The first work has begun on a successor to Astute-class submarines after the Royal Navy assigned design contracts to compatriot arms, security, and aerospace company BAE Systems and engineering company Rolls-Royce.
BAE Systems has sealed an £85 million ($116 million) deal to support early design and concept work on the Royal Navy’s next generation of submarines, following approval of a three-year program.
Separately, the Royal Navy also contracted Rolls Royce to work on the design and capabilities of a new class of submarine which will eventually take over from the Astute class.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said awarding the two contracts marked “the start of a new journey for the Royal Navy’s submarines. British designers and engineers will lead the way in developing submarines for our Royal Navy.“
The BAE team will focus on the design and construction of the new class – provisionally known as the SSNR (submersible ship nuclear replacement) programme – while Rolls Royce in Derby will concentrate on the development/production of the boats’ reactors.
Over the next three years 350 designers, engineers and shipwrights – 250 in the North-West and 100 in the Midlands – will carry out design and concept work, work which will help Whitehall determine how it replaces the Astutes when they begin to reach the end of their active careers.
Four boats are currently in service – the newest, HMS Audacious, is formally commissioned next week – No.5 (HMS Anson) is undergoing final trials and testing in Barrow, where the last two boats (HMS Agamemnon and Agincourt) are being completed.
All seven Astutes will be in service by 2026 and each is expected to serve for at least a quarter of century – taking the class into the second half of the 21st Century.
“Designing and building submarines is one of the most complex and challenging feats of engineering that the maritime industry undertakes,” explained Ian Booth, head of the Submarine Delivery Agency.
“It is essential that work on the next generation underwater capability commences as early as possible.”