A nuclear-powered submarine is moved from Barrow-In-Furness to the Faslane submarine base in Scotland
A nuclear-powered submarine is moved from Barrow-in-Furness to the Faslane submarine base in Scotland. The new funding will enable work on the first of four new submarines © Ashley Cooper/Future Publishing/Getty Images

BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce have won defence contracts worth more than £2bn as the UK moves ahead with the £31bn programme to renew its nuclear deterrent amid heightened security tensions in the wake of the war in Ukraine.

Dreadnought, as the nuclear deterrent renewal programme has been named, is the biggest and most complex defence project the UK has undertaken — described as “the engineering equivalent of building a space shuttle”.

The new funding will enable work on the first of four new submarines, HMS Dreadnought, to progress to sea trials before its entry into service sometime in the early 2030s. It is part of a planned investment of nearly £10bn for the delivery phase of the programme.

The government earmarked £31bn, plus a £10bn contingency, for the successor programme to the current Vanguard class of submarines in 2015 to maintain continuous at-sea deterrent.

First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Ben Key said the system would provide “the ultimate guarantee of security” for Britain over the next 50 years.

The programme brings together Britain’s leading defence contractors. BAE Systems is building the new submarines at Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria alongside industrial partner Rolls-Royce, which is building a new reactor. Rolls-Royce has been the UK’s sole provider of reactors to the Royal Navy since it first introduced nuclear-powered submarines just under 60 years ago.

The new submarines will be 153.6 metres in length, equivalent to three Olympic swimming pools, and will be manned by 130 crew members.

The programme is seen as a key part of the government’s levelling-up agenda. It supported about 13,500 jobs in the north-west of England and a further 16,300 over the rest of the UK last year. In total, it is estimated to support about 30,000 jobs across the UK.

Defence procurement minister Jeremy Quin said: “The Dreadnought Class will be crucial to maintaining and safeguarding our national security, with the nuclear deterrent protecting every UK citizen from the most extreme threats, every minute of every day.

“Designed in the UK, built in the UK and supporting tens of thousands of jobs in the UK, the Dreadnought programme is a leading example of our commitment to defence manufacturing and will continue to boost British industry for decades to come.”

The MoD has insisted that the programme remains within budget. As of last March, £10.4bn had been spent on the concept, assessment and earlier delivery phases, of which £1.9bn was spent in the financial year 2020-21. 

Separately, US defence contractor Raytheon has been awarded a £160mn contract to train the Dreadnought crew at HM Naval Base Clyde.

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