Thoughts on Trident

As m’learned friend Jedibeeftrix eloquently states in his recent takeon Sir Nick Harvey’s comments on Trident, the ex defence minister has managed to get the Trident replacement issue back into the news agenda in an intelligent way, not framing it in terms of having it or not but instead talking up the Liberal Democrat Trident Alternative Review, or the department of cheaper deterrents as it is more commonly known.

Whether this is a genuine attempt at seeking greater value for money or a simple ruse to obtain disarmament by other means is to some degree irrelevant, a range of decisions on a replacement for both the Vanguard class SSBN and Trident missiles will be needed, some sooner than others.

The Successor SSBN and Trident missile are completely different programmes with different timing (fortunately or unfortunately depending on your perspective) but of course are inextricably linked.

All the usual industrial, timing, cost and technology issues are open for discussion but uniquely, the nuclear deterrent has a significant ethical, political, Scottish independence and party political elements also and this makes the job of picking through the various strands of argument that more difficult.

If one were to look at the nuclear deterrent rationally it would be completely obvious that the very notion is insane, wasteful of precious resource and should be consigned to the round filing cabinet as soon as possible.

The problem is though, and this is something that those seeking its withdrawal never seem to appreciate, it is entirely because it is irrational, insane and emotional that it makes absolutely perfect sense.

However, it is still worth exploring that difficult ‘why’ question

To state the obvious, we are not in the cold war and it is this charge that is often levelled at a Trident replacement, we are arguably more likely to face a nuclear attack tomorrow from a smuggled and deniable dirty bomb than a ballistic missile with an obvious track and origin. The type of country that might back such an attack is arguably unlikely to be deterred by Trident because they could just shrug and say ‘it wasn’t us’

Retaliation then becomes a difficult prospect, against whom?

In this scenario, our multi billion pound weapon system would stand mute and impotent.

The obvious counter to that argument is that whilst this might be true today, with the speed of technology proliferation can this be guaranteed for the next 30-50 years, I think not. One only has to look at the speed at which India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel have acquired warhead and delivery technology.

Emerging nuclear powers like Iran have also shown an ability to make deals and use their indigenous capabilities to progress at a rapid pace.

It would be an extraordinary gamble to throw away a capability that has taken so much effort to achieve and others are racing at full speed ahead to get. The Non Proliferation Treaty has proven to be spectacularly ineffective at stopping these nations and the technology is clearly transferable. So whilst it is highly unlikely that we will face a nuclear threat or attack from the current nuclear states can we predict with any certainty that either these threats will remain low or new ones will not emerge?

We might also be tempted to look at the issue through the prism of a Western democratic liberal prism, the world unfortunately is not altogether a rational place that shares our values. Whilst this does not mean those with differing values are hell bent on our nuclear destruction it illustrates that we should be careful about seeing things from one angle only.

The argument about the nuclear terrorist attack also assumes that this is the only possible future, yes Trident may be a relatively poor deterrent against a nuclear capable AQ but do we seriously think that is the only threat we face for the next 40 or 50 years?

It is this inability to see into the future, basic uncertainty about the threats to the UK that should be driving our thinking.

In addition, there are a range of benefits that accrue from being at the so called ‘top table’ and it is these that also have to be factored in.

One of the Think Defence gang came up recently with a great comment about the ‘top table’

People talk of us just wanting to keep a seat at the table like it was a sodding dinner party or something.

You tell me who has more influence, the blokes sat around the table in the board room or the blokes sat in the company canteen?

Nuclear weapons are not the only reason the United Kingdom has a place at that table but it is one of them.

It is fashionable to decry the United Kingdom’s Great Nation status, talk of being a small nation in a big continent, a declining wealth in comparison to emerging nations and a collective imperial guilt complex but this needs to simply stop.

Of course we have to be realistic, the nation’s influence and power are declining in some areas but we are not a ‘little people’ just yet and shouldn’t be talking about ways and means of making us thus even faster.

So, on the ‘should we shouldn’t we’ question I am still very much of the opinion that the UK should retain its nuclear weapons delivery capability.

Moving on from that ethically and politically charged question the final issue to address is the ‘how’

The reason the ‘how’ is in the news is because the UK is facing the need to renew the equipment used to deliver nuclear deterrent and quite simply, we are facing a significant financial crisis.

Can we deliver a credible nuclear deterrent cheaper than a simple like for like replacement of the current system?

This then raises the question about what exactly does deterrent mean, against whom, what would be the definition of credible and other interlinked questions.

A credible deterrent in its simplistic form means the other guy has to know that you have the means to hit back no matter what and the balls to do so.

If the UK was attacked (or any other typical trigger scenarios) I do not believe any Prime Minister would shy away from the decision to retaliate with nuclear weapons, history would judge him harshly.

To be credible that deterrent has to be capable of being used at short notice, have a devastating impact and immune from a first strike.

It is this issue that Sir Nick Harvey has raised, can we have a credible deterrent on the cheap.

As much as I am rather scornful of Liberal Democrat defence policies I think this is an entirely valid question to ask, even though some of the commentary around that question seems extreme.

The programme to replace Trident and the Vanguard submarines had been bumping along quite nicely but the comments by Nick Harvey at the recent Liberal Democrat Party Conference have thrown an interesting spin on the Successor SSBN programme and will I am sure, put the issue firmly on the front burner again.

In an articlein the Guardian (of course) he makes a number of remarks;

First he starts by saying that Trident and a continuous at sea SSBN was based on the policy of ‘flattening Moscow’ but Russia being a different country now might be deterred by having an ability to flatten just a teensy bit of Moscow.

The Russia of the 21st century – economically diverse, vaguely democratic, but definitely a very different sort of place from where it was in 1980 – might find all sorts of damage to be unacceptable short of flattening Moscow.

Therefore to convince ourselves that the only point of having any deterrent at all is the capability of flattening Moscow is the wrong and distorting lens through which to view the debate

When I read that I did wonder if my late night trip to the Stella fridge was having a greater effect than usual but having re-read it, I was right, he really is saying we must base the fundamental means of deterring nuclear powers from attacking the UK on what Russia finds an unacceptable loss right now, at this point in time.

How would we know what they find unacceptable, should we just ask them, would we believe the answer, who would we ask?

The whole premise is ludicrous.

The thing is, for many years the Successor SSBN and Trident replacement programme has actually been based on a reduced number of missiles and reduced number of warheads anyway, with the Successor SSBN designed to carry eight missiles  instead of the Vanguard’s sixteen.

In terms of missiles carried we already plan to reduce by 50%.

Nick Harvey then described an alternative ‘delayed launch’ model that might include a nuclear armed cruise missile that would be stored until required in response to an emerging crisis.

but having perfected that technology simply put it away in a cupboard and keep it as a contingency in case there ever were to be a deterioration in the global security picture that might need the UK government to take it out of the cupboard

Nuclear weapons in a cupboard and asking the Russians what part of their country that would really really mind us flattening, seriously, I know the Liberal Democrats are often seen as being a bit wet but this takes things to a whole new level.

What a preposterous notion that is as wet as an otter’s pocket.

Finally, he indicates that a lower cost method has support within the armed forces because they see their respective sacred cows under threat from the Trident replacement programme .

Believe you me there are very senior figures of all three services who are highly aware of that perfect storm of these costs, who don’t believe the Treasury is going suddenly ride to their rescue with a cheque and who are asking, ‘Is the opportunity cost of having another generation of nuclear weapons too high, in terms of what it would prevent us doing on other fronts?’

I can’t say with certainty how they [military chiefs] will respond, but a number of them made the point to me to not portray it [the report] in such a political and party way that you don’t create the space for some of us to support you and try and help.

That the service chiefs are indicating they would be willing to sacrifice the current form of the nation’s nuclear deterrent in order to spend on the latest shiny conventional baubles is pretty revealing in itself.

Frankly, Trident replacement is a political decision that the MoD and services implement, it really isn’t up to them.

Broadly speaking there are two elements to the deterrent programme, a successor to the Vanguard submarines and a replacement for the Trident II D5 missiles and the warheads they carry.

Successor SSBN

Successor SSBN is a £25 billion multi-year programme that will be delivered in 2028(ish) to replace the current Vanguard class.

HMS Vanguard SSBN Trident
HMS Vanguard SSBN Trident


The Vanguard class comprises four nuclear powered submarines, Vanguard, Victorious, Vigilant and Vengeance.

Initial Gate was in 2011 and ‘things’ have since started to pick up the pace with enabling contracts awarded. The main industrial partners are BAE Systems, Rolls Royce and Babcock and between the three contractors have so far been awarded contracts to the value of about £350 million for initial research and design work. These initial contracts were also joined by a large £1.1 billion contract for Rolls Royce for the development and production of a new reactor, the PWR3.

The UK Nuclear Propulsion Programme (NPP) has been running since 1954 and delivered propulsion systems for all British nuclear submarines.

PWR1; Valiant, Churchill, Resolution, Swiftsure and Trafalgar classes

PWR2; Vanguard and Astute classes

Those two propulsion systems have supported over 30 million miles of ‘steaming’ from 1966 to the present day and the latest design of PWR2, CORE H, provides a large improvement most significant of which is the elimination of the need to refuel during the submarines life.

Pressurised Water Reactor 1 to 3
Pressurised Water Reactor 1 to 3

PWR3 will provide reduced noise, improved safety and cost reductions over Core H PWR2.

NPP has a long history of cooperation with similar USN programmes and has benefitted significantly.

Rolls Royce employs approximately 2,000 people across Derby, HMNB Devonport, HMNB Clyde, Bristol, Barrow in Furness and HMS Vulcan (Naval Reactor Test Establishment) at Thurso.

The submarine itself will be built by BAE Systems in Barrow, employing approximately 1,500 people.

Current assumptions are for PWR3 powered ‘Derived Astute’ with a Common Missile Compartment.

The design will be larger than the Vanguard class, even though it will carry fewer missiles, in order to accommodate improved systems and habitability.

The Successor design is likely to be very conservative, developing new where necessary, desirable and doable (communications, power, batteries etc) but pulling through as much technology from Astute as possible, for example, sensors and combat management systems.

Successor SSBN
Successor SSBN

In order to house the Trident missiles and whatever comes next, the UK and USA have been cooperating on the design for a Common Missile Compartment.

The CMC is an interesting piece of collaborative design designed to provide a modular fit option with the Successor likely to carry only eight tubes in although the Initial Gate Report said this;

Our successor submarines will have only eight operational missiles but it is clear from work to date that the cost of the missile compartment will be minimised by keeping as much of the design as possible common  with the US. The baseline design for the CMC is a 12 tube  unit and work is ongoing with the US to look at how best  to include our requirement for eight operational missiles into this design.

Early this month the design for CMC was finalised;

This document marks significant forward progress for both the U.S. and UK future strategic submarine deterrent programs,” said Brougham. “It is a direct result of the engineering rigor and professionalism of government and industry partners on both shores of the Atlantic.

Ship specifications are critical for the design and construction of the common missile compartment, which will be used by both nations’ replacement fleet ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) programs.  Specifically, the First Article Quad Pack Ship Specification establishes a common design and technical requirements for the four missile tubes and associated equipment that comprise each quad pack.

You could draw a number of conclusions from that, the easiest being that the CMC is modular in blocks of four. It might not be though and the quad pack could equally be an insert for a 12 tube outer, who knows?

A decision on 3 or 4 submarines will be taken in 2016.


The Successor SSBN will carry the existing Trident II D-5 missile, that of course being entirely the point.

The UK uses a shared pool of missiles with the US Navy and our own warhead design. The missiles themselves are being life extended to approximately 2042, co-terminus with the expected out of service life of the USN Ohio class of submarines.

This upgrade and life extension programme includes a new guidance package and upgraded re-entry system.

The current missiles (even if they are life extended) therefore, will be used on the new submarines.


SDSR 2010 stated that Successor will carry up to eight missiles and a maximum of forty warheads, from a reduced pool of both.

HMS Vulcan
HMS Vulcan

8 missiles would still provide a range of options and retaliatory striking power, whether that is a single low yield warhead or the full quantity of twelve independently targeted high yield warheads.


The current working assumption then is for a fleet of 3 or 4 Successor SSBN’s that will be of a relatively low risk design (excepting PWR3) deriving much from Astute, carrying 8 missile launch tubes to the CMC design and utilising a reduce pool of missiles and warheads.

The Trident Alternative Review, headed by the Liberal Democrats, will report on alternative, and one would assume lower cost, alternatives to those plans.

This is pretty interesting because there are many combinations and permutations of systems and doctrine that might combine to produce such a low cost solution;

Reduce the number of boats but still maintain CASD

The PWR3 design will not need refuelling and combined with other modern systems the system engineering derived availability will be much greater. Maintaining continuous availability at the same level of risk might be possible with Successor.

Even if that exact same level of availability cannot be maintained accepting a marginal increase in risk against a modified doctrine would no doubt produce some savings in equipment and running costs but taken across the whole programme over the whole lifetime would those savings be worth the risk or implications of changing the doctrine?

Reduce the availability model

This is somewhere between the RUSI Option 1 – A Normally CASD Submarine Force or Option 2 – A CASD Capable Submarine Force.

The UK’s deterrent is based on the simple model of assured availability, this being the reason our Trident missiles are currently lurking somewhere underwater. They are highly resistant to detection and provide a very fast retaliatory capability against a first strike.

If we accept that the Cold War model of being on a hairpin trigger is no longer valid we might still chose to utilise the submarine launched ballistic missile system but publically state that they may or may not be at sea. This would create some doubt in the mind of potential attackers, sufficient to make them think twice.

A reduction in boats and missiles might be possible with this model but again, would those savings be worth it and given the difficulty in concealing boat sailings it would not be an impossible intelligence task for an enemy to determine whether we were loaded or not and they would easily be able to call our bluff.

Availability could be flexed in response to strategic threats as needed within the constraints of however many boats we produced.

Alternative delivery options

We could always develop our own penetrating cruise missile with growth potential against increasingly sophisticated integrated air defences, a new warhead design, test that new warhead, invest in an army of lawyers and diplomats to deal with the non-proliferation issues of creating an entirely new means of delivering an entirely new nuclear warhead, ensure that should we wish to deploy it put the means of delivery into potentially predictable launch areas and then deal with the possible issues of people wondering whether we were lobbing a conventional or nuclear missile at them.

We might like to ask our nice friends in the US if we could buy a few nuclear land attack cruise missiles but would they still be in service for the lifetime we need, would we be the only user, would we need to consider the proliferation issues of obtaining a new system and would it actually save anything significant.

In 2010 the US announced the phasing out of the nuclear TLAM that would be completed in the following couple of years

We reached a point of mutual confidence that the [Tomahawk] was a redundant system not necessary for effective, extended deterrence

Principal Deputy Defense Undersecretary James Miller

Perhaps the most sobering aspect of using the TLAM-N is the simple fact that during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 some ten (1.5%) of conventional missiles were lost, crashing into Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey.

Consider that for a moment and compare it against the not insignificant number of test firings of Trident that have achieved a 100% success.

Read more about the TLAM-N if you really need convincing it is not a good idea, click here.

If TLAM-N is not a practical option then we would need to develop not only a missile but warhead as well, test BOTH, develop a support infrastructure, train everyone, completely change our approach and withdraw Trident all before the V Boats go out of service

Oh, and all on our own because no one else is in the market for a system like that, not that we would sell it anyway.

None of the alternative delivery options are convincing from a cost, effectiveness or legal or simply timing perspective.

The cupboard option

As above, we would have to develop everything on our own and then put it into a cupboard, or defensible location.

Neither cheap, cost effective nor a deterrent to anyone; in short, a typically idiotic Liberal Democrat idea that has not been thought through but sounds good in conference season

The RUSI Option 4 – Non Deployed

Or put another way, concentrating your risk in a physical location.

If one is so inclined and decided to go and burgle someones house what would make you think twice as you look through the front window?


Gub Cabinet


Or this



Dual use submarines

This envisages a fleet of submarines that carry launch tubes but could also be used for other purposes with the long term rationalisation of the submarine fleet into a single dual role design.

This commonality would reduce the cost significantly and would allow the submarines to utilise the launch tubes for other systems such as cruise missiles or special-forces.

I quite like this option, but with one VERY IMPORTANT caveat and that is the mission of providing the at sea deterrent should never ever be mixed with anything else.

We might use the same boat design, or at least the same sub systems, which would provide commonality savings but the notion that the same ship could safely provide the deterrent on one day and then just nip inshore for a spot of land attack cruise missile launching the next is another preposterous idea.

I have seen this argued on blogs but I don’t think anyone is seriously considering it.

A Few Thoughts

The nuclear deterrent is a multi-decade insurance policy that we dabble with at our peril.

Pushing the Trident replacement costs into the MoD’s Core budget was a cynical act by the coalition government and if it is at all serious about the issue it needs to show political leadership by committing fully and backing with a separated funding stream.

Yes, we are not in the Cold War any more but equally we have proven rather ineffective at looking into the future and we cannot create a UOR for a deterrent.

That said, Successor recognises the change in the threat landscape and will carry 50% fewer missiles than the V Boats

The economic factors that are driving discussion on cheaper alternatives are cyclical in nature and it is unwise to base that insurance policy on short term economic factors.

It is not unreasonable however, to see if we can shave the cost whilst still maintaining credibility and an effective system.

PWR3, systems reuse from Astute and the D5 life extension programme provides the potential to look seriously at the risk profile of using 3 boats instead of 4.

Following on from Successor we might even be able to create a single class of submarines that can do either role with pull through from the work on the common missile compartment but that is far into the future.

The idea of reducing the scope of the CMC fit to 4 missiles in order to reduce overall size and cost is also worth considering.

For now, if the risk assessment provides some assurance, a 3 or 4 boat solution with Trident and a 4 or 8 missile CMC seems the only credible and sensible option with the choice of 3 or 4 down to the details.




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September 30, 2012 6:26 pm

Always a charged debate (sure to follow), the nuclear weapon is outdated, morally wrong and unfortunately still entirely necessary. Well reviewed TD.

There is another issue in that the UK places nuclear weapons into the same category as biological, chemical and radiological weapons, i.e. a universal category of ‘weapons of mass destruction’. There is therefore an element of deterrence against these less technologically demanding but still effective and vile weapons, which can only be a good thing.

That said I doubt if the Successor and the follow-on to Astute will ever be common – size alone would prevent the design of an effective SSN. No reason why technology can’t be pulled across though, in every area except hull design.

John Hartley
John Hartley
September 30, 2012 7:02 pm

If a nuke explodes it will have a fingerprint. Why do you think we sent out a VC10 with a sniffer pod after the North Korean test? We would have a pretty good idea which reactor type was used to enrich the fuel. That lets you trace the likely nation.
The UK Trident warhead has a 100-120kt yield with fusion boost. Remove that & you have a clean(by nuke standards) tactical 10kt warhead.
So have 5 warheadsx 8 tubes x 4 boats= 160 x100 kt “end of world”.
Then 40 x 10 kt tactical bombs, perhaps with JDAM guidance & Diamondback wing kit. Launched from F-35B , Typhoon & hopefully something longer legged.
How safe are Syrias chemical weapons? or Pakistans Nukes?

September 30, 2012 7:05 pm

4 boats not 3 is the sensible option. Saying 3 is basically saying I don’t know what I am on about. Just as saying it will never happen infers a lack of grasp of history’s most basic lesson, it does happen, and often happens to those who appease and dismiss threats.

£3billion cut in international and we could have 4 16 tube boats again.

Let us wait and see what happens with Iran. And how public perceptions change if live ordnance gets exchanged in the South China Sea.

Mike Wheatley
Mike Wheatley
September 30, 2012 7:07 pm

I posted this on an Italian site, but thought I should put it here as well:

A thought about the numbers needed for the future SSBN.

My understanding is that you need 3 conventional ships to have one deployed at all times. This compares to 4-for-1 for a deterence platform. My understanding is that this difference is because 3-for-1 is “nearly all the time”, which is good enough for a conventional requirement, but not for a deterence platform.
Specifically, is it the mid-life-refit time period that consumes the extra platform?

So, that being the case, how about: a common “SSGBN” design, that can be fitted with either Trident, or cruise missile hept-packs, at short notice.
The 1st one build would be fitted as an SSGN, and the next 3 as SSBNs. When it comes time for the mid life refit for the class, the first one gets changed to an SSBN when it comes out of its refit. So during the refit period, there would be 4 SSBN platforms. When the last one comes out of refit, it gets changed to an SSGN.
So, for time periods in which one can be confident that 3 platforms will be sufficient, then one gets converted to the SSGN role.

(Further, one could even build 5 or 6 SSGBNs, with 2 or 3 fulfilling the requirements for conventional platforms – aren’t we a bit short of SSN numbers at the moment? – This would not only increase the conventional capability – it would also increase the resillience of the deterrence to the loss of one of the boats to an accident.)


I am a little worried by the plan to reduce to only 8-missile SSBNs.
By concern is: what if Russia does what the US has done, and deploys a national ABM system? 200 – maybe even 400 – ABMs facing the Atlantic.

For ABM to make sense, the expense of the required ABMs (4-5 per target?) must be less than the ICBMs.
MIRVs significantly reduce the cost of the ICMBs.
However, for a submarine based deterence, you also need to factor in the substantial cost of the submarine, and of the 3 additional SSBNs needed to ensure that one is available.

More specifically for our situation, ABMs can be built much faster than additional SSBNs.
So, whilst 8 Tridents are sufficient now, I would want our SSBNs to be able to quickly scale and react to any possible Russian ABM system.
So, the ability to quickly and cheaply increase the warheads per missile, missiles per boat, and ideally the number of boats assigned to the SSBN role.
(It the cost of the CMC really a significant proportion of the total boat cost?)

September 30, 2012 7:12 pm

None deployed is even more stupid than that.
Because under what situation would we actually deploy it?

Tanks speeding into Georgia?
Fighters overflying Poland?
Artilery fire on Lithuania?

Tense situation, here, have some petrol and a lit match!

September 30, 2012 7:16 pm

Thats why dual role subs make such sense.
We can add a second or a third at sea SSBN boat without a great deal of trouble, just buy more missiles to arm them

September 30, 2012 7:45 pm

I really do think TrT has hit the nail on the head, indeed this issue of being in the right place and ready; maybe turning up the heat but NOT ACTUALLY LIGHTING THE PETROL is absolutely crucial.

I think it is an equally valid argument for not getting carried away with ‘fitted for not with’ and shared components/mission equipment handed around from platform to platform.

All Politicians are The same
All Politicians are The same
September 30, 2012 7:52 pm

A few points on 3 vs 4.
We have operated with 3 Boats since Feb 2002 when Vanguard entered her mid life upgrade program. So we have maintained CASD with 3 subs for 10 years and will do so for another 3 or 4.
Just because we do not have to refuel a reactor does not mean we do not have to refit the submarine. It should however take less than the 40 months that the V boats took.
Perhaps even driving down towards a SSN length refit.
A lot of flexibility is gained by multi crewing.
It is however an interesting issue and one which will no doubt generate a lot of discussion.

Have edited my dodgy math at the beginning of post. All of my mental maths capacity being used trying to work out how we are going to get out of jail in the Ryder Cup.

September 30, 2012 8:53 pm

No 4. Submarines are quite complex. Or perhaps they are not? Back in the 60s the plan was for 5 R-boats to maintain the deterrent. They may have been major improvements in reliability between then and now. But similarly Systems are certainly more complicated. It isn’t like these things catch fire or get grounded or bump into other submarines or even have problems with the heads now is it? You could have 3 crews, but if they don’t have a submarine to drive what use are they? Isn’t the RN having trouble maintaining submarine crew numbers anyway? Operating 3 hulls and having 4 isn’t the same as having just 3 hulls?

September 30, 2012 9:40 pm

‘Let us wait and see what happens with Iran. And how public perceptions change if live ordnance gets exchanged in the South China Sea’.

I suspect the general public will be pretty clear on the

‘f*ucking idiots are nuking each other, please lets not ‘stand sholder to sholder with our US allies’ this time…’ point.


I have to say in effect you have persuaded me that in the absence of and effective alternative delivery system to trident. TLAM seeming to be on the way out, then Trident is the only realistic option.

However.. bearing in mind that several of the leading poiticians of both parties in the 70’s and 80’s have stated the idea that if somehow russia nuked uk alone. That the uk would hae retaliated against russia, as laughable.

I did not then, and do not now, see the need to keep the instant- destroy a large country deterent. no one is pointing nukes at us now only really the russians could or would, and are they going to pick us out of the whole of europe on our own.. If they retarget misiles at the west, it will be in general and that woiuld involve the US.

Brian Black
Brian Black
September 30, 2012 10:05 pm

Hi, Mike Wheatley. The next gen launchers are intended to be reconfigurable for ballistic missiles, cruise or vehicles, so you should get your adaptable SSBGN.

Brian Black
Brian Black
September 30, 2012 10:21 pm

Having four or eight launch tubes keeps cropping up, but the only government sourced document that I’ve seen on this aspect mentions the CMC having 12 tubes. I’d be interested to see any new information that may have been released. The only other numbers put about seem to stem from the likes of RUSI’s thought exercise on alternatives. Also, talk of building a CMC with this number or that number of launchers ignores the fact that deviation from whatever was agreed with the Americans will result in a British Missile Compartment, not a Common Missile Compartment.

September 30, 2012 10:24 pm

@ SI – “Always a charged debate (sure to follow), the nuclear weapon is outdated, morally wrong and unfortunately still entirely necessary.”

agreed, great summary admin.

the ‘answers’ will not easily be found.

@ BB – “Also, talk of building a CMC with this number or that number of launchers ignores the fact that deviation from whatever was agreed with the Americans will result in a British Missile Compartment, not a Common Missile Compartment.”

agreed, but CMC is talked about as a four tube module…………. 2×2 or 1×4 has ye to be revealed.

Brian Black
Brian Black
September 30, 2012 10:43 pm

Hi, Jedi. “cmc is talked about as a four tube module”.
Yes, but who exactly is talking about a four tube module? Discussing the merits of various system options, or expressing one’s own opinion is not necessarily relevent to what is actually underway.
Like I say, the only official word I’m aware of comes from this side of the Pond, and says 12 launchers. I’ve not seen anything from any US gov’t or military source, or from Electric Boat itself, that contradicts that number.

October 1, 2012 2:12 am

@ Mike Wheatley
ABM systems are a big concern for me especially given so few missiles and warheads. One could argue that a Trident D5 just off the coast would be very hard to defend against with any ABM system but then if the SSBN has to come in this close you could say that you would be better off with a cruise missile anyway.
If the CMC comes with 12 tubes we should just take the extra even if we are not going to use them. Cost savings of 8 vs. 12 are likely to be next to nothing.

In terms of TLAM (N) this is a very old very slow un-stealthy system which is obviously obsolete. However just because it is does not me that the Nuclear cruise missiles concept is dead. Faster moving stealthy weapon like Peruses would be immensely difficult to defend against. Having six of these each armed with a 150kt warhead travelling towards you biggest cities is quite a deterrent for anyone.

In the not too distant future a single ground or space based laser may be able to neutralise an entire batter fired by a trident sub. However no matter how advanced laser become they will have all the same problems that guns or missiles have today intercepting low flying cruise missiles.
In the event of a complete surprise attach it might take a nuclear armed SSN a bit of time to get in range. However this scenario is very unlikely and we would probably expect a minimum of several weeks of escalating tension meaning that any response from us would probably be just as fast as an SLBM.

October 1, 2012 7:33 am

“Yes, but who exactly is talking about a four tube module? Discussing the merits of various system options, or expressing one’s own opinion is not necessarily relevent to what is actually underway.”

Accepted Brian.

October 1, 2012 7:54 am

Does anyone know if the US is still considering a shorter range intermediate ballistic missile as a trident replacement? I know there was talk of it before. Such a system could be ideal for us as it would allow an SSN to carry the weapon without the need to be too large and cumbersome for SSN duties.

October 1, 2012 8:04 am

seems they are still considering it. Could a nuclear tipped version be a better idea for us fired from a modified Astute?

October 1, 2012 10:03 am

Just as an aside, since we see SSN’s as missile platforms as much as torpedo ones, if the CMC is available in quad Trident / 28 pack TLAM modules, adding it to Astute 2 just seems sensible: it’s another variant on the US “TLAM’s sit in VL launchers between the pressure hulls” that I wish we’d copied

Fluffy Thoughts
Fluffy Thoughts
October 1, 2012 10:27 am

Considering our finances, there is no debate: CASD is the only solution. [And as we are considering a bigger boat, sixteen-tubes should be an obvious requirement (as redundancy-systems are a must)!]

The bigger questions cannot be asked now: How do we fund it? George Osbourn made – IMHO – the wrong decision (in converting CASD from a political tool into a military requirement) to placate the Lib-Dems.

Maybe – just maybe – reorganising Defence, F&CO and DFID into a coherant whole may be he solution. An article in ‘The Economist’ – pre May 2010 – hinted that a Tory government would allocate 30% of DFID’s budget to the MoD: Shame we now have a coalition…. :(

Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
October 1, 2012 10:29 am

@TD – another excellent and interesting article. I disagree but that’s not surprising…

RE: Smaller missile. I had a quick look at the old Resolution class while researching the successor/CMC – only a tad bigger than the Astute and smaller than the suggested 10k ton hybrid sub… However, would the Yanks be happy for us to put a nuclear warhead on what is specificly meant to be a conventional strike weapon? And wouldn’t wouldn’t doing so breach the NPT?

October 1, 2012 10:31 am

Structurally I should guess a 12 tube CMC should be able to loose 4 tubes. It is how the module interfaces to bow and stern that is the problem. Submarines flex but you can’t have a submarine that sags or hogs. As I said elsewhere it would be easier to have the CMC but only outfit the inner 8 with tubes and blank out the outer 4. I am still trying to figure out how making the SSN greater in the beam by 8 feet saves money on expensive hull steels, anechoic tiles, sub-systems, stronger (which means heavier) planes (and so more expensive) as there would be a fatter boat to manoeuvre through the water. etc. etc. and so on. Shame this isn’t a forum or I could off and start a thread about stretching F35 to carry MOABs.

October 1, 2012 10:40 am

@ Swimming Trunks re R-boats

It isn’t the boats. Go look at the Polaris missile; it was a much smaller system. You are not comparing like with like.

If the main theatre of operations for our security operations is the India Ocean region then we need a missile that can reach out to our potential enemies in that region. Polaris sized missile won’t do that.

October 1, 2012 10:45 am

It would seem that nuclear boats are getting beamier regardless of payloads, just because the reactors are getting bigger.

How big will pwr3 be?

It would seem unlikely that we would codevelop pwr2+ alongside pwr3 just to have a smaller option for SSN’s…….

Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
October 1, 2012 10:53 am

@ x – “If the main theatre of operations for our security operations is the India Ocean region then we need a missile that can reach out to our potential enemies in that region. Polaris sized missile won’t do that.”

And that is who exactly?

October 1, 2012 10:57 am

@ Fluffy Thoughts

We choose not to buy these things. The LibDems are like fairies, they only exist if you pay them attention. Their actions in government have shown while their much favour PR system will never work. Shutting down deterrent would, not even talking in terms of our security, would directly imping on the lives of 10,000s. Probably more than are actual members of that party. Giving the LDs the deterrent review was a political master stroke. One it fed the organisation’s ego. Two their findings would show them up for what they, allow the findings to be dismissed easily, and allow the serious business of defending the UK to go on. The UK’s position in the world rests on three pillars. The City, our shared culture with the English speaking peoples of the world primarily the US, and the fact that we have an SSBN capability that means we could in theory deliver 96 wardheads out to 7500nm. The LibDems hate all three of those things. They would hobble the City, make us a vassal to France, and strip us of the one defence capability (standfast SF) that actually does what it says on the tin. I like most Chinese I know. But you are talking about a society that leaves girl babies in gutters, has execution buses, etc. etc. They have different values to us. Though I think clash of cultures is done to death you have to wonder whether “them or us” and how we defend us.

October 1, 2012 11:08 am

@ Jedibeef

Astute is big because of its reactor. There is significant difference in volume between a sphere with a diameter of say 20ft and one with a diameter of 21ft let alone one with a diameter of 28ft.

October 1, 2012 11:31 am

I am in favour of retaining some sort of deterrent, whether it’s full blown or some sort of adapted/reduced version.

Assuming the most likely path is taken (3-4 SSBN’s with around 8 missile tubes) then where is this 20+ billion to pay for it going to come from?

All 3 services are being cut to the bone as it is, their is no additional fat.

So what would people look to scrap or reduce when we start to pitifully look around for the cash? It’s not as if you’re going to find it down the back of the sofa!

October 1, 2012 11:43 am

My question too.

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
October 1, 2012 12:11 pm

Common Agricultural Policy…

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
October 1, 2012 12:21 pm

I’m sure there’s scope for transferring some of the foreign aid budget to the Humanitarian Relief Division of the Armed Forces too, yes.

October 1, 2012 12:25 pm

@ Challenger

“So what would people look to scrap or reduce when we start to pitifully look around for the cash? It’s not as if you’re going to find it down the back of the sofa!”

Not sure if we are going to have to scrap anything but we won’t see another major project started until the late 2020’s which means that the forces will have to live with what they have. Can the army go until 2032 with out some form of FRES UV? There will be no Tornado replacement. No nice stealthy UCAV and probably half as many T26’s built with nothing more than 40 or so JCA’s in service.

There won’t even be money for upgrades of old kit. £ 25 billion just for the boats is equivalent to CVF, JCA, Astute, Nimrod and FRES SV combined. Its just not there short of Belgian style conventional forces

October 1, 2012 12:41 pm

Even if nothing is scrapped to pay for the deterrent then as you say the alternative is to shelf a great deal or possibly all of the planned acquisitions and upgrades for the next 15 years, this is an unacceptable situation.

At the very least I think, as others have suggested, that other departments need to contribute. Either the foreign office could stump up some cash or some of the aid budget could be deflected. Perhaps the treasury itself needs to put some money in, anything that means the MOD doesn’t have to foot the entire bill.

El Sid
El Sid
October 1, 2012 12:47 pm

@Brian Black
CMC is four tubes (like VPM) – here’s a random open source for you, from last year :
Search for “four missile tubes”, it’s near the bottom.
As an aside, the main reason the USN went from 20 tubes to 16 tubes was so that they could reuse the Virginia reactor rather than uprating it. SSBN(X) will largely be a Virginia in a bigger cylinder – even the USN can’t afford to build a SSBN from scratch.

@TD – don’t forget that PWR3 is currently planned to be trialled in Ajax, so you can assume it won’t be much bigger than PWR2 (and the trend suggests it will be a bit smaller). That kind of risk reduction has Bernard Gray’s fingerprints all over it – the Successor power plant was one of the first big decisions after he took the job.

@JBT – you keep going on about the 1×4 vs 2×2 thing but do the maths – it’s basic Pythagoras, for something that long and thin the 2×2 configuration increases the diameter required by less than 5% over 1×4. In the context that’s nothing.

@TD Trident has its failures as well, it’s running at a couple of percent. The big problem with Tomahawks is that they get shot down by any half-competent enemy. After all, a Tomahawk is just a glorified doodlebug – and they could be gunned down by Spitfires for flip’s sake!

Yes BMD is on its way – but at the moment even sophisticated countries like the UK and France don’t have a real BMD capability. Sea Viper is pretty bleeding edge – but as installed on T45 it can’t shoot down ballistic missiles, whereas even good old Sea Dart could take out cruise missiles (Gloucester‘s Silkworm in GW1). OK – Block 1 Aster will add capability against short-range ballistic missiles – think Scud or V-2, but even that is a long way from taking out long-range (ie much higher and faster) ballistic missiles, which in turn is a long way from taking out steerable ballistic missiles.

If the red team have BMD capability, you can be certain they will be lethal against mere cruise missiles.

As I said in the open thread, the prompt global strike missile is the main driver for the whole VPM thing – unfortunately it’s one of the main victims of the sequestration mess as it’s just getting to the stage where the big money gets spent, and Washington’s current paralysis means that it can’t happen – and even if it does, the “global” bit looks like it may be dropped.

Still – it’s an interesting option if you can get a ballistic missile inside a vanilla SSN, even if the missile is only say Polaris-ranged. That means you can’t strike central Asia without going into shallow waters like the Med, but a PGS-N is a more realistic cut-price option than some of the others mentioned. Only trouble is that it would probably run into treaty issues, it would need a new warhead which would need testing, and you get the “perception” problem of using the same missile for conventional and nuclear strike. I’d guess you would be pushing it to have it ready in time for the retirement of the V-boats from 2028.

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
October 1, 2012 1:16 pm

£25b doesn’t even buy you a single years worth of contributions to the EU Structural fund alone, which was about £33b last year. Common Agricultural Policy, our own Foreign Aid decisions, Common Fisheries Policy contributions, General European Fund, EU Transport contributions…

There’s £4.5b suggested to be saved per annum on a simple redistribution change in EU, this backed by France no less(!), and that kind of small savings alone could pay for this kind of project in under six years, before it even had to pass one of its significant gates.

Heck, we’ve printed an extra £375bn alone since 2008, out of thin air, yet our inflation rates continue to drop. This is the real reason why we’re not in Italy/Spain’s position by the way, Bond purchasers know we can print cash where the EU can’t. That makes their biggest risk a devaluation on exchange rates if they wanted to spend that yield outside of the UK.

How many years would this oft-mentioned £25b for the boats actually be spread over? When would milestone payments have to be made? Now? Up front before the project? Some now, some on each delivered boat? Are doing a T26 design phase? Does this £25b include inflation over the next twenty years?

If we want a CASD nuclear deterrent, we could bloomin’ well find the cash for it (and other projects) in a heartbeat.

Your main obstacle is landing a project with the promised units in a reasonable time and pretty much on budget. Do that and the MRA4’s of this world won’t get canned. Show that what is considered to be (but isn’t, relatively speaking) a lot of money is being spent carefully and the press will report the local jobs and the cutting edge in British technology merrily.

Overrun, delay, be forced to ditch capabilities, and the press highlight how many hybrid-electric environmental cars Joe Public could have bought for the same price. In a world of mass uneducated public scrutiny, keeping projects running smoothly is a key PR skill.

This is where the likes of the PWR3 trials on AJAX (EDIT: Nod to El Sid, just read your comment) and reusing Virginia/Astute experience just makes sense. If we needed to design a boat from scratch we’d do that, but nobody has pointed out a fundamental flaw in the approach that we’re currently taking and so evolution is sensible.

Defence is 2.5% of an annual GDP that is now measured in Trillions. Get creative.

Sure, we’d all vote for no deterrent if you or I thought our kids who are either at home or in school as I right this could live without it, but the cold truth be told that not one of you here would be happy with them having to bring a knife to a gun fight if the shit ever hits the fan.

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
October 1, 2012 1:29 pm

How about a new Title?

“Defender of the Realm” or some such.

Donate £0.5b or more to a defence project and get Knighted (or equivalent). Have a T26 named after you, or a class of MPA aircraft. Successor V-Boat, etc.

How does the P-8K Jedibeeftrix MPA variant sound? HMS x?

Whatever floats your boat. Or ours, literally.

Could even reuse an existing, traditional or defunct title if you can think of a better one. Just like back in the day, helping His/Her Majesty to protect the nation.

Plenty of folks would be happy to pay/sponsor for the Kudos.

EDIT: One way to get your ENNIS class vessels named?

October 1, 2012 1:31 pm

@The Other Chris

‘Defence is 2.5% of an annual GDP that is now measured in Trillions. Get creative’.

My thoughts in a nutshell!

A next generation deterrent, whatever it actually is could be funded in a heartbeat from all manner of sources that would spare the MOD the pain of dealing with the costs on it’s lonesome.

That is why it’s so frustrating to see the situation as it currently stands.

October 1, 2012 1:45 pm

@ El Sid – I did not know that about Ajax, Finally a little sense. Given the total project for 7 Astutes was around £7 billion one has to ask why Successor is costing so much given that they are de risking everything in advance.
Polaris served us well for the actual cold war trident only came in later so a smaller 1,000 mile range missile makes a lot of sense and is still immensely effective.
I take what you are saying about warheads etc. Could a better idea be to simply go back and rebuild Polaris. It sounds crazy but half the space rockets in use today are even older ballistic missile design’s. A single megaton warhead with 1,000 mile range would be pretty effective. No idea of the difficulties of re-engineering a 50 year old missile but it’s got to be simpler than building Trident E6.
Using an existing warhead design should get us around any treaty issues. I am not aware that we have ever signed up to the intermediate ballistic missile treaty and I don’t think Polaris would come under this anyway.

@ The Other Chis
I agree with everything you say. But its cloud coco land to think that DFID, Welfare or the NHS are going to be cut to pay for defence. I think the military and most of us are just living in the fantasy that Osborne was only joking about the MOD funding trident and that post 2015 a Labour or Tory administration will come in an reverse it all. However in 2016 the country will in on its 6th year of austerity. It’s likely to require until well after 2020 to get back to any kind of budget normalcy.
Turing round and finding an extra £25 billion is just not on the cards in that environment.
Once a decision like this has been made (and let’s not forget it has already been made) there is little if any chance of reversing it not matter how silly it seems. The country can easily afford trident, four carriers an Army of 100,000 and an Air force with 300 planes. It just doesn’t want to.

October 1, 2012 1:52 pm

@The other Chris
“Bond purchasers know we can print cash where the EU can’t.”

First, the ECB is covering the Eurozone, of which the UK is not a member, while it continues to be within the EU.

Second, they actually do print money, in fact the ECB buys as many spanish or greek bonds, as are available. Currently, the ECB holds €1.4b of south-european bonds, with the countries having no chance to escape from their economic dilemma: the fact, that the euro is actually too strong for them.

October 1, 2012 1:55 pm

@ X
“I like most Chinese I know. But you are talking about a society that leaves girl babies in gutters, has execution buses, etc. etc. They have different values to us. Though I think clash of cultures is done to death you have to wonder whether “them or us” and how we defend us.”
I am not sure if Trident is the best way to do this. If the Chinese for instance invaded the middle east we lack credibility because they know or at least believe that we would only use Nuclear weapons as a last ditched effort if they used them against us.
The best deterrence to such a future action in my mind is a large fleet of SSN’s sinking Chinese vessels in the IO cutting them off from most of their food and oil. Very credible and very effective. If they can’t get past Burma then we have nothing to worry about. Butchering the forces to pay for a nuclear detterent does not make us safer.

October 1, 2012 2:02 pm

Martin said “Polaris served us well for the actual cold war trident only came in later so a smaller 1,000 mile range missile makes a lot of sense and is still immensely effective.”

Polaris is all we had. Nobody foresaw the end of Cold War; you never what is around the corner which is the argument for deterrent. If a “1000 mile” range missile served us so well why isn’t Trident a “1000 mile” missile? We are lucky that the current system has enough range to counter possible threats from the east. Enabling the launch vehicle to safely paddle around (near) home waters. (Where in times of crisis we can easily concentrate defences.)

Brian Black
Brian Black
October 1, 2012 2:06 pm

Thanks TD, that’s what I’m talking about (4 tube CMC modules). Now find me GTAV’s release date.

October 1, 2012 2:09 pm

@ Martin

The only answer to a nuclear capability is another nuclear capability. Us having our bomb cancels out them having their bomb. As you say the test will come in a crisis. There has only been one instance in history where combatants have given up superior weapons bilaterally. The Japanese dumped muskets (they were far ahead of European designs at the time) and returned to swords, bows, and arrows. The nuclear genie is out of the bottle and humanity is too immature to put it back.

As for butchering forces making us no safer. Well our conventional forces (stand fast SF) don’t make us safer either. The UK’s main trouble is that we spend on is to diffuse. We neither are the US with their depth or like our European Allies who are all front line and no depth, we are caught in the middle. And that is no good.

October 1, 2012 2:09 pm

Sry, it must be €1.4 trillion in my previous post.


An Astute costs £1b. Even if each sub costs double or triple that number, it falls short of £25b.

Even if we develop our own missile, taking the french M51-programme as a measure, it will not exceed £4b.

Add £1b for renewing the supporting infastructure, and another billion for adding bandwith in space, I cannot imagine more than £18b at worst. Or are they expecting to make the same errors while developing Astute to be made again?

If we retain existing Trident-missiles, SLEP them, develop a 12-missile-humped-Astute derivate I fail to see how the programme will ever exceed £10b.

What am I missing?

Or we pay Reaction Engines a couple of billions, and we add a nuclear payload module to the then existing Skylon spaceplane.

October 1, 2012 2:15 pm

@ El-Sid – “you keep going on about the 1×4 vs 2×2 thing but do the maths – it’s basic Pythagoras, for something that long and thin the 2×2 configuration increases the diameter required by less than 5% over 1×4. In the context that’s nothing.”

Yes, I am beginning to appreciate that. Thanks. ;)

@ TOC – “Donate £0.5b or more to a defence project and get Knighted (or equivalent). How does the P-8K Jedibeeftrix MPA variant sound? HMS x?”

Sounds just dandy, sign me up.

p.s. i’m still fairly convinced that core defence spending is (or soon will be) bumping along the NATO 2.0%, and that the other 0.5% is discretionary funding from the Treasury for operations ongoing.

p.p.s. agree on being creative, i’d love to see DfID fund the RFA Bays and a brace of hospital ships.

Desk Jockey
Desk Jockey
October 1, 2012 2:18 pm

I have to confess to finding the whole discussing about putting Trident on stretched Astute rather bemusing. By all means while away the time with idle chatter (decently put and thoughtful chatter at that), but it has to go with the fantasy fleets section. It may make good financial and practical sense, but it has no bearing on the strategic context.

As TD has pretty much stated in his article, the Deterrent is a strategic requirement, not a military one. Bizarre as it sounds, the Detterent has no military use beyond that of good training for submarine crews and engineers. Hence it was funded differently. By bringing it into the MOD budget, Osbourne may have shot Conservative policy on a for like replacement because the MOD/service chiefs are probably not willing to take the pain. When that penny drops, I suspect another of those U-turns…

The major issue against SSGNs or whatever is strategic and also credible protection. Taking potection first, wherever the Deterrent is, it has to be protected in a way that does not reveal its position. If you have to send it to the Indian Ocean to be able to deter someone, you have to devote a silly amount to protecting it. Doing so in the Atlantic is much easier especially when you can ask the Americans to keep an eye on things too. There is also another protection factor, if a foreign sub (read Russian, Iranian or whoever) detects a Vanguard with another sub the rules of the game are different for that with Astute. They would enjoy hassling an Astute, they would only follow a Vanguard if they think they can do it dicreetly. Any SSBN of any nation is always treated carefully because if you accidently sink it, you just upped the ante to a dangerous level. Those were the cold war rules and while that war may be over, obeying those rules is safer for all concerned!

The other issue is strategic – many nations have a policy of not supporting nuke armed subs for political/environmental reasons. If you have SSGNs and refuse to tell people where the nuke armed ones are, most nations will just have a blanket ban on SSGNs being in their waters. Want to launch TLAM from SSGNs at Libya again? Try getting it into the med or flying in urgent spare parts like we did with the T-boats which everyone knows don’t carry nukes. This reason severely cuts down where you can deploy SSGNs. It also blurs the cold war era rules I mentioned above. Any blurring of anything involving nukes is a bad thing and to be avoided. What happens if someone sinks one in a hot conflict and it has nukes? Do we see it as a strategic threat akin to sinking a Vanguard or do we desperately try and recover the nukes before someone else does because some muppet put it too close to danger?

Short story and to stop my rant is that if you want a proper Deterrent, you have to do it properly and it lives in a very compartmentalised world. Everyone knows where they stand with a CASD sub, other subs know to be very discreet near it, the reporting chain in the military is different and in fact the whole ethos even within the submarine service is different to that of the conventional force. The Yanks did a big report on it (sorry no links) after the Air Force moved nukes instead of other payloads around and they directly blamed it on there not being a compartmentalised ethos and a blurring of responsibilities between conventional and non-conventional forces.

TD makes a very good point, the Lib Dems are sprouting nonsense. You either do Deterrent properly albeit to best value or you don’t do it at all. You cannot compromise security or safety standards with nukes and this is not cheap.

October 1, 2012 2:27 pm

@ TOC re Europe

As I say we choose not to buy these things. It isn’t that they are unaffordable.

£6billion, half the overseas aid budget pa, spent on defence hardware alone would see all our procurement problems ended. That is £6billion on buying stuff, not testing and pissing to inflate BAE’s profits. We could buy a brigade’s worth of 8×8 (off the shelf) at £3million for £540,000,000. Heck an SA80 replacement. New software for Chally2. And we still would have only spent a billion. A 5in gun for every escort and 2087 for every T2x would cost only £.5billion. The other half billion could be spent on new dry stores ships. And I am sure the pro-RAF bods here could come up with some quick kill procurement buys for a billion. A billion could have built three new barrack and married quaters complexs so my county regiment wouldn’t have been chopped. That is £4billion off the top of my head. £5billion a year goes along way. Imagine that over a decade or twenty years.

October 1, 2012 2:27 pm

@ martin – “Could a better idea be to simply go back and rebuild Polaris. It sounds crazy but half the space rockets in use today are even older ballistic missile design’s.”

Isn’t this what the french do, more or less, and doesn’t their nuclear establishment cost roughly twice as much?

adhereing to the subsidised american standard, and leasing from a common pool of american stock, still seems to be the most cost efficient way to provide a serious* deterrent.

* i.e. more than half a dozen 10kt warheads in a bunker underneath AWE.

October 1, 2012 2:38 pm

@ DJ – “They would enjoy hassling an Astute, they would only follow a Vanguard if they think they can do it discreetly. Any SSBN of any nation is always treated carefully because if you accidentally sink it, you just upped the ante to a dangerous level. Those were the cold war rules and while that war may be over, obeying those rules is safer for all concerned!”

Best argument i have heard so far against a dual-capable SS(B)N.

“By bringing it into the MOD budget, Osbourne may have shot Conservative policy on a for like replacement because the MOD/service chiefs are probably not willing to take the pain. When that penny drops, I suspect another of those U-turns…”

Isn’t that rather the purpose of this discussion – what happen if the penny doesn’t drop?
What happens if £25b isn’t magicked out of the air to pay for the acquisition costs of the deterrent replacement?

I’ll be the first to cheer if HMG decides to bleed the DfID and EU budgets white in order to fund this strategic requirement………….. but colour me skeptical!

Brian Black
Brian Black
October 1, 2012 2:44 pm

What the Lib Dems appear to be looking at is effectively nuclear disarmament, whilst maintaining a nominal status as a nuclear power.
Their plan perhaps recognizes that total nuclear disarmament is a one way street as a NPT signatory, and hopes to win support amongst those who lean towards disarmament but are nervous about the finality of it.
A nominal nuclear status retains the prestige value of being a nuclear state – ‘great-power’ status for those who measure such terms on a nuclear scale. Also hopes to reassure those who believe that we need nuclear weapons in order to keep hold of our key to the executive toilets at the UN.

October 1, 2012 2:51 pm

@ Jedi

“Isn’t this what the French do, more or less, and doesnt their nuclear establishment cost roughly twice as much?”

Essentially yes but they have designed everything from scratch. I am just spit balling really but if we have the designs for the Polaris missile then re building it should not be beyond our capability. If it allows us to then fit them inside an SSN then it saves allot of cost and problems. We just start building Astute batch 2 SSBGN PWR 3 and go from there.

Again no idea of the cost of a rebuilt Polaris but if its less than £ 10 billion then its probably a cheaper alternative. Call it a 95% effective detterant.

“The other issue is strategic – many nations have a policy of not supporting nuke armed subs for political/environmental reasons.”

@ Desk Jocky

I am curious, other than the USA, where do our SSN’s go into friendly ports. I had a friend who served on a T boat and I don’t think he ever once went into port any where. Maybe thing’s have changed now.

October 1, 2012 3:40 pm

@ BB – “What the Lib Dems appear to be looking at is effectively nuclear disarmament, whilst maintaining a nominal status as a nuclear power.”

That maybe what they might hope for, and it may form the basis on their negotiating position, but i guess we’ll have to wait and see what this report says…………….

@ Martin – still think is sounds ‘custom’ and thus expensive.

All Politicians are The same
All Politicians are The same
October 1, 2012 4:26 pm


Anywhere that has a suitable berth. Brest, Toulon Gib and Souda off the top of my head.
Also Fujarah in the UAE and Bahrain. Simonstown in south Africa.

El Sid
El Sid
October 1, 2012 4:43 pm

On port visits, they do happen, see eg the bottom of page 2:

You also have the “unplanned” port visits like the _year_ Tireless spent in Gibraltar when she had reactor problems – and you will note how upset the Spanish got about that, let alone if she had been carrying instant sunshine.

On costs – an Astute runs to about £1.4bn in 2011 money, and that’s excluding R&D costs. So four Astutes would cost the best part of £6bn just to build in 2011. The £25bn figure for the Successor boats is an outturn cost – so the cost of building them in 20 years time. So it includes about £11bn to cover inflation – which is obviously a pretty subjective number. It’s about £14bn in current money. Given that includes R&D, and that you’re not only talking about something with ~50% more displacement than Astute (and cost doesn’t scale 1:1 with size), plus a new nuclear reactor and that you’ve got to incorporate an underwater version of Cape Canaveral – £14bn is not completely crazy.

October 1, 2012 5:02 pm

The Spanish never seem to complain when USN SSN’s visit any of their ports. Odd that……..

October 1, 2012 5:44 pm

First and foremost trident is a weapon of national defense and IMO should be considered as part of defense budget. As such it must take its place in the equipment budget and justify its place there against all the other requirements. To suggest otherwise is attempting to have your cake and eat it.

Does the UK need to retain a nuclear deterrent? On balance probably yes simply because as north korea ect has shown you only need to have the weapon to be seen as a nuclear power.

There are eight declared nuclear powers of which Russia, china, india, pakistan, and north korea would be seen as the need to deter we all have issues with the french but I cant see us delivering instant sunshine to paris. These states include possibly a nuclear Iran and would be the only countries a nuclear weapon would be released against and so deterrence is required in response to those states. But what form should that deterrence take.

Article 5 NATO

The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

It is through this agreement that the USA is the ultimate guarantor of western democracy. We share the trident system and as far as I know once launched its impossible to tell if its a US or UK missile that is fired. If the US fires in anger thats it. In essence if anyone fires a nuclear weapon the counter attack of any country is such were all done either in the initial attack or the significant climate change that would result it is the end game. Would anyone know the difference if the uk never sailed a ssbn with weapons stored?

With article 5 still in place and the corner stone of UK security we only need a UK contribution to that as such does our capability need to be the gold plated absolute or is that requirement the nato one and by definition the US. Would have retaining the WE177 nuclear bomb made us less safe would integration of a future weapon on F35 make us less safe or offer a significant but reduce capabilty against all but the super powers the answer could be yes. Would developing ABMD on type 45 further enhance uk defence removing the possibility of a single unexpected missile being fired at us this after all is the Japanese position.

John Hartley
John Hartley
October 1, 2012 5:47 pm

Well if Congress will not fund a new missile, but the USN wants a smaller missile, why not drop the hint to our American cousins that an updated Trident I (C4) would do the Royal Navy (& USN) nicely.
Trident C4 is 10.4 m long while Trident D5 is 13.96 m long. So C4 would fit easier in a modified Virginia or Astute.
Callaghan wanted C4 for the RN, Mrs T only went (reluctantly) to D5 to keep commonality with the Americans. If the Americans went back to an updated C4, it would suit the UK nicely.

October 1, 2012 5:59 pm

One (crazy) thought – can anyone ever see us using nuclear weapons and the US not? I cannot, therefore, why don’t we just ‘rent’ one of their SSBNs and crew it with RN personnel? We can then feel like we are doing are bit, but might save a few bob.

I’m actually for multi-role subs, armed with modern nuclear tipped supersonic cruise missiles…

October 1, 2012 6:22 pm

I echo Repulse’s comment re the use.

Re my comment on the open thread… if these are let loose then its pretty much ‘game over’ in terms of conventional forces.

However, I agree with TD’s assumption here.
Its barely an RN asset, its a national one.

El Sid
El Sid
October 1, 2012 6:39 pm

C4 vs D5 partly comes down to whether you just want to chip bits off Moscow or flatten it completely. So broadly something more like C4 might be where we’re ultimately heading (qv PGS-N). However there’s the practical problem that the current D5’s will last until the 2040’s (after SLEPing) whereas the submarines will retire from 2028 (and even that is after life extension). So if you want to introduce “C4-sized” submarines from 2028, then you have to bring forward the development of a new missile system to before 2028-ish, which just makes your budget squeeze far worse. One option might be to park the D5’s in silos in the Lake District for 15 years, but that’s not ideal as your only deterrent.

You’re talking about the “Bugger Barrow” option – if we don’t make Successor here then we’re pretty much saying goodbye to domestic manufacture of submarines. Which is what we’ve pretty much done to combat aircraft with the way we’ve gone about Typhoon/F-35, but making submarines is seen to be an even more strategic capability.

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
October 1, 2012 6:57 pm


“First and foremost trident is a weapon of national defense and IMO should be considered as part of defense budget.”

Interesting. I view the nuclear deterrent as strategic, along with other political objectives, including basics such as healthcare, education and infrastructure.

They all contribute to the long term safety and progression of the nation.

As such, happy for the defence budget to include the operation of the deterrent, but always of the opinion that Treasury should cover the capital costs.

“Can anyone ever see us using nuclear weapons and the US not”

Yes. But then my Crystal Ball is as clear about the future as yours. :p

October 1, 2012 7:04 pm

More live in Barrow than belong to the Liberal Democratic Party.

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
October 1, 2012 7:05 pm

@El Sid

“C4 vs D5 partly comes down to whether you just want to chip bits off Moscow or flatten it completely.”

If we’re only going to buy a few of them then they may as well be the really good ones.

“If we don’t make Successor here then we’re pretty much saying goodbye to domestic manufacture of submarines.”

Which in itself is pretty unacceptable, the whole “Submarines are the new Capital Ships” line and all.

October 1, 2012 7:27 pm

@TOC – I’m with you on funding the deterrent; of course the obvious solution is to increase the defence budget by £25 billion. Sorted.

Don’t want to rehash the comments from the open thread discussion; suffice to say we CAN afford Trident or its replacement AND stronger conventional forces. It’s not the money that’s lacking, it’s the political will to channel the nation’s wealth into the proper areas.

October 1, 2012 8:26 pm

Happy to agree.
Unhappy to report there is no sign of it happening.

October 1, 2012 8:35 pm

Not really adding to the debate as such, but I remember hearing, and I think it was from (name-drop alert!) Malcolm Rifkind (remember him?), that Trident was the last major government project to be delivered within schedule AND under budget.

October 1, 2012 8:40 pm

@ Mycomen

That is true.

October 1, 2012 8:56 pm

El Sid said: “…The big problem with Tomahawks is that they get shot down by any half-competent enemy…”

Well, that’s TLAM… There must still be room for the stealth cruise missile though? If not then why on Earth are we bothering with Astute and Storm Shadow if a half-competent enemy (anyone with a jet fighter) can shoot them down?

I hate to dredge up old arguments but there are some serious inconsistencies in the views expressed here (not you El Sid, not having a go at anyone in particular)… Either TLAM has a use or it can be shot down by a “half-competent enemy”. Either Storm Shadow has a use or it can be shot down by a “half-competent enemy”.

Tell me which cruise missiles CANNOT be shot down by a half-decent enemy, then build them, then make them nuclear tipped. Job done! Alternatively, tell me any cruise missile is useless and stop building Astutes, investing in Storm Shadow on Typhoon and give me a CATOBAR carrier with proper long-range, nuclear-armed low-observable jets.

Thanks for your anti-TLAM-N link TD but it seems to be about old technology and poor accuracy, not anti cruise missiles in general.

October 1, 2012 9:19 pm

The point is that warheads delivered ballistically are the extremely difficult verging on the near impossible to shoot down.

TLAM-N came about in the mad bad days of the Cold War where everything came with a nuclear option and each side developed systems to match. If the Soviets had fitted carrier pigeons with nuclear hand grades the US would have fitted carrier pigeons with nuclear hand grenades.

Trident gives the ability to hit all potential enemies. The SSBN patrols waters that are known (not for nothing does the RN invest heavily in hydrography) and that can have defences concentrated on them if needed. These waters are long way from the emerging potential major threat, China.

October 1, 2012 9:38 pm

@APATS – The golf turned out well didn’t it :-D

Off topic – bah humbug!

October 1, 2012 10:55 pm

Not sure where this idea has come from that TLAM are so easy to shoot down? From the “Gulf War Air Power Survey Summary Report” by Keaney and Cohen (of the 1991 Iraq war):

— “During the war, 297 Tomahawks were fired, of which 282 began their mission successfully (9 failed to leave the tube and 6 fell into the water after leaving the tube). At least 2 (and possibly as many as 6) were shot down, most or all of them in a single quickly arranged stream attack (the missiles had to fly a single mission profile most of the way to their target).”

Or in other words, even if we take the worst case scenario you’re looking at less than a 2% shoot down rate. Keeping in mind that TLAM were used in the day for the most part. At the time Iraq had a modern and well constructed air defence network.

Pilots of conventional aircraft were kept away from Baghdad for the most part due to the high concentration of SAM’s and AAA batteries (damn you Duracell!). The few conventional attacks by F-16’s resulted in losses and many aircraft were driven to ditch their bombs and fuel tanks. There’s a good report somewhere if you Google it featuring interviews with some of the pilots.

TLAM’s snaked through this same heavily defended environment to hit their targets with very high levels of survivability. They’ve also been used with very high success rates in a number of other conflicts.

So where did this idea about their vulnerability come from? People are talking like TLAM are no more survivable than hot air ballons floating slowly over Hanoi during Vietnam. The current reality is the exact opposite.

mick 346
mick 346
October 1, 2012 11:18 pm

Great piece TD. Perfectly explains why trident is the most effective way of having a nuclear deterrent and why its still needed. As for 3 or 4 boats, as long as we can maintain one on patrol at all times it doesn’t really matter.

“Don’t want to rehash the comments from the open thread discussion; suffice to say we CAN afford Trident or its replacement AND stronger conventional forces. It’s not the money that’s lacking, it’s the political will to channel the nation’s wealth into the proper areas.”

Completely agree with this statement WiseApe, Doesnt help when you have politicians saying things such as this about the NHS “FREE TO ALL.” Sorry I didn’t realise that the government waved it’s magic wand to maintain the public services, how silly of me to think we had to pay for them.

mick 346
mick 346
October 1, 2012 11:29 pm


The problem with TLAM-N is the the reduced range gives the enemy a much smaller area for it to search for a submarine. Also cruise missiles have become a major part of modern warfare and therefore this will massively increase the incentive to develop counter measures in the future.

October 2, 2012 12:22 am

@ Mick 346,

“The problem with TLAM-N is the the reduced range gives the enemy a much smaller area for it to search for a submarine. Also cruise missiles have become a major part of modern warfare and therefore this will massively increase the incentive to develop counter measures in the future.”

Still 1000 miles isn’t bad. The Baltic Sea alone covers some 146,000 square miles.

I’d imagine too that as defence against cruise missiles improve, the missiles themselves will improve.

October 2, 2012 6:09 am

The other factor to the equation is that TLAMs are best countered by aircraft, during the Gulf War, the Iraqi air force was rendered totally ineffectual by massed Coalition air power, a situation that, while ideal, cannot be garunteed for all wars.

There is also the fact that TLAMs and aircraft usages are totally different, people are much more wary of losing lives than missiles, which means that you can use Tomahawks in really crazy flight patterns, like the one where a journalist was looking out his 3rd floor hotel window when a Tommahawk went by and turned the corner to hit something further up the street. I’d love to see the pilot who flies 30 feet above ground in a residential area.

A bit off point, but key message is that aircraft and missiles are different systems and are weaker to different things. Aircraft, if intercepted by air, can at least dogfight it out, but have a bit more trouble sneaking by ground defences in NOE flying. Cruise missile excel in NOE flying, but if detected by aircraft, that’s mostly it for them.

As for SSGNs.. I wonder if Korea, Australia or Taiwan would be interested in a joint project *cough..cough..gag…neeed to washhh mouth!!..* with cost sharing. With the amount of sabre rattling China’s been doing, people here are getting nervous and are reaching for any equalizer they can get.

October 2, 2012 6:38 am

@El Sid. I personally do not feel that killing the SSBN option is the “bugger barrow” option. Putting nuclear weapons aside for a minute, SSNs are major strategic assets which have as much relevance with or without Trident. The fact there will only be 7 SSNs, and 40% of the overall fleet being tied up for CASD is nonsense.

I am an advocate for tactical nuclear weapons rather than WMD Trident (or replacement). A supersonic nuclear cruise missile capable from being fired from a SSN, warship, vehicle or F35B (even Typhoon) would give us many more options and our potential foes more reasons to stop and think.

The assets would be useful in conventional war as well as Armageddon – which in a time of limited cash is the best of both worlds.

Lastly, I do not have a problem in keeping these weapons locked in a few cupboards spread over the country and monitored by the UN.

John Hartley
John Hartley
October 2, 2012 7:54 am

El Sid
I was trying to say that C4 is a good option for the RN , but ONLY if the USN goes back to it as well.
If the political choice is for big bomber subs, then stay with D5 (or E6).
If the cost effective option is a stretched Virginia or Astute then C4 is easier to fit.
C4 & D5 would both be fitted with the same number & megatonnage of warheads so the point about chipping or flattening Moscow makes no sense. Neither missile is fully loaded out.

October 2, 2012 8:23 am

Do we think the UK might be able to push through a reduction or change in our Nuclear stance as a broader move with other power’s.

Maybe I am dreaming but the ideal would be for each of us to keep a certain number of weapons under lock and key with a UN inspector monitoring them. As soon as some one pulls their’s out then everyone else can do the same. If we coupled that with some form of very crippling automatic sanction’s (with no UN veto) for the first to raid the cupboard then it would be a decent system for making sure no one cheated.

I know it sounds like madness today but 20 years ago the thought of the UK having less than 100 weapons and 24 missiles with Russia and China in the WTO would have seemed mad. Now its very much what we are moving toward’s. The US having 6,000 weapons with around 1500 active seems insane to me in the current environment.

We might spend billion’s on building a new system that never actually goes into service if the threat environment reduces further.

While we are financially f**ked we have to remember the rest of the world is in a similar state or worse. Russia and China don’t look too healthy and do they really want to invest 100’s of billions in maintaining their arsenal’s.

Its obviously a Lib Dem wet dream but it does not mean it’s a bad idea. Maybe it would be worth the UK proposing. How do we think other powers would react?

I know Regan and Gorbachev suggested 100 missile each and it was seriously considered by both until Regan refused to cancel SDI.

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
October 2, 2012 8:48 am

Not currently carrying a full quantity of missiles and not currently fully arming a delivery vehicle with warheads is no argument.

That’s now, during peacetime.

If a situation escalates those tubes will be fully filled, available warheads armed and even any additionally available Vanguard’s put to sea.

I don’t know how you’d feel, but I’d be more scared of an opponent with a few D6’s that they can hit me with from practically anywhere in the world rather than more C4 derivatives.

Our current assets of D5 equipped subs means we can park a single V-boat in the Indian Ocean and it can strike anywhere from Argentina across the Middle East, parts of Russia, to China and North Korea.

D5 radius on map. Expand the “Map Options” section below the blue bar and click the “Zoom to fit map” button if the map doesn’t display correctly first time.

Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
October 2, 2012 8:58 am

When I was doing my Masters I did come across an argument that a nuclear deterrent only required 100 nuclear weapons (1 MT I think…) – the same IR thinker ( well respected Realist but can’t remember his name at the moment… Getting old) dropped the number to 6; as long as efforts were taken to safeguard them and their second strike ability. So lots of decoy launchers, decoy warheads, decoys with the real reentry vehicles, etc. Unless the enemy could guarantee the destruction of all 6 a first strike would be too risky.

October 2, 2012 9:25 am

@ Swimming Trunks

Not much difference between the damage caused by 475kiloton Trident warhead and 1Megaton warhead.

This is a better tool.

October 2, 2012 9:57 am

Try dropping the 100 mt Tzar Bomba on London. Not much left of the SE. MAybe we just build one of these on top of a Saturn V and we are done.

October 2, 2012 10:23 am

@ Martin

Nuclear weapons are cheap. Without them post-WW2 Western Europe would have been an armed camp. Conscription wouldn’t have ended. And weapons procurement would have impacted heavily on the economy. You can’t hate the bomb on one hand, and then reap the benefits of a Western consumer life style on the other hand. Beef for Sunday and nukes, or cabbage soup and living in a country geared to fight WW3. Nations have defence forces because the other can’t be trusted. War isn’t a game. Conventions, treaties, and international law governing war are only adhered to because states choose to adhere to them for their own convenience. Devastating wars aren’t just stories in history books. Just because we are safe now doesn’t mean we will be safe in the future. Nuclear weapons are terrible things. But to an individual so is having 5in of steel shoved into their belly. Or drowning because a torpedo hits their submarine. Nuclear weapons at the end of the day are just another system. Believing our tiny conventional forces are flawed because of the purchase of nuclear weapons is a fallacy. Our conventional forces at the height of the Cold War with every body armed to the teeth with nukes were in real terms just as small, just as ineffective, speed bumps on the road to Armageddon. I would humbly suggest you do some reading and gain some perspective.

October 2, 2012 11:08 am


“…The point is that warheads delivered ballistically are extremely difficult verging on the near impossible to shoot down…”

The points:

1. Isn’t Aster30 supposed to be able to destroy a ballistic warhead?
2. If ballistic warheads are near impossible to shoot down why don’t we use them for conventional warheads?

Swimming Trunks,

“…so lots of decoy launchers, decoy warheads, decoys with the real reentry vehicles, etc. Unless the enemy could guarantee the destruction of all 6 a first strike would be too risky…”

I like it… lots of decoys… like having lots of cruise missiles on Astute, Daring, and QE (some of which are nuclear)… Suddenly you have the whole fleet acting as the deterrent.

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
October 2, 2012 11:26 am

Aster 30 Block II is set up to counter SRBM/MRBM missiles (“Theatre” Ballistic Missiles).

Aster 45 was meant for anti ATBM/ICBM duty but I’ve lost track of development since MEADS and ALTBMD hit the scene, so if anyone has any more info…

Maybe the 30 Block II series is considered sufficient as it’s being proposed for the “upper layer of NATO ALTBMD”?

Brian Black
Brian Black
October 2, 2012 11:39 am

Hi, Observer.
“…you can use Tomahawks in really crazy flight patterns, like the one where a journalist was looking out his 3rd floor hotel window when a Tommahawk went by and turned the corner to hit something further up the street. I’d love to see the pilot who flies 30 feet above ground in a residential area.”

You could just shoot it down with a MANPADS. Once it was realized that TLAM were following highways, journalists were anticipating the routes of Tomahawks and waiting for them with cameras. Not beyond a competent enemy to deploy some missiles on entry routes or around key targets.
Hi, John Hartley.
“C4 & D5 would both be fitted with the same number & megatonnage of warheads so the point about chipping or flattening Moscow makes no sense. Neither missile is fully loaded out.”

Maximum range will be affected by the weight of warheads and decoys carried. I’d expect there to be different planning assumptions made between the use of Trident I & II.

October 2, 2012 11:42 am

Damn I forget to add “warheads travelling at hypersonic speeds”……..

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
October 2, 2012 11:46 am

“Once it was realized that TLAM were following highways…”


Brian Black
Brian Black
October 2, 2012 11:58 am

That nuclearsecrecy tool is quite interesting, x. I should be just about ok if we get a 0.5kt detonation in the centre of town; but if ‘they’ target the local government district, that swings things my way.

Going to whitewash the windows just in case.

October 2, 2012 12:24 pm

@ Brian Black re local authorities and nuclear war

The conurbation to my east declared itself a nuclear free zone and actually got fined by Westminster for not having a bunker. Funnily enough the place where they said their supposed bunker was to be found was under their nearly near office block which sat roughly at the geographic centre of authority which would have been ground zero for the Soviet attack of 1 x 1 megaton warhead and 2 x 500kiloton free fall bombs. It was like some sort of Baldrick-like cunning plan……

October 2, 2012 12:34 pm

@ X
Funnily enough I have read quite heavily and I am a student of history. While the bomb made sense in the post 1945 world and was a cheaper alternative to massive conventional forces it does not necessarily make sense today.
War has been and always will be about gain. The modern macroeconomic environment all but prohibits large scale war. For a 1939 style event a country would have to leave the current international trade set up and I just don’t see anyone doing that. The cost would be enormous so the prize would have to be equally as great. Saudi Arabia is about the only thing that springs to mind.
Could you come up with a scenario where this might happen? China would be the only nation sufficiently large enough to pose a threat and not sure if you have looked at a map but it’s pretty far away.
You keep referring to our conventional forces as a waste of time. However even if it was just us with no European or American help (which hardly seems likely) I think our forces would be able to cause the Chinese some major headaches if they tried to move west.

October 2, 2012 12:45 pm


Martin said “The modern macroeconomic environment all but prohibits large scale war.”

Man is still man.

October 2, 2012 12:53 pm


Okay, a Mach 12 impact from a MaRV is cause for concern! Sending up something with “piff-paff” seems so very… well… French ;-)


Isn’t revenge another historical reason for war? Hardly much in the way of “gain” in that one other than feeling chuffed to bits that you’ve got even.

What “gain” were the Crusades after?

October 2, 2012 12:55 pm

@ X – with all your cynical high handed answers you are in danger of becoming Red Trouser mk 2.

October 2, 2012 1:16 pm

@ Martin

It isn’t high handed. Global commercialism isn’t new; the world has been interconnected for a long time. We traded with Germany before WW1. We shared the same family. In many ways we close to Germany than to France. Didn’t stop war breaking out. Today in China Japanese business are closed because of a dispute over some islands. The more of us there are and the fewer the resources the more chance of armed conflict breaking out. Somebody having a different religion, skin colour, or political view are all causes for war. War is war. Saying that one paradigm existing in one sphere overrides all others is not enough. If large scale conflict can be stopped it means small scale conflict can be stopped. And I have yet to see any evidence of that happening.

October 2, 2012 1:18 pm

@ Simon – The Crusades had a lot of social economic military rational behind them. It does not make sense today but it did then. Europe was a wash with mercenaries and knights who had been created to defend against the Vikings. With that threat gone they had little to do but butcher there own people. Made sense to give them something to do. The encroach of Islam worried the Catholic Church and the prize of the Holly Land and ever lasting salvation was very appealing back then. A Feudal system allows for wars that maybe don’t make sense by modern standards. One man alone can call for them. However a capitalist system plugged in to every other economy in the world to the extent that a couple of Greeks not paying the tax bills can knock even China into a deep recession or depression really prohibits large-scale state on state warfare. The market dropped in half in 2003 when we invaded Iraq which was a relatively minor affair by historical standards. What would happen if Russia (not that it could) tried to invade Western Europe? What would happen if China made a play for South East Asia. The ramifications in the domestic economy would be enormous. Especially in nations like China and Russia that are barely keeping it together as it is with strong economic growth.

If say China is going to do a Japanese 1941 attack any where its first of all going to have to figure out some new way to feed 1.2 billion people with out imports and come up with a magic new source of energy that can run its economy with out oil. It will also have to ask for a refund on its $3 trillion currency reserves long before it kicks off.

I am not saying the world is a safe place. I would like to keep the current and future deterrent. But if that means butchering the conventional forces then I feel we need to look for a cheaper alternative. I could not stand for a Lib Dem style unilateral disarmament but Nuclear Weapon’s make little military sense in the modern world. Maybe its the right time to start having the disarmament debate with the other UNSC member’s. They may be more willing than we think if properly engaged.

As X says man is still man. However we are no longer Barbarian’s. We have and still are evolving. What was acceptable to our Grandparents generation seems abhorrent today. Probably even to the Chinese and Russian’s. Maybe the political solution they found in MAD is not the best way to progress at the end of the 21st Century which is the period of time Trident successor is likely to serve until.

We have created highly effective monitoring and disarmament procedures in the past. We have the ability if not to stuff the nuclear genie back in the bottle at least get the lid back on.

October 2, 2012 1:28 pm

@ X – People have been trading since the dawn of time and its never prevented a war. There is a bid difference between trading and complete economic interconectivity. Global war now (take away the threat of Nuclear Weapons) would be far more like civil war. How many advanced industrialised economy’s have done that?

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
October 2, 2012 1:40 pm

Twain is accredited with saying “History may not repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme”.

Two to three generations after the horror of the Napoleonic Wars, which left Britain as the dominant power for the best part of century, the World was ready to flex its muscles again and have another showdown.

We’ve lost our last direct connection to WWI in the last few years. We’re rapidly running out of direct connections to WWII (which incidentally left the USA as the dominant power for best part of century, seeing the patterns?).

Do you really believe that everyone in the world has learned the lessons? It only takes one bully in the playground to cause a whole world of hurt.

The majority of the world do not have access to an educational system that will continue to pass on the cultural lessons learned from such conflicts, even our own educational system will struggle to persuade our own kids not to engage in a conflict that will escalate into a Total War scenario, and we consider ourselves able to understand the lessons. Ask yourself, are we being arrogant in this belief?

In addition, the majority of the world do not have a culture or system of government that accepts and promotes anything but a single proselytized view and they find it difficult to handle alternative, or just plain inflammatory, views that you or I enjoy the freedom to safely ignore or debate.

If you truly believe there will not be another major global conflict in the next 100 years, then I regretfully suggest you are being naive in this specific regard.

We are lucky in that we have been enjoying a relatively short period of “low intensity” conflict. Short by historical measures. We have been able to afford to let our military shrink.

However we need to maintain the ability to manufacture the tools that our kids may have to use in the future. If we’re going to have a 3 or 4 SSBN’s, or 8-12 SSGBN’s, or whatever, then they need to be bloomin’ good ones.

This is so that in the unfortunate scenario that we need to build more, we end up with an entire fleet of bloomin’ good ones.

I do not want to be the only kid in the playground after school without a cricket bat. I certainly want my grandchildren to be able to live in a high GDP society with healthcare, quality of life and maybe a little less “reality TV” broadcast from the Geordie neck of the woods.

The difference between our viewpoints is I truly hope that I am the one who is wrong.

October 2, 2012 1:46 pm

I am still trying to get my head around the idea that we are more civilised today than a hundred years ago……

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
October 2, 2012 1:52 pm


Just have to look at the evidence for the need to regulate any industry (banking, childcare, whatever).

If we were civilised, why would we need appoint our brothers keepers?

October 2, 2012 2:11 pm


Legislation is not a synonym for civilisation. Is legislation your only metric for civilisation? Can you offer up any others? Social? Moral? Intellectual?

You see I have been at the wrong end of one these debates once with a Medievalist.

Your grandparents may rattled on about the good old days. The good old days when kids had rickets. When families were brought up on next to nothing. You could say use legislation as an objective measure. That the grandparents’ view is wholly subjective. But lets take another metric. What about education? How many 11 year olds have the reading age of an 11 year old today? How many are numerate? How many can spell? What about morally? Are we saying rising number of teenage pregnancies indicates rising levels of civilisation? The number of single parents households is a good thing? What about manners? What about debt? If your answer is that all ages have their ills then all ages have their good points too. So to say 2012 is more civilised then 1912 isn’t strictly true, is it? Because in some ways, in many ways, 1912 was a better place to live than 2012. And in some ways, many ways, 2012 and 1912, in terms of history are mere blink apart.

October 2, 2012 2:21 pm

@ The Other Chris
However we need to maintain the ability to manufacture the tools that our kids may have to use in the future. If we’re going to have a 3 or 4 SSBN’s, or 8-12 SSGBN’s, or whatever, then they need to be bloomin’ good ones.
The current policy may leave our Children with SSBN’s possibly even the ability to build more. But it won’t leave them with much of anything else. How do you stop a bully if your only option is instant sunshine? At what point do you switch it on if you know they can do the same to you?
@ X
110 years ago we locked up a large proportion of the South African population for nothing more than wanting to remain independent. Subsequently we let 28,000 of them die (including 22,000 children).
67 years ago my grandfather use to strap himself into a Lancaster and drop enough bomb’s on German cities to kill 100,000 civilians in a night.
64 years ago we took a group of Malaysian villagers out into the woods and shot them for being suspected communists and no one was held to account.
Today if we fire a missile at a terrorists house and accidentally kill a few by stander’s its front page news and people are held up as war criminals. Seems like the guy’s in the stan can’t take a dump without a lawyer on the phone.
That trend suggests to me we are becoming more civilized. What trend have you observed over the past 100 years?

October 2, 2012 2:48 pm

For once I am lost for words. I just don’t know where to begin to address such a simplistic, one dimensional measure, of what civilisation means. I agree the South African concentration camps may not be the Empire’s finest moment. But what about the mass immunisation program that eliminated smallpox during the colonial era. As for your grandfather in his bomber, well that is the scale of industrial war. I am sure there are a good number in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan who despise the West for the amount of ordnance dropped on their respective countries. Death is death. Unless you think death by drone and JDAM is somehow better. As for the Malaysians, there are many occurrences of unnecessary deaths through out history. You are naive.

October 2, 2012 3:18 pm

If “civilisation” is measured by the lack of innocent people getting embroiled in conflict then I’d suggest we are less civilised than in ancient times.

It seems regardless of laws, rules and technology we are more adept at killing innocent people than ever before.

All Politicians are The same
All Politicians are The same
October 2, 2012 3:44 pm

Martin, You pretty much sum up why Churchill said

“We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm”

Though a version of the quote is claimed by George Orwell.

The “Western” nations may becoming more civilised but we live in a world where people fly airliners into buildings and blow themselves up. When their only intention is to maximise civilian casualties.

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
October 2, 2012 3:56 pm

“But it won’t leave them with much of anything else.”

Utter crap. £25b is pocket change.

Maybe not to you or I. To a government this is loose change behind the sofa cushions. We’re talking £1.5b a year over the development and build cycle of the project.

The recession we’re in has left the country 14% worse off than just before the sub-prime crisis hit…

…that’s still 46% better off than we were ten years prior in 1997.

Don’t believe me?

The austerity we’re in is about rebalancing our labour force from 33% public sector down to 28% public sector last year.

Public sector workers do not directly contribute to the economy, their value to the public must be weighed in the secondary effects category such as their market enabling factors or vital public services.

Arguably we need to dip lower than a 28% public sector workforce.

You’re asking for an extra £25b spread out over 20 years development and build cycle from a government income that generates 35% revenue from a GDP of £1.5 trillion each year.

£1.5b a year… We’d claw back £0.5b of sovereign spend per annum in taxation and secondary fees!

We’re not even talking about the “four jobs per manufacturing job” yet.

This isn’t a “cannot afford it” question. We place a squeeze on the defence budget because we choose to. Not because there’s not enough cash around.


Well said, Sir.

October 2, 2012 4:05 pm


“If ballistic warheads are near impossible to shoot down why don’t we use them for conventional warheads?”

1) More expensive
2) People might think it’s a nuke and pop their entire arsenel at you thinking it’s a preemptive, which leads you to pop a lot back at him et al.
3) China is planning to do just that using SRBMs against US carriers that get too close.

It’s not the rational, moneyminded enemy that you had to be most afraid of, it’s the irrational one. You just don’t know what that loon is going to do. Think of how often the Muslims bring up the Crusades as an excuse to kill Westerners, or how often China brings up the Manchuria incident and Nanking or how Germany went a bit rabid after WWI. Even then, rationalists have been pushed to war, like Japan and the US embargo that led to war.

And as a very scary POV, yes, a country would have to leave it’s current global economic status to go on a war. In a major recession that most people see as being caused by a globalized economy? Isn’t this the most likely time this is going to happen? The old “Waving the bloody Shirt” works incredibly well to solidify local control, and the old “Mugging on an International Scale” works well too to stabilize local economy. In fact, I currently suspect the first is part of the reason why China’s been so aggressive lately, and maybe part of the second for the Spratleys.

Lots of factors can lead to war, especially emotional ones. Very hard to simply just say “It’ll never happen.”

The Other Chris
The Other Chris
October 2, 2012 4:17 pm

As an aside, if we only manage to keep government pension plans stable at current levels then in the same 20 year period we’re planning to spend £25b over (and I believe we’ve already started) our total pension spend (without inflation) will be:

£2.4 Trillion.

October 2, 2012 4:27 pm

“It seems regardless of laws, rules and technology we are more adept at killing innocent people than ever before.”

No. Innocents have always died in large numbers.

October 2, 2012 4:43 pm


I suppose one would have to look at innocent:military:population ratios rather than numbers since more people live today than have lived in the entire history of mankind before… or something like that.

I think one would find it’s getting worse as our killing efficiency has increased. I have no numbers to hand but ~25 million (~14%) Russians in WW2 is going to be difficult to top.


Estimated £100b over 30 years is about £3b per year and on its own this is not a lot. But the pit of money is not bottomless. It’s all about spending priorities.

“Opportunity Costs” is what I remember learning in Economics.

October 2, 2012 4:46 pm

@ The Other Chris
Utter crap. £25b is pocket change.
To HMG total budget I agree. To the MOD budget it’s devastating. I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news. Much as I don’t agree with the decision its already been made. It’s highly unlikely to be reversed. X has already said he’s happy with nothing more than Trident mk2, QRA and Special forces. I think we need more of an armed force than that.
What are you prepared to see going from the MOD budget to pay for it? Because that’s the choice not cutting DFID, welfare, the NHS or any of the other 100 things that should be cut.
@ Observer
“Lots of factors can lead to war, especially emotional ones. Very hard to simply just say “It’ll never happen.”
I agree but any potential enemy country has to be credible. They have to have hundreds of millions of citizens, advanced weaponry and economy capable of building hundreds of ship’s, thousands of planes and millions of vehicles. If they don’t have these things they are not really a threat. They may be an inconvenience but not something worthy of a deterrent like Trident.
Such entities do not form overnight. There is only one country possibly two than could conceivably fit the bill, China and Russia. Neither seems particularly credible to me as a direct threat to the UK. Russia is too weak and China too far away. If I was Taiwan or the Philippines I would probably be bricking it right now and building as much instant sunshine as I could but I am not.
I am not advocating disarmament. I think the world is full of many dangers and we need a strong credible force to deal with it. My point is simply this. To pay for trident we will have to gut the conventional forces. I did not make that call it was Osborne. I don’t agree with it but then I rarely agree with the rain. My agreement makes little difference.
While the deterrent was a highly effective tool to stop the Soviets invading Western Europe it offers little deterrent to say China invading Taiwan etc etc.
We would never use Nuclear Weapons against China in this circumstance. They know it as do we. What would likely deter them is a large international naval force blowing the hell out of the invasion force and preventing any shipments of oil food etc etc reaching their ports.
If we lose conventional capability as most of you are in essence advocating then we lose the ability to prevent war. If all we are left with is the Nuclear option then things might just get out of control.

October 2, 2012 4:48 pm

@ Simon

It would be far too expensive now a days to kill 25 million Russian’s. Think of the paper work alone :-)

October 2, 2012 4:58 pm

@ Simon

Everything in proportion. What you have to remember is back when we were uncivilised many battles were conducted to quite strict rules. They even agreed a kick off time. Now we are more civilised sometimes we are sneaky and don’t tell the enemy what we are doing….. :)

All Politicians are The same
All Politicians are The same
October 2, 2012 5:04 pm

There is an awful lot of talk on here that Conventional forces will be raped to pay for a Trident replacement but if that is the case then an awful lot of projects that have had a lot of money spent on them will be cancelled.
A few points to remember that we are planning on building 3 or 4 submarines, not designing a new missile system.. We already operate such a system.
The command systems and sonar etc will be carried across from the latest update on the Astute boats. The CMC will be in line with the US design.
The cost will be spread across many years.
Their are other projects that have long lead items ordered as well. The idea that a Trident replacement project will see conventional forces cut beyond FF2020 planning levels is used to attempt to influence the public by those with a purely political agenda.