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UK Defence Secretary John Hutton on Nuclear Submarines, 24 March 2009

2009/03/24 - Keel laying ceremony Speech delivered by Secretary of State for Defence at the keel laying ceremony for the submarine AUDACIOUS in Barrow-in-Furness on 24th March 2009.

I’d like to say how delighted and honoured I am to be with you today for the keel-laying of AUDACIOUS.

Our shipyard has a long and proud history of providing the Royal Navy the vessels it needs to protect the freedoms that we all enjoy. We need to take time and remember the foundations on which our societies have been built. And I think there is no better place to do so than here, in the shipyards that have helped provide that security for over a hundred years.

Holland 1 was the first submarine to be designed, built and commissioned at Barrow in 1901. Over 312 submarines have been built in Barrow since then. Your fathers and grandfathers, working this shipyard in the 1960s, built the UK’s first nuclear powered attack submarine HMS DREADNOUGHT. Three years later, in 1966, HMS RESOLUTION launched as our first nuclear missile carrying submarine.

And it was 11 years ago that the last of the VANGUARDS, HMS VENGEANCE, sailed on its sea trials from this ship yard.

In August 1945 Housewife, 49, our own Nella Last, wrote that there were “no big keels laid to make Barrow people feel secure”. She could have been writing about the 1990s, after VANGUARD, as well. We learnt the hard way in that decade that neglecting the workforce, its skills, careers and prospects, was ultimately damaging to individuals, our community, the defence industry and the UK itself. With the new Defence Industrial Strategy, we finally recognised the importance of maintaining and building these skills in the future. We know here in Barrow the importance on investing in a skilled workforce and we know what happens when you don’t do that.

But life is never plain sailing. Many of the difficulties we’ve faced on this Programme are a result of that long gap in submarine design and build between the Vanguard and Astute Classes. But BAES and their supply chain are recovering the capabilities and experience lost during that period.

Today this generation of skilled workers will deliver the next generation of submarines to protect the UK’s vital national interests. The Astute programme is the heart of nearly 5,000 jobs at BAE Systems Submarine Solutions. As many again are employed through the supply chain. You are – rightly - proud of the contribution you are making in providing the Royal Navy with the biggest and most powerful attack submarines it has ever ordered. The whole country is proud of what you do.

We will ask a lot of these submarines and the men who will serve on them. They will provide support to the continuous at sea deterrent. They will carry out a range of military tasks including Anti-Submarine Warfare, Anti-Surface Vessel Warfare, Special and other Operations. Their predecessors played a vital role in getting rid of Al Qaeda from Afghanistan in 2001 through using the advanced Tomahawk Land Attack Missile system. The Astutes will have the same capability.

In short, the Astutes will have global reach, endurance, covertness, sustained high speed and the ability to conduct unsupported operations in hostile environments. Any or all of which will be required in tomorrow’s world to keep our country secure.

We have today, before us, the keel of the fourth submarine, AUDACIOUS. It’s appropriate that she is the fourth of the Astutes, because she is also the fourth Royal Navy vessel to go by this name. The first, a 74-gun ship, true to her name, won three battle honours in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars over 200 years ago. She was built four years before that revolution, when we had no idea that once again our country was about to be at war. The Royal Navy’s incredible victories during that period paved the way for an unprecedented 100 years of peace as well as maintaining the security of our nation, as they do now, every minute of every day.

So Nella’s words are not, I am glad to say, true today. Today we have keels to make our future secure. We have already laid the keels for ASTUTE, AMBUSH and ARTFUL. ASTUTE is nearing completion and will soon be commencing the final stages of her build programme. And, of course, the replacement for the Vanguard class will be our next great undertaking. So today, as we lay the keel block of AUDACIOUS, I would like to finish my remarks by expressing my congratulations and my profound respect to everyone who works in this shipyard for the outstanding job that you do, have done, and will do in the future in helping the Navy with the Astute class programme.

Thank you all very much indeed.

Source: UK Ministry of Defence, www.mod.uk.

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