More Problems with Astute

Discussion in 'Current Affairs' started by 5dits, Sep 16, 2008.

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  1. Problems with the Astute Class submarine are now so severe that the MoD and BAE are reviewing the entire programme including the possibility of scrapping the final three orders.

    Last week it was revealed that problems in the testing and commissioning phase of the first submarine had delayed the start of sea trials and ultimately delivery to the Royal Navy by several months. It has since been reported that problems with certain electrical components have arisen along with a shortage of parts for the nuclear attack submarines.

    The project has been inundated by cost overruns in excess of £2bn, severe delays and bickering between the MoD and BAE over who should pay the additional expenses.

    A spokesperson for BAE confirmed on Sunday that the troubled project is now under review "to determine how best to minimise the impact on the programme. A formal announcement will be made at the appropriate time."

    The review comes at a bad time for both parties, leading some to speculate that the final number of submarines that are ordered will be minimised. Procurement officials at the ministry have been under intense pressure to make cuts to several high profile programmes in an effort to solve the £2bn procurement deficit the MoD faces over the next three years. The troubled Astute programme was to have originally produced 12 submarines. The MoD has only confirmed the orders for six, with a seventh being a distinct possibility as well.

    But sources close to the programme can reveal that there is a very realistic possibility that the MoD will now have to consider only ordering the four submarines currently under construction.

    BAE is alleged to be having trouble filling their workforce at their naval yard in Barrow. Officials close to the programme have told Defence Management in the past that not enough young people are interested in taking on highly skilled apprenticeships and that jobs like naval architects and engineers are not as appealing as they once were.

    The cost of the first three Astutes has ballooned to £3.8bn, almost the equivalent of the two new aircraft carriers. The MoD is also moving money out of the programme to begin funding the Trident replacement.
  2. Well there's a suprise. A MOD project that's late, no working and costing us a fortune.


  3. 5dits. That last but one paragraph is quite revealing. The way shipbuilding in general is regarded in this Country, it's hardly surprising that, not only do young people not want to get in it, existing workers want to get out of it. The permanent insecurity of employment and the fact that current day kids are not interested in complicated things like engineering is not encouraging for the future. The aircraft industry is pretty close behind.

    It's useful to view this in a light other than the fashionable "MoD and Industry are crap" arguments. MoD does what the Government and the Treasury tells it to. It doesn't have to be clever or sensible.
  4. Agree PoL.

    I've said this before but I work with various parts of DE&S quite frequently and they really aren't the enemy. The MOD has its fair quota of idiots just like anywhere but really global economics, the govt, and all sorts of things are responsible for the mess that we continually find ourselves in.

    If we could just bite the bullet and buy off the shelf from wherever we needed to then things would be better. We need to have national capabilities in some areas- like ammunition and nuclear- but do we need to be able to build our own ships and planes? In a drawn out war of national survival like WW2 yes, but that's seriously unlikely. A war that bad won't be long enough to build new equipment next time. Let's just buy some F-18s, Alvaro de Bazans, etc and accept that a lot of the heavy end of the defence industry is past the point of saving.

    Rant over. :thumright:
  5. Of course a lot depends on what sort of Country we want to live in and defend. If it's one that makes its wealth from stacking shelves with things made by other people, playing mud pies and meccano on building sites, flipping food on a hot plate, providing popular but mind numbing entertainment to the masses or "pyramid selling" on a grand scale, then we are certainly almost home and dry.

    Buying the clever and complicated kit from the more technically and industrially advanced Nations is, clearly, survivable for as long as the means of paying for it exists. Once the finance by smoke and mirrors disappears, though, one is somewhat buggered; particularly when there's nobody left at home to make (or knows how to make) the things you can no longer buy: but, hey, what the hell do I know.
  6. Again, I agree with you- and the picture you paint is of a country that is not somewhere I would choose to live (accident of birth and all that).

    However, whilst I take your point I wonder if it is the MOD's job to single handedly prop up British industry. Given that no-one else is buying ships off BAe in any great numbers, and those that do buy don't take delivery (Brunei corvettes anyone?), wouldn't it be easrier for us, and less compromising to defence of the realm, to just buy off the people who have the economies of scale.

    Or take the Dutch route, which has kept Royal Schelde afloat. Get the Koreans or whoever to build the hulls and superstructure- then do the fitting out yourself, partly paid for by the savings on the heavy industry bit. Looks like they're going down that rourte with the next lot of RFAs.

    It' s not ideal, but I think we have to put the guys in the front line first, and let industry look to its own. Just because we're their only customer in many cases doesn't mean that we have to buy from them- except politically, and that's a whole other can of worms....
  7. So what's the point of the Armed Forces, then?
    What's left to defend, Sky TV? Call Centres?

    Or are the Armed Forces just there to be a world policeman, to let our politicians strut the worlds stage?

    Somebody has to make something, if only to produce the tax revenue to pay for the Forces in the first place!
  8. The big question is not so much should MOD prop up UK industry, rather does the MOD think it can fight a war without an indigenous defence industry, if the answer is yes well buy from the lowest cost supplier, but if is no then you have to look at how much of an indigenous defence industry you need and then support it. One hopes the MOD do this in a pragmatic and sensible rather than an emotional way.
  9. We are there to defend the people of the UK, primarily from external aggression. We are there to defend their right to have factories, start businesses, live in peace.

    Sadly, we are not there to keep them in employment.

    The rot set in with the nationalisation of the motor industry- classic example of merger madness, too many brands, too wide a target market, preservation of outdated working practices. Defensible as long as the govt made public services buy from them. Hence all police cars came from Jaguar, Rover, or at least companies with strong UK presence such as Vauxhall and Ford.

    Same with shipbuilding. In addition, export requirements post-war artificially inflated UK industrial capacity and export earning potential, but this was only achievable at the expense of the UK population's standard of living (having to sell so many cars abroad for every one that you sell in the UK for example).

    As soon as people could exercise choice they did, buying foreign cars because the quality was higher. Now the other public services don't have to and don't buy British why should we?

    We should, because we are British, and it is the right thing to do. I agree with you Streaky.

    But the Armed Forces are small and getting smaller. If we are the only ones doing it then it is unsustainable for both sides. The manufaturers have economically unsustainable business models but end up operating in a seller's market where they can essentially name their own price.

    Unless we have a return to the I'm Backing Britain campaign of the late 60s/early 70s where the people of Britain and all the public services buy british for the sake of it- and in the face of better and cheaper products being available from abroad- then the MOD are essentially p*ssing away taxpayers' money and the capability of the armed forces for the worst kind of gesture politics.

    My grandfather and many of my cousins were coal miners. Most of my family are in manufacturing now- although thankfully in one of the few sectors where we are still world beating. I was in the North East during the miner's strike in 1984 (albeit very young) and still get up there regularly to meet relatives. Those communities have been destroyed.

    I am sympathetic at the personal level because it is bl**dy awful. But the fact remains that it is not the job of the govt or the armed forces to provide full employment or prop up failing industries- unless they nationalise the means of production, obviously, and you sign up to full communism.

    In the system that we live in, and until we change it (if), it is only the job of govt to provide the CONDITIONS where private enterprise can aim for full employment. By removing the necessity for the public services to buy British- which is anyway illegal under OJEU regs now- the MOD is buying out of sentiment at a time when no-one else is. Maybe that makes us true friends to the shipyard workers, I sincerely hope they're grateful, and I'm glad someone is sticking up for them, but it doesn't alter the fact that all we are doing is papering over the cracks to our own detriment.

    Sorry, that was a hell of a lot longer than I intended....
  10. FlagWagger

    FlagWagger Book Reviewer

    The Armed Forces are there to act as required by the UK Government in defence of the UK - if UK society defines itself in terms of call centres and Sky TV, then so be it.

    Agreed - the reliance of the UK on the finanical service sector really grips my sh*t as does the total ignorance of the need for a strong industrial base prodcucing tangible products with real value. The UK economy at the moment is a house of cards, since as you rightly say, someone has to create the wealth to support the public sector.
  11. I understand the emotional attachment to industry in general (after all it was the UK that consistently out-produced the Germans in WWII) and the affect on areas within our country when a particuar concern folds. However, continuing to prop up ailing companies is no good in the long run.

    One quick and genuine question (and it is just this - not a dig):

    How many other countries regularly use BAe for big defence procurement projects?
  12. Excuse me. What's left to defend? Tony our former Socialist Prime Minister and his working-class wife from Liverpool's millions . By not having an Armed Force the Blair's ill-gotten gains might be compromised. Perish the thought!
  13. FlagWagger

    FlagWagger Book Reviewer

    My attachment to industry is not emotional (I'm an engineer, I don't have emotions!). My concern is that the economy of any country depends upon the wealth created by the private sector - while both public and private sector employees pay tax, those in the public sector are actually paid by the country in the first place; a country can only get money from taxing the private sector. Industry generates wealth by making things and selling them at a profit - the service sector shares in this profit by undertaking services to industry. A balanced economy will have representation of both services and industry - the UK has tipped heavily towards the service sector and as a consequence, the UK economy is now vulnerable to the foreign industries on which the UK service sector is dependant.
  14. As a young lad from Barrow i would say that is garbage. I know plenty of people desperate to get apprenticips in the yard.
    As for people wanting to get out, sounds unlikely as most people that work there are quite happy to do nothing all week.
    I know they are strugeling to recruit people who are already skilled and ready to go.
  15. witsend

    witsend War Hero Book Reviewer

    I was under the impression that the shortage was of commissioning engineers?

    Having spent a week in Barrow this month, I had a very quick wander around the boat and was impressed with the compartments that I could enter. Being a binbag, a nice new engine always brings a smile to your face.

    I was also impressed by the size of the shed. Both boats, Astute & Ambush standing next to each other and the 3rd in sections behind Astute.
  16. Think the biggest problem is the way all things go into the so called free
    market .

    In previous ages there were national industries --belonging to the UK and supporting the skills and expertise need to produce and manufacture
    base items required like Power,Energy ,ship building ,steel production
    Transport infra structure etc etc.

    Each Industry was basically fully manned and supported its own community --paid by the Government and any profits taken by the Government. Loss making wasn't a problem the main thing was that you kept a skills base--and lots of people employed.
    The government at the moment has'' sold off''/given away just about everything and is paying the same amount of dosh in keeping the armies of pen pushers in work in created government positions.
    They give subsidies to the privatised ex national industries as well !!

    Then when we require something built we have to rely on contractors and pay huge amounts that usually run over budget and take years to finish!

    :nemo: :nemo:
  17. Anyone else see the next order of boats being built in Groton?
  18. Anyone see an order for the next batch of boats at all?
  19. All any modern navy needs are submarines. At least so long as they are as gooid as, or better (doubtful) than ours
  20. So that's RADAR Picket and Air Defence capability buggered then.

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