Rolls-Royce Wins $1.6 Billion Contract to Build Nuclear Submarines for Britain

U.K. Defense Secretary Philip Hammond on Sunday said the new class of submarines will replace the current Vanguard fleet carrying Trident nuclear missiles.

Rolls-Royce on Monday said it has won a contract worth more than £1 billion ($1.57 billion) to power the United Kingdom's next-generation nuclear submarines.

London-based Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC (IW 1000/229), which is best-known for producing jet engines, said the contract includes regeneration of the current Rolls-Royce submarine-reactor core manufacturing facility in Derby, central England.

U.K. Defense Secretary Philip Hammond on Sunday said the new class of submarines will replace the current Vanguard fleet carrying Trident nuclear missiles.

The decision could cause a new rift in Britain's coalition government, with Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives in favor of keeping Trident but the Liberal Democrats wanting a cheaper alternative.

"What we're going to be announcing is a commitment to the major refurbishment of the plant at Rolls-Royce in Derby that builds these core reactors, not just for the nuclear-deterrent submarines but also for our attack submarines, the Astute class submarines," Hammond told the BBC.

"So this is sustaining a sovereign capability in the U.K. and some very high-end technical skills in the U.K. for the next 40 or 50 years."

Hammond was to formally announce the move on Monday.

The Sunday Telegraph newspaper said the Ministry of Defense will fund an 11-year refit of a Rolls-Royce plant that will build two reactor cores -- one for the Royal Navy's seventh Astute submarine and the second for a new ballistic missile sub.

Britain has four Vanguard-class submarines designed to carry Trident nuclear missiles. They are expected to be decommissioned in the late 2020s but their missiles will remain operational until 2042.

Hammond last month awarded contracts worth £350 million to British companies to design the next-generation submarines, although the final decision on replacements and their numbers will not be taken before 2016.

Hammond also said that a review found that Trident was the "best-value solution."

The government has made sweeping defense cuts as part of austerity measures aimed at cutting a record deficit.

The Liberal Democrats want to abandon the so-called "Moscow criterion," which says the United Kingdom should have an arsenal capable of destroying the Russian capital, asserting that it is an expensive relic of the Cold War.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012

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