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The United Kingdom has many contracted and prospective naval shipbuilding programmes on the horizon over the next two decades, ranging from the Astute-class attack submarine to the Future Aircraft Carrier (CVF). The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) wants to know whether the United Kingdom’s existing naval shipbuilding industrial base will be able to meet the requirements of the MOD’s future acquisition plan. Using extensive surveys and a breadth of data, RAND researchers looked at the capacity of the UK naval shipbuilding industrial base and how alternative acquisition requirements, programmes, and schedules might affect this capability. Using the MOD’s current plan, they focused on its potential impact in the areas of labour, facilities, and supplier demand. Overall, the researchers find that, using the 2004 planning assumptions, the overlap of certain large programmes would cause a near-term peak in workload demand, followed by a steady decline. To minimise such inconsistencies, they suggest that the MOD in the near term consider, among other options, shifting the scheduling of the labour demand (known as “level-loading”); reexamining the current UK Defence Industrial Policy to allow non-UK firms to meet peak demand; and using alternative facilities to assist major construction during peak workload times. For the long term, the researchers recommend, among other alternatives, that the MOD make long-term industrial planning outlooks of this report’s nature a regular occurrence, define an appropriate role for the United Kingdom’s supporting offshore industry, and explore the advantages of interoperable technologies for sharing design work.

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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