The programme aims to maintain the UK's nuclear deterrent beyond the life of the current system, with the introduction into service of the first of a new class of submarines in 2024. The timetable is challenging and the MoD needs to manage key risks if continuous nuclear deterrence is to be maintained. The current two year initial concept phase for the new class of submarines requires a series of important and difficult decisions to be taken by September 2009 to keep the programme on track. The MoD has appointed a Senior Responsible Owner to co-ordinate these decisions. The current predicted cost of procuring the new nuclear deterrent is between £15 billion and £20 billion (2006-7 prices), as outlined in the 2006 White Paper, The future of the UK's nuclear deterrent (Cm. 6994, ISBN 9780101699426). The estimated operating costs once the new class of submarines comes into operation are similar to those of the current deterrent, and the MoD recognises the need by September 2009 to produce robust estimates of whole-life costs. There are major areas of uncertainty in the budget, including the provision for contingency and VAT. The submarine industry is a highly specialised industrial sector with a number of monopoly suppliers and there are real difficulties in providing the right incentives for these suppliers to deliver to time and budget. The tight timetable set for ensuring the seamless transition from the present Vanguard class of submarines to the future class is challenging. A further risk to the programme is a shortage of nuclear-related skills in industry and within MoD - potentially aggravated by competition from civil nuclear projects.
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