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Billy Baker

31 years in service, + 4 years Re-fit + 10 Years minimum (15 years mentioned in another article) extra service life = 45-50 years in total.

John Clark

Delaying Trident replacement certainly paid off didn’t it….

£500 million per refit, our political classes really are class one f#cking idiots….

Today will be no different, desperately needed extra defence funds will be pissed against the wall on electioneering gimmicky tax fiddling ‘for hard working families’

Give me strength…..

Irate Taxpayer (Peter)


The really bad news is = it won’t be half-a-billion quid………..

Before any work has even started, I believe this one refit will cost at least 50% more!

Let me explain why……

Navy Lookout is reporting a “planned” 7.2M man-hours for refitting Victorious (note 1).

However, if one takes commercial shipbuilder’s Cammell Laird’s latest statutory annual accounts, they last reported (back in 2022) both their total annual spend and also their total number of man-hours worked (i.e. on the total of all their projects throughout that year. Remember Camel’s of Scouseland now only do big ship refits).

Cammell Laird’s labour rate was almost exactly £100 / per man / per hour (in 2022).

Therefore, if Camels’ figure is now applied to the very-similar and directly comparable working practices at The DML Devonport yard – and thus onto this now-imminent Victorious refit – that gives a total “planned” budget for this one refit, mostly for dockyard labour, of nearly three-quarters of a billion quid.

That huge expenditure is before buying the MOD/RN buy many big bits of GFE direcly from key suppliers; another four more years of inflation and the risk of any “unplanned” variations to their final contract scope (i.e. like finding weavils, maggots and woodworms inside the ship’s hull).


All in all, Devonport’s planned working practices for this next refit are akin to building a very big wooden model of HMS Victory – only using very small wooden matchsticks – whilst feeding each and every single matchstick in separately in through the neck of a very narrow glass bottle.


Therefore, reading both the article itself and also looking at the “quite-appalling” photo (published directly above), one must surely be querying the one key principle underpinning the whole way that Devonport Dockyard’s management has been planning this particular submarine’s “refit methodology”:

Why oh why is everything planned to be going in and out via the hatch?

Why on earth have they not planned for providing two large temporary large access hatches: to be cut into the top (or, even better, the sides) of the sub’s pressure hull?

It only really needs two in this case = one forwards and one amidships.

Furthermore, cutting out only a few holes internally – preferably vertically down through just a few of the internal decks and also opening up wider some existing horizontal hatches, would “works wonders” for improving access for the workforce.

Those openings would allow all of the men – and especially the biggest pieces of bulky and complex equipment – to be fed very deeply into the sub’s interior. All would get in and out both far more easily, and thus also move around inside the hull far more quickly. That will all speed up all of the work that follows on…..

This approach would also prevent the need to strip down, and then very-painstakingly reassemble (and then even-more painstakingly retest and recalibrate) this sub’s numerous items of very-complex electronic equipment.

(Important note to Devonport Dockyard Management. Please also plan to re-plate the two outside holes – welding them both up very thoroughly – before going out on the first sea trial)

That whole approach – one which has basically been done before on other types of UK subs – would dramatically improve the overall productivity.

That revised approach would, in turn, very significantly reduce the total costs and, especially, also improve the quality control during the entire refit.

It would also then get the Victorious submariner’s back out to sea on a much-quicker timeline than the currently-planned nought point four of an entire decade…..

Peter (Irate Taxpayer)

Note 1. Instead of the word “planned” written here: some readers of NL may care to substitute instead the phrase “wildly guessed at by the MOD civil servants and Babcock directors; whilst jointly using their office’s Ouija board” (MOD and Babcock often call this approach “jointly working in partnership together”…… is like two blind men sharing their white sticks and guide-dogs)


Cammell Laird still does small construction projects i.e. block sections for assembly elsewhere. The Sir David Attenborough is a one-off and small ferry project. But, yes. Cammell Laird is mainly repair, refit, and maintenance.


Cammel Laird did a subcontract for some of the Astutes hull sections
The Attenborough was 130m and 10,500 tons

They are also doing small sections/blocks for T26


1.8m hatch is nearly 6 ft wide, on the older boats it was half that 🙂
everytime you cut the pressure hull for access it reduces the diving depth.
Larger hatches are failure points.
The kit on the sub is designed to go though these hatches.

Any 10 minute job on a sub normally becomes about 4 days, the working way….
i.e the other 4 systems you have to tag out and remove to get to what your working on.

Supportive Bloke

Not an easy thing to do welding a pressure hull to the standards required. Even cutting it open would affect the strength of the steel close to the opening. To cut it open you would need to strip the compartment first.

Given that most machinery will be stripped out anyway that isn’t that big a deal if the sequencing is right. Sure it becomes a more complex GANNT chart than it needs to be. But two hull holes don’t necessarily make things a whole load better.

The electronics going in will be more compact than those coming out in an upgrade cycle.


I would think the hull cut location is designed in, so that its an easy removal for the equipment inside and nothing substantial located there. Thats easier when the hulls are made in major modules for fitting out purposes before welding together- but only need 1 for a refit cut

Example below is of course the bow section which is outside pressure hull

Last edited 4 months ago by Duker
Supportive Bloke

As N-a-B very clearly expresses below every time you cut the pressure hull it changes how circular it is.

Every tiny bit out of circular affects how deep the sub can go and how many dive cycles it can sustain.

If you cut a hole in the steel things get worse, whist the weld should be identical to the pressure hull still it never quite is. So it flexes differently which also changes allowable depth and dive cycles.

David Graham

Absolutely. As usual, the “experts in all things” no better than those who actually know what they are talking about.

John Clark

Horrendous …..

I wouldn’t doubt it Peter…


Well they have just completed Vanguards refuel/major overhaul so they know whats required and likely cost.


Cutting the pressure hull and then re-welding changes the residual stress field therein and also affects the out of circularity of the hull. Both those effects affect the collapse pressure – and potentially mode – of the pressure hull, which affects both the allowable diving depth and the fatigue life of the hull.


I suspect you’re also misinterpreting those accounts. Turnover is – give or take – £94M and they’ve “sold” just shy of 900000 manhours. However, they’ve also made best part of £67M of supply chain purchases, which comes off the turnover – although I suspect there will be some changes back and forth.

Upshot is that I suspect your £100/hr figure came from dividing £94M by 900000 hours, whereas what you’re probably looking at is dividing £27M by 900000, which is a lot closer to £30/hr.

Supportive Bloke

£30/hr sounds remarkably cheap when a skilled carpenter is taking £24/hr (at least) and then a reasonable allowance on top of that. Margins of 18% don’t really work.


I was involved in an LPD refit where the labour prices from Devonport ended up getting cut significantly (over 1/3) to enable the refit to complete on time and on budget. That allowed Devonport get a competitive assessment for their next bid.

I would not be surprised if the 560mil contract contains a lot of option items included in the initial bid that have to be activated if they are required. Its a far better way of doing things. Allow for the cost in the bid which negates the need for a 3 x cost increase in growth work.


Always great to see things just as short sighted, corrupt and dysfunctional in the UK as they are in the US. Give me strength, indeed.


Delaying Trident replacement certainly paid off didn’t it….”

yes the old ‘alternatives review’ probably wasted 4-5 years. The answer was as expected , -there is no alternative.

Mark Tucker

The Limit really is reactor life. The H Reactor core is advertised as good for 25 years. HMS Victorious has done 15 years since her refuel. So best case is 10 years after she returns to service when she comes out. The question is how long will this refit take? Given recent history, four years could easy turn into five or six.

If that happens maintaining deterrent patrols with both Victorious and Vigilant in Deep maintenance will be challenging.

Supportive Bloke

She isn’t running her reactor so the rate of core life usage is decreased?

It is mostly down to neutron bombardment which picks up as the reactor power level increases…..


Some context would be nice, this is not just a U.K. issue. These boats are complex and have been worked hard, exceeding their design criteria. So the negative slant could very well be replaced by a positive one for an exceptional engineering achievement let down by government delaying decisions for a replacement.

David MacDonald

A good point. Engineering is difficult and requires high skills at all levels, far more so than accountancy (so why are accountants paid more?). Nuclear engineering is particularly challenging. That the deterrent has been maintained for 365 days a year over the decades with just four boats is a major national achievement of which the submarine service, the Royal Navy as a whole and the supporting industries should be justly proud.


It’s been said that SSBNs are the most complex vehicles constructed by man, surpassing even the likes of the space shuttle.
Unfortunately as any project manager will tell you, quality is constrained by the triangle of budget, time, and scope. As quality and scope cannot be reduced for something as critical as CASD, we’re always going to see the time and budget aspects increase. Simply the nature of the beast.

Peter S

USS Boise, a Los Angeles class SSN, is to undergo a major overhaul costing $1.2 b and lasting till 2029. The boat has been inactive since 2015 and will be 38 years old in 2029. It is of course much smaller than Victorious. £560 m looks reasonable in comparison if it delivers a boat effectively as good as new.


Thats life extension of boats already at end of 30 year life.

A Evans

Is this the sub where the missile failed recently?


No that was Vanguard as I understand.

Mark Maher

It was Vanguard, the launch cycle from the boat worked fine, the missile itself however (maintained by the folks at Kings Bay in Georgia) failed fire it’s motors upon clearing the surface.


If you actually knew what happened, your clearance would not allow you to be posting it. It’s a great sea story though.


Hes right . Its public information where the Trident D5 missile maintenance facility is
However exactly which was sub and which was missile isnt clear yet.
The missile is ejected with sub produced steam/compressed air , not enough and the accelerometers detect this and the engines wont fire to protect the boat. But it could be a missile fault too


As with frigates major refits of 25-30 years submarines is such a waste. Saving a penny today to spend a pound tomorrow.

Imagine if batch 2 Trafalgar’s had been built in the 90’s, the Astute’s started as the Vanguard’s started to enter service and then the Dreadnought’s a few years earlier too. We could have a larger/younger submarine fleet for (across the entire lifespan) probably less money!

Whale Island Zoo Keeper

Yep. It was just cheaper to keep on building.

What I find infuritating is that obvious. Yet beyond decisions makers. If they got get that right what about the really tough problems.


The problem with that is shown in the very latest numbers from the Budget 24
Defence capital spending is down this year and next

Meanwhile cash for landlords is handed out by a capital gains tax reduction by 4% to 24%


These cost for the sub fleet mean hardly anything left for other ships in the RN

The Dreadnought construction under way. many many billions
The AUKUS future sub development underway (£4.9 bill)- BAE, RR, Babcock
Sonars and sensors alone £1.85 billion – mostly Thales

Mark Tucker

I thought all the Thales tech is meant to be replaced with Tech from Lockheed Martin for the AUKUS Class?

Supportive Bloke

Let me rephrase that for you.

The costs of LIFEX and the ongoing costs of stopping T23 and V boats falling apart mean that the rest of the RN’s budget is being stripped to pay for that.

For that we can thank G. Osbourne Esq for his ‘austerity’ savings program…

There FIFY

When you compare the costs of T31 with the costs of the sonar, above, you end up with nearly 5 x T31…..even T26 with the sums spent on these refurbs is starting to look half reasonable for such a complex and well appointed ship.

Whale Island Zoo Keeper

Remember the breakdown for the costs of a submarine is 90% hull and 10% systems.

For a surface ship it is 40% hull and 60% systems.

Whale Island Zoo Keeper

My concern is SSN numbers. We need an 8th boat. Can the RN have one in the Indian Ocean and then guarantee one permanently available for the North Atlatnic and Norwegian Sea?

Whale Island Zoo Keeper

comment image

The last R-boat Revenge would in 2021 Pounds have cost £650 million-ish to build.

That’s Renown BTW..

Mark Tucker

This is the real issue, inflation in with defense procurement has been running far higher than what we see in the general economy for a long time. There is nothing the defense buys that has not been impacted. This has been a driving factor in force reductions across the western world, not just the in the UK. It has limited wage growth, hurting personnel retention.

We can argue about how it happened, but we can’t undo the past. The problem is how to do we undo it. Unless with find a way to procure what we need for less, we will never get enough to deliver a capable force.

Whale Island Zoo Keeper

Well that is the problem, nobody knows what we need.

The defence industry, the MIC, has become an end itself to make money with ‘defence’ being a secondary consideration.

Then beyond that wider considerations like our use of fiat currencies. One of our biggest security issues here in the UK is that unlike the Germans, French, and Italians we have next to no gold.


300 tons of the stuff not enough ?
Its because of what they wrote in the Telegraph a few days ago isnt it…. so its a thing now

Last edited 4 months ago by Duker
Whale Island Zoo Keeper

What are you on about 300 tons? Where did Mark Tucker mention 300 tons? Or the Daily Telegraph?

Whale Island Zoo Keeper

You meant the gold. Sorry. No 300 tonnes is not enough.

Mark Tucker

Our leadership live in a bubble. Politicians and the senior leadership in both Defense and the Civil service who oversea then are totally out of touch. Until heads roll nothing will change and business as usual will continue. The leadership within the MIC lives in the same bubble. To those inside the bubble, everything is just fine, their reports say so. Until the bubble bursts nothing is going to change.

Unfortunately events that break bubbles are painful. The coming failure of the nuclear deterrent probably will not be enough. It usually takes a massive military loss to brake the perception that everything is just fine.

Whale Island Zoo Keeper

Their level detachment from reality is scary.

Mark Tucker

The next question is will HMS Vigilant be retired or will she go into a DMP in 2027?

If she does the DMP she will be in the drydock, not available for Deterrence patrols for the next five and she would only be available for a few years before a Dreadnought class boat arrives to replace her. It is not like the SSN fleet does not need the maintenance time as well.

Allan Desmond

this will be an utter disaster.