After the brutal cuts that emerged from the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review, the latest review published last month came as a welcome relief to many. However one quite notable issue did arise; the cost of the Successor-class nuclear ballistic missile submarine, the replacement for the four Trident-class submarines currently in service, had risen by £6bn and was going to take longer than expected to get in to service than previously planned.
This has forced the government to take action regarding the two prime contractors in the manufacture of the vessels; BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce. Speaking to the Financial Times Philip Dunne, defence procurement minister hinted that both companies and the government were locking horns over the project.
This is a project where there is no scope for failure. Contractors need to be working as a team, working in partnership with government.
The weakest link in the situation is thought to be Rolls-Royce’s nuclear engineering division which is responsible for developing the nuclear powerplant for the vessel. The division of Rolls-Royce has suffered a number of profit warnings over alleged mismanagement resulting in the loss of skilled nuclear engineers. This has led to rumours of a government takeover of the division if Rolls-Royce want to continue working on the Successor-class contract.
Additionally, the government has looked in to creating a governing body independent of contractors and the Ministry of Defence to handle the project. With the Labour Party, led by committed anti-nuclear activist Jeremy Corbyn, and the Scottish National Party both opposed to the cost of the program the government can ill-afford to let costs and timetables slip any further thus the government will have to take decisive action.