Prospect says there has been ‘systemic failure in scrutiny and quality assurance’ over £10bn Astute submarine fleet


Defence specialists say there is a ‘chilling resonance’ in a report that the MoD’s £1bn-apiece Astute class nuclear submarines are ‘too slow, leaky and rusting’ even before they have entered operational service with the Royal Navy.

Prospect says it has warned that the government was taking on huge risks by cutting in-house technical and quality assurance teams.

It warns that ‘short-sighted cuts’ will end up costing taxpayers billions of pounds and could cost lives.

National secretary Steve Jary said: “The MoD’s chickens are coming home to roost.

“There have been rumours about problems fizzing around the department since HMS Astute started its sea trials. It seems there has been a systemic failure in the scrutiny and quality assurance of this procurement.

“Prospect has warned the government that it is taking huge risks with cuts to specialist staff in the department.”

“There is a chilling resonance between this and the analysis of the Charles Haddon-Cave report into the loss of Nimrod XV230 (see below) in 2006, which blamed the disaster on a culture of cost-cutting over that of safety.

“Sadly, the department seems not to have learned the lessons from that tragic episode.

The Astute class submarine of seven boats, built by BAE systems, will be armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles.

Following sea trials, The Guardian has reported that the submarine cannot sprint to emergencies or away from an attack.

Experts also say it would be unable to keep pace with the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers, which will be able to travel at more than 30 knots and need the submarines to protect them.

The total cost of building the Astute fleet has been put at close to £10bn.

Said Prospect’s Steve Jary: “MoD is no longer able to supervise the construction of submarines effectively. As a consequence, it is accepting both significant risk and significantly increased costs.

“Now that the department has been alerted to systemic failures in quality assurance within BAE Systems and the loss of in-house intelligent customer capability within MOD, Prospect urges the department to rethink is cuts strategy now, before tragedy strikes.

“Nuclear submarines need 100% quality assurance.”

Fourteen servicemen died in 2006 when their Nimrod aircraft blew up after air-to-air refuelling over Helmand province in Afghanistan when leaking fuel made contact with a hot air pipe.

It remains the deadliest single incident involving UK service personnel since the Afghan invasion in 2001.

An official inquiry condemned a ‘change of organisational culture within the MoD between 1998 and 2006′, when financial targets came to distract from safety.

According to Charles Haddon-Cave QC, BAE Systems bore “substantial responsibility” for the failure of the safety case.

His report also found the privatised defence technology company QinetiQ had failed to carry out its role as an independent adviser and failed to check BAE Systems’ conclusions properly.

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