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The complexity and uniqueness of a nuclear submarine require special skills, facilities, and oversight not supported by other shipbuilding programmes. In fact, a single shipyard, Barrow-in-Furness, designs and builds the United Kingdom’s nuclear submarines, and many of the vendors that support submarine construction are sole-source providers. With such specialisation, in addition to a limited design and production demand, there is concern about whether the submarine industrial base can maintain its viability into the future. This report seeks to determine what actions should be taken to maintain nuclear submarine design capabilities and how nuclear submarine production should be scheduled for efficient use of the industrial base. Based on their findings, the authors recommend that the Ministry of Defence determine the scheduling of construction for future submarine contracts as soon as possible; plan to retain a design core of designers, engineers, and draughtsmen during periods of reduced demand; and take steps towards collaboration with other countries.

The research described in this report was prepared for 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 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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