It's just not news, I'm afraid. At a recent RUSI study day on this, the guardian defence chap (not one of these two, I'll get back with the name later) complained that there was just no public interest in a debate. It's in the Labour Manifesto; it's going to happen, after a short debate. Both Labour and Tory are agreed;
No government (UK or otherwise)is going to give up the deterrent without a confirmation that proliferation will cease, and without the world becomiing a much safer place than it is now.
And - before you suggest it, money saved from scrapping a replacement for Trident will NOT get spent on the rest of the MoD. That's not how the Government Finances work. It would go to fill the G Brown finances hole; MoD don't get a pot of money each year to spend on what they want - the Treasury are much cleverer than that.
Well I think the current Trident system is a ridiculous and expensive willy-waving exercise - we don't even own the missiles, fer crisssakes!
In fact, the idea of the UK having an 'independent' deterrent was always a farce - even in the days of the V-bomber (which hardly constituted a deterrent once Sputnik was launched), half the H-bombs were provided by the US and such aircraft were protected by USAF armed guards, who could prevent RAF personnel getting to RAF aircraft!
Another example of the UK trying to buy 'worl-power' status on the cheap - but the rest of the world isn't fooled.
So in my view we either drop it altogether or get a UK-only system. Due to costs this would probably be cruise-missile based system, which would be OK deterring smaller rogue states but probably not influence China or Russia's decision-making process much.
Taken from Daily Telegraph Opinion : (My comment in RED)
An independent British nuclear deterrent existed for less than a decade, from the RAF's acquisition of the V-bomber family until Soviet missile defences effectively became bomber-proof in the early 1960s. The Royal Navy then acquired the US-built submarine-based Polaris system, but their activation is dependent on Washington's approval, thereby ending any suggestion of "independence".
(KAK! Wshington don't hold the codes or a key. The captain and his No1 can launch wholly independently of London and Washington, if London and Washingtom were destroyed in a bolt out the blue attack or compromised in some fashion)
However, for two more decades, RAF bombers were equipped with notionally-independent free-fall nuclear bombs, thereby both soothing some ruffled sky-blue feathers and offering the splendid prospect of aircrews meeting gallant, futile ends en route to Soviet targets they couldn't possibly reach.
(Oh yeah? If a nutty Bosch in a Cessna 172 can fly all the way to Red Square without being detected, I think a V-bomber at high or low level, with ECM would stand a pretty good chance then, even today, Don-cha-think!?)
Nuclear weapons today are certainly not popular with the Army, which detests them as a huge waste of money (especially now that it has been stripped of its own battlefield tactical nuclear weapons). When Margaret Thatcher asked the great Field Marshall Sir Nigel Bagnall about the Trident submarine missile programme, he sniffed. "You know my position on that, Prime Minister." "And you're wrong," she boomed.
The real reason for the continued existence of this misnamed nuclear "deterrent" is probably less military than political - as a guarantee of Britain's place in the Permanent Five on the UN Security Council. This argument might have made sense when membership was almost synonymous with nuclear capability: however, some half a dozen countries outside the Permanent Five now possess nuclear weapons, and they are no closer to permanent seats on the Security Council than are Chad or the Teletubbies.
Now, I would love to argue in detail about the financial folly of the British nuclear-weapons programme, but I can't because of the colossal secrecy which shrouds nuclear weaponry. For example, in the 1970s the British government authorised the biggest clandestine, peacetime military projeact in history. It was the Cheveline project to update the US Polaris missile and so avoid buying the "more expensive" Poseidon missiles. Its intended cost was the then astounding sum of Â£250 million. Naturally, being British, it finally cost Â£1 billion - an incredible Â£10 billion in today's money.
(And of course, the Spams NEVER have cost over-runs in their defence sector. Ooooh No!)
Needless to say the Cheveline - designed to penetrate anti-missile defences around Moscow, which existed more in the minds of its proponents than anywhere else (which proves my second comment, if an unarmed Cessna can do it, so can a V-bomber)- is now defunct. Which leaves the question: if its purpose was nuclear "deterrence", why was its existence kept secret? Should not nuclear capacity be known to the enemy, in order to keep his itchy fingers away from the red button?
(Sigh...I'm sure they knew already!)
Of course, there are no red buttons any more, just chaps with knives and explosive plimsoles shuffling onto airliners, daily praying that their deeds trigger martyrdom and nuclear immolation. Yet none the less, on an ocean bed somewhere, 200 crew members are sitting in a British V-class nuclear submarine with 16 Trident missiles, ready to . . . Ready to do what? Nuke Muqtar al-Sadr? The West Side Boys? Swiss soccer referees? No one, actually. According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Trident missiles in British submarines are not allocated targets, and even if they were, it would take several days (instead of minutes during the Cold War) to fire them.
So this single submarine (only one is on station at a time) is the sharp point of an absolutely vast industry, in which declared figures are as related to reality as the tax returns of a Mafia boss. However, we can grasp at certain public straws. The current cost of the four boat First Submarine Squadron is reported to be Â£10 billion, and the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston, where the 3,600 workforce builds and maintains warheads, has a Â£2 billion, 10-year contract.
That is just for the warheads. The missiles remain American-owned, and the system between the two countries is so interrelated that a Trident missile on a US submarine at the end of a patrol could well be returned to the US missile base at King's Bay, Georgia, and then be redeployed to a British boat and re-warheaded. Of course, since Tridents may only be fired with US consent, (again this is a myth. NATO would like to agree to collective action, but the USA is not the only member of NATO, and does not hold any physical control or interlock over our Nuclear deterrent) this cannot possibly be described as an independent British nuclear weapons system.(It is Independent, if need be. Cant see the UK treasury spending Â£30bn on American Nuclear weapons, can you?)
This is a spectacularly high price (equivalent conventional forces are much more expensive. Its all about bang for bucks, and thats why Nukes are so prolific today) to pay for the speculative belief that this ensures Britain's place on the Security Council. Moreover, if possession of nuclear weapons alone were the guarantee of that seat, the ability to deliver them against a nonexistent target is irrelevant. So why not dispose of the nuclear missile submarines? (Yeah, Sell them to Iran and North Korea, Then we can invade them to stop them using weapons of mass destruction - HO HO!) They are purposeless relics of a now purposeless technology left over from a Cold War which is now the Old War. Meanwhile, deep beneath the seas, month in and month out, 200 men and women waste their lives away. (I can think of WORSE jobs...)
"(again this is a myth. NATO would like to agree to collective action, but the USA is not the only member of NATO, and does not hold any physical control or interlock over our Nuclear deterrent) this cannot possibly be described as an independent British nuclear weapons system.(It is Independent, if need be. Cant see the UK treasury spending Â£30bn on American Nuclear weapons, can you?)"
Operational control is a bit of a red herring - if the missiles are actually used, 1) they've failed in their primary purpose, deterrence; and 2) we won't really care by that time! I do wonder, though, how targetting data and launch orders are passed to the UK V boats in the apparent absence of a UK TACAMO aircraft. Obviously land-based VLF/ULF comms sites would be an easy target. I'm not convinced the UK has a survivable, independent way of launching Trident, but obviously those in the know aren't saying. You can't see the Treasury spending Â£30bn? I can't see the US handing out strategic missiles exactly the same as its own without retaining some form of control over them.
Anyway, that's all besides the point. The point is that the missiles are designed, built, maintained, stored and tested in the USA. The UK warheads are basically copies of the US W76 and the UK is dependent on US tritium supplies for the triggers. In other words, the US could, if it wanted, take away the UK's 'independent' deterrent.
Doubt thast the slbm's could be accurately targetted without gps, and the americans control those satellites. If they didn't want to play ball ,all that they'd need to do is turn them off, and all we could do is launch and hope.
SLBM'S need constant target guidance updates provided by GPS, otherwise no bombagrammes just area bombing, not very nice.
IIRC, Trident is still accurate on stellar-inertial guidance to within a mile or two, enough for city-busting but not for e.g. hardened bunkers. I think the main issue is one of transmitting launch orders and having the missiles follow those orders. Does the UK have an independent, survivable sytem for transmitting UVF/ULF signals? Every other SSBN user has some kind of TACAMO system but not, as far as I'm aware, the UK. Also, how do we know for sure the missiles will work unless the US gives the right code?
But as I said, operational control is not really the issue. The fact the US could just remove our deterrent at will is the issue.
No it isn't. Russia, China and France (to a limited extent India/Pakistan - no ICBM's yet) can target their nuclear missiles wherever they wish. If the US can interfere with the British governments technical ability to target its missiles (eg. at the US or Israel) then it wouldn't be a truly 'independent' deterrent, which is why I'm asking the question.
At the moment, the bit that isn't independent is the rocket - we make the bomb and the submarine, but they make and maintain the actual rockets. A lot of people like to pretend launch is dependent on US approval, but then, they obviously don't understand the NATO chain of command. Under the Bermuda agreement with the yanks, we got the complete firing chain on condition we tasked them to SACEUR, but with the "supreme national interest" get-out clause. To make that clause a reality, the subs come under COMEASTLANT/COMNAVNORTH, who is always a Brit and also CINCFleet nationally. For ops in the Atlantic Command, he receives orders from SACLANT in Norfolk, Virginia - for ops in the European Command he answers to SACEUR at SHAPE. And for purely UK National responsibilities, he answers to MOD.
Hence there is a double lock; the North Atlantic Council takes decisions by unanimity, so there is a UK veto on activating SACEUR's release authority, and the chain of command reports to MOD. Traditionally (well, since the Beauvais Anglo-French agreement in 191 the commander of a UK component has to obey orders from an allied higher command, with the important exception that if the continued existence of the component or an overriding national interest is endangered, they may appeal to national authority. (See Lord Gort before Dunkirk.)
2. It can target anywhere in it's range (but is kept de-targetted while on patrol)
3. The Torygraph piece - if it was from the DT - was inaccurate in many respects, not least being the final bit about "200 men and women". No women allowed on UK Submarines on patrol, as any fule kno. It shows a basic lack of understanding of the subject.
Oh, and the reason ins nothing to do with radiation, either.
Try reading the SDR and the last Defence White Paper for the facts.