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Warships: Shipbuilding

Volume 504: debated on Wednesday 27 January 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the (a) Astute and (b) Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability programmes; and if he will make a statement. (313110)

[holding answer 25 January 2010]: The Major Projects Report 2009 reported delays to the Astute Class Programme which will lead to cost growth and reduction in planned submarine availability. Of the seven planned Astute Class submarines the first four boats have been ordered. Boat 1 (Astute) is currently undergoing an extensive programme of Sea Trials while Boats 2 to 4 (Ambush, Artful and Audacious) are in various stages of construction. Orders for long lead items for Boat 5 and the reactor core for Boat 6 have also been placed.

Following the delays, work to re-baseline the Astute Programme is ongoing and the final impact on both the overall programme and individual boat build profile can only be confirmed once detailed joint planning and cost analysis work has been completed and MOD investment and HM Treasury re-approval has been obtained.

A competition for the Tanker element of the MARS Programme was originally started in late 2007. The competition was cancelled in March 2009 and subsequent work to review the procurement strategy concluded that a more open approach, considering a range of possible solutions, is more likely to secure best value for money. A new international competition for the Tanker element of MARS is therefore under way and Pre-Qualification Questionnaires from a number of companies/consortia are currently being evaluated. This work is nearing completion and, once internal MOD approval to proceed to the next stage of the competition has been granted, invitations to submit outline proposals will be issued. This is expected to be during spring 2010. On current plans the contract is due to be awarded in 2012.

The later classes of MARS ships, Fleet Solid Support and Amphibious Combat Support, remain uncommitted at this stage.