Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has announced £642 million of spending for the Successor Trident replacement submarine programme.
The funding, announced to coincide with the Defence Secretary's visit to Scotland to speak at the Scottish Conservative Party conference on 4th March, is to be spent on new submarine construction facilities at BAE Systems in Barrow, long lead items for four submarines, and the naval nuclear propulsion programme. However, all of the projects included in the spending tranche have been the subject of previous statements, raising the question that Mr Fallon's announcement has been made for political purposes rather than practical purposes.
In a statement to Parliament Philip Dunne, Minister of State for Defence Procurement, said the spending would “supplement the current Successor Assessment Phase of £3.3 billion” and would bring the total Assessment Phase spending commitment up to the figure of £3.9 billion which was announced in last year's Strategic Defence and Security Review.
To help prepare the ground for construction of the new submarines, £225 million will be spent on new facilities at BAE Systems at Barrow-in-Furness, where the submarines will be assembled. Spending has also been allocated to the development of new facilities and elements of the nuclear propulsion system at the Rolls-Royce plant in Derby, where submarine nuclear reactors are built.
The remainder of the money will be invested in US-UK collaboration on the missile compartment for the submarines and ‘key long lead items’ which need to be ordered early in the process. The missile compartment, built to a common US-UK design which will be fitted to Trident replacement submarines for both the US Navy and the Royal Navy, contains the special tubes from which nuclear-armed Trident missiles are launched.
A sub-contract to manufacture missile compartment components and construct five of the tubes has been awarded by the American Electric Boat Corporation to the Babcock Group at Rosyth Naval Dockyard in Fife, where work is being carried out within a dedicated £10 million facility.
Columnist Richard-Norton Taylor of the Guardian described the announcement as “clearly a further attempt to pre-empt a Commons vote on whether to go ahead with the project”, and Kate Hudson of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament said the decision was “completely unacceptable”, asking “what is the point of a parliamentary vote on Trident if the Government's going to spend millions on replacement anyway?”