THE imminent retirement of a committed and hugely successful shipyard chief has been described as a “huge loss” to BAE in Barrow.

Tony Johns is to leave his post as managing director of BAE Systems - Submarines in April, after three-and-a-half years at the helm. Mr Johns took the top job at Barrow’s shipyard in September 2013, when former managing director John Hudson was promoted to the position of managing director, BAE Systems Maritime.

Barrow and Furness MP, John Woodcock said: “Tony will be a great loss to the yard but I completely understand why he feels it is time to move on after four years of intense effort in which he has taken the submarine enterprise to new heights.

“I am deeply grateful for his friendship and support throughout his time in Barrow and hope he will look back with pride on the way he has advanced the Astute programme and achieving the milestone of beginning production on Dreadnought.”

A former submariner of many years, and then Dreadnought programme director, Mr Johns was described by Barrow’s businessmen and women as the ideal man to take charge. He had held a number of positions with the Royal Navy and the Ministry of Defence before joining BAE in 2010.

Now preparing to spend his final months in the post, Mr Johns said: “It’s a fantastic honour and a huge privilege to be the managing director of this business and I have enjoyed the challenge immensely. It’s the right time for me to step aside and I will leave the business in a strong position and with a new managing director, who I’m convinced will continue to take the Barrow shipyard from strength to strength.”

Over the summer of this year, Mr Johns oversaw one of the most important moments in the Barrow shipyard’s history when politicians debated the future of the UK's nuclear weapons programme, which will be carried on board four submarines. In July, after a long spell of uncertainty, a passionate six-hour parliamentary debate saw the country’s MPs finally vote in favour of Trident. At the time, Mr Johns praised his staff for their “business as usual” attitude in the lead-up to the decision.

Read more: Submarines boss hails Trident vote as ‘biggest for yard in 25 years’

Mr Johns will be replaced as managing director by Will Blamey, the shipyard’s Dreadnought programme director since 2013. Mr Blamey began his career with BAE in 1997 and has been in submarines since 2001.

He said: “I’m delighted to be given this opportunity and I’m really looking forward to the challenges which lie ahead in delivering the remaining Astute-class submarines and the new Dreadnought class.”

At peak, BAE Systems anticipates having between 5,000 and 6,000 people working on the Successor programme, and more than 9,000 in the submarines business in total. At present, more than 1,700 people are working on the programme, with 180 having been recruited in 2015.

Every year, BAE pays £250m to those employed in its submarines business. The vast majority of those wages are paid to the Barrow workforce.

Read more:

Proud day for Barrow as fourth Astute class submarine is named

BAE reports rise in profits and sales