Trident Alternatives

The Trident Alternatives report has now been released by the MoD (despite their resistance)

[browser-shot width=”600″ url=”https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/written-ministerial-statement-on-the-trident-alternatives-review”]

With much predictable opinion on both sides of the political debate it has been casually dismissed by many. To be clear, the Liberal Democrats don’t want a cheaper deterrent they want no deterrent so the motivation for the document should rightly be seen as a smokescreen on yet another issue that they don’t have the balls to be open about but that said, it is actually a very good document, well worth a read.

The review looked at a range of options in addition to keeping with the 4 SSBN status quo including a reduction to 3 SSBN and cruise missiles delivered by large aircraft, submarines and F35’s.

The cost difference between 3 SSBN and 4 SSBN is very small, there is a sensible discussion to be had about the comparative risk between a 3 and 4 boat solution but because the cost difference is so small it hardly seems worth.

What the study does show is that if you want to save money, don’t replace at all.

It also shows that there are alternatives but they either fall down on capability and credibility, carry significant risk or save fourth fifths of the square root of nothing.

What it also shows very clearly is that political prevarication and cowardice has meant the practical options have reduced in scope or increased in cost because the time gap between any new system being available and Vanguard going out of service would require a gap filler SSBN regardless.

It concludes;

overall, because of the complexity and risks associated with developing a cruise missile based option, given where we are in 2013, the analysis shows that transitioning now to  any of the realistic alternative systems would be more expensive than procuring a 3 or 4-boat Successor SSBN fleet.

I still think there is plenty of room for discussion about the nature of deterrent, how it fits within the UK’s geopolitical situation for the next 50 years and whether it will remain useful but on balance, despite these doubts, I think the obvious answer to to hedge against uncertainty and retain it with the 4 boat SSBN solution being the least risky and the more very slightly cheaper 3 boat solution being hardly worth the cost savings.

In summary, the time for rational and considered studies on credible alternatives was about 6 or 7 years ago, as usual, political cowardice has pushed us into a corner.

Credit where credit is due though, the report is much better than many have reported

 

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jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
July 18, 2013 7:50 am

I wonder why they didn’t look at the dual capable option with the option of Trident instead of cruise?

It would appear that the Common Missile Compartment was part of the baseline assumption for costing, and it would have negated the need for a second parallel deterrent, which is precisely what made it so costly.

Andrew Wood
Andrew Wood
July 18, 2013 8:26 am

I am afraid that I do not trust the evidence on which this report is based. I think the decision has been made to have a like for like replacement and the report has been written in such a way as to justify that by closing down debate on other options.
For example the Cabinet Office report is saying that it would cost £8 to 10 billion to design a new nuclear warhead for cruise missiles which is why Trident would be cheaper as it would use an existing warhead design. It would also take so long to develop (24 years) that you would need to build 2 new Trident submarines to stand in until the new warheads would be ready. This is why the Liberal Democrats dropped their preferred option of cruise missile armed Astute submarines for fewer new Trident sub replacements. But the Cabinet Office seem seem to forget that the US W80 nuclear warhead (of Greenham Common Fame) was designed for cruise missile use in the late 1970’s and took five years between development starting and first production. Also the Israeli’s have (allegedly) developed nuclear cruise missiles launched from conventional subs, I do not think it took them that long to develop. Also the French have just delivered new TNA nuclear warheads for their ASMP-A cruise like missile (they are actually smaller then Tomahawk missiles), I cannot find evidence of how long it took to develop but it was clearly much less then 24 years based on other evidence. Are we really saying that more then thirty years after the US took five years to develop and build a new nuclear warhead that it would take us 24 years and cost up to £8 billion to develop a cruise missile nuclear warhead?. I would be quite happy to buy the W80 design from the US (or even warheads as they have many spare), after all the missiles are already American, if it meant saving money that could then be spent on conventional arms. An island nation that has no maritime patrol aircraft cannot afford to be choosy. Or we could use a variant of the French TNA warhead.
I am sorry but saying that it would take 24 years to develop a new nuclear warhead is complete rubbish especially when we have such close military and political links with two nations, France and USA who have already developed similar warheads.

Rocket Banana
July 18, 2013 8:35 am

Cripes. I’m only up to the end of the Executive Summary.

It certainly is in depth but as ever they appear to have isolated the costings for “the deterrent”. In other words they are not apportioning “value” of the alternative delivery systems. For example their 6 large aircraft cost £5b, but how much unit cost saving would there be if they procured 60 for conventional long-range strike?

Also seem to cost a new warhead at £5b. Can we not use the same one (W88) from the trident missile?

Will keep reading…

Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
July 18, 2013 8:53 am

@ Jedi – I was wondering the same thing myself. They mention the RUSI options but appear to mean SSN/Cruise as the dual option. They briefly mention a dual SSG/BN but dismiss it as the increased capability will cost more; as this will be built into the CMC (I believe) I don’t see how…

@TD – “To be clear, the Liberal Democrats don’t want a cheaper deterrent they want no deterrent so the motivation for the document should rightly be seen as a smokescreen on yet another issue that they don’t have the balls to be open about…”
A little harsh – there is certainly a large number of party activists who want no nuclear weapons but its been party policy to have them for awhile now; in fact, if I were to be cynical this report is more about portraying the Lib Dems as a “responsible party of government” than defence of the realm – comfims the commitment to nukes, so making us look good on defence, portrays us as penny pinchers, so boosting our financial credibility, and differentiates us from the Tories.
It all hinges on how the Autumn party conference votes…

But you are right – apart from the issue of dual use subs it is a surprisingly good report; well worth a read.

x
x
July 18, 2013 8:59 am

The savings for not replacing I wonder would they be set against other costs like lost jobs, a degradation of the industrial base, and intangibles like a loss of influence and status in the world?

I bet those losses would be even greater than replacement cost and even if we know we would never use those losses would probably be a good enough argument for just jogging on.

I am still staggered that cruise missile option keeps appearing. If our politicians can’t get their minds around a simple issue like the operation of a submarine launched ballistic missile system how can they cope with complex issues like the NHS or the EU?

Rocket Banana
July 18, 2013 9:07 am

x,

Have you read the doc? They use the term “unacceptable loss”. So perhaps launch 30 x nuclear cruise and work on the probability that a couple get through? I’m not having this discussion again, but so far (as I am reading) it seems a reasonable assumption.

NHS is not a complex issue. Sack the overpaid GPs and bring back district nurses – I jest, of course ;-)

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
July 18, 2013 9:09 am

“Also seem to cost a new warhead at £5b. Can we not use the same one (W88) from the trident missile?”

Think about what a W88 does and then think what a cruise or air-dropped warhead would have to do. In fairness, the report also explains those issues.

I’m intrigued as to which organisation actually wrote it. I doubt the Cabinet Office is populated by rocket scientists….

x
x
July 18, 2013 9:21 am

@ Simon

I am plying through the report now. :)

I checked the comments first to see if there is anything I should look out for and to make sure it won’t upset me too much.

Tell me how long have you harboured this thing for District Nurses? :)

Mark
Mark
July 18, 2013 9:23 am

I’ll leave some of the nonsense in the report as the decision was made long ago

But will say that it would be interesting to see the size and shape of our conventional forces if such requirements/risks were assigned in there domain

Observer
Observer
July 18, 2013 9:26 am

Simon, what do you think happens to those missiles that do not “get through”?

One bomb disposal squad and you just handed the enemy a nuclear warhead.

Bob
Bob
July 18, 2013 9:37 am

Shock horror, pointless report confirms what everybody with any understanding of the issue knew all along.

This is about politics, the Liberal Democrats have long been an extreme left wing party and as such have advocated the defenestration of the British Armed Forces with the abandonment of nuclear weapons being their totemic objective. Unfortunately they have now got into power and seen the intelligence that confirms what no western government will say in public- the non-proliferation policy has abjectly and demonstrably failed and Russia is still a threat to European security and obsessed with nuclear weapons. However, as the Liberal Democrats are now dependent on votes from deranged left-wing extremists they can not admit they have been wrong all these years so will continue fishing around for alternatives that might give them a victory no matter how pyrrhic it might be for British defence and financial well being.

The simple fact has always been that the only truly credible deterrent is an SSBN deploying nuclear armed ballistic missiles with associated penetration-aids. All other options, cruise missiles, large aircraft etc are just wet dreams from the ignorant who mistakenly believe they are smarter than 60 years worth of understanding on this issue.

Rocket Banana
July 18, 2013 9:58 am

x,

It all started with Nerys Hughes… No, not really! ;-)

Observer,

Yup, but it’s still in the running at page 17 of 64. Really must find some more time to plough through it ;-)

Challenger
Challenger
July 18, 2013 10:10 am

Perhaps an order of only 3 successor boats could offer the tantalizing consolation of getting another 1 or 2 Astute’s to keep a steady drumbeat of work going.

a
a
July 18, 2013 10:11 am

“Simon, what do you think happens to those missiles that do not “get through”?
One bomb disposal squad and you just handed the enemy a nuclear warhead.”

The enemy will already have its own nuclear warheads, and will already have launched them against us. THAT’S WHY WE’RE ATTACKING THEM WITH NUCLEAR WEAPONS. We don’t use nukes against people without nukes of their own, and we don’t do first strike.
I also suspect that something that’s been on the front end of a cruise missile that’s just been shot down and crashed into the ground at 600 kts will probably have lost a bit of that mint-in-box quality.

My own preference will be to ditch the nuclear deterrent completely.

1. We’ve signed a treaty committing ourselves to total nuclear disarmament.

2. The deterrent is powerless to protect us against any of the high priority national security risks we are actually facing: terrorism, cyber attack, natural hazards, international military crises. It’s also powerless to protect us against the kind of direct attack that we’ve actually faced. It did not, for example, deter Argentina from invading the Falklands. It did not coerce the Taliban into handing over OBL. It didn’t scare Saddam into withdrawing from Kuwait. Its unusability against non-nuclear powers means that it’s ludicrously constrained compared to any other weapon system we possess. A weapon is a tool for changing minds, remember? What minds has our deterrent changed?

3. There’s no obvious evidence that not having a deterrent causes you serious harm, loss of prestige, damage to industrial capability and so on. Germany is a prime example here. What harm have they suffered in the last, ooh, 20 years because there’s no German bomb?

4. The argument that we don’t need it now, but we might under some unstated set of circumstances in 2050, is a silly one. There are a lot of things that we don’t need now but we might conceivably need under some unstated set of circumstances in 2050. If international politics change to such a horrific extent that, by 2050, we need a nuclear deterrent as a question of national survival, _we can build one_; if things have gone that badly wrong we’ll have no problem finding the budget. And, key point, we’ll be a lot richer then. UK GDP in 2050 will be double what it is now. Building Trident Successor then will be, by comparison, very cheap.

Tom Liddell
Tom Liddell
July 18, 2013 10:19 am

Still reading, but occurred to me: do nuclear weapons have a sell by date so to speak? i.e. will the w88 eventually expire and have to be replaced?

Also re: alternatives, some one posted on a similar thread that we could probably get a way with only 3 SSBNs if we had the gall to lie and say we had 4. Their covert nature and unknown locations would make that possible. However if the cost savings are so small, perhaps its not worth it.

Obsvr
Obsvr
July 18, 2013 10:21 am

Even the Lib Dems know (well most of them) that advocating unilateral nuclear disarmament is a sure vote loser except for the fringe. Their great white hope of a ‘cheaper alternative’ has just taken a hefty punch amidships.

Cruise missiles are easy meat for a competant AD org without an integrated effort to punch through, by definition a strategic nuc strke is not going to be supported by such a capability, ergo you need a hell of a lot of msls and their expensive nuc warheads to be credible. That also means lots of launch platforms and their crews. It’s all a no-brainer really.

Bob
Bob
July 18, 2013 10:22 am

The notion that the UK does not or will not face a nuclear threat is absurd in the extreme. Russia is rapidly modernising its nuclear forces and remains overtly hostile to the West, not to mention politically unstable. In the meantime Iran is rapidly progressing towards nuclear capability and a delivery mechanism. Finally Trident renewal would take the capability out to 2050+, “today” is hardly relevant. To call such analysis “silly” is utterly ridiculous- all major defence procurement is based on multi-decade planning. One can not just build an SSBN capability. Just because nobody has been nuked deliberately since 1945 it does not mean they will not be nuked in the future.

As for the non-proliferation treaty; ahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! India, Pakistan and North Korea have thus far ignored it and looks increasingly like Iran will too whilst a majority of South Korean’s want their country to acquire nuclear weapons. The genie is out of the bottle and only the naive can pretend it can be put back in.

martin
Editor
July 18, 2013 10:22 am

@ Jedi – I am also a bit disappointed that they did not look at the Hybrid SSN with four tubes for D5. The report specifically says that looking at the utility or a larger single class of vessels between 12 – 18 was outside the remit of the report.

The fact that A) this report was carried out by the Cabinet office instead of the MOD or an outside consultant and B) could have been written by any reader of Think Defence in a Weekend just goes to show its a political gesture rather than a review.

x
x
July 18, 2013 10:27 am

West Germany hid behind US power after WW2. Behind Marshall Plan money and the “Economic Miracle” there was a huge effort to ensure that West Germany was a success. Luckily the Germans are hard workers and talented. Look at the car industry. Look at how much effort the UK put into getting VW on its feet while our own car industries were left to wend their own way. The Euro may have been the trade off between France (how they manage to leverage these huge geopolitical-economic-security escapades with so little is amazing) for German unification but we mustn’t forget that shoring up the single market in such a way was bound to beneficial to only one country Germany. Common markets always favour strong economies. As that is slowly coming to an end, German shift from nuclear to more questionable renewables, and its geography Germany isn’t on the cusp of a bit of strategic decline. Interesting to note that are mutterings about increasing the size of the German Navy so the state can start to gain some influence outside the immediate geography of Western Europe. Saying Germany did well without the bomb is a bit of a fib.

(PS We must not forget the spending power of all the allied armed forces in Western Germany.)

Sgt Pep
Sgt Pep
July 18, 2013 10:29 am

@ Bob: couldn’t agree more.
The UK must absolutely retain an SSBN fleet with nuclear armed ballistic missiles which is the only credible deterrent and ultimate insurance policy. Ditto for France. Whatever the costs!

Quote
“A weapon is a tool for changing minds, remember? What minds has our deterrent changed?” Unquote
Back in the good old days of the Cold War, the Soviets had a little war plan called Seven Days to the Rhine. It included nuking every major city in West Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark. Guess how many UK cities were meant to be nuked under the plan? ZERO. I wonder why. Could it be that the Soviets knew any nuclear attack against the UK would invite a similar response against their OWN cities?

And I am well aware the Cold War is over, but Russia is still around, with nuclear weapons and in revanchism mode. Can anyone honestly guess what their intentions will be in 20 or 50 years?

Aren’t nuclear armed cruise missiles illegal under international treaties? Both US and Soviet Union saw the dangers of going down that course. how would your nuclear armed adversary know if the cruise missile you just launched at him is conventional or nuclear? what happens if someone miscalculates ??

x
x
July 18, 2013 10:30 am

Treaties are like fairies, they only exist if you believe in them.

Rocket Banana
July 18, 2013 10:33 am

Russia is still around.

So is Putin… and he scares me.

martin
Editor
July 18, 2013 10:33 am

@ TD
“In summary, the time for rational and considered studies on credible alternatives was about 6 or 7 years ago, as usual, political cowardice has pushed us into a corner.”

Not sure if I agree with this, The fact is that the system was reviewed 6 or 7 years ago and the answer that they and very one else came up with for cost and effectiveness for SSBN CASD. While the current coalition government is acting like there will be a decision in 2016 that fact is the decision was taken a long time ago, the boats are already being designed and the long lead items are already on order. I’m not sure how you can really have a main gate decision in 2016 when soo much will already have been done. Its all just to make life easier for the Lib Dems. I suppose the big issue will come if we end up with another coalition post 2015 probably Lib/Labour but I am sure that a deal will be done with Labour and the Tory’s voting for it and the Lib Dems abstaining.

Rocket Banana
July 18, 2013 10:37 am

Still reading…

They seem to just abandon the idea of 2 SSBN but intermittently call up the idea that they would require supplementing with SSN. Why not just 2 SSBN as another option?

Build another base for the 2nd SSBN in, say, the Falklands so that any attack on the UK requires a hugely dispersed attack profile, which might just mean both boats would not be destroyed?

JJ
JJ
July 18, 2013 10:45 am

Perhaps the Sabre engine might be powering the alternative;
https://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2012/07/reaction-engines-update/

“UK invest 90 milion in Sabre engine”

And no you do not need to stop building big subs,you only need to convince the Ozzies that they are better off with Astute and perhaps they’ll chip into Skylon aswell,think about it,it is not that crazy as it sounds.Esa in Noordwijk does not think the Sabre is a silly idea,they have been on this since 2008.

Cheers,
JJ

Rocket Banana
July 18, 2013 11:03 am

Okay, that’s got to be one of the most interesting reads of late.

I think the graph at the top of page 43 says it all.

I find it a little bit biased in that it has this “well, you can have nuclear cruise, but you’re going to have to build 2 x SSBN anyway as a stop-gap” approach. What about SLEP, rental, protection payments – all for an interim period?

Anyway, I’ve made my decision and it’s not explicitly in the doc…

Build 2 x SSBN
Build 3 more conventional SSN – investment in continual UK boat design/build.

Use the tentative step back to non-CASD as a 10-15 year trial. Build 2 more SSBN in the future or scrap all SSBN depending on current threats and/or political will and maintain a larger fleet of SSN.

a
a
July 18, 2013 11:03 am

“As for the non-proliferation treaty; ahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! India, Pakistan and North Korea have thus far ignored it and looks increasingly like Iran will too whilst a majority of South Korean’s want their country to acquire nuclear weapons. ”

India and Pakistan never actually signed the treaty in the first place. ahahahahaha! Er, no.

“Saying Germany did well without the bomb is a bit of a fib.”

No, it’s absolutely true. Germany did well, and Germany doesn’t have the bomb. I didn’t say “Germany did well on its own” or anything like that. But Germany is a large European country that has managed to not have a bomb without suffering any bad consequences as a result, and yet people seem convinced that the UK, another large European country, must have a bomb or suffer bad consequences.
It’s a tiger-repelling rock. (“How do you know if it works?” “Seen any tigers round here?”) But the argument for owning the tiger-repelling rock falls down when you notice that Franz (and Maria, and Fernando, and Olaf, and Britta, and Dimitrios and Mehmet and the rest) are all sitting right beside you without any tiger-repelling rocks, and they don’t seem to be mauled in the slightest.

“Back in the good old days of the Cold War, the Soviets had a little war plan called Seven Days to the Rhine. It included nuking every major city in West Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark. Guess how many UK cities were meant to be nuked under the plan? ZERO.”

And how many German cities were nuked? ZERO.
Second, if you’re suggesting that our deterrent meant the Soviets never targeted nuclear missiles on UK cities, then you’re completely out to lunch. The UK was heavily targeted by Soviet nuclear forces. Read Hennessey.
Furthermore, the Soviet Union NO LONGER EXISTS and using it as an argument for having a deterrent here, now, today is indeed silly. There are serving sailors on Trident boats right now who were born after the end of the Soviet Union.

Can anyone point to one good thing that has happened to Britain since, say, 1985 that unquestionably happened as a result of Britain possessing a nuclear deterrent?
Can anyone point to one bad thing that would definitely have happened to Britain were it not for the nuclear deterrent?

Come on. We’re talking about Trident Successor here. Look back at Trident’s entire operational life so far, from the moment HMS Vanguard first went out on patrol. What’s the high point? What’s the headline case that you point to and say “There! That’s why we need to replace Trident, because we could be in another situation like that any time!” ?

Bob
Bob
July 18, 2013 11:06 am

Lol, you have just proved how moronic your position is, In people have not signed the treaty it is hardly relevant is it. If one can avoid its demands by simple not being part of it then the treaty is useless from the outset and thus we should have nuclear weapons. You are living in a communist fantasy land.

a
a
July 18, 2013 11:20 am

“If one can avoid its demands by simple not being part of it then the treaty is useless from the outset”

Well, that’s how treaties work, Bob. If you sign them, then you have to abide by their conditions and if you don’t then you don’t.

NPT’s been a tremendous success. Before it was agreed in 1968, most people thought there would be 20 or 30 nuclear powers within a couple of decades. There are nine – the five existing powers, the three non-signatories (Israel, India, Pakistan) and North Korea. More countries have given up development of nuclear weapons since 1968 than have acquired them. South Africa, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan have all given up actual weapons; Brazil, Sweden, Argentina, Mexico and many others have abandoned their nuclear weapons programmes. The NPT and similar efforts had a lot to do with that.

Why are we different? Or are you arguing that all those other countries were wrong to give up their nuclear weapons, and we are right to keep ours? What terrible events have befallen Sweden since its government decided to give up on the Bomb in 1968? What calamity could have been averted in Mexico if only they’d pressed on?

Sgt Pep
Sgt Pep
July 18, 2013 11:34 am

a ,

Of course the Soviets targetted UK cities, just like UK targetted Soviet cities. But the Soviet war plans specifically spared the West’s nuclear power (US, Uk, France) of a nuclear attack, unless they attacked first, because the Soviets knew that should they launch a nuclear missile against New York, London or Paris, Moscow would be flattened in retaliation. Now suppose the Cold War had gotten hot, NATO plans called for first use nuclear attack against Soviet armoured hords because we knew our conventional forces could not cope. Both superpowers had every incentive to keep a nuclear exchange CONFINED to Germany/Poland and not to attack each other’s cities. Germans and Polish don’t know how lucky they have been. Their countries would be a nuclear wasteland if the Cold War had broken into open conflict.

We’ve been for far too long under Pax Americana but maybe this will not last for much longer and Europeans will have to protect their own interests instead of relying exclusively on their distant cousins.

May I point out that Russia’s defence doctrine, due to the weakness of their conventional capabilities, relies increasingly more heavily on nuclear weapons ?

x
x
July 18, 2013 11:51 am

@ a

For the record the city to my immediate easy would have received one 1 megaton weapon (missile) and two 500 kiloton devices. The railway junction to my immediate north west would have received a device (ground burst) of a few hundred kilotons. As would a rather juicy defence target about 2.5 miles to my south west. There is (was) potentially another 2 good targets within 15 miles of here. All good fun.

Bob
Bob
July 18, 2013 11:58 am

The NPT is flawed and it has failed. You are now seriously suggesting that because its failure is not as bad as it could have been it has actually been a success. An utterly absurd position.

Observer
Observer
July 18, 2013 12:05 pm

a, Sgt Pep is right. There really was a huge amount of nuclear material aimed at Germany and Poland, and some of it is even Russian :)

One of the items that comes to mind was the Davy Crockett nuclear bazooka. Which, as quirky as it sounds, was actually fielded.

The Soviet Union may be gone, but Russia did not drop down into a black hole. It’s still there, the people are still there, and they are recovering economically. Quietly, but slowly. Less aggressive now though, which is a big improvement.

PS: I went looking up the Crockett again to refresh my memory and found this.

“One of the most fervent supporters of the Davy Crockett was West Germany’s defense minister Franz Josef Strauss, in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Strauss promoted the idea of equipping German brigades with numbers of the weapon to be supplied by the US, arguing that this would allow German troops to become a much more effective factor in NATO’s defense of Germany against a potential Soviet invasion. He argued that a single Davy Crocket could replace 40–50 salvos of a whole divisional artillery park — allowing the funds and troops normally needed for this artillery to be invested into further troops, or simply not having to be spent at all. However, US NATO commanders strongly opposed Strauss’ ideas, as they would have made the use of tactical nuclear weapons almost mandatory in case of war, further reducing the ability of NATO to defend itself without resorting to atomic weapons.[7]”

Off wiki. If true, then it was not that Germany did not need nukes, but it was stopped from getting them in the first place. Difference in tactical and strategic nukes taken into consideration, it showed that Germany was definately not nuclear adverse.

a
a
July 18, 2013 12:41 pm

“Germans and Polish don’t know how lucky they have been. Their countries would be a nuclear wasteland if the Cold War had broken into open conflict. ”

As would our country. No one really envisaged a scenario where either side went tactical nuclear and it didn’t then escalate to strategic exchange (this based on lectures when I was at uni, from people in a position to know – ie people who had or had had lots of gold braid on sleeves or scrambled egg on hats).

As for the idea that nuclear deterrents save you, what actually happened in the Seven Days to the Rhine exercise ?
“On the ninth day the troops would take Lyon, south eastern France. Soviet reinforcements would then continue the offensive towards the Pyrenees in the west. ”

Ah. So, they were not really deterred in any way by the French nuclear force, then.

And can I repeat that the question is not “shall we travel back in time and stop Clem Attlee from building the British nuclear bomb in the 1940s to protect us from Stalin?” The question is “shall we, here, in 2013, in a world which not only has no USSR but has _no conventional military threat to the UK whatsoever_, spend a lot of money on a Trident successor?”

Seven Days to the Rhine is older than Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, for pete’s sake. Can we have some arguments that are at least based on stuff that has happened in the last 20 years? Trident set sail in 1994 and since then it has done, as far as I can see, damn-all to ensure the safety and security of Britain and her allies, and yet everyone seems convinced that it’s been such a terrific purchase that we need to replace it with something that’ll keep going for the next four decades?

a
a
July 18, 2013 12:47 pm

“The NPT is flawed and it has failed. You are now seriously suggesting that because its failure is not as bad as it could have been it has actually been a success. An utterly absurd position.”

Well, people who agree with me = essentially everyone who knows anything about nuclear politics. Maybe we’re all just living in a communist fantasy land or whatever your phrase was. (I imagine Communist Fantasy Land as being a bit like Disney World; enforced fun and lots of queues.)

Observer
Observer
July 18, 2013 1:02 pm

a, got a bit of bad news for you on defences like:

“this based on lectures when I was at uni, from people in a position to know – ie people who had or had had lots of gold braid on sleeves or scrambled egg on hats”.

Some people on this site ARE or at least were the ones with shoulderboards and stars or their friends, not their students. You have to make a better defence than that to pass muster here, and rely on the intrinsic strength of your own argument, not “someone important said X,Y,Z”.

“Well, people who agree with me = essentially everyone who knows anything about nuclear politics.”

Rather grandiose statement isn’t that. Just to get a reference range, where were you approximately in 1991? That was when the nuclear threat fizzled out. Anyone living before that would have a firsthand appreciation of MAD, anyone after, only a pale imitation of it. So, are you one who has lived it through? Or one that only knows it from books and lectures?

a
a
July 18, 2013 1:20 pm

Just to get a reference range, where were you approximately in 1991?

Moscow.

Rather grandiose statement isn’t that

Grandiose but true. As far as I know, very few people who have spent their lives studying or participating in nuclear politics would say that the NPT has been a complete failure. No one would say it has been a complete success; that’s a different issue.

You have to make a better defence than that to pass muster here

If there are people on this board who were involved at first hand in NATO nuclear planning, and can say “no, you’re wrong, we had lots of wargames where it didn’t escalate from tactical to strategic within 48 hours” then I will bow to their expertise. As far as I know, there aren’t. So we have to go for second-hand sources. People who were involved at first hand have told me that escalation to strategic exchange was considered all but inevitable by NATO once tactical nuclear release had happened. There you are; second-hand source.

a
a
July 18, 2013 1:22 pm

One other thing:

“where were you approximately in 1991? That was when the nuclear threat fizzled out.”

The nuclear threat’s fizzled out? And it fizzled out 22 years ago? That’s fantastic! You should tell everyone else, they all seem to think that there’s still a nuclear threat from Russia or North Korea or Iran or somewhere, and that’s why we should replace Trident.

Rocket Banana
July 18, 2013 1:37 pm

a,

I appreciate you side of the argument but think that if you ditch the capability now then you are unlikely to regenerate it in a reasonable timeframe. If everyone ditched it and we all “raced” to redevelop then okay, but with North Korea and Iran actively pursuing “the bomb” it’s somewhat short-sighted to think that it’s all settled down now and we should all be okay without a 2nd strike.

If you made a list of nations/organisations that are most likely to “nuke” the UK then I guess top of that list is a terrorist one, supplied by either Russia or Iran. This is the only angle I can think of that makes 2nd strike useless – i.e. when there is no-one to strike back at. However, if the fallout radiation pattern can be tracked back to the “supplier”…

Observer
Observer
July 18, 2013 1:41 pm

a, nice dodge.

Primary areas of concern now are Iran, China, India, Pakistan and N.Korea after a short lull in nuclear proliferation.

Never said they didn’t come back.

““no, you’re wrong, we had lots of wargames where it didn’t escalate from tactical to strategic within 48 hours” then I will bow to their expertise. ”

Isn’t this the opposite of your stand on strategic weapons? :) Though I admit the conventional threat from the ex-USSR is much less now, which makes it a different scenario from the 70s.

Observer
Observer
July 18, 2013 1:52 pm

BTW a, what were you doing in Moscow? That was during Gorbachev’s time and Perostrika (hope I got the spelling right, been a long time). Hope you’re not going to say you flew a Cessna in :P

a
a
July 18, 2013 1:58 pm

Primary areas of concern now are Iran, China, India, Pakistan and N.Korea after a short lull in nuclear proliferation.

China is on the other side of the world, India has no possible reason to attack the UK, Pakistan doesn’t have a missile that can reach the UK, neither does North Korea, and Iran doesn’t even have a bomb. (A lot of people have been warning that Iran is 18 months to 2 years away from testing a bomb since 1993. After a while you tend to ignore them.)

If you made a list of nations/organisations that are most likely to “nuke” the UK then I guess top of that list is a terrorist one, supplied by either Russia or Iran.

See, I’d regard that as a very low risk indeed. No nuclear state has ever transferred a nuclear weapon to another state. Even the closest of allies. Let alone a non-state group. And the chance of Russia (!!) or even Iran giving a nuke to a bunch of terrorists is pretty minimal. Imagine the potential for blowback.

No, the most likely organisation by far to nuke Britain is the Russian armed forces, by mistake. There were some bloodcurdling near misses during the Cold War, and we only have to be unlucky once. And if we replace Trident and go around behaving as though it’s still 1961 and the Red Army is poised to roll into West Germany on a carpet of nuclear fire, we make such an accident more likely, not less.

Isn’t this the opposite of your stand on strategic weapons? :)

Nice one :) but not quite: “did our wargames turn out this way” is a question of fact, “should we replace Trident” is a question of policy.

I appreciate you side of the argument but think that if you ditch the capability now then you are unlikely to regenerate it in a reasonable timeframe.

The lag time argument is a good one. Ultimately this all has to come down to judgement of
a) how long you think it would take to reconstitute a deterrent, and
b) how long it would take for the threat picture to change to the point where we needed a deterrent to stop a nuclear attack – and how likely it is that b) will happen, and happen more rapidly than a).

wf
wf
July 18, 2013 2:05 pm

I’m waiting for the “Mattias flew a Cessna in, cruise missiles will be fine” argument to land :-)

Sgt Pep
Sgt Pep
July 18, 2013 2:15 pm

a ,

Almost 7 decades ago, two nuclear bombs were dropped in cities of a major power which did not possess nuclear weapons. What makes you so certain that, in any future war between major powers which could potentially involve Britain and other European countries, nuclear weapons will not be used again? Or that you will not be subject to nuclear blackmail? What makes you so sure Britain will never need to have an effective nuclear deterrence?

The US faces no conventional threat to their territory and yet they will NEVER discontinue their nuclear capability. As long as US and China retain nuclear weapons and superior conventional capabilities, Russia will NEVER discontinue their nuclear capability, period.

Will the US continue to extend their nuclear protection indefinitely to countries that are too weak and unwilling to pay for their own defence and security?

In the 80’s no one predicted the demise of the Soviet Union and the rise of China. Yet 20 years later here we are. Do you know what the world will look like in 50 years?

x
x
July 18, 2013 2:24 pm

“China is on the other side of the world.”

Distance between Beijing and London, 5064.5 miles.

Range of D5, 7000 miles.

Observer
Observer
July 18, 2013 2:25 pm

“No nuclear state has ever transferred a nuclear weapon to another state.”

Did you forget Cuba?

And still interested in why you were in Moscow in 1991 and how old you were then. Perostrika not withstanding, traffic from West to East was still quite rare then.

Bob
Bob
July 18, 2013 2:34 pm

lol, a, you know nothing about nuclear politics as you silly infantile ramblings demonstrate. The fact that there are now three nuclear powers outside the NPT demonstrate it has failed.

a
a
July 18, 2013 2:47 pm

What makes you so certain that, in any future war between major powers which could potentially involve Britain and other European countries, nuclear weapons will not be used again? Or that you will not be subject to nuclear blackmail? What makes you so sure Britain will never need to have an effective nuclear deterrence?

I’m not certain of any of that. I can’t be. But you have to take a risk-based view of this. Are you certain that we won’t at some point in the future desperately need six aircraft carriers? Or three times as much heavy artillery? Or a SABRE-powered hypersonic bomber? Or a PLUTO-class low-level supersonic nuclear ramjet? Of course not. Does that mean you think it’s vital we get them? No.

(Incidentally, you seem fairly certain that the US, China and Russia will all continue to follow exactly the same national policies for the next fifty years. That certainly hasn’t been the case historically!)

What I know is that we don’t need Trident at the moment, and we haven’t needed it since 1994. Giving up nuclear weapons now doesn’t mean giving them up forever. And, I would argue, the risk we are taking by not replacing Trident is that a currently non-existent and unforeseeable threat will arise and attack the UK with nuclear weapons so quickly that we won’t be able to resurrect any sort of nuclear capability in time to deter them. I would prefer to devote my attention to threats that either exist or that can realistically be expected to exist.

I’m waiting for the “Mattias flew a Cessna in, cruise missiles will be fine” argument to land

Which raises a good point. How confident would you have to be in your air defence system to be happy ignoring an inbound stream of, say, 50 nuclear-tipped cruise missiles?
Let’s go now to the bunker deep below Moscow where Observer’s ENTIRELY REALISTIC AND PLAUSIBLE scenario has come true, and Zombie Stalin (with his henchman, Zombie Zhukov) have risen from the grave and are masterminding the attack on NATO.
“Comrade Zombie General, order an attack on London!”
“But, Comrade Zombie Premier? The British have 50 nuclear cruise missiles on their Astute-class submarines! They will retaliate!”
“Not a problem, Comrade Zombie General. Our air defences will destroy most of them.”
“Most?”
“Sure. The defences are 99% perfect.”
“Statistically, that means that Moscow has a 40% chance of being incinerated. 0.99 raised to the power of 50, you see.”
“Meh, 40% is fine, I’m not worried about that. Launch the missiles!”

If I were a national leader, I’d be pretty deterred even by a 40% chance of losing a major city.

a
a
July 18, 2013 2:49 pm

Did you forget Cuba?

No – the weapons in Cuba (like those in Turkey, West Germany, Norway, Italy etc) were still under the parent country’s control. No country’s ever given another country a nuclear weapon of its very own, I should have said. Castro couldn’t have launched without Moscow’s consent. (Good thing too. He wanted to.)
Sorry for the ambiguity.

Observer
Observer
July 18, 2013 2:54 pm

a, then you probably don’t know Stalin very well. What REALLY saved the west was a focus on internal suppression instead of land aquisition, despite the forays into other countries. They really did believe in manifest destiny, which affects their sense of time, they believed that all countries would be communist in time, so no need to go kicking down doors and breaking heads. And China was on the other border.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 18, 2013 2:57 pm

It is extremely difficult to prove a negative. That is the case with CASD. Two nuclear armed powers have never gone to war and the detterent definitely helped keep the cold war from going hot.
It can be argued that there is no threat that requires such a level of detterence. It does give us a guaranteed first and or second strike capability. It has also been looked at in a sub strategic role.
The decision whether or not to retain such a capability is a political one but once it has gone it would not be easy to regenerate militarily. What will the world look pike in 20 years?
SSN with nuclear cruise in a strategic role open a whole can of worms in terms of water space management for your entire SSN flotilla.
All interesting stuff.

Observer
Observer
July 18, 2013 3:05 pm

The biggest worry I actually have is North Korea, they’re really a wild card and more akin to a cult religion that controls a country than a country with a government, which makes behaviour prediction for them very very difficult.

The absolute worst case scenario is if they start a war they want to lose. It would solve a lot of their problems, or at least shuffle it to someone else’s plate, but not before a lot of people suffer for it.

It doesn’t help that they are so insular that we have no idea of what they do or do not know, and they might be working on info that is outdated or untrue , hence we would absolutely have no idea on their conclusions.

a
a
July 18, 2013 3:11 pm

Look at it another way. If Britain needs a nuclear deterrent now, then, in a world where we hadn’t already got one, we would need to build one. If you were the German Chancellor, right now, would you be arguing for the construction of a German nuclear deterrent?
If so, what arguments would you use?

If not, why not, and why don’t those reasons not to build one apply to Britain?

a
a
July 18, 2013 3:20 pm

And we can’t have a Trident discussion without this:

Sir Humphrey Appleby: Don’t you believe that Great Britain should have the best?

Jim Hacker: Yes, of course.

Sir Humphrey Appleby: Very well, if you walked into a nuclear missile showroom you would buy Trident – it’s lovely, it’s elegant, it’s beautiful. It is quite simply the best. And Britain should have the best. In the world of the nuclear missile it is the Saville Row suit, the Rolls Royce Corniche, the Château Lafitte 1945. It is the nuclear missile Harrods would sell you. What more can I say?

Jim Hacker: Only that it costs £15 billion and we don’t need it.

Sir Humphrey Appleby: Well, you can say that about anything at Harrods.

wf
wf
July 18, 2013 3:26 pm

@a : China transferred it’s designs to Pakistan. Russia to a lesser degree to China. Pakistan to, well, everyone who asked. I’m sure if an Iranian nuke exploded tomorrow, Pakistan would have some air transport heading west with some for the Saudi’s. Plenty of transfers amongst even states that signed the NPT. Osirak’s reactor wasn’t good for much except producing plutonium either.

You cannot rearm with nukes within a couple of decades without either extensive testing or stealing/buying a proven design. I would say that’s reason enough to retain them, and if you have the nukes, you need delivery systems. Since we’ve already got a proven warhead, might as well keep the D5 :-)

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 18, 2013 3:32 pm

@a

You have to take into account the German mindset post WW2 and also their public opinion. This mindset has imposed restrictions on ROE in Afghan etc never mind on purchasing a nuclear weapon.

One fact is that the only country in the world that had nuclear weapons aimed at UK cities is ( under a new name) is building new SSBNS to carry new ICBMs.

Observer
Observer
July 18, 2013 3:36 pm

a, look back a few pages for a link to an actual episode.

And yes, we already went over that. :)

Sgt Pep
Sgt Pep
July 18, 2013 3:44 pm

a, you forgot to mention that in the end Jim Hacker decides to buy Trident anyway in exchange for a cook being seconded from the Cabinet Office to 10 Downing St to prepare his lunch meals. Are you suggesting the same deal should be offered to the Lib Dems?

martin
Editor
July 18, 2013 3:54 pm

@ Sgt Pep
“Aren’t nuclear armed cruise missiles illegal under international treaties?”
Only the US and Russia have such a treaty( INF 1987) the UK is not a signatory and NPT does not cover missiles.

@ a
“NPT’s been a tremendous success. Before it was agreed in 1968, most people thought there would be 20 or 30 nuclear powers within a couple of decades.”
It certainly stopped the Swedish bomb program in its tracks

@ Sgt Pep
“Now suppose the Cold War had gotten hot, NATO plans called for first use nuclear attack against Soviet armoured hords because we knew our conventional forces could not cope. Both superpowers had every incentive to keep a nuclear exchange CONFINED to Germany/Poland and not to attack each other’s cities. Germans and Polish don’t know how lucky they have been. Their countries would be a nuclear wasteland if the Cold War had broken into open conflict.”

I once listened to a speech by Robert McNamara in Edinburgh. He stated that the USA would never have launched a nuclear attack against the USSR unless they fired at the continental USA. Even he said if the tanks were rolling up Pall Mall. No doubt the UK and French deterrents gave the Russians a lot more to consider.
@ Observer
“The Soviet Union may be gone, but Russia did not drop down into a black hole. It’s still there, the people are still there, and they are recovering economically. Quietly, but slowly. Less aggressive now though, which is a big improvement.”
The problem is they are now so small and getting smaller. Russia invading Europe is like Mexico invading the USA. They already have half the world’s natural resources. What’s to gain by invading their biggest customer?
“One of the items that comes to mind was the Davy Crockett nuclear bazooka. Which, as quirky as it sounds, was actually fielded.”
Seems strange that the USA was able to build all sorts of new warheads Davie Crocket, Attomic Annie etc from scratch in a few years in the 50’s yet it will take us 20+ years and £10 billion to build a warhead for a cruise missile despite the fact that these warheads were already built in the 70’s and 80’s for TLAM.

x
x
July 18, 2013 4:01 pm

I have already mentioned mutterings about the Germans and some wondering about an expansion of their naval capability. I just thought I would mention it again.

Further you must never confuse what a government says and what the people think.

Challenger
Challenger
July 18, 2013 4:10 pm

I think that the submarine based and launched ballistic missile system has proven itself to be an effective and robust method which Britain still needs in the decades ahead.

For me the need and utility of such a system isn’t in doubt, but that doesn’t mean a debate over the exact shape and form of such a system can’t occur. I think the idea of a 3 boat class that works on a slower tempo of semi-regular deployments instead of maintaining CASD has some merit if it produced significant savings and their was enough flexibility to add return to CASD if the new set-up was found to be insubstantial and lacking in operational capability.

On the whole though I have come full circle in believing that in the long run a 4 boat CASD force is probably the most suitable and cost effective choice we can work with.

a
a
July 18, 2013 4:24 pm

You cannot rearm with nukes within a couple of decades without either extensive testing or stealing/buying a proven design.

But we’ve GOT a proven design. (Unless someone at Aldermaston accidentally threw it out for recycling.) Lots of proven designs, actually. So that doesn’t apply.

And your timescale’s a bit off, too. The first time around, the US, despite being much poorer, having much less experience, and being in the middle of a war, managed to arm itself with nukes in just four years, without stealing or buying a design (no one to steal it from) or doing any testing at all! (The Fat Man device was tested at Trinity in July 1945. But the Little Boy design was never tested; its first instance was dropped on Hiroshima.)

You have to take into account the German mindset post WW2 and also their public opinion. This mindset has imposed restrictions on ROE in Afghan etc never mind on purchasing a nuclear weapon.

I know that the Germans don’t think so, but do you think that Germany ought to have a nuclear deterrent?

And I’m still waiting for any suggestions for this:
Look back at Trident’s entire operational life so far, from the moment HMS Vanguard first went out on patrol. What’s the high point? What’s the headline case that you point to and say “There! That’s why we need to replace Trident, because we could be in another situation like that any time!” ?

Trident’s almost 20 years old. If no one can point to anything worthwhile it achieved in 20 years, why is everyone so convinced that we not only need to keep it, but to replace it?

wf
wf
July 18, 2013 4:26 pm

: the report gives you the answer. Computer modelling of weapons designs takes longer since we cannot verify hypotheses by testing…since we said we wouldn’t. I think it was a silly treaty, because the occasional test helps with deterrence IMHO. But there you go

Repulse
July 18, 2013 4:31 pm

Ignoring the SSGNs, the USN has 8 SSBNs older than HMS Vanguard, and they do not intend to start to roll out a replacement until the second half of the 2020s. Why cannot the current fleet, or a few boats, extended by another 6-7 years to give technology a chance to mature and other options explored properly?

Any gap could be filled with additional Astutes (possibly a modified batch two with vertical TLAM tubes).

a
a
July 18, 2013 4:32 pm

“NPT certainly stopped the Swedish bomb program in its tracks”

Here’s a link that might be worth reading: http://lewis.armscontrolwonk.com/archive/749/nuclear-non-proliferation-treaty-npt

“President Kennedy warned in 1963 that, by the 1970s, many countries might possess nuclear weapons:
“I see the possibility in the 1970’s of the President of the United States having to face a world in which 15 or 20 or 25 nations may have these weapons. I regard that as the greatest possible danger and hazard.” …Before the NPT, nuclear weapons were seen by many people as just another weapon, part of any modern military’s future arsenal. In fact, virtually all the non-Warsaw Pact countries on this list seriously considered a nuclear weapons program. Australia, Sweden and Switzerland all had active nuclear weapons programs. The NPT helped change that.
Of 44 nuclear capable states (precisely: states listed in Annex II of the CTBT), only nine have nuclear weapons…”

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 18, 2013 4:47 pm

@a
You look at a functional warhead as a nuclear capability. A credible capability requires that warhead to be mated with a delivery system capable of defeating the targets defences and operated by trained and experienced personnel.
Not quite as simple.
If we had highlights from V boat patrols then they are not doing their job.

Bob
Bob
July 18, 2013 4:57 pm

a,

Stop repeating the same rubbish, you have been proven wrong, the NPT is flawed and it has failed which is why states outside the NPT now have nuclear weapons. Not to mention the security risk Russia poses. That is a simple fact that you can not get round. It is hilarious reading the ignorant ramblings of bitter old communists though, the soviets not being able to send you that monthly pay cheque any more really hurt that much?

Jeremy M H
July 18, 2013 5:15 pm

Because the RN does not have the funds to operate more Astutes. That is why they cut back the order to begin with. They are trying to maintain a nuclear submarine building operation on 10-11 boats in operation at any one time. Unless you are going to throw the original couple Astutes in the garbage after about 10-15 years of operation it seems pretty clear they won’t get enough funds to operate more.

S O
S O
July 18, 2013 5:19 pm

@APATS:
“You look at a functional warhead as a nuclear capability. A credible capability requires that warhead to be mated with a delivery system capable of defeating the targets defences and operated by trained and experienced personnel.”

So why do so many people freak out at the thought of a single fission device in the hands of terrorists?

Phil
July 18, 2013 5:26 pm

So why do so many people freak out at the thought of a single fission device in the hands of terrorists?

Because it opens the mother of all Pandora’s Boxes. We do NOT want to go there.

All Politicians are The same
All Politicians are The same
July 18, 2013 5:29 pm

@SO

“So why do so many people freak out at the thought of a single fission device in the hands of terrorists?”

We freak out because they would think nothing of detonating it in Times square or Trafalgar Square at rush hour. They do however still have to penetrate to the target and detonate the device without getting caught.

S O
S O
July 18, 2013 5:40 pm

Well, a government which you attack wants about the same – it wants to use its nuke(s).

Now if ‘we’ freak out about errorists with a nuke and no typical delivery vehicle, why not fear a government with the same?

Fear = deterrence as long as it’s not been overcome.

Nobody wants to open Pandora’s Box titled “aggression against a nuclear power) either. It doesn’t take nuclear subs or intercontinental missiles or stealth tech to make a nuke deterrent credible. other factors (such as the government’s psyche or the intelligence services’ defensive thoroughness) are more crucial.

Phil
July 18, 2013 5:53 pm

It doesn’t take nuclear subs or intercontinental missiles or stealth tech to make a nuke deterrent credible. other factors (such as the government’s psyche or the intelligence services’ defensive thoroughness) are more crucial.

When you play with the big boys you better base your plans on their capabilities not the intentions you perceive them to have. If you don’t, you will have some bad days.

All Politicians are The same
All Politicians are The same
July 18, 2013 5:56 pm

@SO

We would of course be cautious of a Government with a nuke but no delivery vehicle but a hell of a lot less cautious than with a Government who had the ability to deliver their warheads whenever they felt like. penetrate your defences and you cannot stop them.

“Nobody wants to open Pandora’s Box titled “aggression against a nuclear power) either. It doesn’t take nuclear subs or intercontinental missiles or stealth tech to make a nuke deterrent credible. other factors (such as the government’s psyche or the intelligence services’ defensive thoroughness) are more crucial”

No they are important but nowhere near as crucial as a guaranteed second strike capability. A warhead without a delivery option is a target. Just another military planning problem.

Observer
Observer
July 18, 2013 6:05 pm

“Now if ‘we’ freak out about errorists with a nuke and no typical delivery vehicle, why not fear a government with the same?”

Because a terrorist cell operated INSIDE its host country, and works on a cell principle, you can’t kill them all, while governments you can melt their countries to molten glass and kill everyone important in a single shot, which makes negotiating (threatening) in faith much easier.

Peter Elliott
July 18, 2013 6:35 pm

Presumably there is still a deafening silence about HMS Astute’s top speed and the rumours of inherent flaws in the original gearbox design? If the first in class turns out to have been permenantly compromised by the difficult design history then early retirement and replacement by Boat 8 might not be such a silly suggestion. With so few boats in the fleet you can hardly afford to carry a passenger.

“Unless you are going to throw the original couple Astutes in the garbage after about 10-15 years of operation”

To be provocative maybe could say the same about HMS Daring and her bent drive shaft. Presumably they will rip the arse end of the ship apart at first refit to make a permenant repair. But if the design is ready by then you could perhaps look at a business case for pulling the combat systems through onto a T26 hull instead.

Probably doesn’t stack up but fast forward 10-15 years and I can see T45 as a class not getting second refit or any kind of SLEP, with the decision being to churn our another batch of T26 instead. Cost saving from standardising the whole RN on a single type of driveline should be significant by then.

John Hartley
John Hartley
July 18, 2013 6:52 pm

In November 2005, the Polish defence minister, Radek Sikorsky, presented archive documents of what the Soviet Union thought would happen in WW3. The plan had Soviet nukes falling on Amsterdam, Brussels, 2 on Denmark & 5 on W. Germany. They thought Nato would retaliate ten nukes in a line down Poland from Gdansk to Krakow. Interesting that the USSR would not risk dropping a tactical nuke on Britain or France, the 2 nuclear states that could have retaliated against Russia.
No wonder the Polish communists thought about developing their own tactical nuke in the 70s. A Polish scientist thought he had a shortcut by using laser detonation. Much money spent, but it never worked. He died in a mysterious car crash.

WiseApe
July 18, 2013 7:03 pm

Haven’t read the Review yet so will refrain from commenting, but this seems timely:

http://www.defencemanagement.com/news_story.asp?id=23478

x
x
July 18, 2013 7:14 pm

@ John Hartley

Wasn’t Vienna on that list too?

John Hartley
John Hartley
July 18, 2013 7:31 pm

X Vienna does not seem to be on the list. Nearest listed nuke strikes are Munich & Katowice.

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
July 18, 2013 7:37 pm

so:

neutral states = wasted
nuclear states = high-fiving

we should get rid of nukes IMMEDIATELY!

:D

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
July 18, 2013 7:41 pm

@ John Hartley,

interesting information on Poland. I once had a beer with a Kevin who’d been a Navigator on both Buccaneers and Tornadoes, and one of the Squadrons he’d been with was assigned the nuclear role for WW3. Apparently, they’d got a target somewhere in eastern Europe, had a route planned, but of course no refuelling options, so the plan was to fly there, drop the thing, light up the afterburners and keep heading east until they ran out of fuel before ejecting. So the “how far east do we drop the bombs” calculation was in fact based on aircraft range, not on what would have been perhaps a better target but 1,000 miles further east.

Of course, that’s what I was told: he probably held back the more secret squirrel info, as I’d no need to know it. But, on the face of it, it seems reasonable and in keeping with what little I did know of general NATO plans and aircraft ranges.

@ SO: “errorists”. I think that’s a brilliant new word. The current Islamist ragheads aren’t causing terror (I was in London a couple of days ago – seemed pretty normal to me, no one rushing from door to doorway or panicking at any noises, people on the Tube, shopping, etc). But the errorists are dead wrong both in what they are trying to achieve, and wrong in how they are going about it

Phil
July 18, 2013 7:49 pm

I often engage in errorism at work and during conversations with the better half about important financial decisions.

Brian Black
Brian Black
July 18, 2013 8:34 pm

We should have The Bomb, but I should have the button.

Opinion3
Opinion3
July 18, 2013 8:38 pm

Isn’t this debate a bit like an American reassessing whether she/he needs that bedside Colt?

Taking out some bullets really isn’t going save much, and if someone is really spinning the chamber you are taking chances.

Debating whether to change the weapon seems a bit pointless too.

So the question is do we need to be a nuclear power? Over the last seventy years I’d say yes, China, Russia and even the United Kingdom and France have earned their status from historical events including developing the bomb. I think this is changing, much like ruling the waves became less relevant, I believe economic might will be the deciding factor. Germany and Japan have previously been strong economic powers but not part of the ‘club’. Even this is changing. China is a massive economic threat.

Challenger
Challenger
July 18, 2013 9:17 pm

How does the laying down of HMS Agamemnon mentioned in the article make the Trident successor class any cheaper?

I don’t quite get how that works!

HurstLlama
HurstLlama
July 18, 2013 9:38 pm

@Challenger

If HMG cancelled Agamemnon and Ajax (the 7th Astute) because with the squeeze on the budget meant that they were no longer affordable, then there would be insufficient work to keep Barrow in business – there would be a hiatus in submarine building. That would mean the skilled workforce would be laid off and they would disperse, the production facilities sold off or left to rot etc. etc.. Reconstituting the skill-base and facilities would be time consuming and expensive thus making the successor class much more expensive that it need be (see the Astute programme for a real life example).

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
July 18, 2013 9:58 pm

so they are not actually doing anything beneficial, the are just opting not to do something stupid.

did i parse that correctly?

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
July 18, 2013 9:58 pm

I seem to recall that the most efficient drumbeat for submarine production gives us 8 SSN and 4 SSBN at any given time…so presumably stopping the current production run of Astutes early costs money rather than saving it.

Not that such an outcome would stop the Treasury from doing it…oddly, I grew up believing their job was to use tax-payers money as effectively as possible…years on, I am at a complete loss as to what they are for.

Answers on a post-card please?

GNB

John Hartley
John Hartley
July 18, 2013 10:28 pm

RT. The Daily Telegraph article “World War Three seen through Soviet eyes” 26 Nov 2005. Not sure if it is on the interweb.

John Hartley
John Hartley
July 18, 2013 10:32 pm

The Soviets also assumed Prague would be a Nato target, but its not on the graphic with the article.

Challenger
Challenger
July 18, 2013 11:32 pm

@HurstLlama

Thanks, that’s kind of what I assumed, but I wanted it confirmed by someone.

@GNB

It’s crazy isn’t it! The government have essentially paid BAE another billion or so NOT to build an extra Astute and stretch the rest of the programme out to close the production gaps.

As HurstLlama pointed out you really want to avoid any slow-down, or worse still complete stoppage between different submarine programmes because it would result in a loss of skills and some costly re-start overheads.

Jeremy M H said earlier that the RN couldn’t afford to run more Astute’s, but I remain dubious. Surely just a single additional boat wouldn’t be impossible for the navy to accommodate (they were operating 8 up until roughly 3 years ago) and the combination of that extra capability and a steady drumbeat of construction would have surely represented a better use of taxpayer money than the government essentially giving it to BAE to work slower!

Although as you said it’s sadly not as if we can automatically assume that the treasury and wider government are good with money these days! To keep to the current schedule the official order of long-lead items for Astute No.7 (Ajax) needs to occur this year…and so far silence. Hopefully all will be well but I have this persistent feeling of exasperated dread that 6 boats will be the limit and either the latter Astute’s construction will be yet again strung out or the successor build will somehow be brought forward to plug the gap…. at yet more cost of course.

I remember reading that the only reason Astute No.7 was tentatively confirmed in the SDSR was because of the fears over pauses between what should be the steady drumbeat of construction between the programmes.

Challenger
Challenger
July 18, 2013 11:38 pm

Elliot

‘I can see T45 as a class not getting second refit or any kind of SLEP, with the decision being to churn our another batch of T26 instead. Cost saving from standardising the whole RN on a single type of driveline should be significant by then’

It would make sense, IF significant savings could be made by such a move and IF the T26 shapes up to an affordable and effective ‘Global Combat Ship’.

I suppose as well the suitability of the basic T26 hull for an anti-air variant with Aster/Sampson levels of capability and the political problems over ditching perfectly good ships early would also come into play.

In principle at least I agree that one single high-end escort fleet is the way to go.

Observer
Observer
July 18, 2013 11:50 pm

Challenger, how is the Navy on the manpower front? If the army is cutting numbers with a chainsaw, I have a sneaky suspicion that that may also be happening on the Naval front but with a bit less publicity, which means that not being able to operate more subs may not only be a financial issue on the equipment side but also an issue with manpower cuts due to budget. Pensions can get very, very expensive.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
July 19, 2013 12:13 am

@Observer – pensions can indeed be expensive…but nothing like so costly as drifting into trouble and then needing to expend both blood and treasure in digging yourself out of it; and every Government in History has been perfectly convinced that they were more than adequately defended until events proved that they were not…the most egregious example perpetrated by my Government in my lifetime being the unpleasantness down south in 1982.

I should add I don’t expect that event to be repeated…I offer it as an example of a general principle; and I might add for younger colleagues hereabouts that those events came as a complete bolt from the blue…even to people keenly interested in these matters…there is absolutely no evidence from history of threats being in any way predictable at the time.

In 1938 practically everybody was convinced that Chamberlain was bang on the money and Churchill was crackers…

GNB

Observer
Observer
July 19, 2013 12:24 am

Gloomy, desires may be one thing, but hard cash to pay for your wants is another. Unless there is a few percentage points clawed back from other parts of the budget, you are not going to be able to afford it.

One strong recommendation I would have for the armed forces after this is a savings fund for contingencies, in the financial world, there is an expectation of a market crash every 10 years and a big one every 40-50 years. Monies should be set aside in expectation of these crashes.

Overall though, the UK’s military spending still isn’t that terrible, though at 2.5% IIRC, it is still 4th in the world in absolute terms. I know it could be better, but it also could be a lot worse.

martin
Editor
July 19, 2013 4:45 am

@ GNB
“I seem to recall that the most efficient drumbeat for submarine production gives us 8 SSN and 4 SSBN at any given time…so presumably stopping the current production run of Astutes early costs money rather than saving it.”
The MOD’s defence (presumably written by the treasury) is that while we have to compensate BAE for the gap between Astute 7 and Successor 1 we save money because it would cost more money in the future to run Astute 8.
@ Observer
“how is the Navy on the manpower front? If the army is cutting numbers with a chainsaw, I have a sneaky suspicion that that may also be happening on the Naval front but with a bit less publicity, which means that not being able to operate more subs may not only be a financial issue on the equipment side but also an issue with manpower cuts due to budget. Pensions can get very, very expensive.”
That’s true but the crew of an SSN is relatively small even compared to current frigates and destroyers.

Brian Black
Brian Black
July 19, 2013 6:17 am

Isn’t aggregating your spending the basic idea of popular Keynesianism, Observer.

Don’t piss money up the wall like there’s no tomorrow during the good times; and when you hit a rocky patch you can afford to splash a little cash to excite the economy because you’re not up to your eyeballs in debt. Maybe even using defence projects as part of your stimulus, instead of cancelling everything in sight.

Maintaining a department contingency slush fund could help with short-term blips, but dealing with market crashes requires successive governments to not be twats with the national credit card (Labour, I’m looking at you here). Unfortunately that’s a big ask.

Repulse
July 19, 2013 6:34 am

Anyone know the running costs of an SSN? Forgoing the potential capabilities of an 8th SSN seems utter madness to me.

Peter Elliott
July 19, 2013 7:48 am

I reckon any spare manpower the RN can wring out of system between now and 2020 will go on crewing QEC #2 rather and on a hypothetical Astute #8. The money to build Boat #8 has now gone anyway: spent on slowing down the drumbeat for Boats #1-#7

If I had been in the SoS shoes when the Astute Class drumbeat was being discussed I would have been tempted to maintain the build tempo, build and commission Boat #8 anyway, still reduce the crews to 7 and then rotate 7 crews across 8 boats by stretching out the refit cycle with some ‘extended readiness’. At least then if you get a reactor go down, a dodgy gearbox or a boat bumping into something unexpectedly you have some redundancy to maintain the operational tempo. And from what we hear it wouldn’t have cost any more to have done that.

The risk is that becuase of the number of servicable boats we we may currently actually operating with about 5 active crews rather than the officially budgeted 7. As and when the active SSN fleet finally gets back up to 7 I hope the budget to operate 7 full crews is still there!

“how is the Navy on the manpower front? If the army is cutting numbers with a chainsaw, I have a sneaky suspicion that that may also be happening on the Naval front but with a bit less publicity, which means that not being able to operate more subs may not only be a financial issue on the equipment side but also an issue with manpower cuts due to budget. Pensions can get very, very expensive.”

John Hartley
John Hartley
July 19, 2013 7:49 am

I have been baffled by the claim the UK has the fourth largest military budget, yet there are non-stop cuts. Found an article from 2007 when Blair was about to step down as PM, yet wanted to justify his military adventurism. Typical spin, the war costs are mixed in with the normal MoD budget & that makes it look big. Strip out the extra fuel for the Afghan airlink, extra allowances, ordnance used, etc. & you get to see the true feeble budget. I was not a fan of Mrs T, but I can see that she spent 4% GDP on Defence & only 0.35% on foreign aid. I would cut the coalitions 0.7% foreign aid to 0.35% & boost defence by 0.35%. Then we could fund missile projects like Perseus & other aviation/high tech/defence projects.

martin
Editor
July 19, 2013 9:12 am

@ John Hartley,
Its worth noting that Mrs T was spending 4% at the height of the Cold War. I don’t disagree about foreign aid but the real killer is the NHS which has risen from around 4% in the early 1980’s to nearly 8% today and is likely to top 10%. (Then again the USA spends 18% of its health care)

For all her talk of budget austerity Mrs T never actually managed to cut any budgets except defence. Up until 2007 the UK had the 2nd largest defence budget in the world until China took number 2 spot then Japan took number 3 spot post SDSR 2010. Difficult to argue for more defence spending when everyone else spends a lot less and the only country spending way more is your biggest ally.

Observer
Observer
July 19, 2013 9:16 am

JH, I won’t even touch new projects for a while, if you can claw back some funds, save some of it, use the rest to pad your conventional forces. I’d say research projects cost a bomb, but that isn’t true unless the bomb is a nuke. It costs much much more than a conventional bomb with no firm confirmation of results. Not something for a time of famine.

Brian, exactly, call me a Keynesian at heart.

I see the production tempo problems not as a MoD issue primarily, but as a fault of BAe not to diversify their yard when they could. Why stick only to military subs? Could they not have diversified into exploration subs for oil companies or oil rigs which also have a fair number of underwater components? Or small boats? If they were so contented to become indolent on military work only, once the MoD can’t fork out handouts any more, they have nothing they can fall back on, so obviously it is MoD or bust. No backup plan or work at all.

x
x
July 19, 2013 9:20 am

GNB said “the most egregious example perpetrated by my Government in my lifetime being the unpleasantness down south in 1982.”

You can interpret 1982 in all sorts of ways. You can point to lack of AEW or radar laid autocannon or discuss the metallurgy of ships’ superstructures or some jarring in command structures or even extremes like a lack of a proper carrier. Or you could point to the staggering joint (but mostly maritime and Army ;) ) effort of moving that much stuff that far to deploy some of the world’s best infantry (and supporting arms too!) to defeat a numerically superior force much closer to home. As a pessimist I find this hard to say, it was definitely a glass half full deal. The true failing of the campaign was not to build on its success. We sort of said “We have fought one unexpected war so we won’t need to fight another!” And went back, probably quite rightly to worrying about Ivan. Instead of building up a proper third expeditionary pillar “we” did what we always do address the real shortcomings and prayed not to repeat the exercise or similar again. (Third pillar with pillar one being the deterrent and pillar two being BAOR).

x
x
July 19, 2013 9:25 am

Simon says “So is Putin… and he scares me.”

But you would vote for him, wouldn’t you?

Rocket Banana
July 19, 2013 10:09 am

x,

I’d vote for him if I were Russian, yes.

I think he’s a very strong leader – and extremely clever and manipulative.

It’s both of the above that scare me :-(

a
a
July 19, 2013 10:42 am

“When you play with the big boys you better base your plans on their capabilities not the intentions you perceive them to have. If you don’t, you will have some bad days.”

Well, in that case shouldn’t we be mainly worried about the US? Never mind that we “perceive” them to be our allies. Look at all those carriers and nuclear warheads! Why, at any time they could launch a division-level amphibious invasion of Britain! They could incinerate the entire country!

“Worry about capabilities, not intentions” is pretty simplistic. Real intelligence analysis always has to include both, because just looking at capabilities gives you a vast and ludicrous space of possible scenarios. The Belgian Army has the capability to send fifty thousand suicide bombers on to the streets of Britain. The Ramblers’ Association has the capability to storm the gates of Westminster and behead the entire Cabinet. Nuneaton Primary School has the capability to take down a nuclear power station.

Rocket Banana
July 19, 2013 11:39 am

I’ve always thought Nuneaton was a dangerous place ;-)

Challenger
Challenger
July 19, 2013 11:49 am

Yeah the crew for an Astute is 98, obviously every allocation of manpower however small is going to be a stretch as overall numbers fall but I suspect the RN could have crewed an 8th SSN if it had got it’s hands on one. Although as Peter Elliot says they will have enough trouble potentially crewing the 2nd CVF in the 2020’s without thinking of any extra demands.

Elliot

‘If I had been in the SoS shoes when the Astute Class drumbeat was being discussed I would have been tempted to maintain the build tempo, build and commission Boat #8 anyway, still reduce the crews to 7 and then rotate 7 crews across 8 boats by stretching out the refit cycle with some ‘extended readiness’. At least then if you get a reactor go down, a dodgy gearbox or a boat bumping into something unexpectedly you have some redundancy to maintain the operational tempo. And from what we hear it wouldn’t have cost any more to have done that’

That sounds like an acceptable situation to me. Although I’m keen to know how much the annual running costs will be for an Astute?

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
July 19, 2013 11:57 am

@x – I agree about the outstanding quality of the response…my point was more about creating the need for it by planning to scrap the Ice Ship without replacement, whilst also reducing the RN to a North Atlantic only squadron; and that from a Government that was genuinely committed to Defence but was only able to see one enemy…largely for ideological reasons…

In the end @apats is right…perhaps we could Nuke Tuscany and the Dordogne next month, allowing HM to take over directly from Balmoral…at least her Family have stood their Watch; can anyone imagine the little Cameroons or Millibanders doing the same?

GNB

Jeremy M H
July 19, 2013 12:06 pm

@Challenger

For the record when I said the RN could not afford to run an 8th SSN that was not my assessment. It was obviously someone’s at the MOD though.

My understanding of that transaction was that by dropping the 8th unit they really saved very little money. Either that is not true and they knew that unit cost were going to be a lot higher than initially projected so they adjusted down the number of subs or the acquisition cost were about the same as we were told and the operating cost scared them off. It really can’t be anything else.

My guess is that it is more the former than the later. The Astute program has been badly over budget. They did some accounting games on the major projects to make it look less awful but the mark was missed pretty badly.

WiseApe
July 19, 2013 12:16 pm

@a – I agree with some of your points but disagree with others. I do admire you for sticking to your guns, though. Indeed, I applaud you for not unilaterally giving up your guns. :-)

What a cop out by the LibDems! Either you believe we need a nuclear deterrent, which means a minimum 3 boats, or you believe we don’t need one so scrap the lot.

“Are there credible alternatives to a submarine-based deterrent?
Are there credible submarine-based alternatives to the current proposal, eg Astute with cruise missiles?
Are there alternative nuclear postures, ie non-CASD, which could maintain credibility?” – They’re own review says: No; no and no.

Two boats my arse! They might get this policy through their conference but they’ll be laughed off the doorstep with it.

x
x
July 19, 2013 12:19 pm

Crewing Astute 8 isn’t the issue. It has having the extra hull to reduce wear and tear on the other 7 and allow refit cycles to be extended. Submarines are pretty complicated doodads. Remember not all submariners are volunteers.

@ GNB

If you read some of the books on the war it is clear that in Whitehall there was a a nearly complete intelligence vacuum when it came to Argentina and her intentions. But what really would have signalled a disengagement from the Islands would have been withdrawal of the RM not the removal of Endurance. Though if there had been no invasion I suppose the former would have happened within a few years too. The BAS had ships down South so there really wasn’t really a complete maritime detachment. Um. And remember despite the grumblings (whether real-real or not) about the Islands UK-Argentine relations were on the whole good. Remember the Argentines were present on the Islands and though view with suspicion (quite rightly) they did provide a service to the FI populus. So if you were an accountant would you or would you not see it as a possible saving? Isn’t that we talk about here all the time. probable risk. All good stuff.

x
x
July 19, 2013 12:23 pm

GNB said “In the end @apats is right…perhaps we could Nuke Tuscany and the Dordogne next month, allowing HM to take over directly from Balmoral…at least her Family have stood their Watch; can anyone imagine the little Cameroons or Millibanders doing the same?”

Well look at Afghanistan. Kids from council estates and HMQ’s grandson go to war and fight together. Blair the Smirk’s child runs to Washington.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
July 19, 2013 12:44 pm

@x – I think my point is that Accountants will by nature overstate any risk that is financial. and understate or disregard any that is not. So as they looked at a situation in the FI back in the day, all they could see on our side was an avoidable cost, and the financial risk attached…but because they are bloodless vampires and seeing no financial benefit to the Argentine Junta in staging a costly invasion, they were incapable of imagining that such a thing might happen…

Personally, I think Shakespeare needs updating, although I am not sure if “First kill all the Lawyers and Accountants” would scan…

GNB

Challenger
Challenger
July 19, 2013 1:20 pm

Lets just hope the post SDSR way of going about procurement is not going to involve all of the start stop messing about that we have seen with the Astute and CVF programmes.

Have a clear intention, make sure the money is allocated and then stick with it!

Observer
Observer
July 19, 2013 1:50 pm

“Well, in that case shouldn’t we be mainly worried about the US?”

…we do… not mainly and you didn’t hear about this.

American foreign policy is that they don’t really have one.

GNB, there is also a huge global context to that incident. Decolonialization was in full swing and HMG was losing income sources like it was being invaded. The income worldwide had been able to support the RAF, RN and BA through WWI and WWII, though in the end it really wasn’t enough and the UK had to take a loan, but once you lost 90%+ of your population support base you had no choice to cut back.

To put it in context, could you imagine what armed forces you could have had if they increased the current budget to 9x the amount? SSBNs? 20-30? 800,000 man army? 50 Type 45s? And the reverse, if your current budget was cut 90%? 8,200 man army from 82,000, one destroyer, forget carriers? That was the situation the government faced in the late 1970s/early 80s. They had no choice but to cut to the bone. And the Argies knew it (apologies to the Highlanders, not refering to you) and tried to take advantage of it. But they underestimated British pride. One thing to voluntarily give up territory, quite another to lose it to invasion.

BTW anyone know the risks involved in putting a “hot” nuclear submarine in storage and how long it would take to change a “cold” stored sub to a “hot” one? That is one of my worries on a spare sub, putting it in cold might take too long to reactivate, and putting it in hot might be a high risk proposition.

Swimming Trunks
Swimming Trunks
July 19, 2013 2:17 pm

“… but once you lost 90%+ of your population support base you had no choice to cut back.” – Excellent point Observer; it was the British Empire which fought WW1 and 2. While true we had a large navy and small army people forget we also had the huge Indian army and support from the Dominions/Commonwealth.

John Hartley
John Hartley
July 19, 2013 3:02 pm

Should not the new bards line be “First kill all the Accountants, lawyers, bankers, Marxist union leaders, quangocrats, hedgefunders & diversity outreach co-ordinators”. Bit of a mouthful , but still more believable than the lines by George Lucas.
Re SSN in reserve. Could we tie it up in port, link it up to the grid & use it as a mini nuclear power station? This idea was floated for disaster relief, but it might be a good idea for Blighty, now the pols are determined to close our coal stations.

Chris
Chris
July 19, 2013 3:09 pm

Obs – I believe there are still something like a hundred pensioned-off nuclear boats in and around the naval establishments in the Kola Bay and the White Sea. In order to keep their cool many are plugged into the shore mains supply just to run the reactor cooling plant. Some time back the Russian Electricity Board, exasperated that the Russian Navy was way behind in paying its electricity bill, cut the power off. Those boats took no time at all to get hot. Really hot. Really, really hot. I understand the power was reconnected (no doubt at the insistence of central government) with minutes to spare from a series of horribly major meltdown events. A few years back FAS reported Russia had over 130 ageing nuclear boats awaiting decommission and breaking, all sat in the water rusting merrily and oozing warm nasty often glowing substances. No problem there then.

Observer
Observer
July 19, 2013 3:13 pm

Nice saying JH, now say it four times fast. :)

Turning inactive ships into mini-reactors do sound feasible, if a bit Japanese. Now if only it can transform, then you can get a scene where the boat disconnects from the city and comes out looking like a porcupine with guns. :P

Chris, you have a strange defination of “No problem”. One power outage from a China Syndrome is not my defination of “no problem”. In fact, it is close to my defination of “RUN!! IT’S GONNA BLOW!!!”.

IXION
July 19, 2013 3:22 pm

The problem with the ‘lets kill all the..’ lines. They end up including everyone.
I remember a cartoon in that often witty bikers mag Back Street Heros. I used to get to get it in the 80’s when I had hair

Picture an old English pub. There is a biker at the bar. Serving said biker is a disgruntled Adolf Hittler. The sign by the bar says:-
No Jews
No Irish
No punks
No blacks
No Indians
No bikers.

‘Not a lot of people in tonight’ comments the biker survaying a pristeen but empty pub!

HurstLlama
HurstLlama
July 19, 2013 3:27 pm

@Observer

You seem to be suggesting that the Empire was of net benefit to the UK. It most certainly was not, quite the reverse. The cost of sustaining it had exceeded any economic benefit since about 1850 and arguably long before that (I would suggest around about 1790, but I accept I am in a minority with such an early date). Aside from all other considerations the Empire sucked money away from more long-term useful investments (e.g. keeping industry up to date), totally corrupted the public education system (in the late 19th centuary the new tax-payer funded schools were modelled, much to the satisfaction of the teachers, as poor shadows of places like Rugby – geared up to turn out “paladins” to rule the empire – rather than the basic plus technical education recommended by successive parliamentary committees, a situation that still hangs over us) and, thanks to Victorian/Edwardian sentimentality, gave the Brits a sense of accomplishment and security that was wholly undeserved.

Post WW2, the situation got even worse. The UK had borrowed from its colonies and they now wanted paying back. Unfortunately because of the Sterling area those colonies were able to buy goods denominated and paid for in dollars and then pass the bill back to London, so what little foreign currency we had went haemorrhaging out of the country to no benefit of the UK. Add to that the incompetence and sheer stupidity of the Atlee government (keep,even expand, the Empire, keep huge armed forces and spend on welfare – no investment in industry you notice, they tried to run a command economy), which pissed the funds from the Marshall Plan (of which the UK was the biggest recipient)up the wall , plus some mischief making by the Septics and the UK was stuffed. The UK losing the Empire was not losing income, it was shedding itself of a massive burden that had hung around its neck for far too long.

I wouldn’t mind but its not as if anyone actually planned the Empire in the first place. Take the acquisition of Zululand. HMG never wanted it, the Cape Colony as a coaling station and shipping refuge was more than enough. However, a couple of local idiots ignored their instructions and kicked off a fight they couldn’t win. British troops were massacred by the Zulus (Islanwhana and all that), the UK couldn’t accept that blow to its prestige and so after several thousand of their number were slaughtered the Zulus were brought to heel and another chunk of the globe was painted pink. Chunks of India were conquered, against HMGs wishes, by the Wellesley family (and in doing so establishing Arthur’s, the later Duke of Wellington, reputation as a general) and Richard was within an ace of impeachment on his return to London.

I could go on, and I apologise for the rant, but far from being a income earner the British empire was a millstone around the countries neck and we would have been far better off without it.

HurstLlama
HurstLlama
July 19, 2013 3:49 pm

“While true we had a large navy and small army people forget we also had the huge Indian army and support from the Dominions/Commonwealth.”

Are we talking WW2 here? If so the Indian army was the largest wholly volunteer force ever raised and its loyalty and service stands second to none. However, each brigade in the Indian Army comprised of three battalions, one of which was British, that meant a significant number of UK forces were tied up in Far East campaigns. If the UK had done the sensible thing and granted India independence after WW1, then none of that would have been necessary, the African divisions, who also fought in Burma, would not have to have been raised either.

Observer
Observer
July 19, 2013 3:49 pm

Llama, I disagree, from the early 70s to mid 80s, overall UK income dropped so bad after decolonialization that taxes, both corporate and personal, as a fraction of GDP spiked. This can be checked online, the reason for the % spike is because the pie suddenly got smaller. It may not suit you for your political theory, but you can see the effects not directly, but indirectly. From the rise in taxes % as GDP and the knock on effect of the sudden shrinking of the armed forces.

Unless for some reason the colonials decided not to pay taxes at all? Which I believed never happened? 90% of a tax paying population Llama.

Notice I never said anything about Palastine oil, Malayian rubber etc. Those really were unaffected, different bosses, same prices, same buyers and sellers. Government income on the other hand…

HurstLlama
HurstLlama
July 19, 2013 4:04 pm

Observer,

What were these taxes that the poor benighted colonials were paying to the UK in the 1960s and 1970s? Income tax? As an aside, decolonisation was largely complete by the early seventies so a massive drop in income in the 70s and 80s can hardly be put down to losing 90% of the UK tax base.

If you have some real figures showing how the Empire funded the UK, I’ll be very pleased to see them.

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
July 19, 2013 4:16 pm

@ JH – “I have been baffled by the claim the UK has the fourth largest military budget, yet there are non-stop cuts.”

That is because Sipri and NATO count operational budgets as part of the total.

You wait and see how much trouble HMG has meeting the NATO 2.0% standard once Afghanistan winds down!

International comparisons of Defence budgets are not the same as what we consider to be the Core Defence budget, minus Treasury appropriations.

Observer
Observer
July 19, 2013 4:36 pm

Llama, yes, income tax. Think the tax was called “Model Colonial Territories Income Tax Ordinance 1922”.

You chest thumping parochial jackass.

With love,

Poor benighted ex-colonial :P

Observer
Observer
July 19, 2013 4:44 pm

jedi, look on the bright side, once the operational budget winds down, you got some funds to redirect back into military hardware and infrastructure again. Might help a bit with the current pain.

HurstLlama
HurstLlama
July 19, 2013 5:14 pm

Dear Benighted ex-Colonial,

I think you’ll find that the tax that referred to was paid to the local government not to the UK, the Ordinance was a template for colonies. In the same way, when I was in Hong Kong, (income tax 10% payable annually in arrears, as I recall) my local taxes went to the local government slush fund and not to the big white mother. Anyway as Singapore became independent in 1963, and most of the colonies had gone long before 1970, I am still struggling with this collapse of the tax base that you say occurred in the 70’s and 80’s due to decolonisation.

Then there is this issue of the Empire being of net benefit to the UK, you seem to think it was and I don’t. I think it was a ghastly mistake that cost the UK very dearly. If you really want I will crawl up into the attic and dig out the papers from my second degree (of which this subject played a major part). However, before I do that, please could you give some figures to support your contention that the UK was a net recipient from the Empire, especially in the 20th century..

With full respect

Chest thumping parochial jackass

P.S. Sorry, would have liked to have put a smiley face thing in but I don’t know how.

Observer
Observer
July 19, 2013 5:26 pm

Gimme a moment, found a chart which I believe did show the breakdown. Lost it because I thought it was a bit weak. Now I regret letting it go.

The income tax was enacted to defray the costs of WWI, if it did not get back to the UK, then isn’t it a rather useless exercise?

HurstLlama
HurstLlama
July 19, 2013 6:02 pm

@Observer,

No rush. Mrs. Llama has told me I am to get on with the ironing and so I am going to be away from the keyboard for a few hours. I’ll look forward to seeing what you come up with.

As far as I recall, few of the colonies had income tax before after WW2, then within a few years of its end most (?) of them did. So perhaps, to take Singapore’s introduction of income tax to pay for WW2, there was a recognition that there had to be a lot of money spent to replace/repair war damaged/ignored infrastructure but no money was going to becoming from the UK, which was itself totally skint.

OK, of for some ironing and, later, chest thumping

All the best

Parochial Jackass

Observer
Observer
July 19, 2013 6:42 pm

Yes, the income tax came back in 1948, and the revenue authority has been in business ever since.

Any luck convincing you guys to take them back? :)

http://www.iras.gov.sg/irasHome/page03a.aspx?id=1936

My bad, it was 1947.

Before this though, it was all property tax and customs, with the rather distasteful foray into “tax farming” by John Company in India, though a bit understandable considering recipts were not in wide usage then, which made income tax tracking a bloody pain.

There is also the problem in the early days that tax was not direct through HMG, but indirectly through the East Indies Company. The company collected taxes as profit, and Parliment took it from them or their investors. This makes it hard to track how much HMG really makes from them. Though the dividend spiral was a really stupid idea, maybe in hindsight. Comparable to the current US Fanny and Freddie mess/commodified stocks mess.

Found a rather useful book:
Colonialism and Development: Britain and Its Tropical Colonies, 1850-1960
By Michael Ashley Havinden

http://books.google.com.sg/books?id=JvwqFrCUYM8C&pg=PA108&dq=british+revenue+malaya&hl=en&sa=X&ei=3YfpUcDwEsikrQf2h4HwDQ&ved=0CDMQuwUwAQ

According to table 5.14, the total revenue for the top 5 colonies 1911 was 13 million pounds. How much of it was plowed back in expenditure or actually reached the imperial government was not stated though. I’ll try finding expenditure for the areas, at least it can show if there was any profit at all from the areas.

Good luck with the ironing, irons can be nasty.

Benighted

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
July 19, 2013 7:18 pm

@ Observer – “jedi, look on the bright side, once the operational budget winds down, you got some funds to redirect back into military hardware and infrastructure again.”

Hmmm, colour me the pessimist, but i see it as a nail-biting roller-coaster as we lurch towards the SDSR15 with the big question over whether we really will honour Hagues commitment to the septic’s over continuing to meet the 2.0% target!

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
July 19, 2013 7:22 pm

@ Observer – “jedi, look on the bright side, once the operational budget winds down, you got some funds to redirect back into military hardware and infrastructure again.”

Hmmm, colour me the pessimist, but i see it as a nail-biting roller-coaster as we lurch towards the SDSR15 with the big question over whether we really will honour Hagues commitment to the septic’s over continuing to meet the 2.0% target.

For all that the difference will be between 2.0% and 1.9% of GDP, it really does matter, for it is the question of whether to discard the threshold and all that entails.

After all, with the wrong choice 1.9% in 2015 will become 1.7% in 2020, and after that we are firmly on the road to becoming German!

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
July 19, 2013 10:56 pm

@HurstLlama – I like @Observer, but you are absolutely right – Colonial Revenue was practically all spent within the Colonies themselves; mostly on law and order, infrastructure and to some extent defence; remittances to London were all but unknown – and in any event practically all the Colonies had gone by the middle sixties, and the large and potentially wealthy ones had gone years before that – GB’s financial difficulties in that period were almost wholly down to the economic incompetence of the Wilson government, the most destructive aspect of which was runaway inflation not really brought under any kind of control until the late 1970’s.

In fairness, the business done in the Empire did generate commercial opportunities realising taxable wealth at home, but much of that wealth still remained where it was made…the likely exceptions being shipping and banking; if we made money at all, it was in managing Imperial trade both logistically and commercially, not shipping chests of tax money back to London. If we taxed it was individuals and businesses based in GB, not those overseas who were taxed by their own Colonial Governments…although in fairness those Governments did provide a fair amount of work for those who ran them.

GNB

Observer
Observer
July 19, 2013 11:16 pm

@GNB

Just to clarify, I did not say that there were huge sums shipped to the UK, most money really were spent on site, and if any money was being shuffled around, it would have been within the East Indies Company, which would have then been taxed in the UK directly by the government itself and would probably have been classed as local internal tax, so hard numbers are difficult to come by. Best case would be to see how much the Company paid as taxes.

India I believe was literally a zero-sum game for the British other than the strategic location.

x
x
July 19, 2013 11:22 pm

“India I believe was literally a zero-sum game for the British other than the strategic location……”

and tea. :)

Observer