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Last Updated: Wednesday, 31 May 2006, 16:50 GMT 17:50 UK
Launch date for nuclear submarine
A computer generated image of an Astute class submarine
A computer generated image of the Astute class submarine
A launch date has been announced for Britain's latest nuclear submarine, which is being built in Cumbria.

BAE Systems in Barrow said the first of three Astute Class vessels would be launched on 8 June 2007 - almost four years later than originally planned.

The 3.5bn programme was dogged by delays and budget overruns, with the government putting in an extra 450m.

BAE said the launch, from the Devonshire Dock Hall at Barrow, would be conducted by a senior Royal.

The Astute vessels will be the Royal Navy's biggest, most powerful attack submarines ever.

Weighing 7,800 tonnes - equivalent to 1,000 double-decker buses and almost 100 metres (328ft) long - they will have more firepower than any previous attack sub.

The government signed the Astute contract in 1997 but the first hull sections were not laid until 2001.

Further orders

Murray Easton, BAE Systems submarines managing director, said: "It is an extraordinary achievement for everyone involved that we are now in a position to make this commitment on such a complex and challenging project."

BAE Systems employs about 3,000 people in Barrow.

Timothy Heslop, Cumbria County Council's cabinet member for economic development, said: "This is a real success story for Barrow - the Astute programme has driven the renaissance of the yard and has been vital in securing jobs for the region."

Bill Joughin, leader of Barrow council, added: "This exemplary project proves that Barrow can deliver world-class vessels and hopefully trigger the urgently-needed further orders of Astute class submarines.

"It's almost exactly a year away, but excitement is already building about the launch.

"With a senior Royal, hundreds of VIP guests and tens of thousands of people from the town, it will all add up to be a big day in the spotlight for Barrow."


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