Update April 10/2015:
In the midst of the United Kingdom’s election politicking, the Conservative party has promised to build four new replacement subs for the UK’s Trident nuclear deterrent. The Royal Navy currently uses SSBN Vanguard-class subs, with the UK government required to make a decision over whether to replace the current system by 2016. The debate over the UK’s nuclear deterrent program has become increasingly politicized, with the parties split over the program’s future.
Britain has announced a GBP 350 million (about $560M), 42 month contract for a 4th “complex overhaul” of its 15,000t SSBN Vanguard Class nuclear missile submarines. HMS Vengeance will require about 2.5 million man-hours of work, including installation of a new Mk.2 nuclear reactor core. As of March 2/12, the submarine was at Devonport ready to dock down, and will remain in dry dock until flood-up in late 2014.
HMS Vengeance is the last of the UK’s 4 SSBNs submarines to undergo the Long Overhaul Period and Refuel (LOP-R). HMS Vigilant has just completed hers, and departed for the sea on March 27/12. Vengeance may even mark the UK’s last-ever reactor refueling contract, as the Mk.2 reactor that powers Britain’s refitted Vanguards and new Astute Class fast attack boats never needs mid-life refueling. Vengeance’s work will reach far beyond her reactor, however…
Babcock Project Manager Jonathan Benzie and MoD Project Contract Manager Commander Ian Bartlett have a large task ahead of them.
Some of the upgrades will be tactical, involving improved missile launch equipment, and upgraded computer systems.
Others refit efforts involve surveys and non-destructive testing, hull & structure preservation; and overhaul of all the submarine’s major components, systems and equipment. This includes a significant effort to upgrade the propulsion system instrumentation, and some some first-of-class fits to replace high-maintenance motor generators with main static electric power converters. Other efforts will involve hydraulic systems, pressurised gas systems and trim, bilge and ballast system valves, and pipework.
Orders are already in hand for some 850,000 individual items needed, from a screw the size of a pinhead to large items of new plant and equipment. The effort will sustain more than 1,000 jobs at Babcock in Devonport, another 300 at sub-contractors in Plymouth, and about 700 jobs in the industrial supply chain across the UK.
The overall contracts between the UK MD and Babcock have continued to evolve as well, and the LOP-R deal for HMS Vengeance follows both British procurement trends, and new initiatives from the completed HMS Vigilant refit. The job doesn’t lend itself to the kind of “Future Contracting for Availability” approach used in Britain’s 2007 nuclear submarine maintenance agreement, but it does entail deeper partnering, greater transparency of information including financial data, incentives to achieve or better the agreed schedule, and cost reduction. For example, a number of hydraulic systems, pressurised gas systems and trim, bilge and ballast system valves, and pipework will now be removed and overhauled without requiring initial survey or test, saving both time and money.
In preparation for the LOP-R, Babcock has already undertaken some advance surveys and inspection work on Vengeance at Clyde. Meanwhile, other preparation work including structural surveys and maintenance has also been on-going in Devonport to prepare 9 Dock and its associated facilities, ready for Vengeance to be docked down. UK MoD | Babcock | BBC.