Submersible Ship Nuclear Replacement (SSNR)
Design work for the next-generation of Royal Navy submarines is underway following the award of two contracts to UK industry, the Defence Secretary Ben Wallace announced 17 September 2021. Two contracts worth £85-million each had been awarded to BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce to deliver design and concept work for a future Class of Royal Navy submarine.
SSNR emerged in 2019 from the Maritime Underwater Future Capability (MUFC) program to develop “future capability requirements and develop options to perform operations and tasks within the underwater environment when the current Astute Class Submarines leave service.”
No name has been assigned to this class, which might as well be called the Commonwealth [or Dominion] class, because it seems ideally suited fro collaboration with Australia, and possibly Canada. Just days before the UK announce the SSNR project, Australia cancelled further work on an existing conventional submarine contract with France, and announced its intention to proceed with a nuclear submarine with fellow Alglophones UK and USA, under the AUKUS alliance. In addition to the SSNR project, the US has embarked on a counterpart SSN-X project.
But the American SSN-X is probably rather more submarine the Austrlians are seeking, will not see new baost until the 2030s and the massive SSN-X design effort would probably prove rather indifferent to Australian input. In contrast, the SSNR project would see smaller boats in the water in the 2020s, and the six units of the SSNR class might prove quite amendable to dsign input from the Austrlian 8-boat class. Canada has a long standing desirement for SSNs to assert sovereignty in the far North, and may well see this as a unique opportunity to join the SSN club.
In 2019, H I Sutton suggested that "It is likely to be similar to the Dreadnought Class missile submarines currently being built, but without the missile compartment. It will thus be larger and longer than the current Astute Class boats. It should have the distinctive streamlined sail (called the fin in British parlance), X-form rudders and pump-jet propulsion."
Over the next three years and supporting 350 jobs in the process, the contracts will deliver design work to inform a future decision which will help define the replacement approach for the Astute Class submarines – the nuclear powered fleet of submarines (SSNs) currently in service with the Royal Navy. S119 Astute was placed in somicssion 27 August 2010, and by the relatively brief 25 year service life projected for boats of this calss, would be taken out of service around the year 2035. Astute was laid down in 2001, and launched in 2007. Based on this chronology, the first SSNR would need to be laid down in 2026 and launched in 2032.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “Marking the start of a new journey for the Royal Navy’s submarines, British designers and engineers will lead the way in developing submarines for our Royal Navy. This multi-million pound investment ensures that this vital capability will be ready to replace our Astute Class submarines as they come out of service, whilst supporting high-skilled jobs across the Midlands and North West of England.”
In his role as Shipbuilding Tsar, the Defence Secretary is firmly committed to supporting the UK shipbuilding and maritime industries, of which these contracts will play an important role. Underpinned by the Prime Minister’s £24-billion increase in defence spending across four years, these contracts build upon commitments outlined in the recent Defence Command Paper ensuring that the Royal Navy has a world-leading underwater capability prepared to meet future threats.
Submarine Delivery Agency CEO, Ian Booth said: “Designing and building submarines is one of the most complex and challenging feats of engineering that the maritime industry undertakes. It is essential that work on the next generation underwater capability commences as early as possible. This relies on some of the nation’s most experienced defence nuclear experts from the very beginning of the design phase.”
The industry teams, including Babcock International, are working closely with MOD to mature early design work on a range of options for a new crewed nuclear-powered submarine known as the Submersible Ship Nuclear Replacement (SSNR).
The contract with BAE Systems in Barrow will sustain around 250 roles at the shipyard to develop the platform design and delivery arrangements. At Rolls Royce in Derby, approximately 100 jobs are expected to be sustained through the contract for the development of the Nuclear Steam Raising Plant and the production arrangements.
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