May 24, 2016

The UK Trident SSBN Debate MAY be settled this year

UK Defence Secretary Michael Fallon talks to journalist Kirsty Wark (who asks some searching questions). This is 6 minutes of UK Newsnight special on the future of the Trident SSBN. 

For years the UK has debated whether to replace the UK's existing Vanguard class SSBNs with a new set of four SSBNs. As the Vanguards are armed with Trident missiles, as is intended for the replacement SSBNs, (the Successor class) the issue is frequently called the Trident Debate. 

Arguments against a new class of UK SSBNs appear to be rather naive. In a world with countries like North Korea and Iran developing hypersonic ballistic missiles (then arm them with nuclear warheads) some in the UK believe that the UK's new submarines could merely be armed with slow subsonic cruise missiles. Some in the UK go further in suggesting that Russian nuclear aggression could be deterred by British fighter bombers carrying freefall nuclear bombs 1950s style.

The issue is major because UK's Trident missiles are the UK's only active nuclear deterrent. Trident is also an important aspect of the UK's alliance with the US. The Trident missiles and SSBNs apparently cost just 6% of the UK's defence budget.

Another issue is whether there should be a Continuous At-Sea Deterrent (CASD). If a SSBN does not need to be at sea 24/7 the implication is that a smaller force of only 2 or 3 submarines would be adequate. But this assumes an enemy (say Russia) would not spring surprises.

Some in the British Labour Party reason that the rift between the unilateral disarmament Labour Left and the shipbuilding Unions (who want to build new SSBNs) could be healed if the Unions built four SSBNs but did not arm them with nuclear missiles ($50 Billion white elephants).

Oh the idiocy!

The final decision (known as "Main Gate") to build new SSBNs (or not) is meant to be made by the UK Parliament later this year. Trident alternatives, in more detail, are below.

See much larger image here (Diagram courtesy SIPRI and the Financial Times)


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