Trident Alternatives

The Trident Alternatives report by Danny Alexander and the Liberal Democrats has been published internally and is de to be released in the next week or so.

Here is Danny Alexander, yes, the very same titan of defence and national strategy thinking that only recently was talking about efficiencies in the Army being easy to achieve because they have more horses than tanks, describing how he is sure there are viable alternatives to CASD.

Does this man have any credibility after his horses and tanks comment and more importantly, is anyone going to take any notice of the alternatives report?

If I were a betting man I would say the most likely path is CASD but delivered with only three boats

 

 

 

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John Hartley
John Hartley
July 1, 2013 10:11 pm

I am all for having a few tactical nukes, but they should be in addition to a strategic deterrent like Trident, not a replacement for. You do not want to shrink your deterrent to a point where it no longer deters.

Mark
Mark
July 1, 2013 10:21 pm

No one will pay any attention because no one wants the grown up debate. We have trident we are strong and defended from all enemys both the politicians and the public swallow it ever time it’s trotted out. The rest of armed forces will however have there equipment plans gutted to pay for it.

Overseas
Overseas
July 1, 2013 11:30 pm

All alternatives are compromised in some way. CASD isn’t.

We can certainly make the submarines smaller than the current Vanguards and drop the warheads down to a few dozen. Reduction to 3 boats in an idea, but not perfect. Maintain CASD because it keeps us, not safe as we really are anyway, but at the top table of bullies in the world.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 2, 2013 4:04 am

I am all for debate but have yet to see anyone explain a proper alternative to Trident that is not flawed and less capable.
So for me the starting point of the debate is that we accept that we give up guaranteed world wide first/second strike capability. Am prepared to be convinced.
Once we accept that then we can look at what lesser capability we are prepared to accept.

martin
Editor
July 2, 2013 4:45 am

Indications are that the report says Trident is the most cost effective solution but Danny Alexander is convinced their are alternatives (not much point in commissioning the report if you are going to ignore it especially if you don’t know a f**king thing about defence.)

RUSI and other looked at this and found the same thing. The Trident Missile system is by far the cheapest and best means of delivery the detterent. I do think though the SSBN concept is the main flaw in the system. £12 billion for three or four boats that can only perform one mission is a hell of an investment. Putting 4 Tubes in one CMC inside of an enlarged SSN still seems best to me especially if we can build a fleet of 12 hybrid SSBGN’s. This would allow us to maintain CASD without the expense of a four boat specialist fleet. Having four Trident D5’s fully armed with 8 MIRVS a piece is still a very effective deterrent and if things really hot up then their is no reason why we could not have three of four boats at sea each armed with 4 missiles a piece.

In many ways its more effective than the current system as a potential adversary knows that if we have three boats sitting in Faslane and they find the fourth at sea and sink it then we effectively have no deterrent.

It would make Barrow far more sustainable and allow us to increase our SSN numbers as well. I am willing to bet that using a common vessel with a gradual build and development process would save significant amounts of money as well. Also using the CMC we have already paid to develop would mean that the government would not have to right of much of the R&D it has done for successor already.

Their may well be issues in the mixed role especially concerning friendly ports but I think these issues would be relatively insignificant and the benefits of such a system would far out way negatives.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 2, 2013 6:06 am

Are you prepared to declare which boats are carrying ICBMs?

I f you do you are in the same position ref 3 boats alongside but with a less specialised and capable platform at sea. If you do not you face port visit and water usage restrictions which cripple normal SSN ops. People have thought this through.

Repulse
July 2, 2013 6:57 am

If you wamt to replace the current capability like for like then yes CASD based on 3 or 4 SSBN is probably the cheapest. But isn’t this the classic example of coming up with the equipment solution without aking the basic question of what is the threat and what is the best way to counter it? Also how does it compare with other priorities in a finite budget?

Mark
Mark
July 2, 2013 7:04 am

Trident was build and the Polaris before it for a single purpose of stopping industrial war with Russia. That is still its only rational everything else is window dressing. It did that job very successfully.

The question that should be asked about this or any capability coming up for replacement is if we didn’t have it would be build it from scratch today and IMO the answer on trident is no.

The final question is spending 2% of GDP on defence and with only further efficiency saving on that budget on the horizon how many more conventional capabilities that we actual use and need for our defence are we going to can to pay for it.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 2, 2013 7:27 am

Mark,

Once we accept that any other form of “replacement” ids a downgrade and that it would take us sometime to regain it then we can have that conversation.
Whilst people insist that we can replicate the capability for a fraction of the cost we cannot.
We are only 1 right wing fascist Russian election victory from facing them down again and they are building new SSBNS. Do we consider that a prospect likely enough to incur the expense is part of the argument.

martin
Editor
July 2, 2013 7:28 am

@ APATS

“Are you prepared to declare which boats are carrying ICBMs?”

It’s an interesting question. I would declare that no boats outside of the North Atlantic will operate with Trident onboard. I am sure it will cause issues for us with allies and port visits but I still think the juice is worth the squeeze.

Rocket Banana
July 2, 2013 7:49 am

I like the idea of building more Astute, but the “batch 2” have Trident. Not sure they’re big enough boats though.

I’d also entertain the idea of only two boats.

You have to remember that this is a “deterrent”. The very fact that we have them is the first level of the “deterrent” effect. The fact that we use them (bob around) is the second. The fact that we have “continuous” almost “guaranteed” second strike is the third.

I do think Mark has a point though with his question…

“…if we didn’t have it would be build it from scratch today…”

I agree with him that the answer would be “no”.

Unfortunately I have this other thing nagging me which is that the best time to have CASD is when there is a slump in the economy and nations jostle for position. At the very time we can’t afford it, we probably need it more than ever!

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 2, 2013 8:00 am

Simon, if you do not have 1 at sea relief on station you have nothing continous and 2 SSNs is anything but almost guaranteed.

I could talk availability tats crew extensions etc but do not want to get arrested.

There is a reason why the CASD alternative continues to come out at the top when it is assessed by the experts.

The reason is they have all the facts and also an appreciation of how often we have been fooled by the ” strategic shock” which makes all the talk of nukes in a cupboard SSN alongside, plenty of time to work up and sail total BS.

We need to accept that if we lose CASD the only second strike option we are likely to have would come courtesy of the French or the US.

Accept this and still want to lose Trident then I and, any like me would take peolle more seriously.

Mark
Mark
July 2, 2013 8:08 am

Apas

That is what I have mentioned severaltime when this has come up. I fully accept another system is less capable and am happy with that. I know some people don’t and that what I mean when I say we don’t want he debate

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 2, 2013 8:11 am

@Mark

Not having a go at you but some Lib Dems and some posters seem to think we are talking a 5% capability decrease for a 50% saving.

Rocket Banana
July 2, 2013 8:27 am

APATS,

Sorry, I was unclear. I’d settle for two boats and not have guaranteed at sea capability. In other words, I’d compromise on the last part of my deterrent effect list…

1. Have them
2. Use them.
3. Continually have/use them.

So that means if the second boat is not ready to “go to sea” the existing crew have to be swapped in the currently active boat. If the currently active boat goes wrong and the other one is still in bits then we’re stuffed. In this case, no-one needs to know. We are still perceived as having a boat at sea – in fact, we probably would.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 2, 2013 8:35 am

@simon

SO to repeat my point to Martin you would be happy to declare your ICBM carriers because not to do do massively hinder the ops of the rest of your SSN flotilla?

Rocket Banana
July 2, 2013 9:01 am

APATS,

I think we must be talking cross purposes here.

There are two things:

1. The idea of using SSN for Tridents.
2. The idea of having just two SSBN boats.

Pursuing the first. Why do you hinder the ops of the rest of your SSN flotilla? As part of a coalition, there’s no way for the enemy to know who’s boat/ship launched the TLAM anyway.

I was not talking about nuclear cruise ?!

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
July 2, 2013 9:03 am

The key issue for me is that no Government that abandoned CASD would do so in order to increase spending on conventional defence…they would do so to cut defence expenditure overall, and demonstrate their disarmament credentials…so thoughts along those lines are a red herring, frankly.

That said, how the CASD might integrate with the SSN Fleet to give us more Boats overall might be worth looking at; if there is a practical way to do it…

GNB

Observer
Observer
July 2, 2013 9:05 am

And if any hostile first strike happens to roast your crew, guess you can resort to harsh language. Both your assets in port at the same time to swap crew is a serious window of vulnerability.

As for Trident armed Astutes, not sure if that is a good idea for an attack boat. Attack subs have to be more or less right in the front of any battles, this puts your deterent at risk. And if the captain decides to play safe to protect the very valuable deterent, he isn’t an “attack” sub commander any more.

And Gloomy has a point on the reallocation.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 2, 2013 9:09 am

@simon

Big difference in who will allow water space etc for a boat that may be carrying ICBMS. Ad for 2 ICBM carrying SSNS well why bother at all?
would rather go nuke free and play the morale card than fuck around with a non credible detterent that still required huge costly infrastructure and only saved on crew and construction costs.

Rocket Banana
July 2, 2013 9:25 am

Observer,

“Both your assets in port at the same time to swap crew is a serious window of vulnerability.”

That’s not how I’d do it. Why transfer the crew of one to the other boat?

APATS,

Playing devils advocate here but, who would know that they’re carrying ICBMs? Who would even know they’re in their “water space”? They’re supposed to be the silent service.

I think we’ve had this discussion before anyway and I agreed that ICBM on Astute (or nuclear cruise for that matter) was not the way to go.

This is obviously a touchy subject for you.

Now, back to the two-SSBN option. This is credible! Just not as credible as having three or four boats. However, if it costs 75% of having four boats I really don’t see the point. It’s go to be nudging 50% (it’ll never get all the way) to be a viable option.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 2, 2013 9:37 am

@Simon

All NATO and friendly submarines are managed within waterspace areas to deconflict movements. I can tell where every friendly at sea sub other than SSBNS are by looking at a very classified picture. So it is not as simple as you think.

It is a touchy subject due to its complexity and classification making it a mystery to almost everyone as you just demonstrated. Then I get frustrated, apologies for any offence.

Observer
Observer
July 2, 2013 9:40 am

Simon, nuclear-free zones. No declaration = total ban of all British subs to the area.

And not informing some countries of warships transiting through their territory can be seen at best as a rude act, a territorial intrusion or at worst an act of war.

And in times of high tension, people will ban ICBM subs from their areas in fear that a “clean sweep” first strike solution might involve dropping something nuclear in the area the sub is suspected to be in, which will be troublesome for surrounding countries. Legally no cause to complain if it was done in international waters, but the fallout literally and figuratively will be problematic.

Re:
“Both your assets in port at the same time to swap crew is a serious window of vulnerability.” was in reply to your:

“So that means if the second boat is not ready to “go to sea” the existing crew have to be swapped in the currently active boat.”

Repulse
July 2, 2013 9:45 am

Regan’s Star Wars program scared the shit out of the Russians as there nuclear threat would be nuetralized.

The current UK arsenal id purely defensive – is there another way to achieve this?

Lastly, whilst the movement of funds from CASD to conventional forces is unlikely. If you could make the platforms common, that would ve a good use of resources IMO.

Rocket Banana
July 2, 2013 9:56 am

APATS, Observer,

Okay. I’ll shut up. If there’s no way I can get the information that I need to understand how things happen then I guess I’ll just have to boycot the nuclear deterrent as from where I’m standing £20b is just too much for four boats and an ever smaller handful of missiles we don’t even build, develop or understand any more.

Observer,

“So that means if the second boat is not ready to “go to sea” the existing crew have to be swapped in the currently active boat.”

Doesn’t mean it has to come into port.

Observer
Observer
July 2, 2013 10:10 am

Simon, as I said before, too simplistic.

I’ll quote you a practical result of your policy which has happened before.

New Zealand:

“Under the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act 1987,[7][8] territorial sea and land of New Zealand became nuclear weapons and nuclear-powered ship free zones.

The Act prohibits “entry into the internal waters of New Zealand 12 miles (22.2 km) radius by any ship whose propulsion is wholly or partly dependent on nuclear power” […..]”[8][9] Combined with the firm policy of the United States to “neither confirm nor deny” whether particular naval vessels carry nuclear weapons, the Act effectively bars these ships from entering New Zealand waters.[10]

New Zealand’s security treaty with the United States, ANZUS, did not mention nuclear deterrence and did not require unconditional port access. However, after New Zealand refused entry to USS Buchanan, the United States government suspended its ANZUS obligations to New Zealand, seeing New Zealand’s effective rejection of United States Navy vessels as voiding the treaty.”

If you want to boycott, be my guest, just don’t make it look like it is the result of a temper tantrum because people pointed out the weaknesses of your plan.

Sugarboat
Sugarboat
July 2, 2013 10:13 am

As the present D5 missiles are limited to 2 RBA’s (A or C RBA) as opposed to its 12 RBA capability we are paying for D5 because of its range and speed before launch of RBA’s (no good having the range to get there if it is so slow that it can be shot down like Polaris A3 Cheveline before it can launch its D5 RBA bus/A3 REB bus) – I believe a super ASTUTE is the answer with all the capabilities of the hunter killer but with 2/3/4 D5 missiles mounted vertically through and in the conning tower/sail fin position to ensure useable length of missile length but without a significantly increase size of the hull this way with 4 D5’s per new boat/class you would only need 3 on patrol for deterrence and with the loss of 4 dedicated V class perhaps we could go back to 12 SSN+B hulls making a max of 24 D5s at 2 per hull or with only sensibly 50% of hulls at sea 10 D5s at 2 per boat, 18 at 3 per boat and 24 at 4 per boat. I also believe that the C’ RBA is really a capability that is best met by a cruise type missile as to waste on a D5 for a battlefield size RBA head cannot be justified I consider. I believe this change into one new class of 10 to 12 SSN+B is the best way forward.

Observer
Observer
July 2, 2013 10:29 am

I am still extremely antipathic to the idea of an SSN/B, you end up as neither here nor there. Too valuable to use as a frontline battle unit due to strategic nuclear missiles it carries, yet forced into an attack sub role. Neither fish nor fowl in other words.

Same thing with cruise missile nukes, if you are tossing nuclear weapons, all restraint just went out the window, so why go small? It is an all or nothing scenario, really not much middle ground for a neither here nor there weapon.

HurstLlama
HurstLlama
July 2, 2013 10:42 am

@simon

“Doesn’t mean it has to come into port.”

You want the boat to surface and you want give the bad guys a big ship, easily followed, to point to where the country’s last and final defence can be found and sunk? (Helicopters wouldn’t work because of the number of crew involved and the fact that if a crew change is necessary the boat would have to be re-vitalled) Are you sure you have thought that idea through?

@Sugarboat

Would there not an performance issue? Astutes are designed for a purpose, SSBNs for another. Trying to build an attack boat which also has the capabilities of bomber might, perhaps, compromise, them both, particularly the former. Furthermore, we would still have to design and commission a whole new class of submarine in the same time frame, only now it would be even more complex a task. I am not really sure where the savings would come from. Then there are the political aspects, as mentioned up thread, with every British submarine a bomber there would be repercussions.

Rocket Banana
July 2, 2013 10:47 am

Observer,

“If you want to boycott, be my guest, just don’t make it look like it is the result of a temper tantrum because people pointed out the weaknesses of your plan.”

My point is that how do we expect other people that are “not in the know” to be able to make rational decisions on governmental/party support without being told how it “really is”? If the masses are either lied to or uninformed then we can only hold ourselves to blame for making a mess of things all the time.

I’m not having a tantrum and I’m unlikely to boycott CASD but how can I explain to my piers that actually we can do it property for £20b, half-cocked for £15b, pointlessly for £10b or not at all, without exploring the options?

HurstLlama
HurstLlama
July 2, 2013 10:50 am

“Same thing with cruise missile nukes, if you are tossing nuclear weapons, all restraint just went out the window, so why go small?”

Quite. Then there is the fact that we don’t have a nuclear tipped cruise missile and it would costs large sums of money to develop one. Spending billions to build a missile that could be shot down before it reached its target doesn’t seem sensible. To say nothing of the fact that a small percentage of cruise missiles go rogue and crash (that would go down well with a country, possibly an ally, that is being overflown) and the, well discussed, problem that nobody would know if the cruise that has just appeared on the radar is a nuke or not might generate a degree of uncertainty that might just kick off a nuclear war by mistake.

HurstLlama
HurstLlama
July 2, 2013 11:02 am

“All NATO and friendly submarines are managed within waterspace areas to deconflict movements. I can tell where every friendly at sea sub other than SSBNS are by looking at a very classified picture. ”

That is actually quite a scary statement. If our allies know where all our SSNs are then we can be certain that so does the Kremlin, Beijing and any other state who has an interest in finding out. Might as well publish the data on line as reply on such a widely shared “secret”.

Martin
Editor
July 2, 2013 11:12 am

@GNB

The government has already decided that Trident successor will come out of the defence budget so it really is a case of trident or more conventional forces now.

@APATS – Not so long ago much of our surface fleet carried Nuclear weapons. USN SSN’s did as well and I believe still have the capability to do so as do their carriers. so the question I would ask is what effect it had in the past on hindering operations and how did we get around it and what do the USN do. I still don’t believe it would be a major hindernece to operations of the SSN fleet having one or two in the North Atlantic carrying trident missiles but I would be interested on any light you could shed on the matter of where the major problem would arise. I don’t know if a 12 Boat SSBGN fleet would save any money either but I think it would provide a lot more utility than 7 SSN and 4 SSBN for a similar price and it would make building them a lot more viable. Directly linking SSN production to the detterent would probably guarantee the navy’s long term sustainment of nuclear boats as well.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 2, 2013 11:23 am

@ Hurst lama

Not exactly where they are but there declared operating areas as an area and your faith in western security does you proud.

There are some boats that do not appear on the picture :)

Martin
Editor
July 2, 2013 11:23 am

@ Observer – Just because the Hybrid SSN/B has the tubes does not mean it has to carry the Trident missiles. using the CMC with a 12 boat fleet we can have one on CASD in the North Atlantic and 2-3 on other deployments replacing the D5 with TLAM.

Again the USN already has 4 Ohio’s carrying TLAM instead of D5 and manages to segregate a common fleet if vessels with two very different missions.

Martin
Editor
July 2, 2013 11:32 am

@TD – I don’t think the UK has signed any treaty preventing us deploying nuclear cruise missiles. The US and Russia have a treaty but as far as I am aware the US still has nuclear capable TLAM although does not deploy them. Think the Russians also still have nuclear cruise missiles.

The NPT basically states that all our nuclear weapons are illegal anyway yet we all seem to be able to ignore it and replace the systems

If we started lobbing TLAM at the Chinese be they conventional or nuclear I am pretty sure we could expect a nuclear response anyway so I don’t see nuclear cruise missiles as a big issue.

That being said I still feel the expense of developing a nuclear cruise missiles would be enough to make the entire idea a bad one given the limitations of such a system. Trident D5 is still the best and cheapest delivery system.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 2, 2013 11:38 am

@ Martin

The difference was between tactical and strategic weapons. We carried a nuclear depth charge as did the US.

They also carried Nuclear TLAM on a W 80 warhead which which was a tactical weapon and restricted port entry for possible carriers.

The US only have 2 operational SSGN as they were deemed a waste of money they have also been altered so they cannot carry D5 and their operating Ares declared like an SSN.
An undeclared possible strategic carrier would see under water space severely restricted and lead to non admission or surface only admission for every SSN. We own in some areas unless we declared the carriers which would defeat tje purpose of. 3 or 4. From 10 or 12.

There are other issues also.

By all means lets get rid of CASD but whatever we replace it for that costs less will be trackable, easier to negate or cripple our SSSN operating abiliTY.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
July 2, 2013 11:43 am

“Has anyone ever considered the non proliferation aspects of a nuclear cruise missile, would we be skirting with contravention?”

I suspect it depends on who you talk to. The “International Law” lobby will tell you that any replacement of any nuclear weapons system is proliferation and therefore illegal under one interpretation of the NPT. More pragmatic heads might propose that “proliferation” is an increase in the number of countries operating nuclear weapons systems, or a significant increase in the number of weapons deployed by any signatory nation.

It’s all kind of irrelevant, because :

1. The only currently available OTS (and therefore affordable) delivery systems for the UK are : Trident D5 (and ASMP and M51 if any agreement could ever be concluded).

2. Despite assertions to the contrary the benchmark measure for deterrent performance remains the ability to hold at risk significant population centres and the leadership of a potentially hostile nation. That means short time of response, high-yield multiple warheads over the target and invulnerability of the delivery system to pre-emptive attack.

1 rules out any nonsense about submarine launched cruise on cost grounds.

2 means that you either need lots of short-range systems (to saturate defences) close to the target, which means lots of pre-surveyed and pre-secured/positioned nuclear weapons storage sites with appropriately trained bodies both aircrew, engineering, comms and security (veeeerrrry cheap!), or you use long ranged very fast systems and make them very difficult to target. We call that SLBM.

All of this has been obvious to most for years. The trouble is that people equate the end of the USSR with the end of the need for deterrence and often conflate that with some vague idea that the threat has changed to non-state actors with suitcase or “dirty” bombs and wonder how CASD deters that. The answer is simple. It doesn’t deter the nutter with the suitcase. It may however put second thoughts in the minds of those state actors who might seek to supply them. Meantime, the real reason you have a deterrent is the increasing number of state actors with systems and the existing actors renewing their own. That nice Mr Putin has been busy building lots of new missiles and submarines of late, but of course they’re our friends now. Which ignores the inconvenient reality that capabilities take decades to build, intentions can change in a matter of days or weeks.

£20Bn is not chump change. But then consider that that £20Bn is spread out over (about) ten years. During that time, the UK will have spent well over £1Trillion on the NHS, £400Bn+ on education and something between £1 and 2 trillion on welfare. that ought to put it into perspective. Particularly when you think that cancelling trident would not result in more bunce for defence.

You’ve also got to ask whether you’d trust this man to conduct an alternatives review…..

http://images4.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20101015151248/muppet/images/0/05/Beaker.jpg

Observer
Observer
July 2, 2013 11:48 am

Good point about proliferation TD. Another political problem.

Martin, you are right in the fact that most surface vessels in the Cold War carried nuclear weapons. The result was heaps of nuclear free zones, so you could say the NFZs were a response to the perceived overproliferation of nukes. Then the SALT began and the Cold War ended, so I don’t think a workaround did manage to evolve other than “avoid the areas”.

As for the Common Sub concept, seperating by role might work, just have to remember to keep your attack subs far from enemy coasts just in case they think you might be going for a “low trajectory shot”. Anyone still remember that concept? And if you have to keep your attack subs away from a coast, that reduces their play area. Remember, you know that the sub does not carry nukes, your allies know the sub does not carry nukes… does the enemy?

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
July 2, 2013 3:29 pm

– I am well aware that CASD will come out of the Defence Budget…but my point is that the Defence Budget is a planning framework as opposed to a fixed point…those who looked seriously at abandoning CASD would be looking for an apparently “popular” defence cut, not an opportunity to build a third carrier, retain an extra army brigade, and add a couple of squadrons of fast jets.

In the final analysis CND was an overwhelmingly pacifist, internationalist and left-wing organisation and those pursuing it’s agenda remain at heart all of those things…and I might add that long ago I shared an office with a Nuclear Free Zone Co-ordinator in a big Northern City and met a great many of them…

Finally, if we ever do get a Government that is strong on defence the one thing they can do in their first cabinet meeting is agree that CASD is a national strategic priority not an MOD cost, and provide an immediate 10% boost to the Defence Budget…just by moving the cost into another column. Better still, the cost is so small by comparison with the overall budget that nobody would even notice…

@Observer – have to disagree with you – intentions can alter in minutes..!

GNB

x
x
July 2, 2013 3:36 pm

I remember the road signs on the border with conurbation to our east proudly declaring it to be nuclear free. As far as know nobody within its borders has ever died of radiation poisoning, plenty to silicosis and other conditions related to mining, not a one to radiation. I don’t think the Soviets knew it was nuclear free either as they had it earmarked to receive one 1 MT device and 2 free fall 500KT weapons.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
July 2, 2013 3:38 pm

@Observer – Sorry – I do often agree with you, but in that instance I was agreeing with @NaB…slight slip of brain…

GNB

El Sid
El Sid
July 2, 2013 3:39 pm


We do seem to end up going in circles whenever this comes up. You talk about some kind of fighter-bomber arrangement without being explicit about all-important details. True multi-mission “F/A-18” boats just run into too many legal/diplomatic problems – remember the fuss that our ally Spain kicked up when Tireless limped into Gibraltar with cooling problems in 2000. They would have been much worse if it was possible that she’d been carrying ICBMs, even if she was actually in “SSN” mode.

It’s much better to have a clear distinction between fighter and bomber, something more like the Tornado F3 and GR4 – that way external entities know where they stand, but one maximises the commonalities of equipment. The Ohio SSGN’s are an example, although they’re at the “F/A-18” end of the two-types spectrum. You are a bit limited in converting SSNs to SSBNs, because Trident D5 in particular is so flipping big, you need a much bigger hull to accommodate it than would be normal for a SSN. Just sketch out a cross-section that fits a 13m-long Trident versus 6m Tomahawks. But there’s no money to redesign the missile, so we’re limited there, and we’re pretty much committed to CMC now so again, we’re restricted.

So what we need is a submarine that has a CMC and uses the expensive bits of Astute like sonar and the reactor (well, the reactor off Ajax). In practice, that gives you many of the “commonality” savings you’re looking for, without being physically restricted to cloning the Astute hull. We’re not going to do anything really exotic like the MUFC “platypus” or the AHF concept, we’re going to end up with an Astute-Vanguard hybrid along the lines of BAE’s Concept 35.

x
x
July 2, 2013 3:48 pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9SaHvBOguA

Odd the Spanish never kick up when USN SSNs visit their Mediterranean naval bases….

Observer
Observer
July 2, 2013 3:54 pm

GNB, my intentions to you have just changed.

It’s all your fault. :P

9 min. Might be some sort of record, except I’ve known some that were even faster in International Politics!

@x, but you’re special! :)

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
July 2, 2013 4:01 pm

@Observer – Just agreed you very nicely on another thread, so there is no need to get mardy…

Bit of lateral thinking – any merit in the SSBN carrying some very big conventional missiles along with the nukes? Big enough to delete an Argentine airbase from somewhere very well of the coast for example?

GNB

martin
Editor
July 2, 2013 4:03 pm

@ APATS
“We own in some areas unless we declared the carriers which would defeat the purpose of. 3 or 4. From 10 or 12.”
But what is the issue with designating say three boats to carry the deterrent then if we ever need to change the posture upping it to say 6 boats. If we have a common fleet we don’t need the spare the fourth boat. Also from a political point of view I don’t see the real issue with a boat armed with strategic or tactical nuclear weapons. I can’t imagine anybody wanting either in their port.

Observer
Observer
July 2, 2013 4:27 pm

GNB, my intentions to you have just changed again!

And it’s still your fault. :P

The ones you have to step lightly around are the nuclear powers, if they don’t have a nuclear deterent, there is no way they can launch a nuclear counterattack by mistake is there? So Tomahawks on SSBNs? Go right on ahead and point the nasty stuff at Argentina. No/low risk. The US also did this with their Ohios.

Which is also a case study that can be applied to the UK.

martin
Editor
July 2, 2013 4:36 pm

@ Observer
“As for the Common Sub concept, seperating by role might work, just have to remember to keep your attack subs far from enemy coasts just in case they think you might be going for a “low trajectory shot”. Anyone still remember that concept? And if you have to keep your attack subs away from a coast, that reduces their play area. Remember, you know that the sub does not carry nukes, your allies know the sub does not carry nukes… does the enemy?”

Again though I would say this is currently covered by the Ohio SSGN’s. I dount an enemy would be able to tell one of the SSBN’s from the SSGN’s so it would be no different for a super Astute.

@ GNB
“I am well aware that CASD will come out of the Defence Budget…but my point is that the Defence Budget is a planning framework as opposed to a fixed point…”

In reallity despite SDSR and an entire mess of power points the defence budget is very much a fixed point. Proof in point our armed forces commitments and security risks have gone up considerably over the past 15 years yet our budget has dropped by over 20% as a share of GDP. It really is a case of here’s the money we have build a defence posture around it.
With CASD coming out of the core budget now it really is a case of CASD or an extra carrier, brigade or squadron etc.

“Finally, if we ever do get a Government that is strong on defence the one thing they can do in their first cabinet meeting is agree that CASD is a national strategic priority not an MOD cost, and provide an immediate 10% boost to the Defence Budget…just by moving the cost into another column. Better still, the cost is so small by comparison with the overall budget that nobody would even notice…”

Would that not be lovely but I think there is more chance of me getting a date with Natalie Portman. In all honesty there is a near zero chance the defence budget will ever rise as a share of GDP and over the next two decades with the pressure on the pensions and NHS budgets its far more likely to be cut in half. Which will likely mean by the time successor roles out in the mid to late 2020’s we will have to scrap it anyway because we will have given up any pretense of a global military role.

@ EL Sid

“Spain kicked up when Tireless limped into Gibraltar with cooling problems in 2000. They would have been much worse if it was possible that she’d been carrying ICBMs, even if she was actually in “SSN” mode.”

Gibralter was none too happy either if memory serves. I doubt anyone including the good people of Glasgow or Barrow would be too happy about a stricken nuclear sub limping into port with or without D5’s onboard. But again beyond the usual diplomatic protest and noise what can they do. They can bitch and moan and claim the SSN has D5’s onboard but it won’t. If the sub is operating in the North Atlantic and it has an issue then its closest point of return is generally going to be the UK.

“But there’s no money to redesign the missile, so we’re limited there, and we’re pretty much committed to CMC now so again, we’re restricted.”

I would advocate using CMC and not really a super astute but more a mini vanguard if that makes sense i.e. a shorter SSBN with just 4 tubes able to operate in the SSN, SSBN or SSGN role.
The position I am coming from is very much that we need the deterrent but the defence budget simply won’t cover it. By the time we build our 4 SSBN’s assuming we keep the current budget of 2% + of GDP their will be little left else where. In all likely hood that 2% of GDP figure is very likely to be significantly reduced over the next 15 years when these subs are being built which means they will likely be scrapped by the time they are built. Quite simply if we want to keep the deterrent it needs to be cheaper and the defence budget can’t afford to spend £12 billion on a political weapon with only one job.

With the hybrid boat we would need a new design using the good bits from Astute along with the CMC but at least we would not then have to design a follow on SSN program. We could just keep churning out these boats every 2.5 years with an incremental design change every 4 boats.

I agree that £20 billion for the new system is chump change for the UK but it’s a massive deal for the defence procurement budget. Even at £2 billion a year it will account for almost 25% of all procurement for a decade or more and that’s assuming it comes in on time and budget ( a very big if).

Observer
Observer
July 2, 2013 4:52 pm

“I doubt an enemy would be able to tell one of the SSBN’s from the SSGN’s so it would be no different for a super Astute.”

That is the biggest problem vs a nuclear power. You don’t want a couple of million people to get killed because of mistaken ID would you? Against Gadaffi or Sadam, it doesn’t matter. Against China, NK or Russia, it matters a lot.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
July 2, 2013 5:05 pm

“We could just keep churning out these boats every 2.5 years with an incremental design change every 4 boats.”

And you would find yourself exactly where the UK submarine industry is now – it knows the “what?”, some of the “how?” but is struggling with quite a bit of the “why?”.

Incremental design changes will not sustain the design skills base. It will sustain the draightsman base. They are two very different things.

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
July 2, 2013 5:29 pm

“The final question is spending 2% of GDP on defence and with only further efficiency saving on that budget on the horizon how many more conventional capabilities that we actual use and need for our defence are we going to can to pay for it.”

“We need to accept that if we lose CASD the only second strike option we are likely to have would come courtesy of the French or the US. Accept this and still want to lose Trident then I and, any like me would take peolle more seriously.”

Mark & APATS nailed it between them.

And I say this as someone who suggested a “nukes in the cupboard SSN alongside” BS. :)

Because, I accept that tradeoff if it preserves conventional power projection.

We won’t maintain our position as one of the worlds top recognised ‘bullies’ (to quote someone above)in the 21st century with nukes, we live in a different world.

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
July 2, 2013 5:41 pm

@ APATS – “Not having a go at you but some Lib Dems and some posters seem to think we are talking a 5% capability decrease for a 50% saving.”

Present (good) company accepted, you are very right. I spend some time on LDV and its hard to imagine a group less interested in understanding the value of FP and the military.

@ Observer – “I am still extremely antipathic to the idea of an SSN/B, you end up as neither here nor there.”

Problem is, as stated above, we can possibly afford none if we are to maintain a useful conventional capability in parallel.

@ Martin – “Just because the Hybrid SSN/B has the tubes does not mean it has to carry the Trident missiles.”

Quite, multi-packed TLAM and special-forces insertion spring to mind, in the fullness of time.

Mark
Mark
July 2, 2013 5:50 pm

A grand design jedi

WiseApe
July 2, 2013 6:07 pm

A two year review which reaches no conclusions – will the person standing next to Danny Alexander please nut him for me!

I wonder if that peerless review looked at an option which no one has mentioned so far – buy American boats (of both flavours) and allow Barrow to close? I’m not pushing this as my preferred option, just putting it out there.

John Hartley
John Hartley
July 2, 2013 6:19 pm

General nuclear ramble. 1950s austerity Britain decided that 200 nuclear warheads was the minimum credible deterrent. I think that still applies. If you are up against a small geographic country (Singapore or Monaco) it only takes a few nukes to turn them to glass, but against a large country (Russia, China, Brazil, Canada) they can afford to absorb quite a few nukes, before the country becomes unliveable in. Hence the need for 200 warheads. If the UK is to deter chemical/biological/dirty bomb threats then a few tactical nukes are probably the best option. At the other end of the scale, if we are to deflect an asteroid heading for Earth, then a few Megaton warheads are needed. To destroy an asteroid, Bruce Willis style, would take a 1000 megaton warhead, which is theoretically doable, but thankfully no one wants to build one. The US used to have 25 & 9 megaton warheads , but they are retired now. So fantasy UK nuclear deterrent would be 4x subs with 8 missiles, each carrying 5 warheads (100-200 kt), so 4x8x5= 160 warheads. Then 25 x 10 kt tactical warheads, plus 15 megaton warheads, for a grand total of 200. Lets not forget that its not just the numbers of subs, its also the kit that protects them (maritime patrol aircraft, SAM system(Arrow/Aster/THAAD). All this costs, but nukes were chosen in the 50s for being cheaper than large conventional forces. In WW2 over 60% of government spending went on the war, that would be like spending £ 400 billion a year now. It is much cheaper to deter, than fight a war.

Observer
Observer
July 2, 2013 6:40 pm

JH, a few? I resent that. We only need one. :)

jedi, if you can’t get an SSBN, then it is really much, much better to have none than a 50/50. The problem with SSN/Bs is not with the cost, the problem is both with impressions, escalation and end results you do not want.

APATS is right, if you can’t do it right, might as well go nuclear free. At least that gives you the “moral high stand” card to play with.

John Hartley
John Hartley
July 2, 2013 6:59 pm

If the UK went for the moral high ground by going nuclear free, we would be in the worst position, unless we publicly executed all our nuclear scientists, as a nuclear armed foe could nuke us & claim we were secretly rebuilding our nukes ( while secretly not fearing a non-existent UK counter strike).

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
July 2, 2013 7:06 pm

– It is a planning framework presumed to include the cost of CASD; if we abandon CASD it will be reduced accordingly; the ratchet moves in only one direction which is downwards…and any idea about spending the CASD slice on something else is illusory, because of the politics of the “Give up CASD” decision.

Retired General Officers from all services can fulminate as much as they want about how much more useful the money would be if spent on conventional capability…as can anyone here…but that is simply not what will happen…

If we lose CASD the MOD loses the budget that goes with it, conventional capacity stays the same (at best), and I suspect we may find the Nuclear Submarine Industry untenable because without the need to replace the SSBN at regular intervals the construction drumbeat will be insufficient; we would also lose 43 Commando, who guard it but could be backfilled by other units if manpower became a real issue…and of course the submariners who man it, and the deep ocean skills they carry forward from generation to generation…

Just not worth it in my opinion.

GNB

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
July 2, 2013 7:18 pm

“APATS is right, if you can’t do it right, might as well go nuclear free. At least that gives you the “moral high stand” card to play with.”

Given my starting points:
1. preserve conventional power projection.
2. preserve nuclear boat building.

You may be surprised to hear that I really am quite sanguine about a post-sunshine Britain.

On the other hand, the Aldermaston establishment does far more than make nukes for armageddon, it has a significant role in non-proliferation, so that alongside designing warheads could preserve a latent nucelar deterrent, alongside the moral high-ground of stepping back from CASD.

I’m not saying its ideal, and I’m not saying it is a valid replacement for CASD as it is clearly a different role.

What it might do is assist my two primary aims whilst keeping Britain in the nuclear club which our political establishment will not entertain dropping in this decade (or the next).

This is why I am skeptical of the three boat nominal-CASD: it won’t be CASD and it won’t save much money, on top of which it will only make our nuclear boat industry more reliant on public subsidy that the taxpayer has little stomach for.

A change from four boats either creates a dramatic cost advantage (including industry), or its a non-starter. In my humble opinion.

x
x
July 2, 2013 7:27 pm

Three quarters of the deterrent budget is actually spent Aldermaston, only one quarter somewhere in the region of 250 to 300 million is spent by the RN on the boats and associated support.

Martin
Editor
July 3, 2013 9:46 am

@GNB – There is no CASD budget only the defence equiptment budget which is already under resourced. The MOD budget is not set based on threats capabilities or what ever else its based on what it was last year and what we think we can get away with cutting this year. Unfortunatley it really is that simple and their is no doubt that successor will be delivered a the expense of other capabilities.

El Sid
El Sid
July 3, 2013 1:27 pm

@GNB
any merit in the SSBN carrying some very big conventional missiles along with the nukes? Big enough to delete an Argentine airbase from somewhere very well of the coast for example?

They wouldn’t want to do anything – anything – to give away their position, in case they were needed for the day job.

You could always try to persuade the Russians to hire out an Oscar! :-)

It’s interesting the way the traditional debate about not putting nukes on cruise missiles for fear of spooking an enemy when you launch the conventional versions, is now being flipped on its head with the development of conventionally-armed ballistic missiles, of which DF-21D is the poster child. The equivalent of what you’re thinking about is Prompt Global Strike, an intermediate range conventionally-armed ballistic missile that the USN want to put on the Virginias. The Block III Virginias now under construction have rearranged VLS tubes, they’re using a smaller version of the Ohio SSGN tubes that can accommodate 6 Tomahawks or 1 PGS missile.

Looking further ahead, imagine a sub-launched version of the High Speed Strike Weapon, the USAF’s plan to develop the X-51 into a missile.

All Powerpoint at this stage of course, who knows what’s going on with the USN budget.

Talking of the USN and Powerpoint, I don’t know if this has been posted here before, describing their plans for the Ohio replacement. It gives you an idea of how you go about reusing all the technology from your current SSNs when building a replacement SSBN :
http://news.usni.org/2012/10/31/ohio-replacement-program

Martin
Editor
July 3, 2013 2:00 pm

@El Sid

Interesting doc on Ohio replacement. it seems strange that the replacement will carry about a third less missile and will have a smaller torpedo capacity but will be nearly 10% larger than the Ohio’s.

guessing that’s a lot more crew comfort. :-)

Rocket Banana
July 3, 2013 3:50 pm

Going back to the “NZ problem” can someone please enlighten me why New Zealand is of such importance?

I mean this on two levels:

1. Why NZ and not Australia?
2. Why do we need to dock a nuclear powered/armed ship/boat there?

Is it the “last outpost”? I’ve been looking at EEZ and territorial limits and there’s no problem with transit through the area. And now, final questions, which probably can’t be answered:

1. Do our boats ever actually make it to the Pacific?
2. Why bother going to the Pacific at all?

Observer
Observer
July 3, 2013 4:15 pm

Simon, look up one other map.

Nuclear-weapon free zones.

See how many countries would have to ban your ships if they can’t tell if it is an SSN or SSBN.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
July 3, 2013 4:16 pm

1. It could just as well be Australia.
2. Sh1t happens. Long ago, Australia went through a bit of a nuclear-free / nuclear-sensitive phase. INvincible was on a global deployment at the time and had some GB issues which required a dock to inspect. Aussies asked “have you any buckets of sunshine aboard?” CTG (as policy) replied “I can neither confirm nor deny”. Result, entry refused and off to Singapore IIRC. See Tireless & Gib for example closer to home.
3, Lots of our boats go to the Pacific from time to time for the same reasons that the rest of the fleet goes there. Some have even enjoyed Sinkex’s there. Unless you mean Bombers in which case no-one who knows anything is going to comment.

Observer
Observer
July 3, 2013 4:39 pm

And of course Singapore, while part of the Nuclear free zone, also practices a “you don’t talk about it, and we won’t ask.” policy.

Welcome to Realpolitik. :P

@NaB

Long ago? Like last week? :)
Jokes aside, Australia is very, very anti-nuclear, don’t expect any clearence for possible SSBNs any time soon. Japan too. Off the top of their heads, can anyone think of any multi-national exercises that possible SSBNs would get banned from due to Nuclear Free jurisdicture?

Rocket Banana
July 3, 2013 5:31 pm

Thanks.

So, we’re not concerned about the “NZ problem” when it comes to our SSBNs (second strike) but we are concerned about it if we taint the operations/perceptions of our SSNs because the NWFZ ports might be needed when operating conventional weapons.

So the option for nuclear cruise means a) a new class of boat so we don’t taint the existing SSN fleet, and b) we have to worry about the actual performance of cruise missiles for a retaliatory strike, which is certainly suspect.

In addition, yes, I did mean SSBNs in the Pacific, and your answer is what I expected.

El Sid
El Sid
July 3, 2013 5:40 pm

@Simon
can someone please enlighten me why New Zealand is of such importance?

It’s just the most tangible example of problems with nuclear clearance that affect many other countries to a greater or lesser degree. Plus it’s an area where there’s a lot of sea, few UK bases and not many options for emergency repairs. Despite that, we do go there, and sometimes we hit problems (literally in the case of HMS Nottingham). If anything our submarines are even more accident-prone – I’m struggling to think of a T-boat that has not run aground (Talent maybe?), never mind the ill-starred Tireless and her endless reactor problems.

The nuclear-free zone thing is the sort of weapon that might be used in the cold wars of the near future (qv the war being waged against Iran via insurance companies and ship brokers). A country might suddenly start wearing CND badges when one of our subs came near, just because the Chinese threatened to withdraw funding for a $10bn mining project. That kind of thing is plausible now, let alone in Successor’s lifetime to 2070-ish.

Australia is interesting, they are becoming a bit less nuclear-phobic than they were. If the Collins class could hold on for another decade, then you could conceive of the next-but-one right-wing government going for an Australianised Virginia, but they need a Collins replacement before an SSN would be politically possible. They already accept visits from SSNs, and there’s been some talk of basing US subs at the Collins homeport near Perth. We’ll see – the threat of China is helping to concentrate a few minds.

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
July 3, 2013 5:43 pm

the sad thing about the NZ episode is that the US told them discretely that they would respect the nuclear free policy and not send to port a ship carrying nukes, but that they couldn’t announce publicly which were and weren’t so armed.

it wasn’t good enough, and the rest is history.

Observer
Observer
July 3, 2013 6:02 pm

Simon, you got it.

Jedi, no surprise it wasn’t enough, if the NZ government had made a stand, then chickened out as it would have looked like without a declaration, it would have made them look unethical and spineless. And the USN can’t declare because of OPSEC, so it was really a situation that was set for a collision.

Pity really. All this could have been avoided if the governments had communicated beforehand. A one time press release of “specially unloaded for friendly port visit” would have preserved overall security and avoided that head on collision.

HurstLlama
HurstLlama
July 3, 2013 7:09 pm

“guessing that’s a lot more crew comfort. ”

I expect so, and some of that will be down to lady sailors being allowed to go to sea in boats and the extra facilities that will require. There are, I am, told quite some changes having to be made in our V boat that is currently in for deep re-fit (whose name escapes me for the moment) to enable one or two lady officers to be accommodated; the extra space that will be required for lady Petty Officers and ratings will not be small. God knows how they will manage that on the Astutes as and when HMG goes down the same path.

Martin
Editor
July 4, 2013 2:13 am

I still don’t see how we could not solve the problem of nuclear free zones by simply only carrying nuclear weapons in the North Atlantic. This would allow us to declare that we had no nuclear weapons on board when operating in say Australia or NZ.

Well we don’t declare where the V boats operate I seriously doubt if they have beer been outside of the North Atlantic.

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
July 4, 2013 7:44 am

seems like a sound notion…

Rocket Banana
July 4, 2013 8:23 am

Just been playing with http://www.freemaptools.com/radius-around-point.htm

I’d guess we’d need to spend time predominantly in the North Atlantic and the Indian Ocean depending on threat levels from Korea and/or South America. The trouble is that it means transit around Africa as I can’t imagine a SSBN going though Suez.

It also clearly shows how pointless a 2500km nuclear cruise is in comparrison with an 11000km Trident II.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
July 4, 2013 8:55 am

“It also clearly shows how pointless a 2500km nuclear cruise is in comparrison with an 11000km Trident II”

Apart from being non-existent…….

It isn’t just range. It’s time of flight and vulnerability. At that range a cruise will have a time of flight of somewhere between one and two hours – more likely two unless you do something special with the airframe. Allowing for reaction time at the other end, your “targets” can be over 100 miles from designated target at point of launch by the time your present arrives.

x
x
July 4, 2013 9:23 am

Martin says “I still don’t see how we could not solve the problem of nuclear free zones by simply only carrying nuclear weapons in the North Atlantic. ”

Um. Do you mean now or in the Cold War?

The reason being the RN did (and the USN does) operate on a global scale. In some respects this ties into the “why use a frigate or destroyer for guard-ship duties?” that often comes up here. Why use it? Because it better that we find gainful employment for a worked up ship that could if needs be sent off somewhere else and be there with a week to ten days. Global distances. Do you know which of the services pioneered the use of satellites? I know some here think space should automatically mean RAF involvement, but the true space service is the RN. They needed satellites to communicate with ships deployed worldwide even during the supposed retreat from East of Suez. The RN is the only one of services that has a “space weapon” in Trident. Again it reaches out around the globe. it is all about strategic reach. (Never mind it being easier to “defend” the SSBN off our own coast or command and control issues.) There is little logic in it. It also smacks of that other oft trotted out rhubarb here that some how a £50 million FJ carrying 8 short range cruise missiles is some how more flexible than an escort carrying £50 million’s worth of long range missiles.

Mark
Mark
July 4, 2013 9:53 am

And there it is “The RN is the only one of services that has a “space weapon” in Trident.” Why the navy bods get so excited when talk of scrapping trident comes up. So much for the nation assets line.

Come to think of it if nuclear black mail is so important South Korea would be a nuclear power by now but guess what they ain’t..

wf
wf
July 4, 2013 10:05 am

@Mark: South Korea or Japan could be nuclear powers within a couple of years if they wanted to. They hold off because they value the US alliance. If Obama does much more to piss off the US’s allies, that will change. Just like Saudi will buy off the Pakistanis five minutes after Iran explodes it’s first nuke

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
July 4, 2013 10:13 am

@Mark – Likewise Japan…but the explanation in both cases is the level of provocation to China if they pursued that route, and the subsequent significant pressure/re-assurance offered by the USA to persuade them to depend on Uncle Sam…and the fact that their nearest potential antagonist is all but next door, rendering the use of nuclear weapons by either party to a self-contained conflict extremely problematic in practical terms.

In consequence they are all very heavily armed in conventional terms…much more so than us…and probably scientifically and technically capable of building functioning nukes quickly and discreetly if required…

As a functioning and legitimate Nuclear Power/UNSC Permanent Member the case for us is very different, both politically and practically…

GNB

Rocket Banana
July 4, 2013 10:20 am

NaB,

“Apart from being non-existent”

The W80 warhead exists and so does the BGM-109. They used to exist together, I’m assuming from your statement that they have been separated? If so, I doubt it will take a genius to put them back together again.

Anyway, they’re a little pointless not just due to flight time but also due to the need to get the launcher in place for a retaliatory strike which could take months!

Also, isn’t a “second strike” is about holding population centres at risk. They’d unlikely be able to evacuate a city in 2-hours!

x
x
July 4, 2013 10:27 am

Same could be said of Germany, technically able, but politically unwilling.

India, China, Russia, etc. don’t seem to be giving up on nuclear weapons.

Trident is a cheap system. Came in on budget (just under). The day Iran tests it first weapon the Trident question will disappear. And if it is what keeps us on the top table then it isn’t a bad investment. Remind me how much influence DfID buys us?

Mark
Mark
July 4, 2013 10:39 am

We’re no different except they have a larger threat than us and from a technological stand point we can regenerate a capability at a later date just as well as them.

As a member of NATO we have a mutual defense agreement with the US as well.

Gnb and our protagonist is Russia so same for us as them

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
July 4, 2013 11:30 am

@Mark – Russia is considerably further away from us than China is from either Korea or Japan…and there is a big difference between getting rid of something we already have and building something completely new…such acts would have quite different political and diplomatic consequences.

And finally, why do it? As I keep on saying a Government that decided to abandon CASD, with knock on effects on nuclear expertise, the building and operation of nuclear submarines, numbers of RM Commandos (43 would almost certainly be disbanded, with a net loss of about 500 trained Royals)…a possible impact on our UNSC Permanent Seat (arguable, but certainly possible)…would not under any possible circumstances be one that then promptly handed the cash back to the Joint Chiefs to establish a further army brigade, build a few more escorts, or buy a couple of squadrons of fast jets.

Furthermore, even if they did (and they absolutely would not), what serious difference would the possible 10% uplift in conventional capability make to our already very small conventional forces?

There is clearly a moral argument for giving up nukes, although it is one I do not subscribe to…but doing so in pursuit of some illusory increase in conventional capability seems to me be just plain wrong.

Last word from me…no option but to agree to differ.

GNB

Observer
Observer
July 4, 2013 11:36 am

And during the Cold War, if you had asked the UK to “depend on Uncle Sam”.. I doubt that would have gone down well. Perception then was that the US and UK were still more or less co-equals. Japan and Korea, the US is manifestedly in a superior position to them and better equiped to brighten up people’s day with instant sunshine, which was why nuclear delivery was defered to the US.

And as a side note, with the current doubts in US policy, South Korea is seriously considering getting a “Sunshine Policy II” which differs from their “Sunshine Policy I” in the inclusion of Molotov Breadbaskets, nuclear style.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
July 4, 2013 12:01 pm

@Observer – A masterly summary, as always…

GNB

Brian Black
Brian Black
July 4, 2013 12:25 pm

There is no way that Trident can be tied to the North Atlantic. Missile weight affects range, with fas.org giving the range of a fully loaded D-5 as 7,400 km, substantially less than the ~11,000 km maximum range. If we are to devastate China or lay waste to Australia then we must leave our own backyard.

GNB, you are obviously correct that the money allocated to equipment takes into account the successor subs, and that scrapping the nuclear force won’t mean that all that cash will remain for a shopping spree. However, you identified yourself that the nuclear boat building industry could become untenable if four replacement SSBN were not built.
If the politicians cut one or all four SSBN, they will have to address the consequences for the industry. They may have to build more Astutes, whether they want them or not, if they want to maintain an independent sub industry.

The cost of more SSN, or the cost of either paying an inflated price for too few new boat orders or importing foreign submarines, would have to be subtracted from any savings arising from a reduction in the number of SSBN.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
July 4, 2013 12:44 pm

@Brian Black – quite right – in fact I think there was a discussion recently in which somebody rather expertly laid out the most efficient and cost effective drumbeat for building and replacing SSN/SSBN…and I think their conclusion was that we should be building more Astutes now pending requirement for SSBN’s later in order to maintain the most efficient relationship between unit cost and boats afloat…

I occasionally dream about a rational defence procurement framework that operates on that basis…but mostly I take more water with it…

GNB

Observer
Observer
July 4, 2013 1:25 pm

Of course! If you only built the bottom half, you have a perfectly functional 1,000 ton steel canoe! Or rowboat!

Or you can try for the SSK route, but that market is rather saturated. Maybe go civilian? Exploration/work subs for underwater work? Underwater drilling platforms?

Maybe go minature by building torpedos? Munitions always has a market due to shelf life and training expenditure.

Honestly though, with all the budget cuts, the military isn’t a good area to work with for now. That was the flaw with many of these companies, one field specialists that when the field went fallow, they had nothing to fall back on.

And all this Trident Successor talk might have missed one thing. You are replacing the sub, not the missile. What happens when the missile needs replacement? That is in 2040, do you think the US can afford the real “Trident Replacement” on time and on budget? I have the really sneaky suspicion that in 2040, you’ll end up with the sub and no missile.

wf
wf
July 4, 2013 1:36 pm

@Observer: Trident II is already being replaced…with Trident II. I daresay by 2040, they could do the same :-)

Observer
Observer
July 4, 2013 1:59 pm

Actually wf, that’s the problem, there is really a hard limit to how much life extensions you can do. By 2040, my guess is you would have hit the limit, especially on the hull life.

And the even bigger worry, for the US, land based systems are a much more appropriate solution for them, there is little impetus for them to develop a whole new sea based deterent with the current threat and economic worries, which means that the UK mght end up being cut from its supplier. I doubt the economic crisis would last till 2040, but the financial questions would still be there.

Congress would ask: “Why waste money on a system when we have cheaper, better alternatives?” with good reason.

You could build new missiles though, and that might be a way out. God help you on the politics though.

Brian Black
Brian Black
July 4, 2013 2:04 pm

The subs are arguably the most secure part of the American’s nuclear force, Observer. I can’t see them scrapping sub launched missiles.

Barrow could build us cities under the sea, TD. An extension on Essex perhaps.
http://www.underseacolony.com
It would relieve pressure on the greenbelts and reduce congestion on the roads. Whole communities could become aquanauts, even whole towns if sea levels keep rising.
I’m going to stay on land though. I get like swimmers’ ear, and I’m not keen on confined spaces either.

Rocket Banana
July 4, 2013 2:37 pm

I doubt the US will let us have Trident III if it ever comes about.

We’re just not strategically important enough.

They’ll just say “do it yourself” or “get the French to do it for you”.

martin
Editor
July 4, 2013 2:38 pm

@ Simon,
A shot over the pole will take the missiles to North Korea from the North Atlantic. Also if we need to move a boat into the pacific then it can take the polar route. Not much used now a days but well traversed in the cold war and I can’t ever imagine requiring nuclear weapons for South America.

@ X
“Martin says “I still don’t see how we could not solve the problem of nuclear free zones by simply only carrying nuclear weapons in the North Atlantic. ”
Um. Do you mean now or in the Cold War?

The reason being the RN did (and the USN does) operate on a global scale.”

Yes but you can shoot at anyone short of Australia with Trident from the North Atlantic. If we really needed to nuke the convicts then the boat can travel under the pole and through the bearing strait into the North Pacific.
@ Mark and Wf
“South Korea or Japan could be nuclear powers within a couple of years if they wanted to. They hold off because they value the US alliance.”
They are also members of the NPT and violation of it would likely result in sanctions which would be pretty damaging for two of the largest exporters in the world.

@ Brian Black
“There is no way that Trident can be tied to the North Atlantic. Missile weight affects range, with fas.org giving the range of a fully loaded D-5 as 7,400 km, substantially less than the ~11,000 km maximum range. If we are to devastate China or lay waste to Australia then we must leave our own backyard.”
I don’t think we have any fully loaded tridents. Maybe with decoys but none with 8 MIRV’s Again a polar launch will get them there though.
@ TD
“Realistically, is there anything else Barrow can do besides build nuclear submarines”
They built the Albions
@ Observer
“And all this Trident Successor talk might have missed one thing. You are replacing the sub, not the missile. What happens when the missile needs replacement? That is in 2040, do you think the US can afford the real “Trident Replacement” on time and on budget? I have the really sneaky suspicion that in 2040, you’ll end up with the sub and no missile.”
Trident E6 apparently. I would imagine that SSBN’s will be the last of the nuclear triad to go and whatever missile they select will fit in the CMC. I would very much consider if the US was out of the nuclear game then it would mean that the world was nuclear free which is not impossible to imagine in 2040 with a liberal democratic Russian and China.

Rocket Banana
July 4, 2013 2:40 pm

As for work for Barrow…

What about loitering nuclear torpedoes?

They wander the oceans waiting for a signal to sink a CBG on demand.

Observer
Observer
July 4, 2013 3:13 pm

BB, maybe. Hope so. Congress tends to be a creature with one body and 250 minds. If China or Russia doesn’t up the nuclear threat, there really is going to be a question of cost vs benefit.

Simon…

I seldom cuss, but that has got to be the worst “FUCK NO~!!” idea I’ve heard in years.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 4, 2013 3:27 pm

@ Simon

The US will not let us have Trident 3?

Really?

x
x
July 4, 2013 3:46 pm

GNB said “the cash back to the Joint Chiefs to establish a further army brigade, build a few more escorts, or buy a couple of squadrons of fast jets”

Yep. I actually think without CASD why bother with any of it? Shrink the RN to cope with FP and customs (if our leaders in Brussels are happy with such), keep QRA (expensive though just to chase the occasional Bear), 2/3 gendarme briagdes for riot duty, etc. etc. and Bob’s your aunty.

Observer
Observer
July 4, 2013 3:51 pm

APATS

*shrug* no idea how he came up with that one either.

If they have it, you will get it. The question is if there is going to be a successor to the Trident, a Trident Block ad infinitum or the budget cut to end all budget cuts.

God help us if Lockheed Martin ever folds.

Rocket Banana
July 4, 2013 4:10 pm

I doubt the US will let us have Trident III if it ever comes about.

We’re just not strategically important enough.

Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble but our relationship with the USA is not the same as it was. Our position on the world stage is not the same as it was either, especially if we keep on cutting and cutting on our global reach and influence.

It all goes back to the “special relationship”, or lack of it.

x
x
July 4, 2013 4:35 pm

@ Simon

US UK relationship is complicated. For example they have never forgiven us for letting them win the War of Independence. I think it is a strong relationship. I think I would rather believe the likes of APATS who have worked with Americans than say spun article in The Less-than-Independent and The Grundian.

Rocket Banana
July 4, 2013 5:08 pm

x,

No one can predict the future.

So whilst they celebrate their Independence from Imperial rule we can sit back and think about the relatively socialist stance of Obama, our pathetic excuse for a statesman called Gordon and our less than agreeable Cameron.

Added to this is less money, an EU focussing UK, a China focussing USA, etc.

On a personal level there’s little change.

On a military level I’ll take what those in the military say (with a small pinch of salt)

On a political level we’re drifting more towards chalk and cheese each passing day.

Observer
Observer
July 4, 2013 5:25 pm

… is this still Earth?

I don’t think I was ever in Kansas though.

If the UK isn’t the US’s most important strategic partner, no one else is.

John Hartley
John Hartley
July 4, 2013 6:08 pm

Slightly off topic, but New Scientist had an article saying that the biggest nuclear explosion may have happened billions of years ago. Up to now, people thought the moon was formed by a Mars sized planet crashing into Earth, but now the maths do not add up. So they now think there was so much heavy metal sinking to the core (Uranium, Thorium, Plutonium) that a giant natural reactor was formed, which went on to explode with the force of billions of megatons, blasting off a large chunk of the Earth to form the Moon.
Back on topic. The UK & USA will not always see eye to eye (Suez, Vietnam), but mutual interest keeps bringing us back together again. Lets not forget that the US also gains from US/UK nuclear co-operation. Having other nuclear scientists to talk to, is a great way of problem solving. US nuclear scientists said that they give ten tips to the UK for every tip the UK gives back to them, but those few UK tips are like gold to the US scientists. Selling Trident to the UK increases the production run & cuts the cost per missile to both the UK & the US. A joint project is likely to be easier for the USN to get through Congress.

Rocket Banana
July 4, 2013 6:13 pm

Observer,

We may well still be the US’s most important strategic partner but that doesn’t mean we’re as important as we once were. The various knowledge sharing that went on when we signed up for Trident and various other research based breakthroughs happened when we had an education system that promoted these ideals along with government run departments that would do R&D. Probably all driven by the previous war effort, granted. Trouble is we don’t have any of these things now. We’re hardly at the cutting edge of academia anymore!

Plus the USA is becoming more independent and inwardly focused and we are all suffering from an economic slump that tends to change priorities.

Perhaps this might spark a debate as the question of how does Britain stand alone in the latter half of this decade must be one that is being investigated right now? Alone? EU? or 51st state of America? The fall from grace is a long, long way.

Phil
July 4, 2013 6:16 pm

Realistic Trident Options

1. CASD Trident force.
2. Fuck all.

Rocket Banana
July 4, 2013 6:16 pm

John Hartley,

A joint project is likely to be easier for the USN to get through Congress.

Why so?

Ant
Ant
July 4, 2013 6:17 pm

The Grauniad hasn’t been the same since the spellchecker was invented.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
July 4, 2013 6:42 pm

@x – Dead right – we either keep CASD and maintain a capacity for expeditionary warfare (albeit a limited one), and thus remain in the game – or brighten @IXION’s day by downsizing to a patrol ship navy/handful of fast jets/crown militia. I’d be interested in which shiny toys the “drop CASD” lobby want instead…I’m assuming they mostly subscribe to Aviation Monthly or collect Cap Badges…

@SImon – My overall impression is that the Cousins are hoping we will do more, not opt out…especially as they “Pivot to the Pacific”…that being so, I can see little benefit for them in making life difficult for us over Trident Successor – after all, we pay our bills. I might add that we still have a disproportionate number of top 100 in the world universities, Nobel Prize Winners et al – don’t mistake the crappy performance of some our bog-standard comprehensives for what is going on at the top end…

– Beautifully put…

GNB

Peter Elliott
July 4, 2013 6:43 pm

I favour Trident and Successor. But…

…if I were a sandal wearing alternative hunter I might suggest:

1) Scrap the lot: missiles, warheads, SSBN, SSN, Barrow, Aldermaston etc
2) Buy 8 German AIP SSK off the shelf
3) Build 4 conventionally powered Guided Missile cruisers for Anti-Ballistic Misssile Defence. Primary weapon system based on an upgraded and updated Sea Viper.

Have Continuous At Sea ABMD partols in home waters, with the option for a single crusier to be deployed with the Task Force for short periods to give in theatre ABMD.

No. I wouldn’t actually do any such thing. But I’m suprised none of the politicos has tried to propose this option.

Observer
Observer
July 4, 2013 6:46 pm

Ant at least no one called it the (Spanish) Guardia yet. :)

Simon
1) Cost
2) Moral justification for nuclear weapons (“they want/need it too”)
3) Threats of relationship breaking (and being blamed for it)
4) Nuclear non-proliferation, if the UK and France had to develop independent nuclear programs, the US does not have control over them.
5) and a few others. Lots of other reasons, too lazy to write a 5,000 word essay.

John Hartley
John Hartley
July 4, 2013 6:49 pm

Simon. A joint project has a longer production run leading to lower costs per missile, hence easier to get through Congress. Also proves to Congress that a foreign power also thinks a USN project is a good idea.

Challenger
Challenger
July 4, 2013 7:06 pm

@GNB

”n fact I think there was a discussion recently in which somebody rather expertly laid out the most efficient and cost effective drumbeat for building and replacing SSN/SSBN…and I think their conclusion was that we should be building more Astutes now pending requirement for SSBN’s later in order to maintain the most efficient relationship between unit cost and boats afloat…

I occasionally dream about a rational defence procurement framework that operates on that basis…but mostly I take more water with it…’

Can’t remember who came up with it (speak up if you’re listening) but it was 12 boats in 3 batches of 4 to maintain a steady and coherent drumbeat of production and an evolutionary rather than revolutionary incremental flow of design.

If you stick with a compatible vertical launch missile module (or whatever you call it) then it provides the flexibility to either designate 1 of the batches as the deterrent force or have a totally mixed bag of fleet and ballistic platforms switching with ease.

Whatever the details it’s still the most sensible plan for the submarine force I’ve heard. It’s either that or in the future sign up for a full on partnership with the USN, buying their boat designs and technology and using their support infrastructure.

I agree with you GNB, it’s too fanciful to expect a coherent and rational approach to defence procurement, although one can still dream!

Rocket Banana
July 4, 2013 7:25 pm

GNB,

“My overall impression is that the Cousins are hoping we will do more, not opt out”

I agree, but unfortunately we are cutting spending, not increasing it. We simply can’t pick up the slack. This is where it stops becoming a relationship between the USA and the UK, it becomes a relationship between the USA and Europe as a whole, as it’s only Europe as a whole that can afford to “pick up the slack”.

Whilst they concentrate on “managing” China their main allies will probably be South Korea and/or our Antipodean cousins.

So there’s the pivot of focus combined with a view that their “pier” this side of the Atlantic is the EU rather than the UK. Therefore IMO the Trident purchase should be by Europe, not the UK, which treads on French toes and probably means it simply will not happen.

Europe is getting in the way :-(

John Hartley
John Hartley
July 4, 2013 8:05 pm

Simon. take more water with it. How can the US sell Trident to Europe? Who in Europe would pay for it? Man it? Take responsibility for the decision to fire/not fire? It has to be to a trusted big 5 ally not some loose bickering trade organisation.

x
x
July 4, 2013 8:10 pm

Simon says “No one can predict the future.”

We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives.

Observer
Observer
July 4, 2013 8:26 pm

Correction, anyone can predict the future. The difference is how good an individual is at reading the signs. Investors/stock brokers do it all the time, governments too. Hell, even planning your lunch for tomorrow is a prediction of the future.

Sorry Simon, but I just don’t think you have the knack for geo-political prediction.

JH is right, “Europe” is a nebulous term. I can see possibilities for sales to France and UK as existing members of the nuclear club, but not the rest. Non-proliferation.

x
x
July 4, 2013 8:33 pm

“Hell, even planning your lunch for tomorrow is a prediction of the future.”

In Soviet Russia your lunch plans you……….