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3 juin 2015 3 03 /06 /juin /2015 16:50
UK Defence Spending


2 June 2015 — MOD News Team

Yesterday, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon appeared on BBC Radio 4’s World at One Programme to discuss defence spending.


As the Secretary of State pointed out, Britain has always punched above its weight and the US has long seen us as an indispensable partner in operations right around the world. With nearly 4,000 personnel engaged in global operations, ranging from tackling Ebola in Sierra Leone, helping to deter Russian aggression in Ukraine, to fighting ISIL in the Middle East.

We have made it very clear that when the target was published last year that we met it then, and we have made it very clear that we’re going to go on meeting it in this financial year.


The 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review will be driven by a hard-headed appraisal of our foreign policy and security objectives and the role we wish our country to play, as well as the risks we face in a rapidly changing world. By undertaking such a full and comprehensive look at future threats, alongside the Comprehensive Spending Review, we are able to look at the future and be sure that Armed Forces have what they need.

It is now a balanced Defence budget… It tells you that we can run a defence budget properly, and so well that you can invest for the future. We’re building two aircraft carriers, seven Hunter-Killer submarines, there are new armoured vehicles on order for the army, we’re buying the Joint Strike Fighter to go on the carriers. It is because we have sorted out the defence budget that we’re able to invest in equipment.


The US have always wanted European members of NATO to take a greater share of the burden, the UK is one of only four countries that does spend 2%.

 When the Defence Secretary was asked whether we should scrap Trident to make savings, he committed to renewing our continuous at sea nuclear deterrent with four submarines.

Every successive government has renewed the nuclear deterrent and that decision faces this Parliament next year when we have to replace the boats. We have to be sure that we can keep this country safe for the period right up to 2060.


You can listen to the full interview here (13:15).

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2 juillet 2014 3 02 /07 /juillet /2014 07:50
Fresh Calls to Renew Britain's Trident Nuclear Deterrent


01.07.14 British Forces News


An influential group of public figures is urging the government to press ahead with renewing Britain's Trident nuclear weapons.


Foreign policy think tank, The British American Security Information Council, had asked a Commission of eight foreign policy figures to investigate the options for the country's nuclear arsenal.

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29 août 2013 4 29 /08 /août /2013 07:50
HMS Vigilant fires an unarmed Trident II ballistic missile photo UK MoD

HMS Vigilant fires an unarmed Trident II ballistic missile photo UK MoD

08/28/2013  Steve Coltman - defenceiq.com


Recently the MoD published its long-awaited Review of Alternatives to Trident, written at the behest of the Liberal Democrats. It says that cruise missiles might have been a viable alternative but for two things – the existing Trident warheads are not suitable for use in cruise missiles and that it would take 24 years to develop a new warhead.


This is such a long timescale that the Vanguard-class subs would have been retired before the new system was available, necessitating the purchase of two new Trident SSNBNs as a stop-gap and therefore wiping out any cost-savings. 


I find the point about it taking 24 years to develop a new warhead to be particularly astonishing, but reading between the lines of the report perhaps one might  wonder if the UK hasn’t lost the ability to design new warheads altogether.


So far as the suitability of existing warheads to go in cruise missiles is concerned, the case rests on two points.

  1. In the case of horizontally-launched missiles, these would have to be stored in the torpedo room in close proximity to the crew, and this would necessitate the development of a low-radiation warhead. I don’t suppose we can argue with that point. Developing a low-radiation warhead would take even longer than 24 years.
  2. The report also says that the existing Trident warheads are too delicate and would not stand up to the manhandling that cruise-missiles are subjected to. One can imagine that horizontally-launched cruise-missiles manhandled down into the torpedo room might be subject to a few knocks but in the case of vertically-launched cruise missiles, why should the handling of the warheads be any different to what they experience in vertically-launched Trident missiles?


What the report did not say was that the warheads are too big to fit inside a 21” diameter cruise missile. Considering 12 warheads plus decoys have to fit inside a Trident, I suppose it is reasonable to assume the warheads are not that large. Had the Trident warheads been too large for a cruise missile I am sure the report would have said so.


Comparing vertically-launched cruise-missiles with Trident, the only difference in what shocks the warhead would experience post-launch, when the cruise-missile cants over to follow a horizontal course to its target while the Trident missile continues onwards, upwards and then downwards on a ballistic trajectory. The report is quite adamant that the Trident warhead would not be suitable for cruise-missile use, but how do we know that? If Aldermaston has lost the people who can design warheads, they might also lack the people who can make an informed judgement on this issue too. It should be easy enough to put some sensors in a Tomahawk and measure the acceleration, g-forces and shocks that a cruise-missile warhead might be subject to in a real launch, then take an existing warhead and subject it to the same (or worse) shocks to see what, if anything, breaks? Has the MoD ever done this? If not, how can it be so sure the Trident warhead would not be suitable?


Let us suppose that Trident warheads are indeed suitable for use in vertically-launched cruise missiles – what then? The main capital cost of the like-for-like replacement of Trident is in the four big submarines, with a quoted coast of £11-14 billion. At an guesstimate, we would have to reserve around £2-3 billion to develop a new indigenous cruise missile, which would still leave us with £10 billion.


Here are some important points to consider:

  • How many of the seven planned Astute-class boats can be fitted with vertical launch tubes, and why were they not part of the original design anyway? The keel has already been laid for the sixth boat so it may now be too late to change its design and incorporate vertical tubes. The worst case scenario is that only the seventh boat onwards could have vertical tubes fitted and I presume it is too much to contemplate chopping existing subs in two and inserting a new section – although the Spanish are contemplating something similar for their new subs.
  • We will need more Astutes beyond the planned seven, which may need to be supplemented by cheaper conventional boats. Astutes currently cost £1.2 billion each, while the biggest and best conventional boats are about £500 million each. So, three extra Astutes, with the seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth having vertical tubes, would be £3.6 billion.
  • Half a dozen big conventional boats, which would also be fitted with vertical tubes, at £500 million each is £3 billion. We now have a submarine fleet of 16 boats, much better than at present.
  • A dozen frigate-sized OPV / patrol frigates, like the French ‘Floreal’ class or the Dutch ‘Holland’ class – would be about £1.5 billion. This would quickly and dramatically ease the Navy’s surface ship numbers problem.
  • And what about two more Type 45s? Six isn’t very many as only two are on operations at any given time. At £700 million each, that’s another £1.4 billion.
  • With the remaining £500 million, perhaps we could buy another big amphibious ship? Or more MARS replenishment ships?


This is just the author’s preference of course. Many other shopping lists are possible but it is clear from this ‘fantasy navy’ exercise that the opportunity cost of Trident is pretty high. And the case for the like-for-like replacement of Trident rests on the assertion that Trident warheads are too delicate to be used in cruise missiles, and that it would take 24 years to develop a warhead suitable for cruise missiles (despite France and Israel already having such warheads). It is very difficult for politicians to argue with such assertions, however sceptical we may be.


Finally - do we really need a deterrent in this day and age anyway? A good question, but probably a redundant one, I doubt if anyone could get unilateral disarmament through parliament before 2016.

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27 août 2013 2 27 /08 /août /2013 11:50
HMS Vigilant fires an unarmed Trident II ballistic missile photo UK MoD

HMS Vigilant fires an unarmed Trident II ballistic missile photo UK MoD

Aug. 23, 2013 defense-aerospace.com

(Source: House of Commons Library; published August 13, 2013)


Update on the Trident Successor Programme - Commons Library Standard Note

The programme to replace the UK’s nuclear deterrent from 2028 onwards continues apace. In December 2012 the Government published its first update report to Parliament on the progress of the Trident renewal programme and in July 2013 published the Trident Alternatives Review. That review was commissioned in 2011 in order to assist the Liberal Democrats in making a case for potential alternatives to the like-for-like replacement of Trident, as stipulated in the 2010 Coalition Agreement.

This note briefly examines the progress that has been made since Initial Gate on the programme was passed in May 2011, including the contracts that have been placed to date and the estimated costs of the replacement programme.

It also looks at wider issues such as the Trident Alternatives Review and the potential impact of the Scottish referendum on independence which is expected in autumn 2014.

Click here for the full report (20 PDF pages) on the UK Parliament website.

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11 juillet 2013 4 11 /07 /juillet /2013 16:50
HMS Astute Arrives at Faslane - photo UK MoD

HMS Astute Arrives at Faslane - photo UK MoD

11 Jul 2013 By Simon Johnson, Scottish Political Editor, Faslane - telegraph.co.uk


The British Government denies reports it is examining plans to designate Faslane as sovereign UK territory in case Scots back independence next year.


David Cameron today strongly denied reports the Government is considering a plan to ensure that Britain’s nuclear deterrent would remain in Scotland after independence despite SNP promises to remove it.


The Ministry of Defence (MoD) was said to be considering designating the Faslane base that houses Trident nuclear submarines as sovereign UK territory, giving it the same legal status as British bases in foreign countries like Cyprus.


Alex Salmond would be presented with a choice of accepting this status, it was claimed, or a separate Scotland having to pay a substantial part of the multi-billion pound bill for removing Trident.


A deal over Faslane would ensure the Trident fleet would have access to the open seas via the Firth of Clyde and the continuation of Britain’s round-the-clock deterrent. At least one nuclear-armed submarine is on patrol at sea at any one time.


The Scottish Nationalists seized on the reports as evidence of the UK attempting to strong-arm Scotland into keeping nuclear weapons and said they would not agree to such an arrangement.


But Downing Street and the MoD attempted to head off a public backlash in Scotland by insisting they did not recognise the proposal, which was outlined in the Guardian, describing it as not “credible”.


They said they were not drawing up contingency plans for Trident in case Scots back independence next year despite expert warnings that there may be nowhere else suitable in the UK for the deterrent.


Mr Salmond has repeatedly insisted that nuclear weapons would be removed from the Clyde if Scots back independence, promising that a ban would be included in a written constitution.


He has claimed Faslane could be turned into a conventional naval base. But experts have warned it would cost many billions of pounds and take decades for Trident to be removed from the Clyde despite the SNP claiming it could be done very quickly.


Nicola Sturgeon, Mr Salmond’s deputy, told BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland programme: "This seems to me to be an outrageous attempt at bullying by the UK Government.


"I can't see how they could do that without the agreement of the Scottish Government and speaking for my party that is not an agreement that would be forthcoming."


She said it was a "preposterous threat from the UK Government" and said that Coalition ministers should instead start talks now on how to remove Trident as quickly as possible in the event of a ‘yes’ vote next year.


But a Number 10 spokesman said: “This Government has not commissioned contingency plans over Faslane. No such ideas have come to the Secretary of State or the Prime Minister.


“They would not support them if they did. It’s not a credible or sensible idea.”


An MoD spokesman said: "No contingency plans are being made to move Trident out of Scotland. The scale and cost of any potential relocation away from Faslane would be enormous."


According to the Guardian report, MoD civil servants are starting to examine a two-stage process whereby the British Government would initially emphasise the huge expense and logistical difficulties of moving Trident.


These costs would be factored into the ‘divorce settlement’ between Scotland and the UK, reducing the sum to which the former is entitled.


However, it is claimed they are examining an alternative whereby Scotland would get a much better deal in return for allowing Faslane to become sovereign UK territory, along the lines of the Akrotiri and Dhekelia naval bases in Cyprus.


A defence source was quoted as stating: “The sovereign base area is an option. It is an interesting idea because the costs of moving out of Faslane are eye-wateringly high.”


Sir Menzies Campbell, the former Liberal Democrat leader, warned of a backlash. He said: “To seek to impose a financial penalty on an independent Scotland in relation to the decommissioning of Faslane might be seen as undue pressure and could easily play into the hands of the SNP.”


However, he pointed out that a separate Scotland might have to agree to keep Trident anyway under Mr Salmond’s plans to apply for Nato membership.

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6 février 2013 3 06 /02 /février /2013 08:50

Trident II D5 missile photo UK MoD


05 Feb 2013 By Des Browne and Ian Kearns*  - telegraph.co.uk


Like-for-like renewal of our nuclear deterrent is neither strategically sound nor economically viable


In 2006, the Labour government decided to pursue like-for-like renewal of Trident, a decision that was reaffirmed by the Coalition in 2010. The thinking underpinning both decisions now needs to be re-examined. Since 2006, important things have changed and it is time for a more honest debate about the defence choices facing the country.


It has become clearer, for example, that a set of long-term threats has emerged, to which deterrence, nuclear or otherwise, is not applicable: not only climate change, which can be addressed only through coordinated international action, but also cyber-attacks and nuclear terrorism. Attacks of both kinds will be difficult to trace. Since deterrence only works against those with a known address, it is not a viable strategy for meeting this category of threats.


Recent research also shows that large-scale use of nuclear weapons by either the US or Russia would be suicidal, not because of a retaliatory response but because global agriculture would collapse as a result, leaving the population of the attacking country to starve. The same research shows that even a small-scale nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan would affect at least a billion people and usher in colder temperatures than at any time in the past millennium.


These facts do not mean that nuclear weapons are totally irrelevant to all future security threats. The weapons may still play important psychological roles in inhibiting wars between major powers; our position is not, as a result, a unilateralist one. What these factors do mean, however, is that nuclear deterrence is decreasingly effective. We could pursue like-for-like renewal of Trident and still perish as a result of a nuclear incident not directly involving the UK.


Deterrence is also increasingly risky. The number of nuclear weapons in the world has gone down since the end of the Cold War, but the bombs are now in some of the most unstable countries in the world. Loss of control is a major concern. If we allow current trends to continue, some of these weapons are going to get used.


While it might make sense to invest a huge portion of the British defence equipment budget, around 25-30 per cent in 2020-2030, into a nuclear system that provides insurance against every eventuality, it makes less sense to invest so much into one that provides less and less insurance against a narrowing range of threats. Given unlimited resources, this would be less of a problem but since 2006 we have also experienced a recession. The defence budget is being cut and reductions in conventional capability are ongoing. This matters for a number of reasons. First, the cuts are occurring even as each new generation of equipment becomes more sophisticated and expensive than the last. The implication, given that no end to public spending cuts is in sight and that health and education budgets are ring-fenced, is that our military will continue to shrink in future.


Second, defence cuts are under way and will continue in other allied countries on which we rely, such as the US, France, and elsewhere in Europe. Third, the military research budgets of many non-Western powers are increasing. While we have a clear technological edge today, the long-term trend is towards reduced Western technological superiority. In future, we will be able to rely much less on technically sophisticated but ever smaller forces to win conflicts. Fourth, America’s pivot to Asia signals its reduced willingness to provide for the security of Europe. As Libya and Mali show, Europe must take more responsibility in future, and do so with less.


Some of the supporters of like-for-like Trident renewal argue that anyone questioning the current approach is irresponsible. But in the circumstances outlined, Trident’s advocates also have serious questions to answer. They want to pour limited national resources into a increasingly ineffective nuclear system while being unwilling either to call for higher defence spending to meet conventional shortfalls or to scale back the UK’s level of international ambition. They want a gold-standard nuclear deterrent while under-investing in everything else.


Their approach will demonstrate to the international community that we intend to keep nuclear weapons on permanent deployment for decades while seeking to deny those weapons to everyone else. In the process, it will destroy any chance of building the broad-based international support required for a stronger non-proliferation and nuclear security regime. It also potentially sets the country up for a future Suez moment when, in the context of a crisis thought to threaten our vital interests, we will either try to intervene somewhere and fail or won’t try at all because we don’t have the capability. Either way, as a country committed to internationalism and to the defence of our interests, we will be diminished.


The choice before us, then, is not between a risky and a risk-free future. There are no risk-free futures on offer. Given the range of challenges before us and the limited resources at our disposal, if the Government’s Trident Alternatives Review reveals an effective alternative to like-for-like renewal of Trident, such as stepping down from continuous at-sea deterrence and the building of fewer submarines, we should pursue it. This would continue our glide-path to reduced reliance on nuclear weapons for our security, and in the circumstances, make sound strategic sense.


* Des Browne is a former defence secretary; Ian Kearns is chief executive of the European Leadership Network and a former adviser to Parliament on national security strategy

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