In March 2007, amidst protest from the public and MP’s alike the Westminster Parliament voted to endorse the replacement of Britain’s Trident submarine fleet with over 160 MPs voting against, in what was described as the concept phase of renewing the Trident Weapons System. At the next phases, Initial Gate, Parliament again voted in favour of continued new developments.
From the governments ‘Initial Gate Parliamentary Report’:
Since Parliamentary approval to replace our nuclear deterrent in 2007 the MOD has spent around £900M (at outturn prices) on the Concept Phase of initial submarine design work, the progression of the CMC work with the US and the investment in design, programme management and construction skills that will allow us to build the submarines effectively.
Between now and Main Gate in 2016 (the decision point at which contracts for building the submarines will be placed) we expect to spend a further £3Bn at outturn prices on the work plan set out in section 4.1 (including the long lead items previously highlighted). We therefore expect to have spent some £3.9Bn on reaching Main Gate, or around 15% of the outturn cost of the submarines (based on a four boat fleet).
This is in line with the MOD’s approvals guidance, which advises that programmes should expect to spend 15% of their budget in reaching Main Gate. This ensures that programme risks are understood and managed, build contracts are based on suitably mature designs, and there is confidence that sufficient preparation has been made to deliver to time and cost.
The submarine is only one aspect of the renewal of the UK’s Nuclear Weapons System, other aspects are the nuclear warheads themselves, and the infrastructure required to maintain the existing system and develop a replacement.The government says it has made no decision on changing the existing warheads, but £billions have already been spent at AWE Aldermaston & Burghfield upgrading facilities needed to develop new warheads.
£300 million was recently given to Rolls Royce to start development work on new Trident submarines despite a final decision to replace them not due until 2016.