BAE kicks off major nuclear submarine yard upgrade

The first Astute class nuclear submarine

To equip the yard for construction of the largest submarines it has ever built, between £300 and £400 million is being spent expanding and upgrading the yard.

In it’s 2014 update to Parliament on progress in the future nuclear deterrent, the overnment outlined its part in financing the facilities upgrade program.

The report said the Ministry of Defence had brought forward, or reprofiled, £261 million of funding into the current assessment phase offering better value for money investing in facilities at the yard. The reprofiling also allowed for long lead item ordering.

“The MoD is able to re-pay the company for the cost of the facilities as building work progresses, rather than recovering the costs across the build programme as a whole. This approach is expected to reduce the cost by some £42 million from that originally planned,” said the report.

BAE said the work will include a “mixture of new build projects and the refurbishment of existing facilities in what is the most significant redevelopment of the site since the 1980s.”

The company wouldn’t provide details of the redevelopment but previous reports list a new quayside, extension of the Devonshire Dock Hall building, two new pressure hull unit facilities and refurbishing the main fabrication facility as being among the projects alongside the new logistics center.

At nearly 300 meters long and over 50 meters high, the Devonshire Dock Hall where BAE assembles the submarines is already one of the largest buildings in northern England.  .

Allan Day, the director of the redevelopment program at BAE Submarines, said “the infrastructure this redevelopment will provide, together with our highly skilled workforce, will be critical in delivering these submarines to the Royal Navy.”

The improvement to facilities in support of the Successor program is not limited to BAE.

Nuclear propulsion unit supplier Rolls-Royce is updating and refurbishing it’s aging factory at Raynesway, Derby, to build the new PWR3 power plant.

BAE is already building Astute-class attack submarines at its Barrow-in-Furness yard as well as designing the new Trident missile boats and pushing ahead with the infrastructure work.

Just days before the announcement that work had begun on the logistics facility, BAE revealed that HMS Artful, the third of the expected seven boat Astute class of nuclear attack submarines, had left the Barrow-in-Furness yard for the start of sea trials.

The submarine subsequently arrived at the Royal Navy’s nuclear submarine base on the Clyde in Scotland on Aug 18 from where it will conduct the trials ahead of what is scheduled to be its commissioning later this year.

In a mirror of the submarine yard update, BAE is also involved in a major £100 million update of its two surface warship yards on the Clyde at Govan and Scotstoun.

The two yards are being modernized  as part of a shipbuilding plan that will see up to 13 Type 26 frigates built for the Royal Navy over the next few years.

The Sunday Times reported earlier this month that the government declined a request from the company to help fund it’s favored option of closing Govan and investing £200 million in a more extensive upgrade of the Scotstoun yard.

BAE declined to comment on the report in time for publication but said in a statement.

“Following a thorough assessment of options, a number of factors led to the decision to retain and invest in both of our sites in Glasgow……. We are working closely with the Ministry of Defence and trade unions to determine the best design for the facilities,” the company said.

During a briefing earlier this summer BAE executives said the reasons the company went for incremental improvements of the two yards rather than build a single super yard included the cost of investment and the detrimental impact the one yard approach would have on the early stages of the Type 26 construction program.

The cost of the Scotstoun option was also higher than originally estimated they said.

Government money is involved in the £100 million two yard approach.

The company is targeting the first quarter of next year to award a contract to a construction to get the update work underway.

BAE is four months into a £859 million Type 26 demonstration phase contract and is continuing negotiations with the Ministry of Defence for an initial manufacturing deal covering the first three frigates expected to be signed around the start of April next year.

The company recently placed a number of production contracts with key suppliers like Rolls-Royce, Rohde & Schwarz and David Brown Gear Systems for the first three warships.