Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has announced that at least £500 million will be spent at HM Naval Base Clyde to ready the base to receive new ‘Successor’ Trident replacement submarines and become the centre of UK submarine operations for the next generation.
The programme, which will take ten years to complete, is expected to start in 2017 and will see construction of new ship lifts, sea walls, jetties and other major projects to develop the Faslane and Coulport bases so that they are able to accommodate Successor and Astute class submarines for the next fifty years – until at least 2067.
Astute class and Vanguard class submarines are already based at the Clyde base, and from 2020, when submarines will no longer be berthed at Devonport, it will become the Royal Navy’s ‘Submarine Centre of Specialisation’ and the sole home port for the UK’s submarine fleet. New Successor submarines, if built, are scheduled to be based at Faslane when they enter service from the mid 2030s onwards.
Adaptions at the base will be needed because the Successor submarines would be larger than any submarine yet operated by the Royal Navy. The Navy also wishes to increase the capacity of the base so that it can berth a greater number of submarines.
MoD is conducting a series of studies examining the infrastructure that will be required to support the Successor submarines, and says that the number and scope of any modifications – as well as precise costings for the project – will not be known until the assessment has been completed and the project is more mature.
The original facility at Faslane was designed to hold seven submarines, but under new plans the base will be able to berth a total of 16 submarines at any given time – more than doubling its capacity.
The proposal met a frosty reception from Scottish National Party MPs, who pointed out that spending at the Clyde base will amount to nothing if a future independence referendum results in a yes vote, and a Scottish Government which is committed to removing Trident from its soil.
According to the Chancellor (MoD) the infrastructure development programme will contribute “thousands of jobs” to the local economy.