Trident and other nuclear-powered submarines hit by Royal Navy spare parts shortage

11:06 14.11.2023 •

HMS Vigilant at HM Naval Base Clyde, Faslane, which carries the UK’s Trident nuclear deterrent.
Photo: Getty

Britain’s nuclear-powered submarines, including those forming Trident, and military ships have been hit by spare part shortages and repair issues, writes INews.

Some of the suppliers tasked with providing parts and replacement equipment to the Royal Navy recently missed their targets, with the Government rating their performance as inadequate, according to publicly available data.

As well as issues in securing supplies of cooling parts for nuclear submarines, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) faced a lack of parts for medical equipment for Navy vessels and for Army engineering equipment. Trident is the UK’s nuclear deterrent system.

The latest Government data show at least five contracts that cover providing replacement or spare parts across the military estate’s ships and submarines were considered inadequate between April and June.

This is because they failed to supply the MoD’s Defence Equipment & Support department with enough spare parts or to complete replacements on time.

Contractors blamed price increases and shortages on the market for the delays, according to official data.

Many MoD contracts analysed by i expected 98 per cent success rates for the timely delivery of parts or repairs.

Performance targets on the contracts are deliberately set at very high levels due to the importance of the maintenance of military equipment.

A defence industry source told i that supplies and repair works were necessary due to Britain’s military hardware being “quite badly aged at this point”.

“More and more repairs are required, while you’ve got a massive armed conflict in Ukraine impacting the military supply market globally.”

One underperforming contract related to Her Majesty’s Naval Base Devonport, where Babcock manages UK nuclear decommissioning and the supply and repair of cooling valves for submarines and boats. The company, one of the UK’s biggest defence firms, made £178m in profit in the 12 months to March 2023.

The Babcock contract covers repairs on marine equipment including Vanguard submarines (which form part of Trident), Trafalgar submarines (which are being replaced by the Astute class) and boats.

Babcock’s website says its facilities at Devonport “include the UK’s sole licensed site for the refitting and refuel/defuel of nuclear-powered submarines, where Trafalgar and Vanguard-Class submarines undergo major refits and upgrades”.

The firm previously faced criticism following reports it attempted to fix some parts of a Trident nuclear submarine with superglue.


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