Opinion: Thoughts on Trident alternatives

The much awaited Trident alternatives report is out; and, within the given parameters, its quite a good one. The party should be happy it forced the MOD to publicly review its nuclear deterrent for the first time.

However, the revelation that ballistic missiles are superior to cruise missiles for nuclear deterrent is not really a revelation for even laypersons like myself, and the debate is really about replacing the V class nuclear submarines which carry Trident rather than the missile itself. Retaining the Trident system, which we already operate, would always be a cheaper option than a complete new delivery system and despite popular sayings, rocket and nuclear science is easy – rocket and nuclear engineering are the extremely difficult part.

One flaw in the report is the use of the term “dual use” submarine; it claims it is a nuclear attack submarine (called a SSN) which can launch nuclear cruise missiles. However the dual use submarine suggested by RUSI was a SSN which carried 4 Trident tubes, not cruise missiles. As my previous piece states the Joint Common Missile Compartment (CMC) will probably be able to launch either Trident or cruise so I believe a fleet of new SSN’s with a CMC each or 4 hybrid SSB(G)N’s could be possible but their main savings would be from putting Trident into storage, an option outside the parameters of this study.

The parameters of the report have allowed a concise and focused report but appear to have ignored other options, not just complete disarmament but other nuclear options other than deployed nuclear missiles, such as that suggestd by the Centreforum study “Dropping the Bomb”. 

Unfortunately, the end result of the report appears to be (or can be easily spun as) a fudge, neither one thing or another, as Stephen has already pointed out. The savings from not building a fourth submarine are relatively small and could threaten our ability to build nuclear attack submarines (SSN’s).

The Trident alternatives report is a good one within its limits but is the beginning of the debate about the UK’s future nuclear deterrent, not the final answer.

* Gareth Jones is a post-graduate in International Relations from Swansea university and was an active member of the Swansea and Gower Liberal Democrats for nine years before recently moving to Maidenhead

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12 Comments

  • Eddie Sammon 19th Jul '13 - 3:41pm

    What’s wrong with three nuclear submarines? I am worried that people are just trying to shut down debate by saying it’s all or nothing. And I think I just fell for this on the survey.

  • I have to accept my pitiful lack of understanding, with this Dr. Strangelove nuclear thinking in 2013. Can someone explain to a card carrying simpleton like me, why someone (any country), would want, to nuke a UK that hadn’t updated its Trident capabilities?
    Most countries, it seems, want to improve their economies by selling us ‘stuff’, so why nuke us? What am I (obviously), missing?

  • We cant afford a school building program, we cant afford to invest in our mail system, we cant afford to operate public universities without loans, we can barely afford to keep 650 MPs in John Lewis vouchers, we cant afford to mend potholes in our roads, train enough nurses in the UK to staff our hospitals without poaching them from abroad, we cant afford to pay tax officials enough to hire talented enough individuals to police the tax system, we cant afford to pay GPs enough to work at weekends and in the evenings, we cant afford enough immigration officials to prevent huge queues at airports, we cant afford to test foodsupplies to stop supermarkets from selling adulterated food.. but folks, the fantastic news is we can afford a weapon that has already been obsolete since the 1940s. WTF is it with boys and their toys?

  • Gareth Jones 20th Jul '13 - 12:06am

    I think the ending of CASD actually makes sense – currently we’re not facing anyone which can launch the (in)famous “bolt from the blue”. Deterrence theory is like the Tango – it takes two. The reason to retain a (reduced) nuclear capability is incase a new “partner” emerges – more Nuclear insurance than deterrent.

  • NukedOnTheAve 21st Jul '13 - 4:15pm

    Most countries, it seems, want to improve their economies by selling us ‘stuff’, so why nuke us? What am I (obviously), missing? John Dunn XXX Obviously the world proceedings can turn on the head of a quarter or series of devastating quakes, eg. Kobe and Asian financial crisis. Apart from UK looking either strung up or barbecued roast from Google map’s perspectives, who would have thought of creating UK to be Great and marvellous? LibDems obviously should consider the wisest option available in between, even if it is so far to involve considering the possibility of more than doubling China’s economy though only appropriate when half its populations are given healthy and options to their future in relation to various sectorial demands, still a matter of their central positionings. That would be the far choice so don’t pick on the bouquets, thus not to accelerate Graham land, again per google’s look up.

  • Germany is a great example, why would we want to be an economic powerhouse like nuke frei Germany when we can be an economic basket case like Nuclear France?

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