The ceremony took place at the BAE Systems Submarine Solutions shipyard in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, and is a significant step towards the delivery of the latest nuclear-powered attack submarine to the Royal Navy.
The keel is a large beam around which the hull is built and is the first part of the 7,400-tonne vessel to be constructed.
Mr Howarth said:
The keel-laying for the fifth of seven immensely powerful Astute Class boats marks another milestone in our programme to equip the Royal Navy with the most advanced nuclear submarines. It demonstrates this government’s ongoing commitment to investing in the equipment that will form the basis of the Future Force 2020.
This exciting project is helping to maintain the skills required to build such boats in the UK and sustaining thousands of jobs.
The MOD is committed to delivering a planned class of seven submarines, with Astute, Ambush, Artful, Audacious, and now Anson, under construction following the First of Class, HMS Astute.
The Astute Class are the most potent and sophisticated attack submarines ever ordered for the Royal Navy. They have improved capability for worldwide operations, much greater firepower, better communications and crew accommodation than in-service submarines.
Bernard Gray, the MOD’s Chief of Defence Materiel, said:
This latest progress on the Astute programme is fantastic news not only for the MOD and the Royal Navy but also the submarine-building industry in this country.
The close collaboration between the MOD and BAE Systems Submarine Solutions continues to achieve great results and deliver to the Royal Navy the most modern and effective equipment available.
The keel-laying ceremony took place at the Devonshire Dock Hall in Barrow before hundreds of BAE Systems employees and guests, including pupils from local schools.
The BAE Systems shipyard in Barrow remains the UK’s centre of excellence for submarine design and building. Around 5,000 people are employed at the yard with as many people again employed throughout the supply chain.