There could be further delays to the Trident replacement programme it has emerged, as problems with manufacturing another class of submarines could have a knock-on effect.
The government was forced to admit in a Defence Select Committee meeting that work on manufacturing new Astute-class nuclear-powered submarines is running significantly behind schedule.
The Astute submarines were due to come into service in August 2019 but it will now be at least January 2021 before the first one is ready. They are being built at the BAE facility in Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria.
Conservative Mark Francois MP labelled the project a ‘disaster’ and said that things at Barrow have been going ‘horribly wrong for years’. Barrow is also where work has begun on building the Dreadnought-class of submarines, which are due carry Britain’s nuclear missiles from the early 2030s.
It is believed that the issues with the Astute class will delay work on the Dreadnought class, which could have cost implications for Britain’s nuclear weapons system. It will also raise questions about the ability of the government to guarantee its policy of ensuring a nuclear-armed submarine is on patrol at all times.
This is only the latest in a series of delays and issues for replacing Trident, Britain’s nuclear weapons system, casting further doubt on the viability of the programme.