Pictured is the first in her class, the Royal Navy’s SSN HMS ASTUTE. ASTUTE sailed from her home port of Faslane at HMNB Cltyde under Scottish moody skies.

The Ministry of Defence has a £7 billion black hole in its equipment budget over the next ten years because of over-optimistic forecasts, the National Audit Office (NAO) has said.

Ministers have delayed programmes such as replacing Astute-class submarines and introducing Protector drones, the first remotely controlled aircraft with transatlantic capability, both moves intended to make this year’s budget affordable, but which could add to future costs.

In the worst-case scenario and if every risk materialises, the NAO said the budget shortfall could be up to £14.8 billion.

Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary, won £1 billion from the chancellor in last week’s budget and is finalising a review of the defence procurement programme.

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