Submarines: September 1, 2002


Delays in completing the design of Britain's first Astute-class nuclear attack submarine (SSN) will push its service date back from June 2005 to the end of 2006 or early 2007. This will mean keeping the older Swiftsure-class in service another two years, an increasingly expensive proposition. One of the main problems with Astute is that the government insisted that the shipyard assume all design risks. If it turned that something would not fit or would not work, it would be the shipyard not the government that paid for any required changes. This sounded good at the time (since the design of submarines is complicated as is rarely if ever complete before construction begins, previous submarines had come with hefty additional bills for design changes) but the result has been that the shipyard is proceeding with painstaking care to avoid having such changes occur. New management concepts intended to reduce this problem have in fact made it worse, and the project management is being restructured.--Stephen V Cole


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