Making the case for the Trident replacement

Oct 1, 2012   //   by NavyLookout   //   Articles, blog, Featured  //  36 Comments

Trident Submarine

Trident submarine HMS Vanguard returns to HMNB Clyde, Scotland after completion of another patrol. The RN has successfully maintained a nuclear-armed submarine on patrol since 1968. The four Vanguard class submarines will start to need to be replacing from around 2020  (© Defence Images, via Flickr)

It is an apocalyptic weapon system that could kill millions of people that thankfully has never been used. It has already cost us £billions and will cost a great deal of money to replace at a time when the nation is in debt and there are so many other things that the money could be spent on. There are millions of poor and starving around the world yet we are building weapons that can destroy whole cities and their populations. There is no doubt the existence of nuclear weapons is a depressing reminder of all that it wrong with humanity. That said, the voices of CND, SNP, The Greens, Lib Dems and many others calling for Britain to abandon the nuclear deterrent may have a deep emotional resonance but their arguments do not stand up to pragmatic examination.

Giving up nuclear weapons means one day another country could decide our destiny

The harsh truth is that to abandon nuclear weapons would be to accept that the fate of the UK could one day be decided by other countries. Without this weapons we may be subject to blackmail, threats or defeat by nations that do posses them. Nuclear weapons are unpleasant but necessary and like it or not, nations that do not posses them will always be in the second rank. If Britain is going to retain power and influence in the world then we need the muscle to back this up. Many see this as about dominating and exploiting other nations, obviously this is something of a grey area but we can and have been a force for good. Despite our much-weakened conventional forces we still hold a seat at the UN security council where we can shape world affairs. (A recent example is the PM’s speech at the UN calling for China and Russia to allow an intervention to end to the violence in Syria). Without nuclear weapons our already waning influence would decline to irrelevance.

The so-called ‘peace campaigners’ believe they have the moral high ground and think they somehow want nuclear war less than those in favour of keeping Trident. This is nonsense, the hundreds of naval personnel who make great personal sacrifices serving on long patrols for months on end do so, not because they are war-mongers, but because they rightly believe that nuclear deterrence helps keeps the peace and their very presence prevents their use.

Since the end of the Cold war it has been argued that the threat of nuclear attack against the UK has receded and we don’t need to worry anymore. While the immediate threat from the Soviet Union is long-gone, Russia still has a large stock of nuclear missiles and retains superpower ambitions, only temporarily checked by financial issues. There is little chance of Russia becoming a nuclear threat in the near future but circumstances can change much faster that the 15-20 years it takes to acquire nuclear armed submarines. In fact the number of nations with nuclear missiles has increased since the end of the cold war. Although China, North Korea, Pakistan and India are far away and appear unlikely to be direct adversaries of the UK, there are many potential conflicts that we can’t ignore and that could at least  leave us allied to nations in conflict with these nuclear powers. Who is to say that China, which is expanding its navy fast, will not be routinely sending nuclear armed submarines into the North Atlantic in future? Iran is working hard to obtain nuclear weapons and if not stopped (possibly in the near future by Israel), would leave us facing a nuclear armed country that considers the UK to be “the little Satan”. Even if there is only tension between the UK and a nuclear state it will always be reassuring that our power to strike back will deter even the craziest regimes.

The asymmetric threat is always cited as supposedly making nuclear missiles irrelevant. “What about terrorists with nuclear bombs in a lorry or a shipping container?” Any terrorist must be ultimately be supported by some country (especially to obtain nuclear weapons) and even the most dysfunctional state will think twice about sending terrorists to use nuclear weapons against a nation equipped to retaliate. The nuclear deterrent is really for preventing blackmail by other nations and of course is not the complete answer to the complex problem of terrorism which is really a separate issue.

Europe has had something of a free ride on the back of the US that has provided much of our defence since WWII. Faced with its own decline and financial problems, the US is moving forces away from Europe and into the Pacific as is more concerned with China than Russia. Most of Europe continues to live in dreamland, defence budgets continue to fall in the belief that ‘Uncle Sam’ could still bale us out in a real crisis. Although the UK deterrent will always depend heavily on US technical assistance, it does signal to both the US and the rest of the world that we are not as delusional about defence as most of Europe. Many argue the UK deterrent is worthless because it is a part-American system. Maintaining the system does rely on US co-operation but once at sea, the UK’s missiles can be fired even in the most unlikely event that the US was not involved in the conflict.

Unilateralist who argue that by disarming we could set “a great moral example” to other nations are utterly deluded. While many nations are striving and great cost to build their own nuclear weapons, however well-meaning, disarming would ultimately be interpreted as a sign of weakness and stupidity. In international politics military weakness has never produced peace and stability, usually the opposite. Bullies only respect strength not moral arguments. Jimmy Carter’s administration of the 1970s allowed US military strength to decline. The result was a more unstable world and a more aggressive Soviet Union. Reagan’s resolute strengthening of US forces and its nuclear capabilities forced the Soviets to negotiate a reduction in strength and ultimately achieved the peaceful victory in the Cold War.

Half-baked cost-saving solutions

The tough reality is that replacing Trident will cost around £20+ Billion and this has resulted in several half-baked cost-saving proposals dreamed up by politicians without thorough military analysis and that would simply not be workable. Many studies hunting for savings have always concluded that four ballistic missile submarines are the only minimum credible continuous nuclear deterrent option. Proposals have included building more Astute class submarines to carry nuclear-tipped Tomahawk cruise missiles. Cruise missiles are much slower than ballistic missiles and any state with a modern air-defence system would have a good chance of defeating them. There is also the highly dangerous confusion factor. It is impossible to tell if a cruise missile has a conventional or nuclear warhead. Conventional Tomahawks have been used regularly since the 1990s – a state that detects a Tomahawk might consider itself under nuclear attack and respond with nuclear weapons. This undermines the concept of deterrence and created dangerous uncertainty. Ballistic missiles are virtually unstoppable (without a colossally expensive and technically dubious ‘star wars’ type defence system).

Another less drastic corner-cutting ‘brainwave’ is to reduce the four submarines to three. This is another solution dreamed up by politicians far removed from the daily reality of operating submarines. Three submarines cannot guarantee a continuous deterrent. 1 submarine must be on patrol, 1 in deep refit, 1 just returned from patrol & undergoing maintenance and 1 preparing for patrol, undergoing training or at short notice to go on patrol should there be a problem. Three submarines put too much pressure on the boats and men leaving no slack for unforeseen problems.

A recent amateurish proposal suggests we abandon submarines and just keep a “bomb in the cupboard” to be wheeled out for some kind of retaliation if we were ever attacked. Assuming ‘the cupboard’ survives a nuclear strike, just how it would be delivered to a highly alert target is unclear. Other really desperate suggestions include returning to 1950s-style missiles launched by aircraft which are of course very vulnerable and much shorter range .

Trident and the cost to the Royal Navy

Many would argue that the RN is so depleted because of the money spent on Trident. “If only we could abandon nuclear weapons we could spend more on conventional forces” they say. This is of course a fantasy, if the deterrent was axed the liberal left, having won such victory, would be pushing for a “peace dividend” and every government department would be fighting for their share. It would be very unlikely there would be the political will to re-allocate the bulk of the money to the RN.

The argument for replacing Trident may be perceived here as about maintaining the prestige of the Royal Navy as the operator of the nation’s deterrent. Such thinking is utterly irrelevant when considering something as weighty as national survival. The costs and responsibilities of Trident and its successor has weighed heavily on the RN and it is one of many reasons the rest of the RN is in such a poor state. In a cold analysis of Britain’s defence needs there is an overwhelming case for funding the deterrent separately rather than the cynical political convenience of taking a huge bite out the RN’s ever-dwindling resources. Of course the pain of replacing Trident would be much less if UK defence was funded properly. With just 2.2% of GDP now allocated to defence, (falling from around 4% of GDP when the Trident project was started in the late 1980s) the cost of the replacement now assumes a greater proportion of the limited budget. Sadly a sensible re-balancing of defence spending is most improbable given the political courage required and ‘sacred cows’ that would have to be sacrificed.

If Trident is not replaced, there would still be very significant immediate costs of decommissioning the nuclear infrastructure, the warheads alone could take 4 years to be dismantled. There would be a loss of jobs and skills and the ability to field ballistic missile submarines would be gone, never to be replaced. The industrial impact would almost certainly deprive the UK of the ability to build further nuclear-powered attack submarines (Arguably the most important conventional naval asset) as the Barrow yard would probably close in the absence of a Trident replacement programme.

Despite making an unholy mess of most aspects of defence, fortunately the dominant Tories in the current coalition government are actually committed to replacing Trident. Design work on the successor has been started and it claims that it is funded in future spending plans. However retaining ongoing political support while the new submarines are constructed will be challenging. In the face of further austerity and economic weakness, watch out for politicians standing on a populist platform that says “lets scrap this horrible weapon (that I can’t be bothered to understand) and spend the money on hospitals (and damn the long-term consequences)”. The case for Trident must kept being made especially with a media that is either outright against the program, luke warm or all-too ready to whip up hysteria about anything nuclear.


  • […] Nuclear weapons are very nasty and very expensive but keeping the nuclear deterrent is the only way to ensure they are never used against the UK. They have helped keep the peace and prevent a world war since 1945. Giving them up seems like an easy option to save money but would dangerously undermine our position in the world and ultimately leave us open to blackmail to nuclear armed states. Despite continuous political pressure to cut corners, every study has reached the same conclusion that the only way to maintain a credible continuous nuclear deterrent is with 4 missile carrying submarines. Detailed argument here: Making the case for the Trident replacement  […]

  • […] is well on track with further contacts placed. Every contract will make it harder to cancel this vital project, should the political winds change. The last Type 42 HMS Edinburgh decommissioned this year, […]

  • A NHS that could kill you,barbarians with meat cleavers,binge drinking yob culture , uk divided via north/south lines thanks to thatcher, a child scanvenging in dustbins before being beaten to death,bbc shielding saville and his kind,moronic likes of Cameron in power,bullys rewared ,victims punished,handing over billions to countrys that don’t need it. When I look at this god awful mess I think Britain does not deserve a trident replacement if it has allowed itself to go to ruin like this.

  • Have heard the latest wisdom from the english pm – North Korea can target uk with nukes right now. I take it the warhead will be shipped in via boat?

  • Here is something I have been thinking about-
    Replace trident with a new WE177 bomb but fitted with a folding wing glider/ guidance kit (like the american SDB munition but bigger). Stow this in the weapons bay of the 100% RN owned F-35 and embark at sea onboard the two shiny carriers.
    The main advantage of this is that if the enemy sees reason the F-35s can be RECALLED. I don’t know what the abort is on a trident SLBM. Maybe blow it up and send burning propellant and warhead debris into the upper atmosphere? I think this would be the better system in some ways.
    150 WE177′s purchased would do the job of detterent quite nicely. But would the combination fit in the F-35′s internal bay? Since the STOVL version is to be bought a lot of room will be taken up by the fan and drive shaft for it. Hanging it on a external pylon won’t do much for stealth. Does anyone know if this is possible?

    • E.Philpott,

      I like ur idea but unfortunatly it wouldn’t work…

      1 range of missiles

      2 it is easier to defend against


      • Ok.How about nuke tipped Storm Shadow? Turbo fan powered,terrain following and already existing.Again though will it fit in F-35 wep bay?

  • The country needs a navy equipped with a decent capability regardless of cost. So we should embark on an immediate rebuild of at least 6 replacement carriers copying the just destroyed Ark Royal, with at least 30 Harriers each – and be researching improved Harriers (faster etc.) These ships need to be equipped with extra missiles – especially defences against air attack, the improved radar used on the latest frigates and of course the close in rapid fire defence guns. The cost will be enormous but we will be faced with the loss of the Falklands within the next 2 years and we will be unable to get them back with our current lack of capability (to claim the Tornados on the Islands can help is nonsense – it took a single plane flying all the way from the UK to put a stop to ANY flights by the Argies the last time – and they are nearer with a competent airforce and will ground all our forces in the first 10 minutes of any new conflict.
    If we buy ALL this equipment from UK manufacture, insist on UK raw materials (steel/aluminium etc), UK electronics and UK production then we can cut the current costs of unemployment and housing benefits while gaining tax payments. Extend this buy British requirement to ALL UK government, council, armed forces, NHS, tax etc etc purchasing and we will no longer have any deficit or unemployment anyway. All UK overseas aid should be in British products and nothing at all in cash while we are about it.
    Time to sort things out – and this is the easiest way to start – buy British when spending British tax payers money.

    An example…
    A police car – a BMW is (say) 20k, a Jaguar is (say) 30k. The Jaguar is CHEAPER. The Jaguar worker is not claiming the 5k unemployment and housing for the build time, he is paying 5k tax, JLR are paying corporation tax, they are able to invest, they are able to improve the product, sell more and take on more staff… all in all the buy British idea works and the logic is EXACTLY why you won’t find a German police car in France, a Swedish police car in Germany, anything other than Italian police cars in Italy and America ALWAYS buys American for EVERYTHING.

    Then if you want to find more people for all the newly created employment then introduce flat single tax, flat single benefit, kill the DVLA, scrap local tax, tv licence etc etc and have ALL the paper shufflers that look after this working on productive activities instead!

    • Dave,

      Do you really think we need 6 carriers!? And for your info a Ark Royal through deck cruiser could only hold 12 Harriers not 30…Also you say its for the defence of the Falklands Islands…defence against what!? A few Argentinian obsolete aircraft and a Navy that cant afford to put to sea…Oh and the Tornado doesn’t defend the Island anymore too, its the Typhoon..And why oh why do people feel the need to bring up the apparent “failure” of the RAF during the the FI war? As it is common knowledge it wasn’t a failure.


  • The downward spiral to reduce Britan’s defence is as planned as it is obvious. They have a flag, they have a currency, they have just acquired a bank, they have a Foreign Office and now thanks to our useless politicians they have a defence force, it is called the Euro Defence Force. They need all these things to become a one nation state that is the EU. Without Britain’s Royal Navy no navy would exist. Before too long that will also mean that we as a nation do not exist, as it will be called the European Navy, as their flags will be flying on out mastheads. We all know what we must do. Let us hope there are enough true Englishmen left.

  • Pete,

    Welcome to the discussion.:)

    Would u agree to the UK needing a independent nuclear detergent?

    If not what measures would u have in place to deal with a nuclear hostile country?

    My next statement is if nuclear weapons are no longer needed then why are other countries seeking to build them? Even during the demise of the ussr they still found the need to maintain a nuclear deterrent….


  • The problem is they are not really out to use. By that we are not in independent control of them and would pretty much have to ask the US if we could push the button.
    That is not acceptable as far as I am concerned and if this is indeed the case I don’t see the point of having them. Better to buy more type 45s and Astute subs than spend billions on a system that is not independent to us and is more for ego than anything else.

    • Pete. In a narrow sense the deterrent IS independent – ie. we could push the button right now without US permission. However in the very unlikely event the US withdrew support it would probably be several a few months before we required their technical support and the system would no longer be reliable or available. However in the broad scheme it is virtually inconceivable we would be in disagreement with the US when it came to such a cataclysmic decision as our interests usually coincide. (One reason we are much better forging close relations with the US ahead of the basket-case that is the EU) We would be politically foolhardy to go directly against the US – remember Suez.

  • Pesley,

    I understand we, the UK, are in dire straits with the economy with very little or no extra cash to go around but it is a matter of priority’s.

    What is more important..your nations defence of its citizens and interests, home and abroad, or giving nations such as India, Pakistan aid. I’m not trying to be heartless but as you have already stated out it has to come from somewhere!

    Even I know that this wouldn’t be enough which is why i would love to see a cut in the amount we pay to Europe (which i will say now i believe we get a rubbish deal!). My personal view is to cut to just trading ties with Europe, and yes before you get all excited in saying the importance in being in Europe as a State…blah blah blah! The easy answer is I JUST DON’T WANT TO!! It is my choice and i see too many problems with language, priority’s, in house arguments, voting, laws, just everything! In fact that in its self would be a whole new topic for discussion.

    Sorry i seem to have got side tracked there, back to what we were on about. Not only should we cut aid but the conflicts we are engaged in now should be stopped saving a further 5billion.
    As I have already said I’m not all gun-ho build the biggest, prestige kind of Armed forces believer and do think the Armed Forces need a redesign/rework. The problem is we as a nation cant decide what we want! Some people WANT the days of old with battleships floating about (probably some of those old boy Admirals you are on about! ;) ) and some people want them cut to a “pathetic coastal protection force”. Either though still need a nuclear deterrence.

    To your exact questions: Affording it, not going to recover the above but it is strange how we still can afford to bail banks, pay for Olympics, pay A LOT of monies to people that have never put anything into the system(either from the UK or abroad)-Which my personal experience was over hearing a woman boasting on the bus last week of how her Father was coming to the UK from South Africa for his free cataract operation…..hmmm

    Yes we have the fourth largest defence budget and compare us to a the French but even they are having problems! You could say as well we have the same funding as the Japanese but least they don’t have the extra expenditure of running nuclear weapons or Operations around the world.

    As for the elephant in the room…yes to a point i agree the Armed Forces have had some bad management in the past and you COULD say squandered billions. In their defense being told to change tack on priority’s will cause a lot of is the same for any business!

    Development in weapons…you want the best you pay for it, simples…also my previous para^^

    Pesley I hope i have convinced you and anyone else who reads this why i think we need a nuclear deterrence, and more importantly why we should keep our nations ‘fully comp’ insurance premium going. Ultimately though, as i have already stated, if we do choose to go the ‘third party fire and theft’ road we will only have our self’s to blame when we call upon our last line off defence only to be told “sorry your not covered”.

  • Pesley,

    I agree with including nuclear weapons upgrades/developments within the Armed Forces yearly budget, but i think if the country wants to still continue doing what it does now then unfortunately the Services are going to need further investment above their current 2.2% UK GDP a year. If the vote was to include the new nuclear weapons deterrent into the existing Forces budget then current operations would have to be abandoned and equipment procurement would have to change….MASSIVELY! This would include how the armed forces are made up, which I’m sorry to say but the Army is going to have to work differently and be cut severely! Before people comment on that let me just say now it is the one service that we can easily be trained at short notice and which other nations do already quite successfully. Think of the money saved with bare minimum troops serving to keep equipment serviceable and TA Personnel trained. The RAF would have to scrap probably half the jets straight away, scrap all helicopters as why would we need them? The Navy bin the new carriers, fleet arm as no need for that now, in fact the navy would be reduced to just a few coastal defence vessels to watch fishing quotas on foreign boats and patrol around the north sea oil and gas platforms. We would then have to abandon all current operations and most probably defence of such places such as the Falkland Islands, not to mention any domestic emergency’s-Fuel, firemen, ambulance strikes, man power for floods and other national disasters. Is this really what we want?

    In reference to Armed Forces Personnel salaries they have had them cut same as all other Government departments, pensions too; pension changes take effect 2015.

    It is the old saying, you only get what you pay for. If you don’t want the insurance then don’t pay only don’t complain when the sh*t hits the fan.


    • STM

      I think you need a small lesson in economics.

      Our budget defecit has doubled in the last four years. Our country cannot afford this. If we create more debt – there will be a sovereign default and a devaluation of the pound. This means there will be no economy to defend or tax. There is nowhere that your ‘magic money’ can appear from – its not going to happen.

      Once again – you are still being given the fourth largest defence budget in the entire world. Either reign in your ideas or use the money more wisely. If you are serious take a 20% pay cut as suggested and pay for your own requirements.

      The French have an armed forces very comparable in structure to ours. They field a submersible nuclear deterrent. They have an aircraft carrier. Look across the channel for some ideas.

      In your reply you have avoided the large elephant in the room – the chronic mismanagement of our defence matters by a group of aloof and fairly useless ‘old boys’. Many of these people have spent their entire careers reigning over our military decline – only to retire off on a large pension at the end leaving a trail of nonsense behind them.

      It may be a good idea to sort out your own management issues before pointing the finger elsewhere and asking for more money.

      You mention complaining when insurance doesn’t pay out – the problem you forget is that we are paying in – to the tune of £40 billion per annum. If this really is an insurance policy it must be one of the biggest cons in all of history.

  • I have a simple solution for you stmzcool:

    The annual MOD budget is roughly £40 billion.

    Approx £12 billion (30%) of this is spent on wages and pensions every year.

    I suggest all the members of the Armed Forces take a 20% paycut raising an extra £2.4 billion per annum. You can then use this £2.4 billion to fund your new equipment. Members of the Armed Forces are famous for being overpaid and being given large pensions earlier than their private sector equivalents. If you, and the MOD, really believed and cared about what you claim – this would happen.

    The British people still, even in these dire economic times, provide you with the 4th largest defence budget on the planet – isn’t it about time you and your military friends showed us all some respect for the taxes we pay and allocated it more efficiently? What on earth are you spending your budget on if there are no ships?!

    We have many many Admirals, many Sirs, many Viceroys and many Commodores but no equipment – and this is the real turth – the problem lies within the management of our defence establishment. We have have pathetic bickering bunch of old boys running our defence bureaucracy who thrive in their own incompetence. The defence procurement industry has also been infected with these idiots who have further presided over our Naval decline.

    For example – the Eurofighter budget alone is estimated to be £5.4 billion over budget – £5.4 billion! The Royal Navy Aircraft Carrier program is also heading down the same road. It is truely pathetic.

    I pay my taxes (64% in real terms) – how dare you ask for more after what you are given.

  • Pesley, first off I’m not disagreeing with everything u say just to the degree u think.

    Second, pacific agree to a point.

    Third, as previously said we DO project power just not in the same scale as the US.

    Forth, no I’m no historian but the way wars have been fought is constantly changing..think how battleships ruled the waves where now it is aircraft carriers.

    Fifth, by “people like myself” u mean people who just want an armed forces which can protect our country and its interests if needed, not looking for war but ready to respond.

  • Lol, clearly peslay u don’t…first off comparing us with the US..the worlds super power. No one, not even the Chinese can compete with. Second have u not seen the news?! We are projecting power in afghan atm, projected power in Iraq, Libya, Bosnia to name afew…yes I would agree we aren’t the fighting force we once was but times are changing and the way wars are fought are changing.
    Any nuclear protection we need needs to be held by our selfs, its not feasible to have to rely or need the permission to use someone else’s weapon for our own nations defense.
    if the worse happened the UK would find its self taking a knife to a gun fight if we didn’t have these weapons.

    • I clearly do understand the situation.

      Naval emphasis has been moving towards the Pacific since the end of the Cold War. We are not, and will not, be involved in the Pacific arena.

      We are not projecting power anywhere. We are piggy backing on our American masters desires. The idea that we as a national have the ability to project force even beyond the channel is amusing.

      You clearly not much of a historian. The way in which wars are fought have not changed – you (as are many other) are engaging in the modern fallacy of novelty.

      There will always be people such as yourself in our society – those eager calling to arms – calling for rearmament – calling to the flag – calling for war.

      It is essential that we as a society remain vigillant of people such as you.

  • Well thank you Pesley for your ignorant view of the UK and how we are, as a nation and fighting force, is seen abroad. I can tell you from experience that for a “small” nation (think 7th richest in the world) we are seen in a positive light with also thanks to our commonwealth we probably do hold some sway in the UN.

    As for back on discussion you are glad to see the Royal Navy pushed to being a coastal defence force?…Do you not value your security? I ask you given the number of developing and unstable countries who have or will have nuclear weapons would you not sleep better knowing we had our own weapons deterring these nations…giving them time to pause and realise that a nuclear attack on us would signal there own destruction? Or would you rather we reduced our forces 2.2% UK GDP and give it to people coming to the UK as NHS tourists?

    • In military terms we are not, and will never be again, a powerful nation.

      We lack any logistical capability to project force. I am going to provide one single example of this reality:

      The United States have an aerial refueling fleet of 477 aircraft. Great Britain has plans for a fleet of 14 aerial refueling aircraft.

      Perform the same simple mathematical analysis with the Royal Navy/RFA vs significant countries and you will find the same reuslts.

      This is where the true difference between us and the serious 3 ‘Security Council’ military powers. We lack any ability to project force. The British rarely show an interest in the logistical side of military affairs, possibly due to the ‘lower status’ this half is often designated within our military-social system. This is the real sign of our further reduced power.

      We have a ‘golden cup’ armed forces with a few pieces of trophy equipment (Eurofigher, Trident, Type 45 etc..). Since the end of WW2 we have remained beneath the American nuclear umbrella along with the rest of western (and more recently eastern) Europe. We still remain beneath this umbrella with our desire to remain within the UKUSA ‘trident pact’.

      I sleep better in the knowledge that the United States possesses nuclear weapons. Our ownership of these weapoins is merely incidental to world affairs.

      It does however allow our top brass to feel important – so it is probably worth the expenditure just for this alone.

      And – please don’t call me ignorant – I clearly know more about this entire matter than you.

  • Nothing gives me greater joy than being witness to the decline of the Royal Navy into a pathetic coastal protection force.

    Britains time in history has passed. Our economy can no longer sustain a large nuclear war fleet and the officers of the Royal Navy, detached as ever from reality, should try and understand this fairly basic truth.

    Britains actions are akin to those of a little dog running on its small legs in desperation trying to keep pace with its American master. Britain and France might as well step down from the UN security council because the ‘real members’ can simply ignore us at no peril to themselves.

    What I find really hilarious is the ‘aloof manner’ of our military officer class and how they truely believe during their dinner parties that Britain still retains some type of sway over world events. Its about time they came to terms with the still declining influence they hold in the world.

    I believe it was president Putin who described Britain as a ‘nuclear armed Denmark’.

  • @J. Hand
    Over 3-4 decades it will cost that much. Over that same time we would of spent well over £400bn or even £500bn on dole payments. Trident is the only project i can think of that is referred to in life time costs oppose to yearly.

    @William Harvey
    I feel you’ve rather missed the point. Tridents purpose is to deter not to go around nuking people. If it was ever to be fired in anger it’s primary purpose has failed. People in gun legal countries don’t buy guns to shoot people, they buy them in case their’s and their family’s life is threatened.

    Trident is this countries last line of defence and it would be a travesty to scrap it. Once it’s gone it’s gone and i do not want this country to be a victim of nuclear blackmail or worse.

  • Current projected cost of Trident replacement = £84 billion.
    Those who support this are either stupid, misguided or insane !!

    • Glib comments labelling those in favour if Trident ‘insane’ are not helpful. At least try to argue with the points made above other than “it will cost a lot if money” with a vague and inaccurate statement of cost. The cost of Trident should be considered as a yearly cost to the nation rather than tying to guess the total cost spread over 30 odd years. Yes it’s expensive but a good investment to keep the nation safe from potential blackmail by a growing number of nuclear armed states. Trident is less than 20 % if the defence budget which is now just 2.2% of UK GDP.

  • Unfortunately your ideas of scrapping the RAF is disillusioned as this isn’t the problem nor the way to save money. Here is where the problem lays…what ever service would operated the aircraft simply has to realise there isn’t enough money in the system to do what we do today. We need to build from the ground up and set a more realistic goals for our armed services to prepare for, this means less operations abroad and more national defence…which to be honest should be happening now. Regarding nuclear weapons,of course we need them! The world now is more unstable than it has ever been! Just my 2pence worth.

  • Ok britain wants it nuclear UN security council ticket. But I don’t think it can afford a ‘Trident Mk2′ and three other armed servives. One will have to go. And that one is the RAF. It has not shot down a aircraft since 1945. And the one time it did go to war on a large scale with its vulcans over the Falklands they missed the runway target! The only strike aircraft they have that has the pontential to be good is the Typhoon.But cuts have stopped it achieving much . Also we must take into considerartion the alegations that high ranking raf officers meddled with the defense cuts to sacrifice the useful Harrier and keep the fire-dump fodder Tornado GR4. So the raf is the sickly puppy of the litter.
    So abolish the raf and split up its assets and personel between the army and RN. All those Typhoons,Hawks,Tucanos,Grobs and transport-rotary-wing aircraft would then have ‘Army’ and ‘Royal Navy’ painted on their flanks.The Tornados can have one-half scrapped and the other half converted to drones for gunnery/missile practise over Wales.
    With its share of the Typhoons the RN would partly get back its fast jet wings though they would be limited to maritime strike and air-defense of the UK unless overflight and basing permission was obtained.
    With the savings obtained the carriers can be finnished and aircraft embarked ,plenty of frigate escorts and hunter-killer subs constructed and britains security/standing in the world is thus assured.
    No doubt the english tabloids will launch a ‘Save the RAF’ campagn backed up by frothy mouthed rantings by high ranking raf officers (both serving and active) .Well tough! I can’t see how britain can have it both ways the raf must go!

    • Navy Lookout- How right you are the raf would never go but kick up a fuss.
      What worries me is there a inbalance in the british armed forces. True the RN has the bomb but british troosp can’t call in a nuclear strike if under attack in Afghanistan,also it can’t protect trading routes like the english channel if they came under terrorist attack.Also what about fundermentalist states who don’t care if they die as long as their enemy dies with them, would ‘deterrent’ work then? It never ceases to amaze me that the people of whitehall have no idea of what defenses britain needs. If you had come to me 20 years ago and said that the english nation that developed the idea of the VTOL Harrier would be the first to get rid of them I would not have beleived it. The english nation may have the bomb and the means of deploying it but its other capabilitys are falling to bits.No carrier strike force for goodness knows how long,maritime patrol gone so anyone who wants to can smuggle in an old x-ray machine for a dirty bomb or a crate of assault rifles.If that worried about nuclear blackmail/attack then invest in hunter-killer subs that can track and sink enemy missile submarines,invest in UCAVs launched from the 2 new carriers and equip them with anti-ICBM silo bombs to destroy them by convential means.To lower cost make them expendable and stow them in flat-pack fashion in the hangar decks. 100 or more of these coming in at low level should overwhelm any airdefense net. These would also be useful for softening up any Argentine foothold on the Falklands (prior to the main fleets arrival)ould they ever invade again.
      Thats what I think.

  • On current planning assumption at RUSI and elsewhere by 2030-40 there could be upto 20 nuclear armed states. (US, UK, Russia, France, China, N Korea, Israel, India, Pakistan all have them. Iran & Japan, are likely to get them soon. Then potentially regional players such as Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Indonesia, Algeria, Nigeria etc may follow.

    Would it be sensible then to be out of this increasingly unstable club and hostage to fortune.

    As for the ‘setting an example’ argument, history doesn’t show this in favourable light.

    S Africa gave up its bomb, who followed?
    We gave up offensive chemical weapons in the 1960s, has this dented the proliferation of these weapons?
    AP mines are no longer part of our portfolio, but we face a proliferation of these in Helmand and elsewhere

    The best exmaple you can give is demonstrating the responsible and open way in how you manage a deterrent, by explaining your launch protocols and safety procedures. By explaining what are your defensive red lines and agreeing to no first strike.

  • A credible nuclear deterrent guarantees our seat as a permanent member of the UN Security Council. It also guarantees that any aggressor to the UK is given a moment of pause because it guarantees that they will experience an immensely destructive retaliatory strike even if they take out all land based and surface ship assets.

  • The trident program is a total waste of money, no one really thinks it would be used, and no one would use it, and to say its a deterrent well thats a cop out.
    Put the money into helping people of this country.

  • I agree with most of the points above and also with Jex in a way. IMHO the most important part of keeping Trident is the seat on the UN. Having the ability to be a player in the world is extremely important when we commit our forces to so many international task forces. Bin the bomb and the sole european permenant representative is France. That gives me shivers! Do we really want to rely on them doing whats in our best interests?
    Nuclear deterrent is lke an insuarance policy, when you have it it often seems pointless and a waste of money, if you dont have it and need it it’s often too late to get it!

  • Just have to amend one sentence from first message

    “I think *NOT* having a strike capability for over 10 years is insane”

  • I read this site a lot, love the twitter stuff down the side and the updates when they come out.

    I have a couple of comments. The article has one or two spelling mistakes which indicates it could have been written in a rush, and a couple of grammatical errors, generally felt a little rushed.

    It was not the most hard hitting article either, other articles such as the aircraft carrier, attack submarine and others before that felt better argued.

    I feel it is probably because this is such a controversial issue. For example, I am a strong supporter of the RN, the FAA and generally adore naval stuff. I argue a lot with my family over meals about the merits of RN over RAF operational capability. I think having a strike capability for over 10 years is insane, and want more T45s (just trying to demonstrate my passion)

    BUT!.. Even I sometimes think that having weapons that can decimate entire cities and if all fired together, perhaps a small continent is a little outdated in this day and age. I’m not sure the bullying argument really has much credence and if a suitcase bomb nuke were smuggled into a city. Would we really respond by wiping out a city from the aggressor state? (assuming we could track where it came from with 100% accuracy)

    These are just my personal views and of course can be argued against equally forcefully.

    Kind regards


    • Thanks for comment and feedback Jex – always welcomed. Apologies if there are any spelling errors – have amended the obvious ones!
      I would point out that I didn’t claim nuclear missiles are significant part of the solution to terrorism – they are primarily a deterrent to other nuclear armed states of which there is a growing number.
      On the tricky issue of whether we would use our weapons if attacked. It is impossible to say. Once deterrence had failed, responding for revenge could just be pointless slaughter for which no one had the stomach. The important point is to create sufficient fear of retaliation in a potential enemy that they would not attack in the first place.

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