RE: defense against a cruise missile attack?
"Conventional or nuke?...." We would react the same to both as we would not be able to tell at launch whether it was a nuke or conventional cruise missile. This is a wealness of the Trident-only argument - how do you tell if it is a full-on nuke attack and you need to launch your Tridents in response? Our best bet with both types of cruise attack is to shoot it down over the ocean as even bits of a nuke warhead falling on Blighty would need considerable clean up.
".....If conventional, there wouldn't be that much damage to worry about....." Unfortunately, there would be. You see, the V1 and V2 were simple robots with no real guidance systems. Both were fired off on preset trajectories and at area targets as they had little chance of being accurate enough to target individual buildings. Modern cruise is very different, it is highly accurate to the point where individual rooms in a building can be targeted. A strike with modern Chinese or Russian cruise missiles could take out our major airfields, air-def command, radar sites, military and political HQs, ports, main road junctions and power stations (especially our nuke power stations). So a conventional strike using large numbers of cruise would be very serious.
"......If nuclear, your best defense remains MAD, best done through Tridents......" Agreed, as long as you can tell which is the nuke attack. But Trident is a one-use option, whereas a weapon like Tomahawk can be used with conventional warheads for precision attacks in lower-intensity wars, so it is a good investment.
".....You really think say a 90% success rate with your Typhoons against a wave of nuke-tipped cruise missiles will cut the mustard?....." The figure of 90% assumes a massed attack similar to the threat posed by the Warsaw Pact towards the end of the Cold War. In that case, 90% is probably a good result as we do have limited numbers of fighters. But, the more likely threat is from a second-rate military such as Iran. Iran can currently sail a warship into the Atlantic and there is no legal reason for us to object. The scenario is that if we get to the point of threatening action against Iran then Iran may send subs or warships on Kamilaze missions to sit off the Atlantic coasts of Europe or the US, ready to launch a cruise strike if we attack Iran. Up until the point where it was to launch a missile, the Iranian ship would be safe under International Maritime Law, so all we could do is watch it. In that scenario, even if Iran was to concentrate solely on the UK and use all available ships (unlikely given that some would need to defend the Iranian ports), we would be dealing with five frigates that could launch four cruise missiles each at a time. Given that we are unlikely to just be sitting idle whilst the Iranians swanned about in our pond, it is not unreasonable to expect a prompt response by our Typhoons, and being able to intercept cruise over water presents less ground clutter on the radar than trying it over land (and less likelyhood of bits of missile falling on voters). Four Typhoons alone (in the right defensive position) would be able to account for the twenty likely Iranian cruise missiles. If the RN was shadowing the Iranian frigates then we might even shoot down a few with the PAAMS that Lewis also likes to bash so much.
".....Either Tridents or cruise missiles may become vulnerable in the next 30 years....." Agreed, lasers represent possibly the best promise of defence, provided we can get a quick response system that will find, track and attack low-flying cruise missiles. ICBM re-entry doesn't have "dead air" to hide in, the only option is manouvering warheads and decoys, and even then you're hoping to swamp the defences. A single ICBM even with the above mods could be defeated by modern anti-ICBM missile defences. However, cruise missilies can hide in dead air behind hills or other ground features, and a well-planned cruise route can avoid static defences.
One RAF comment I heard was how would you shoot down a cruise missile that simply followed our major motorways, as the moving vehicles very close below would mess up returns for many Doppler sets? Same goes for a cruise missile flying through the streets of a major city - in the Gulf War the Tomahawks were flying along main roads below the levels of many of Baghdad's buildings!
"....And your point about only Russia being able to intercept cruise missiles is moot....." Russia is currently a very unlikely threat to us, agreed, but other countries, such as China, may choose to target Russia with cruise missiles as a first-strike option, which is why the Russians are still investing heavily in anti-cruise defence development.
So, I would suggest that we need Trident but also a good cruise missile is required. We also need good air-def and fighters like Typhoon are more mobile and flexible than static missile batteries for the threats we are likley to have to face. Whether we need to spend money on an ICBM defence is debateable, I'm more inclined to follow where the Yanks lead there.