to leave Europe in the fastest instance, start beefing up world trade so that our 2% GDP budget actually grows and expands faster than inflation, so we can actually do more with a larger budget…either this provides the funds, or the navy will have to shrink?

    • 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. In times of need the mod could take these over and supplement a task force as required.

      4. We need to re-organise and streamline our defence forces into a single entity that is then fully aligned with tasking, 4 Core Divisions, 2 CBG’s and a HQ can fulfil all our needs – but will require more people and a larger organisation to ensure the military is a go to employer.

      5. We need a 50 year schedule of work to support a new fleet management plan – and then we need to stick to it religiously and stop building gold plated equipment.

      Examples: 16 Combat aircraft pa. costs £2bn
      32 Helicopters pa £2bn.
      4 Logistics and ISTAR pa (£1bn)
      3 Major RN Ships cost £3bn p.a.. (Sub, RFA, T31, T26)
      1000 Land vehicles (all types) costs £2bn pa.
      IT budget – £2bn pa

      Note: OVer 50 years the actual assets will change but our commitment to buy something shouldn’t ( T45 will be replaced by a T46 which will be replaced with a T47 etc)

      Some basic management wouldn’t go amiss – we should be getting new kit every year – just like companies do and smooth the expenditure and we should never hold back waiting on the next big thing – small iterations are the way to go as technology is moving too fast now.

      So I think the UK can achieve more from its defence budget and its foreign aid budget with a bit more thought and leadership.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.


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