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The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence (MOD) is preparing for the construction of the Royal Navy’s two new Future Aircraft Carriers (CVFs), slated to enter service in 2012 and 2015, respectively. The CVFs could be the largest warships ever built in the United Kingdom. But what will the best construction strategies be, and will the UK workforce be able to meet the demands posed by the CVF in addition to the Royal Navy’s other ongoing programmes? At the request of the MOD, the RAND Corporation looked at the risks of current UK shipbuilding practices and estimated the cost implications of using alternative manufacturing options. The researchers gathered information primarily via surveys sent to major shipbuilders in the United Kingdom, the United States, and across Europe. They find, generally, that UK shipbuilders should continue to use their current subcontracting practices but also take advantage of standards such as those used in commercial outfitting in the rest of Europe and Asia, which focus on installation and assembly at the earliest possible construction phase. The researchers also encourage MOD shipbuilding programmes to identify subcontractors as early as possible and to subsequently include them in the design process.

The research described in this report was sponsored by the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence. The research was conducted jointly in RAND Europe and the RAND National Security Research Division.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Monograph series. RAND monographs present major research findings that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND monographs undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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