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New BAE destroyer launches today on the Clyde

Another eyewatering day for UK taxpayers

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The cost of an Arleigh Burke type ship to a foreign buyer wishing to build the outer casing in a local shipyard? It depends. But South Korea's KDX-IIIs - an example of a foreign-assembled Arleigh Burke design, the first of which launched earlier this year - are thought likely to cost about US$923m, or about £450m. Less than half the price of a Type 45, for a much, much better ship.

Still, at least we won't be dependent on the Yanks, like the Koreans will. (Just on the French and Italians. Oh wait - and the Americans, actually. To be specific, we'll be dependent on Bill Gates, because the Type 45s will run on Windows.)

So actually we could do a deal like the Koreans did, be dependent just on the Yanks instead of the Yanks and everyone else, and save around £3bn. We could spend some of that on helicopters and transport planes, so that our boys and girls in Afghanistan and Basra wouldn't have to operate with their hands tied behind their backs, and wouldn't have to spend half their leave periods waiting for planes. We could spend the rest on bumping their pay up a bit. It would be nice if a highly-trained fighting soldier started on more money than a kitchen potwash boy; it would be nice if a veteran corporal commanding a combat team of eight men got more than a police constable's starting pay. Indeed, it would only be fair.

As for those new apprentices on the Clyde - here's a warning. The current navy shipbuilding plan might keep you in work for 15 years. But BAE Systems isn't going to win much work other than from the UK government.

Don't trust them to keep you going beyond that point. Don't take out a mortgage on a house in Govan, and have kids, and just expect that there will still be steel to work in 2025 when you're well and truly trapped. The world is full of hungry people dying to build ships. This is probably not the start of a brave new world for Clyde shipbuilding. ®

*Sea Dart did shoot down an antique Silkworm missile fired by the Iraqis in 1991. What's less commonly known about that engagement is that the Silkworm had already gone past the destroyer which fired the Sea Dart. Normally it's better to shoot the flying things down while inbound, rather than outbound; often they hit one of your ships while passing through.

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