BAE Systems, which is building Britain’s Astute class nuclear submarines at Barrow, has seen pre-tax profits fall by more than 60 per cent.

The business posted a profit of £422m for the year to December 31 – down from £1.2bn in the previous year. But turnover and revenue from investments rose from £17.9bn to £18.18bn.

The company said the outlook for its UK operations remained stable. Last November, BAE announced a restructuring programme of its UK naval ships business, shedding nearly 1,800 jobs across yards because of shrinking government defence contracts.

The Barrow submarine operation is unaffected by the cuts.

Tony Johns, managing director of BAE Maritime – Submarines, said: "The Astute class programme achieved significant milestones last year.

"HMS Astute and HMS Ambush were handed over to the Royal Navy; the construction of the sixth submarine began, while HMS Artful was officially named prior to its launch - highlighting the progress we continue to make in delivering the Royal Navy with a fleet of highly capable submarines.

"It was also particularly pleasing to be awarded our first procurement contracts for the successor to the Vanguard class ballistic missile submarine.  This was a landmark event for the programme and further underlines the Government’s commitment to the nuclear submarine programme.

"We closed the year by opening applications for hundreds of apprentices, trainees and graduates to join us in 2014. Passing on our unique skills to a future workforce is vital to our continued success, and we are committed to providing our employees with great employment prospects and the chance to develop long and rewarding careers."