Spending to date on the programme to replace the submarines which carry the UK's Trident nuclear weapons has now reached a total of £1.24 billion, according to an annual progress report published by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
A total of £3.3 billion pounds will have been spent before Parliament votes in 2016 on whether to give final approval to build the new submarines, with more than half a billion pounds spent on the project over the last financial year alone.
The report, presented to Parliament by Ministers immediately before the Christmas recess, states that the Trident replacement programme is “on target to allow a Main Gate investment decision in 2016”.
£513 million was spent in the 2013/14 financial year and the Treasury has given permission for expenditure of £261 million to be brought forward, partly to allow orders to be placed for 'long lead' items which need to be procured in advance of construction. The remainder of the money will be spent on development of new facilities to construct the planned 'Successor' submarines at the BAE Systems shipyard at Barrow in Furness.
MoD claims that these moves will reduce the overall cost of the replacement programme by £42 million, but as a result total spending planned in the project's assessment phase (prior to the 2016 Main Gate decision) will rise to £3.3 billion.
Overall, the Trident replacement programme is expected “to remain within the 2006 White Paper initial estimates of £11-14Bn at 2006 prices”, according to the report.
Purchase of long lead Items for submarine has been controversial, with critics claiming that purchases pre-empt the 2016 'Main Gate' decision on submarine construction which is to be made by Parliament. However, MoD says that early procurement of long lead items is necessary to reduce the risk of delays during submarine construction, and that approval for such spending has been properly authorised.
Expenditure of £533 for long lead items was approved at the Initial Gate stage and in late 2014 the Treasury approved a further £55 million of spending on long lead items. £230 million of this had been committed by the end of the 2013/14 financial year.
Long lead items ordered so far include components for the PWR3 propulsion system and the weapons handling and launch system; gearbox parts; material to support the manufacture of missile tubes; and material to support the manufacture of integrated tube and hull fixtures.
MoD plans to place more long lead orders before the Main Gate decision, including orders for further reactor components; main lubrication oil pumps; main feed flexible couplings;
the main shaft bearing; hull fittings; pressure plate and stiffeners; turbo generators; main engines and condensers; electrical distribution components and fibre optic components.
According to the report, progress on submarine design work is proceeding according to schedule. Draft functional designs for submarine systems have been produced by BAE Systems, submarine functional design is scheduled to be completed over the next 18 months and spacial design work has commenced for some sections of the submarine.
Preliminary data has been received to specify around 75% of the materials needed for submarine construction, and over 850 suppliers have been identified. The number of people working on the programme has increased from around to 2,000 to 2,200 over the last year, with more than half working as engineers and designers.
Progress on design of the submarine's reactor, a new generation PWR3 design based on US Navy reactor technology, is described as “satisfactory”. As well as assisting with design of the reactor and propulsion system, the USA is also providing support in development of the Trident missile strategic weapons system, the submarine missile compartment, and navigation, fire control and launch systems.
MoD insists that lessons have been learnt from the difficulties encountered in building its Astute class submarines, and also from a cost-reduction programme implemented by the US Navy in building Virginia class submarines. Project risks will be minimised by “prototyping key areas of build”, and “ensuring key skilled personnel are ready for production commencement”, as well as early procurement of long lead items.
Work scheduled to take place in 2015 includes a further £250 million worth of submarine design work to be undertaken by BAE Systems and the development of detailed designs for a planned new central yard outfit facility, paint facility, and nuclear manufacture and installation facilities at Barrow.
Management reviews of the Trident replacement programme have been conducted by the Treasury's Major Projects Review Group and Major Projects Authority, concluding that “design of the submarine was progressing satisfactorily” but also recommending areas for further work ahead of submission of the Main Gate Business Case.
The next progress report to Parliament will be published at the Main Gate decision point in spring 2016.