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NEWS: UK Future Nuclear Deterrence

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posted on Jun, 9 2004 @ 10:37 AM
Story in full ROYAL Navy experts are preparing secret designs for a new generation of multi-purpose nuclear submarines to replace Britain’s Trident fleet at the end of the next decade.

Key points
• Royal Navy prepares multi-purpose nuclear submarine to replace Trident to reduce costs
• RAF bucking to take over the nuclear deterrence role to reduce costs

Key quote
"By making the submarine more versatile, we get more value for our money and don’t have billions of pounds of capital investment tied up in a submarines that can never be used for anything except blowing up the world" - MoD source

It has been learnt that work on a replacement for the Royal Navy’s nuclear deterrent is further advanced than had previously been known - despite claims by the government that no decision has been made on a successor for the four Faslane-based Trident submarines.

Naval sources suggest Tony Blair has all but made up his mind to replace the £9billion Trident system to ensure Britain retains its "seat at the top table of nuclear powers".

The United States-based publication Defense News has since revealed that the Royal Navy has launched design studies to examine replacing both the service’s existing Trident missile-firing submarines and hunter-killer submarines with a single class of multi-role, nuclear-powered submarine.

The costs of designing a new submarine and then keeping two types in service are described as "astronomical" by Royal Navy officers.

The futuristic submarines, dubbed the "maritime underwater future capability" (see ABOVETOPSECRET thread: Maritime Underwater Future Capability (MUFC), would be fitted with vertical-launch missile tubes to allow them to fire both nuclear-tipped long-range missiles or conventionally-armed Tomahawk cruise missiles.

This new vessel was originally envisaged as only replacing the Royal Navy’s hunter-killer submarines, but The Scotsman now understands it is becoming multi-role in nature.

Britain recently bought 64 new "smart" versions of the Tomahawk from the US for £70 million, to replenish stocks fired during last year’s Iraq war.

"By making the submarine more versatile, we get more value for our money and don’t have billions of pounds of capital investment tied up in a submarines that can never be used for anything except blowing up the world," an MoD source said.

"It cost more than £9 billion to buy Trident, and there is just no way we can justify that kind of money any more."

Futuristic designs of the new submarine include undersea remotely piloted vehicles to penetrate enemy coastal defences. The key to making the new multi-role - but smaller - submarine work is a new family of miniaturised nuclear warheads. There have been persistent reports that Britain is preparing to design a new warhead at the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston, in Berkshire, and is already co-operating with the US on a new family of mini-nuclear warheads, but the MoD has denied any such work is under way.

The huge costs of designing and operating nuclear submarines, however, might derail the plans for a new class. The new Astute class nuclear-attack submarines, currently being built by BAE Systems, are already £800 million over budget and several years late.

The Royal Navy’s shipbuilding programme is under intense pressure from the Treasury, which is balking at the cost of the future aircraft carrier and Type 45 destroyers being built by BAE Systems on the Clyde.

The ministry’s cash shortages have led some to suggest it might be forced to undertake a "life extensive" programme for the four Trident submarines. This would involve replacing key components and modifying the submarines.

Even this might be no longer affordable and the RAF is reported to be pushing to take over responsibility for nuclear deterrence.

Source: The Scotsman

One has to wonder what the US is currently planning for tridents replacement as the UK's last 2 nuclear deterrence platforms (Polaris and Trident) have been US platforms. Before that we invested in the aborted US Skybolt system

Surely any future system will be based on the US system of the day.


[edit on 9-6-2004 by Popeye]

[edit on 9-6-2004 by Popeye]

[edit on 9-6-2004 by Nerdling]

[edit on 9-6-2004 by Nerdling]


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