The Government has been forced to admit that a programme of replacing nuclear-powered submarines is running significantly behind schedule, which could have a knock-on effect on the Trident replacement programme.
The concession came during evidence from Ben Wallace MP, Secretary of State for Defence to the Defence Select Committee. The Astute submarines, which are replacements for the Trafalgar Class were due to come into service in August 2019 but have now been pushed back to at least January 2021. The Astute submarines are nuclear-powered but not nuclear-armed.
Dr Julian Lewis MP, Chair of the Committee said that the delay was “very long”. Conservative Mark Francois MP labelled the Astute project a “disaster” and said that things at Barrow has “continued to go horribly wrong for years”.
The Astute submarines are being built at the BAE facility in Barrow. Work on the Dreadnaught submarines, which will form part of the Trident replacement programme, can not progress until all Astute submarines are completed. The Government has already had to extend the life of the current nuclear-armed submarines into the 2030s, which is expected to have cost implications.
The cost of Trident replacement is set to be in excess of £200 billion over the lifetime of the project.