back to article Trident delay by the Coalition: Cunning plan, or bad idea?

The Coalition government, as part of its ongoing strategic review of UK defence, may decide to postpone replacement of the Trident nuclear deterrent by five years. What would that mean? Immediately in practical terms it would mean that spending on the replacement systems would be pushed mostly back out of the ten-year …

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  1. Neil Gardner
    FAIL

    Go Nuke'Em

    Let me get this right. The Reg editorial team believe recent climate change is not affected by historically unprecedented levels of human activity, limits to growth are a myth, oil had nothing to do with the invasion of Iraq, we need need a nuclear deterrent.

    Yeah, OK let's all emulate Jeremy Clarkson, support __our__ troops in Afghanistan and Iraq (spreading freedom and democracy), drive our SUVs on new multilane highways spanning the former rural region of East Anglia, now converted to London overspill, and threaten the rest of the world with nuclear armageddon should these evil extremists challenge our god-given right to a high-consumption life style.

    1. Tigra 07 Silver badge
      Coat

      The bottom line

      And why would the UK use their nukes to wage war when the only country to ever use one against another is America?

      Jeremy Clarkson might well be right on his view of global warming, as i'm sure he is.

      Whether you're a green or a BNP supporter, it doesn't matter.

      What you can't deny is that we're safer WITH nukes than without (as independance day proved)

      1. Monty Burns

        No it didn't....

        "What you can't deny is that we're safer WITH nukes than without (as independance day proved)"

        They didn't work! What you need is lots of drunken crop spraying pilots in FA18's!

        1. Tigra 07 Silver badge

          RE: Monty Burns

          The mother ship was eventually destroyed by the bomb in the space ship, the bullets and missiles were useless

          1. Keith T

            Mother ship destroyed by computer virus

            title says it all

    2. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    3. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      "our god-given right to a high-consumption life style"

      @Neil Gardener

      Thank you. Nothing is as funny as a self-righteous Green loonie slamming the door on his way out.

      Glad you got it off your chest, though mate. We all feel better now.

    4. Trevor_Pott Gold badge
      Unhappy

      @Niel Gardner

      I think you need a breather, sir. El Reg’s editorial team impose no conditions on it’s writers. Some of us are by the standards of the Americans “bloody pinko commie leftist liberal scum.” Myself for example.

      I’m a socialist. I believe that the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights should be the basis for all constitutions. I believe that eventually a planetary federalist state should be enacted, based lightly off the model of the EU. (Taking into account the inefficiencies and working around them. Everything’s always better when you have a prior attempt to work from.) I believe in health care, education, spreading wealth around a little bit, reducing consumption, helping your fellow man and generally not being a selfish and self centered cockbag.

      But you know what? In my opinion, Lewis is 100% right on this one. Nuclear deterrence is important. Like it or not, there are Bad People out there. Some of them control whole countries. We don’t want to nuke ANYONE if we don’t have to…but being able to nuke them is we are required to is a great deterrent to their nuking us. It’s how the game is played. Think about it: if there were no nuclear deterrence at all, and conventional warfare were all that we had to worry about, then world war three would already have happened.

      We are stretched to the brink on this planet. The gigantic flashing neon pink elephant in the room that EvEYRONE refuses to talk about is that we just keep having too many damned BABIES. There are too many people. Not enough Oil, clean water and other critical resources to go around. Let’s take both the Great Artesian Basin and the Ogallala Aquifer as examples. Both of these are massive caches of underground water supporting powerful first world nations. Both may well be completely depleted within our lifetimes. When they go…the shit will hit the fan in a way people in the first world haven’t yet begun to comprehend.

      The third world however knows all about it. Exactly this has been happening repeatedly all over the poorer countries. They fight wars on a regular basis because of it. No matter who wins, millions die because they can’t get access to clean water. Not because there aren’t funds to drill a well…but because there’s no more clean water down there to drill a well into.

      These nations are downright desperate. If they thought they had a half a chance in hell, I honestly believe many of them would band together and make a run at the first world, because we are sitting on some of the last remaining resources on earth. Give it fifty or seventy-five years, and you may have the first world nations of this planet at eachother’s throats for the same reason.

      On that day, you’re going to be glad you have nuclear deterrence. My country doesn’t. When the shit hits the fan, America is going to walk across the border, hit us over the head with a brick, and take what is ours because theirs ran out. Thanks to my government’s short-sightedness, NOTHING will be able to stop them from doing so.

      1. Tigra 07 Silver badge
        Flame

        RE: Trevor Pott

        "I believe that eventually a planetary federalist state should be enacted, based lightly off the model of the EU"

        That's the most ridiculous thing i ever heard.

        The EU isn't even democratic

        Unless parliament abolishes the parties and leaves all MPs indepentant then neither are we.

        How can we be a democracy when we are ignored by our elected MPs and even their boss can force them to vote how the rest of the party wants?

        I agreed with everything else in your post though so voted you up

        These nutters would want us to get rid of our nukes right before Iraq gets theirs and uses them on us, thats just crazy

        1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

          Re:"The EU isn't even democratic"

          Maybe that's why he said "based lightly off the model of the EU".

          Lightly - as in the initial idea, modified by such and such considerations.

          1. Tigra 07 Silver badge

            Based lightly?

            The EU is a communist organisation, ignoring the people and pressing ahead with their own agenda.

            The elected MEPs are not elected by voters and do not represent them so in no way should any government be based even lightly on their framework and be called a democracy

            By based lightly it should mean, the idea of one global government actually representing the people, and in that way only

            1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

              @Tigra 07

              Correct. Additionally, the EU isn't wholly federalist. The individual units that make it up (countries) have more autonomy than they would in a truly federalist endeavour. They do however submit to a centralised authority for judicial proceedings, single currency, a central place to bring inter-country disputed for arbitration and more.

              The EU is sort of like a UN with TEETH. It’s more and yet less than that as well. I would take me hours to explain properly. This however Is why I said “based loosely off of.” I do believe we need a planetary government co-ordinating intergovernmental relations and housing a planetary judiciary from which not even heads of state are immune. The fundamental law backing at all should be the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

              Additionally, I do believe it should be a fundamentally socialist government; one of its mandates should be the redistribution of aid and funding to raise the quality of living for the world’s most poor. To provide planetary universal health care and education whilst providing a co-ordinated central hub for the nation’s various militaries to deal with rogue nations, or provide manpower to assist with natural disasters.

              Capitalists will hate the concept; the entire think is based on treating people /equally/ rather than exploiting them mercilessly. I also think that the planetary government can’t be allowed to /ever/ become too powerful. No single entity should be able to resist the unified forces of the majority of its constituent components. If it gets uppity, the nations that make it up need to be fully capable of bringing it down.

              To this end, whilst I believe that the proposed planetary government should co-ordinate international military objectives, it should in no way have a standing army of its own capable of going toe-to-toe with more than a small handful of its constituent nations. In fact, if it has a standing army at all, they should be dedicated peacekeepers. reliant on the component nations for transport to and from theatre so as to minimise the risk of the planetary government attempting to militarily consolidate it’s power. Ideally, all the big machines (tanks, choppers, jets, boats, etc) should be provided by constituent nations as well for the same reason. Allowing the planetary government to host a standing army of individuals, but no means to put them into a war without the approval and support of member nations.

              ANYWAYS, I didn’t want to get this far into this. Suffice it to say that my ideas really are loosely based on the EU.

              1. FatCandy
                WTF?

                Sounds like a Frank Herbert creation?

                This explanation sounds like it came from Dune whilst having "real world" socio-political mumbo jumbo slapped on top....

                1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

                  @FatCandy

                  That's an interesting insight. I am quite a fan of Frank Herbert (amongst many other authors.) Perhaps his works have a greater influence on my belief system that I had previously suspected...

              2. Keith T

                Would you give human rights to foreigners? The UN does.

                Few in the USA, Russia or China respect the UN because it views foreigners as human with full human rights. Citizens of superpowers know that foreigners are sub-human.

                1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

                  @Keith T

                  Foreigners and any non-human that could be proven to be both sentient and sapient. (Elephants fit into that category most certainly, as do many higher primates. New Caledonian Crows and possibly other Corvids as well. Some Cetaceans.) I would apply the same rights to any sentient and sapient individual regardless of species (or even planet or origin) that was capable of meeting a certain set of rigorous tests. Those tests not to be determined by myself, natch. I do however have a pretty good understanding of what they would probably consist of.

                  Fear of death. Desire for freedom. Ability to learn complex tasks related tool use. (Most specifically ability to learn to use new tools.) Ability to recognise one's self and ability to distinguish (and remember) other individuals from multiple species. Ability to learn any form of language. (Sign language does count: not all species have a larynx structured as we do.) Mourning the dead/funeral rituals. Demonstrated ability amongst at least some members of hte species to observe the use of tools by another individual (of their own or another species) and adapt a tool for use from that observation. (And/or ability to refine an existing tool to be more precise for a given task.)

                  On the other hand, I would NOT, EVER grant human rights to corporations. I also know that granting human rights to non-human animals would be a huge no-no politically...at least initially. A protected non-voting status in our society would be a great start. I know we are arrogant enough as a species (overall) to think we are unique in the universe; the only “sentient species” that exists. I happen to disagree. Still though, until we can even agree that OTHER HUMANS deserve the same rights as us, what chance that we will stop wiping out other species that have the potential to develop at least as far as we have?

            2. Ian Yates

              "The EU is a communist organisation"

              I assume you mean "totalitarian" rather than "communist", as I've never once heard of the EU discussing the abolition of wages or private property.

              "The elected MEPs are not elected by voters"

              I'm interested by this, as I thought I had in fact voted for my MEP. And since I receive regular updates and have attended talks by my local MEP, I got the impression that she was attempting to represent our views (even if she doesn't carry much weight by herself).

              I'm a fan for the idea of a central democratic overseeing body, similar to what Trevor describes. I'll concede heavily that the EU doesn't work well in all areas, but I'm confident (naive?) that it can be shaped over time to something better.

      2. Jonathan Richards 1
        Headmaster

        @Trevor_Pott

        Who wrote:

        > El Reg’s editorial team impose no conditions on it’s writers.

        Not even the condition that the verb should agree in number with its subject, nor that apostrophes should be properly placed.

        If everyone knew the difference between its and it's, we'd have no NEED for nukes.

  2. N2 Silver badge

    Dammed if they do

    & dammed if they don't

    Referendum anyone?

  3. GrumpyJoe
    Thumb Down

    Who are we using these against?

    Any large nuclear country (Russia,Us,China) would probably take the risk (we would do less damage than them to us). Smaller nuke countries? probably run by religious zealots or nutters (is that redundnancy there?). This would be no deterrent.

    So is it for when the aliens come?

    1. Arkasha

      "we would do less damage than them to us"

      If by "less damage" you mean only creating a a few years of flora and fauna killing nuclear winter, rather than a decade or more, then I see your point.

      However, we have enough nuclear warheads (somewhere around 160 to 200 at the moment) to make even the most insane leader of a nuclear power think twice. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_winter

      And that's before you get to the huge tracts of land that would be left unusable for decades, the long term health effects on the population down-wind of the detonations, and the "leakage" of these affects from the target country to surrounding countries that could cause them to destabilize - there are a lot of already fairly unstable countries in the neighbourhood of those states we'd most likely use nuclear weapons against.

    2. Mooncat

      Nuke them anyway.

      We would do plenty of damage to the other major nuclear powers. Admittedly we would not be around to see it but we would blast them back into the stone age and they don't want that. As for the countries run by nutters, well it's simple. We nuke them just before they get the bomb to use on us. harsh, but true.

      1. Keith T

        the greater chance is we'd use nukes against a country that did not have them

        We'd assume that an Iraq, Iran or Afghanistan had nukes, or was close to getting nukes, and if we could not economically afford to attack them with conventional weapons, use our nukes on them.

        Of course by nuking them there would be no evidence that they had no nuclear program, so no national political leaders going down in history as war criminals as per the attack on Iraq.

    3. MeRp
      Joke

      Obviously

      Obviously the deterrent is necessary for thwart France... in fact, perhaps first strike capabilities should be fostered.

      1. MonkeyBot

        The French

        We don't need Trident for that, just chuck the warhead on the Eurostar.

      2. asdf Silver badge
        Joke

        go away or we will taunt you again

        The French are too busy deporting Roma to worry about first striking Blighty right now. Besides except for one time it hasn't went well for the French crossing the channel.

      3. mmiied

        Dam right

        hystroicley we have been at war with the french more oftern than anyboady else!!

        you can't trust them I tell you

  4. JohnG Silver badge

    Does it deter? When would we use it?

    Are there any scenarios in which Britain would use the nuclear deterrent in which neither the USA nor the French would also be using theirs against the same targets? If not, given the limited nature of Britain's arsenal, is it really worth keeping if it means we then have to lose or reduce other elements of the armed forces which see regular use. How much are the Russians or Chinese really deterred by our weaponry?

    Can we even use our nuclear weapons without permission from the USA? Back when the Trident systems were first delivered, there was some discussion about dual keys: we had one set of codes and the USA had the others. At the time, we could not fire our nuclear weapons without the USA first giving us the remaining codes. Is this still the case?

    1. Chris Thomas Alpha
      Thumb Up

      I suppose the point you missed was

      that we don't really goto war anymore, the falklands, iraq(twice) and afghanistan were the only countries in 50 or so years, wars with tanks and fighter jets are largely a very small part of defence as we now know it.

      so our requirement for large numbers of tanks and jets is largely unnecessary, we only need a small amount of them and the world has been discovered now, there are no more dark corners, with satellites and being able to land a missle through somebodies window from any ocean on the planet what is the point of large numbers of what effectively boil down to "hand-to-hand" combat weapons.

      the ability to strike far and precisely is what we need now.

      for the money spent, trident is a bargain, nobody will touch us, with tomahawks, they might try it on.

      with the money lost from trident, we still have enough money to support all the weapons we need, limited nature of britains arsenal? you live on another planet than me mate, britain is one of the strongest militarily speaking countries on the planet, but that doesn't really matter anymore.

      it's not like we're going to invade france or spain in a hurry, only undemocratic countries we need to worry about have lousy militaries and inadequeate defences. What happens when they get better? we develop newer weapons to defeat them, easy. More likely, we don't fight in the first place, we just stick to our own business and let the rest of the world stick to theirs. If they poke their nose in a nuclear tipped missile flies through their window, but 99% of the time, we talk and work it out, the days of huge armies fighting until the death are gone, most of the enemies in the world are gone, just a few remnants are left over.

      1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

        1. Anonymous Coward
          FAIL

          Japan?

          I suggest you do some real research and take a good look at the size of Japan's 'Self Defense Force' and the concerns of its neighbours before saying they have avoided military buildup.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Grenade

        Ok, I'll bite

        The "not wars" that Britain alone has been involved in since, say, 1990, have been extremely numerous. 2 gulf wars, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo have all seen the involvement of British forces.

        Regarding the need for modern equipment. The first gulf war is interesting. At the start of the war, the Iraqi military had 649 fighters and some 4500 tanks. Only about 200 of the tanks were T72s, the rest were older, but that is still a formidable force. The M1 Abrams and Challenger 1 tanks that dominated allied forces are a design that is about 10 years newer than the T72. Both the M1 and the Challenger 1 would probably defeat a superior force of T72s without loss, but you don't get that for free. We took 3318 tanks to the first gulf war. With the air superiority/air supremacy we had, we probably could have made do with 500 or 1000; but we would still have needed tanks. You can't go against tanks, even 1970s designs like the T72, without heavy armour of your own.

        The air superiority and later air supremacy in many places over the battlefield was a surprise. We expected Saddam to fight in the air, not to run with some of his planes to Iran. Had he fought, we would have lost some planes to it. The US were putting in large "alpha strikes" packages of jets designed to create a favourable air situation (one level below air superiority) around them as they fly through contested airspace. The package consists of fighters, bombers, and electronic warfare aircraft. Had Saddam thrown a squadron of aircraft at one of these strikes he might have taken out a jet or two in return for losing a squadron. We were better, but it seemed that we were anomalously better because Saddam didn't fight.

        We created an asymmetric war in Iraq in 91 because our gear was vastly superior to that against us. You don't maintain vastly superior gear by not replacing aging equipment. And you always need some numbers. The Germans in WW2 had a vastly superior tank in the Tiger, but couldn't produce it in large enough quantities to stop the Soviet T34 from running rings round them.

        We will always need tanks and jets, regardless of what Lewis says.

      3. Keith T

        Remember 7/7, Falklands, etc, etc.

        How can you say with Trident nobody will touch us. We have Trident and they did.

        As for there being only 3 wars in 50 years:

        Anglo-Egyptian War of 1951-1952; Mau Mau Insurgency, 1952-1956; Cyprus Emergency 1955-1959; Suez/Sinai War 1956, Muscat and Oman Intervention 1957-1959; Jordan Intervention 1958; Indonesia Conflicts, 1960-1966; Ugandan Army Mutiny 1964; Aden Conflict, 1964-1967; The Ulster Troubles, 1969-?; Falklands War, 1982; Gulf War, 1991; Former Yugoslavia Peacemaking Operations; Afghanistan War, 2001-?; Iraq War, 2003-?; Cote d'Ivoire, 2004; Iran 200?-?.

        Of course in some of those conflicts was us getting out of situations our upper classes had gotten us into during the profit making days of empire.

        In none of those wars did nuclear weapons deter our enemies.

        And our nukes don't stop other countries pushing us around diplomatically either. The USA, Russia and China know we'd never nuke them over a trade issue. Vatican City knows we wouldn't nuke them over child abuse. Canada knows we wouldn't nuke them over restrictions on beer imports or continuing seal hunts.

    2. Pemberton_

      Not quite...

      We gave the assurance to the US about the use of our nuclear weapons, but they have no veto on our actual use of them or the control to stop it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        FAIL

        Re: Not quite...

        "We gave the assurance to the US about the use of our nuclear weapons, but they have no veto on our actual use of them or the control to stop it."

        They have no veto on our use, but our assurance about their use is enforced by the US - they hold the launch codes and if we want to use them we have to ask nicely - fact.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          We do have control of our nuclear arsenal.

          > "They have no veto on our use, but our assurance about their use is enforced by the US - they hold the launch codes and if we want to use them we have to ask nicely - fact."

          No, they don't. The urban myth that they do is entirely CND fabrication.

          We don't have Permissible Action Links or anything else on our subs, a point that does worry the yanks quite a bit. The Sub commander has complete, total and utter control over the weapons on board. If the PM decided to land a warhead on the White House lawn then the US President couldn't do anything about it, apart from threaten to retaliate.

      2. Keith T

        We might not know if they did.

        title says it all

    3. asdf Silver badge
      Coat

      don't know

      You notice Iran didn't seize American sailors in International waters. Although that might have more to do with the British being more reasonable and less cowboyish (lol my new word) than nukes. Still Americans don't bargain with pirates we shoot them and with our budget crippling military and our culture no wonder we scare the piss out of the rest of the world.

  5. Mark Rendle
    Stop

    Oh no, not you again.

    Another reasonably well written and yet completely bereft of sense column from the author of http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/05/05/dont_vote_lib_dem/

    Much like the Audi TT my wife says I can't buy, of all the things we can't afford, an independent nuclear deterrent is the thing we can most afford to not be able to afford.

  6. Chris Thomas Alpha
    FAIL

    I downvoted your post because...

    you had clearly missed the point of the entire article and focused a response on the most unimportant part of it, you HAD to find an iraq angle didnt you, you tried SOOOOO hard, you have to say your piece about the war in afghanistan and iraq, you couldn't let it lie.

  7. Chris Thomas Alpha
    Go

    does anyone want to disagree with lewis now???

    I mean, cmon, everytime this guy writes an article you guys jump all over him like he's some florescent coloured bouncy castle.

    he's right, in EVERY paragraph, I wonder which of your "brave" people will have the nerve to tell him how wrong he is, considering your "extensive" military experience from behind your monitor, I no doubt imagine you all rattling away like crazed programmers on speed.

    Good Job Lewis, I'm glad you properly marked out your claims and answered questions you KNEW would be asked ahead of time, it puts those people back in their places.

  8. Kevin Reilly
    Pirate

    Halve the cost

    split the cost of a trident replacement with the surrender monkeys across the channel. it"ll never get used anyway, unlike the carriers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Grenade

      Cheese eating surrender monkey

      You sir are wrong

      1. Mark Rendle

        I respectfully disagree

        And you are a grotesquely ugly freak.

        </ChrisMorris>

    2. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    3. It wasnt me
      Thumb Up

      This man is talking sense.

      Im not sure I agree with calling them surrender monkeys, but why cant we just buy the M51 from france? Its hugely capable, and sharing the development costs of the subs and missiles would keep the cost down for both nations? It would be fantastic european cooperation. And save money too. Why does our system need to be bespoke when we could share the dev costs and do the building in the UK? Brit jobs protected, less money spent. Everyone is happy. (Except the Lib-dems). (Which in itself will make some people more happy, thus compensating).

      1. serviceWithASmile
        Unhappy

        re: it wasnt me

        "Why does our system need to be bespoke...?"

        because if it wasn't, alot of geeks would be out of a job -

        and alot more CEO's would lose their seat on the gravy train

      2. Mark 65 Silver badge

        Good idea

        Just don't let any other Euro countries join in and keep it strictly between us and the French (who seem to have good nuclear knowledge) else you'll end up with another Eurofighter.

        1. John Hughes
          Unhappy

          And this is exactlt what would go wrong

          The sane thing to do would be just to buy the existing French system.

          The normal military procurement way would be to get together with the French and a few other countries, arse around spending billions, and end up with something that doesn't work.

    4. strum Silver badge

      Civilians Rool

      "I wonder which of your "brave" people will have the nerve to tell him how wrong he is, considering your "extensive" military experience"

      Military experience has no relevance to political decisions. After all, the MoD swamps Lewis's 'military experience' a thousand-fold, yet they still make major cockups of it.

      No. Civvies have to make these decisions, and if it deprives the boys of their toys - too bad.

      1. Mark 65 Silver badge

        @Strum

        "Military experience has no relevance to political decisions."

        Yep, because the politicians have been bankrolling our guys so well in recent years. No shortage of kit under the previous Government that was only remedied through public outrage at articles in the media about soldiers not even having body armour on tour in the middle east.

        Politicians should consult our military, that of our allies (for potential cost sharing) and maybe some independent advisers (military strategists etc not twats like Mandelson) then set objectives of what needs to be achieved and keep the f*ck out. It's pretty much how most departments should be run. Consult those that do the job, get some independent advice and put together the targets then leave them to it given most things pollies touch turn to shit.

    5. MeRp

      I don't think the tradition is to disagree as such...

      I believe the appropriate meme for responding to a Lewis Page article is not to disagree, per se, but rather to deride his tendency to prefer purchasing ostensibly cheaper American war kit rather than buying British or European kit.

      It was very subtle in this article, and thus far I haven't seen any typical responses, but, indeed, in this article Lewis is advocating buying American kit (Trident) as opposed to British kit (land rovers, infantry equipment, etc). I suppose anyone who was inclined to disagree with that concept (of buying American vs buying British) could make the same argument here.

    6. asdf Silver badge
      Joke

      embarassment?

      Granted the performance of the systems is such (proper developed nation nuke subs all about equally effective) that this makes perfect sense on paper. Still sharing your big stick tech with French has to feel about like duct taping a testicle to your buttocks. Still I guess when your debt is about even with your GDP humble pie often is the most appealing option.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      really? :)

      and you would want the french to have a hand in our deterent? really? lol

  9. Bob Greenwood

    It's all in the delivery

    The issue, as I see it, is not about nukes, just the way you deliver them.

    If we want a guaranteed delivery system, we should just stuff them into a Federal Express box.....£ billions saved!.

  10. fLaMePrOoF
    Go

    Make that the oppinion of two...

    I agree 100% with this analysis.

  11. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Pint

      Eurofighter

      Reliable, that is a matter of debate, its usless and had its balls cut of before it was even made, hell it was doomed when some bright spark thought it a good idea to build the thing in a european style and do a bit in every country and then screwing up the unit conversions!

      Yes the Eurofighter may well be reliable but so would the an airframe built in my back yard if it was never used properly.

  12. Zolkó
    FAIL

    What use if you need to ask the Amis ?

    What use would a nuclear deterrent be if you need to ask the permission to use it from another country ? If it was a really British technology (like the French have) then why-not, the thing could be discussed, but another american handover ....

  13. Elmer Phud Silver badge

    Obvious Innit?

    Delaying by five years brings us to the next election, also takes it out of the budget and when the shit hits the fan with all the public sector workers signing on (or trying to and getting pointless courses to attend) - there's a bit more money available to cushion the blow for a while.

    Next election winners would either get Trident if it's Tories that win - you voted for it (again) or it's another mob who then get the onerous task of selling it to the public.

    Sort of Win/Win for the boys in blue (coalition? what coalition?).

  14. Reality Dysfunction
    FAIL

    Its what the public want.......

    "Second, it is not the armed forces' money we speak of but ours. Defence chiefs grumble that the nuclear deterrent is imposed on them by politics, in other words by public opinion - this being a democracy. Of course it is, and so it should be: if the electorate want nukes instead of tanks or frigates or jets, that's what they should have."

    Well thats one view, can we have an informed unpolitical debate followed by a national referendum on the subject where we can vote for the options with second preference.

    Then we will know what the electorate actuually wants

    1. Pemberton_

      Not quite...

      We don't need permission to use our nuclear arsenal. Under the agreements made, the UK had to make assurances on the use of nuclear weapons, but the US have no veto on the actual use of, or the control, to stop a launch.

  15. andrews handle
    Grenade

    Another option

    Why don't you pay a few billion, and I'll do the PR that tells the world that we have a replacement for Trident.

    We know we aren't going to use it anyway, the value is only in people believing we have it.

    Classic Yes Prime Minister nails it http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IX_d_vMKswE&feature=related

  16. Simon R. Bone
    Megaphone

    Polaris

    didn't holding back on the upgrade from Polaris to Trident costs huge amount of money in the end because the Yanks had moved on and they had to reopen all plants and assembly lines to support Polaris for us?? would be silly to make the same mistake twice

  17. irish donkey
    Stop

    I know why don't we spend all this money....

    On a nuclear deterrent developed and manufactured in this country.

    That way we get our deterrent (which I don't think we need) and can support some of our own top class industries and protect British Jobs.

    Why do we have to buy an American deterrent and support American jobs?

    Just an idea.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Happy

      our own nuclear deterrent

      by 'our' here i take it you mean britain not readers of the register?

      britain tried it before in the 1950s and 60s - it cost much more and never worked properly.

      win win not.

      so just stop sayin

  18. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Given that once I've been thoroughly irradiated, I won't care whether we have trident

    and that the whole point of it is that nobody can find the subs...

    Why not just TELL everyone we have them, for the deterrent side of things. No sane person would ever use them anyway. Fill some subs with blacmange, whatever.

    We don't need trident, we never did, we never will. Isn't it about time the so called 'civilised' nations stopped the macho cock-waving posturing and gave up on wasting money on nuclear weapons that are of no practical use whatsoever?

    1. Pemberton_

      Sane?

      You said it yourself, no _sane_ person would, no. But there's countless insane people that would love too.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        ...And my point remains

        ...once some nutjob has turned me into radioactive dust, why should I care whether or not the government of the radioactive wasteland that was my former county then has the capability to make said nutjob's homeland equally radioactive? By definition, and insane person is pretty unlikely to be swayed by any deterrent in the first place, and nobody in their right mind, reagardless of their faith or skin colour, is likely to want to start throwing nukes around for any one of a very large number of reasons. So we don't need them. End of.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Thumb Up

          Thanks

          Every time the Trident issue comes up someone always says "Well what if a nutter gets his hands on nukes!!! We will need a deterrent then!", they always fail to realise that a mad man will not care about a nuclear deterrent. I agree, I doubt I will care much as I float around as radioactive dust whether we have turned the people who did it into radioactive dust as well.

  19. lIsRT
    Happy

    we don't need no steenking delivery vehicle

    This may be a daft question, but can't the nukes just be pre-positioned?

    Just send the bits over in diplomatic containers, assemble in embassy basements (I'm sure plenty of Mt could fit in the lower floor of the average embassy car park - just build it big enough and there's no need to faff around renting houses next to military bases) and then leave them there.

    Maybe use the consulates too if it's a big country.

    When/if they're needed, the military attaché goes down to the basement, puts his code in, sets a timer, and everyone buggers off to somewhere outside the blast radius.

    I think that 10% of the price of the replacement subs and contents would be fair; if the M.O.D. contact me I can provide my account number and sort code.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Grenade

      Brilliant ide

      and when 100 nutters with AK47's take over a British embassy/consulate...

    2. John 62

      they'd hire michael caine

      Have you seen the 4th protocol? I thought it was quite a good film and not just because of the Escort XR3.

  20. There's a bee in my bot net

    Couldn't we just...

    ...replace them with Fake Trident ICBMs with flashing leds on the top?

    Surely the EU is grown up enough to all club together and share a few nukes? The French get them on Mondays, The UK Tuesdays, Italy Wednesday, Spain Thursday, Ireland Fridays and Belgium and Luxembourg alternating weekends.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      SIMPSONS

      I take it you have not seen the Simpsons episode when Bart, Milhouse and Martin get the first issue of Radioactive Man. It did not end well.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    Zat

    is just what they'd expect us to do.

  22. Andrew the Invertebrate
    Headmaster

    Really dumb political analysis

    Saying that the Lib Dems didn't do well just because of Trident is just plain stupid.

    There were any number of reasons that they didn't do well, electoral reform, closer ties with Europe, immigration, tax plans etc, the only Trident got any press was because the other parties were trying to paint them as being weak on defence.

    Then of course there is all the tactical voting for the "Not Gordon" party, which favoured the Tories over the Lib Dems.

    2/10 Must try harder

    1. Jolyon

      (¯`·._.·(¯`·._.·(¯`·._.· TITLE ·._.·´¯)·._.·´¯)·._.·´¯)

      I guess he has to put that in so we know he's just taking the mickey.

    2. Neil 51
      Thumb Up

      Hear hear

      Completely agree. I can't imagine the Trident issue had much of an effect on anybody choosing to vote or not vote for the Lib Dems. There were far more major election issues.

      1. crowley
        Thumb Down

        disagree

        I voted LibDem just to ensure that either Lab/Con got moderated in a coalition.

        The nutters have been tempered to some degree - so I am at least less miserable than either gaining outright victory would have made me.

        However, their anti-nuclear stance did make me consider them unelectable - were they to have any chance at a dominant role in British politics.

  23. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  24. sandman

    Options

    Our nuclear deterrent lacks the capability to be used as a first strike weapon against a major power, but could inflict very serious damage on one, in terms of cities destroyed, infrastructure wrecked and millions of mostly civilian deaths. Most governments want a functioning state and a population to rule, so the threat of thermonuclear heck might put them off nuking us first. That's why it's called a deterrent.

    It could be used as a first strike weapon against a small nuclear power such as North Korea, Iran (in the future), etc, although politically and morally we would then be pariahs. Would it deter a fanatical government from nuking us? The answer might be "probably". Even fanatics want to know they are dying for a reason and the total obliteration of their cause/country might be off-putting.

    Is it worth it? If you are going to have a nuclear deterrent, Trident is the Rolls Royce option, you get what you pay for. In this case a virtually undetectable submarine and missiles that can strike anywhere on the planet with a high degree of accuracy. There are cheaper options but they all have limitations.

    If you think the UK should have nukes then Trident is as good as it gets, if not, then no system is suitable.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Grenade

    The bigger picture from an ex-rocket scientist

    You're all missing the bigger picture. If they start building it now (2011ish) would they have to pay VAT at 20% on £25Bn *BUT* if we wait until 2015 when the economy has miraculously recovered, VAT with be 19.5%. 0.5% of £25Bn is not to be sniffed at.

    And also by 2015 there will be intelligence* that Iran has nuclear-armed submarines patrolling in the Irish Sea.

    *courtesy of the Tony Blair Foundation.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Have to disagree here

    "Even the mighty USA, after decades of effort and scores of billions spent on Star Wars and missile defence, cannot reliably defeat ballistic warheads hurtling far above the atmosphere. No other nation has even the ghost of a chance of doing so."

    Easy Tiger, the reason why we have the missile defence treaty in the first place is that Moscow already got missile defence. It was a matter of choice. The yanks put the prototype around their reserve ICBMs of last resource while the Russians put it around their capital. So a missile defence system is already out there and has been there long before Star Wards. The reality is that nobody really knows how efficient it really is and frankly, I would rather not want to be around if someone tries to figure that out by trial and error.

    I also would not be so sure about how many outdated ICBMs which do not have final approach evasive action mode can get past a deployment of S300. Both the upgraded Patriot and S300 can shoot down ICBM warheads on final approach and there are plenty of nations out there which have them or intend to buy them. To make matters worse these missiles are evolving and getting better. So in 10-20 years time by the time the Trident Replacement is operational they will be able to shoot down any ICBM warhead that does not "dodge" and deploy effective countermeasures.

    So unless the Trident replacement price includes final approach evasive action similar to the Russian Bulava by the time it is delivered it will most likely be as effective as a cruise missile. Replacing Trident like for like may be the right choice today. I seriously doubt that this is a sane choice in a 20+ year timeframe.

  27. Desk Jockey
    Pirate

    Go and ask the Eastern Europeans

    How they feel about nuclear weapons and what it is like to have a nuclear armed neighbour, called Russia, next door. They will tell you that the Russians have a nasty habit of saying, "we have nukes, you don't so do what we tell you." When you are a small country, knowing that you belong to a wider European organisation where some members have nukes and a logical attitude to their use is very reassuring. Yes, Europe are freeloading on the UK, US and French nuclear deterrents.

    The same thing can probably be said about the Middle East and Israel. The Arab countries aren't happy about it, but at least they know the Isreali nukes are about defence, not power projection like the Russians or Chinese like to do. The point that should be made is that what 'WE' think about nukes is irrelevent, what other big countries think is the important point. Short asnwer is they think differently and the moment the UK gets rid of Trident is the moment the UK is no longer a big player on the world stage. A bit like the fall of the Roman Empire really, think of the UK as being a less stylish (and colder) version of Italy!

    I could not find anything to disagree with in this article. The only thing I can add is that delaying Trident replacement means not having it in the future or it being unbelievably expensive because there will be no one around to build it as the engineers would have had to spend a few years on the dole! It is a have it and decide to do so now moment or consciously make the decision to publicly downgrade the UK from a Tier 1 world nation to a Tier 2 world nation. Stupid as this sounds, it really is that simple in the international world.

    1. SlabMan

      I think you'll find that the Russians actually said:

      We have lots of tanks, you don't, so do what we tell you.

    2. Zolkó

      tanks are easier to use

      tanks are easier to use than nukes, no east-european would have believed that the USSR are going to bomb them with nukes. But they DID know - Hungary, Tchekoslovakia - that they could be invaded and shot-at by tanks.

    3. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD
      Grenade

      (Current?) Anti-missile systems.

      Do patriots now actually work?

      I remember George Bush saying how great they were, but I remember a lot of SCUDs making controlled crash landings in Israel and how they defined a 'successful intercept'.

      Didn't a scud land and take out a US camp or hospital as well?

      Don't believe me?

      Go on, ask an Israeli who was there at the time. They'll tell you how good they were.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I disagree with lewis

    I agree we need a nuclear deterrent, and clearly it must be effective which does rule out relying on cruise.

    However we don't need a like for like deterrent based on the one we needed during the cold war.

    A pair of ballistic missile subs would do the trick for deterrence against the big players such as the US, Russia, France etc. and a few cruise chuckers would be fine against those countries without a decent air defence system like Iran, North Korea, Wales etc. They could also be used to lob conventionally armed cruise around should the need arise.

    Look at it this way, currently we (the UK) have enough nukes to effectively destroy the world many times over, add that to the effect of any retaliations means we have plenty enough boom-boom and then some.

    But the real question is: how much do we really need? Remember the whole point of nukes is as a deterrent. We don't have them so that we can destroy the world we have them so that everyone else is afraid to set them off. They don't call it MAD for nothing. Chuck Norris and Ninja Steve Jobs would have to be polite and diplomatic with each other because no-one could afford the consequences if it turned violent - and it is exactly the same with nukes (except nukes are obviously not as dangerous as Chuck and Steve-san).

    So what do we need? Well with respects to the lunatic fringes cruise should be fine, failing that a couple of ICBMs would do the job all peachy like. So what about the big boys, such as the USA or Russia?

    The real question would be, what level of destruction would it become untenable for any US president or Vladimir Putin to be able to sustain? One city? A couple of cities? Disneyland Florida?

    Joking aside, you would only need to be able to guarantee a dozen or so warheads to present an effective deterrent. Which would be a lot cheaper t buy and run than the current proposals.

  29. beerandbiscuits

    Couldn't agree more

    All this nonsense about "who will we use it against" misses the point of a deterrent. No one wants to use it, but in 10, 15, 20 years time we don't know who might be threatening us, and that could just as easily be Monaco or Djibouti as North Korea, France or China.

    Various countries have developed or are developing both nuclear weaponry and delivery systems, many of them outside of the non proliferation treaty. Those countries will regard that technology not just as a useful bit of muscle on the world stage, but also as a very good revenue raiser. By selling the technology on to other countries which care not a jot about non proliferation, we could end up as one of the few countries without a deterrent if we get rid of it now.

    The difference we would have is a navy capable of hiding our weapons offshore, where they can't be detected. That is not something that many countries can boast, but it seems to be under threat now. 2 coracles and a canoe do not a navy make, and we need to keep enough ships and subs at sea, not just to project power, but to protect ourselves.

    The cost is minimal compared with the risk, not to mention the increased cost when we realise, too late, that the means to defend ourselves isn't there.

    1. Desk Jockey

      Wrong @ Lee

      Having only two subs instead of four does not reduce the costs by anything that is meaningful. Per unit cost of each sub is less than £1bn I think, the whole deterrent is meant to cost £20bn once you factor in designing the thing, tooling the factories, training the people, and building the infrastructure. Plus the maintenance costs go up because you have two subs operating almost continously in salt water with little downtime (remember there has to be a sub out at all times for deterrence to work). Factor it all in and you save so little money it is not worth it.

      As for cruise launched nukes, remember the subs have not been designed for this, the UK does not have nuke cruise missile designs or the people who know how to make them. That all costs money and ignores the fact that the UK would be technically inventing a new nuclear weapon which goes against the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty. Nice idea, but it does not work.

      A lot of clever people have studied all this (check out the RUSI reports) and it really does come down to an all or nothing option. Anything else is just deceiving yourself.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        A Title

        All UK subs now have the capacity to fire Cruise missiles. We buy them from the USA and they were originally designed to carry a nuclear warhead. Designing a new UK warhead variant to put in them would be quite within our capability.

        Are a few cruise sub sonic missiles a sufficient deterrent against credible threats in the next 30 years? Possibly not, but supersonic cruise are starting to be developed, and we could afford to have far more of them than ICBM's at sea in times of crisis. So it is by no means certain that all could be stopped, that and the strong risk that our allies would join in should be sufficient to deter any nation that is able to be deterred. I’d argue that even the gold standard Trident would not be sufficient to deter a nation griped by an irrational religious motivation.

    2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge
      Stop

      Speaking of missing the point...

      ...I don't for a minute believe that there is anyone on this planet who is put off attacking us for the sole reason that we have trident. The IRA managed to blow stuff up quite effectively in the 70s and 80s, and the more recent terrorists, less so. We wouldn't nuke their home countries (particulalrly since, in many cases, that would be oursleves) and they know it. Ergo: no deterrernt.

      Any nation attacking us in an aggressive war would instantly fall foul of the UN, which IIRC was set up to prevent wars of aggression after WWII (correct me if I'm wrong). So, unless the UN vanishes overnight, we don't need a nuclear deterrent, as all the other signatories of the UN convention would be legally bound to defend us.

      So, the third possibility is that another nation attacks us in defense. For instance, if Iraq had somehow managed to retaliate against us after we invaded them. Again, they could be fairly confident that even faced with some sort of invasion force magicked up from nowhere, we wouldn't want to nuke them.

      The only conceivable use would be in retaliation for a nuclear strike that had already taken place against us. There are two possibilities here: 1) The nation attacking us has a single nuke, in which case we should retaliate with conventional warfare. 2) The nation attacking us has many nukes, if we retaliate with nukes, we end up with MAD.

      None of these scenarios ends in a situation where us having trident helps one iota, ergo we shouldn;t waste our money on it, especially when we have all those bankers' bonuses to pay out.

  30. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
    WTF?

    No Nuke Lib-Dems

    "The Lib Dems, showing a lot of integrity, put clear blue water between themselves and the other two parties on nukes before the election - and took a beating at the polls. In most other respects you couldn't get a playing card between them and the other parties on policy, so a lot of those lost Lib Dem votes will have been lost by the failure to promise proper deterrence"

    A completely fanciful view of the election results and voter rationale, so it just looks like plain, good old fashioned, Lib-Dem bashing because they hold a view Lewis doesn't subscribe to.

    Lib-Dems were of course the only party in with a chance for people who don't agree with nukes, don't believe in a nuclear deterrent, or don't want to pay for such a thing, so I guess they got a couple of votes the other parties wouldn't have got. I don't believe the majority of voters put lack of nuclear deterrent very high up on their list when it came to deciding who to vote for. I can think of a lot more reasons people would not vote LIb-Dem than that.

    I'd like to meet one of these "lost votes", someone who would have voted Lib-Dem if it were not for their anti-nuke stance.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    Trident vs Duke Nukem

    Which will come first?

    Both have been "just about ready" for nearly 3 millenium (Trident was subjected to the 'Yes Prime Minister' treatment in the 80's at least), and neither are anywhere delivered.

    One thing is guaranteed though - both will be a massive anti-climax and woefully out of date whenever they get delivered.

  32. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge
    Grenade

    Stealthy IntelAIgent Design

    andrews handle and lIsRT, front and centre, please, .... to collect your prize.

    Oh, and Thanks for Classic Yes Prime Minister clip. Timeless.

    And CyberSpace, which Controls and Fcuks with the Management of Human Perception, Really throws a spanner into the Trident works, and especially so if it is Servered from Abroad in Alien and Foreign Lands because of the Ignorant and Arrogant Dismissal of ITs Virtual Technology and Enigmatic Methodology ........ which will invariably be just a case of a Lack of Intelligence and Imaginative Vision/Future See, in those who are responsible for Running Blighty like a Third World country.

    And the Offer has been made, for of course, All Communications on any such subjects are always Monitored for InterNetworking, or that is what we are led to believe. Novel Open Online Negotiations in Sublime Steganographic Text are a Challenge though, for Intelligent Community Analysts to Register and Counter without Source Engagement and Virtual Employment/Program Deployment.

    [Quantum Communications BetaTest #XSSXXXX 1009161524]

    1. asdf Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      not even close

      Take two knows how to deliver. Granted it with probably be first person GTA but still we will get the game. Off topic did the world really need horse jacking?

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Voter priorities

    "The Lib Dems, showing a lot of integrity, put clear blue water between themselves and the other two parties on nukes before the election - and took a beating at the polls."

    The only person to not vote Lib Dem because of this single issue presumably has the name "Lewis Page". Everybody else is quite likely to have (a) made their mind up over a mixture of issues, (b) made their mind up over a single "hot" issue like immigration, or (c) voted just as they, their parents, and their grandparents always did "because Labour/Tory is our party" in that classic Britard fashion of, for example, ignoring that Labour were approaching unprecedented levels of authoritarianism while clinging to their dated notions of, say, Labour being for the working man and social justice and not generally wanting to start wars (on other nations and on their own citizens).

    And anyway, my vote counted for nothing in the stupid Britard electoral system, so even putting Trident at the top of the bill probably wouldn't give a great indication of whether people wanted it or not. Because of factor (c) - see above - my wasted vote ended up being converted into a mandate for someone whose position on Trident is probably "not really, but if there's more gravy coming my way then maybe yes". But I'm sure some people are happy with an idiotic electoral system if it produces the idiocy they prefer, regardless of whether Trident is idiotic or not.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @AC 14:34

    "Both the upgraded Patriot and S300 can shoot down ICBM warheads on final approach and there are plenty of nations out there which have them or intend to buy them."

    Hmm, aren't the operational success rates for patriot missile systems rather poor. Even the university of Tel Aviv suggests the interception rate against Iraqi SCUDs as less than 10% and they are the USA's bitch.

    However US anti-missile systems have successfully shot down a Tornado and a couple of FA18s so I suppose that is something. Something bad I agree, but nevertheless something.

    Pretty sure no-one has ever field tested a patriot or S300 against a real ICMB - I can absolutely guarantee you that if anyone could shoot down nukes they would make sure the rest of the world was well aware of that fact. Ignoring the fact that blowing up a nuke when it is above your cities and hurtling downwards would be only slightly less nasty than leaving the thing alone, obviously.

    1. Nexox Enigma

      Ehhh, not quite...

      """...the fact that blowing up a nuke when it is above your cities and hurtling downwards would be only slightly less nasty than leaving the thing alone, obviously."""

      If by 'slightly' you mean 'a few orders of magnitude,' then sure, that can be a fact. A few kilos of radioactive material blown into relatively large chunks in the (hopefully) upper atmosphere is unlikely to kill anyone at all. The materials used to make nukes are relatively stable, and release their radiation slowly, if left to themselves. If you don't eat them or carry them around in your pocket, you'll be fine.

      Compare that to an actual nuke detonation, which will kill plenty of people if it's anywhere near a population, and releases most of the radiation that would have been released over a few millenia instantly, plus creates ultra-fine radioactive powder which will be easily carried on the lightest breeze.

      Don't see how that's a 'slight' difference by any measure.

    2. asdf Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      not so simple

      Yes they lied about the efficiency but this was in 1990 when the cutting edge microprocessors were the newly released 486s. ICBMs defense is still a very expensive red herring for the most part I believe, however. As for shooting allies stuff unfortunately we still have that cold war mentality of destroying expensive hardware as opposed to a goat farmer with an RPG. I guess we are a bit like the pro wrestler Goldberg (flashy popular character who can't wrestle and is so clutsy he often accidentally ends up injuring those who wrestle against him). Funny when you put a 19 yo kid from a trailer park in Alabama in charge of some super duper effective weapon system bad things often happen.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Headmaster

        ICBMs

        What people fail to realise is that an ICBM does not come down as a big rocket and then explodes. During re-entry the ICBM will release its 8+ warheads which are essentially smallish objects which will be hurtling down at hundreds of miles an hour. I dont care what tracking or missle system you have you aint going to hit a warhead when its released. The only hope you have is getting the ICBM at launch or when its in orbit.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm no pacifist but...

    The idea of us having nukes is that we can take our enemies to hell with us.

    We would never fire them first would we?

    And on that score I'd still be dead, as ICBM's are "unstoppable", so why would I care what happens to our opponent?

    Personally, I would rather spend all the Trident dosh on defending ourselves against ICBM's, it's not impossible, it's just that no-one has worked out how to do it yet.

    I would rather not be dead, than be dead but safe in the knowledge that millions of other innocent people somewhere else had died just for retaliations sake.

  36. Saucerhead Tharpe
    FAIL

    I heard mr Page on Radio Scotland this morning

    Fuck sake did he sound like Sir Humphrey Appleby in "Yes, Prime Minister"

    "if you walked into a nuclear missile showroom you would buy Trident - it's lovely, it's elegant, it's beautiful. It is quite simply the best. And Britain should have the best. In the world of the nuclear missile it is the Saville Row suit, the Rolls Royce Corniche, the Château Lafitte 1945. It is the nuclear missile Harrods would sell you.

    "might easily develop a multi-layered ballistic missile defence"

    Pity the interviewer didn't read the Reg, they would know that Lewis Page's default positions are

    1 - Give it to the Navy

    2 - Buy Yank

    Would have saved time

    1. asdf Silver badge
      FAIL

      buy yank not always worse solution

      We spend so gdamn much on our military (i think our black ops budget bigger than UK entire defense budget) why not avoid reinventing the wheel. Oh I remember our offensive (sorry defense) contractors are allowed to not be very friendly to the Euros (no source code, forced expensive maintence contracts, etc). Well what can we say they buy our government is its not like we the people can do a whole lot against them.

    2. asdf Silver badge
      Flame

      also about Navy

      Can't speak for UK but in the US armed forces in general the Navy tend to be better in air combat than the Air Force (who specialize in Strategic cold war crap like satellite defense and nuke strikes) and the Marines (Navy foot soldiers) tend to be more effective fighting insurgents than the outdated cold war Army. This could change in the next war but considering it was the Navy that pretty much made blighty the world empire for two centuries perhaps this isn't the worse idea in the world.

  37. Gordon861
    Grenade

    Yes Minster said it best

    It's suprising that this clip is still pretty much correct even over 20 years later.

    Push the button?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IX_d_vMKswE

  38. SlabMan

    21st century deterrent

    We urgently need to deploy an up-to-date 21st century nuclear deterrent along the lines of that used by the Swedes, Swiss, Germans, Japanese, Dutch, Poles, Brazilians, etc.

  39. Mark 110 Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Inaccuracies

    The LibDems share of the vote went up at the general election not down. They didn't take a beating at the polls they took a beating from the first past the post system. As they always do.

    To state that "most people voted for a direct replacement of Trident" is balls. Most people voted labour or tory as they always do - doesn't necessarily mean they have an urgent need for lots of nukes that will never be used. Most people vote is based on personality, habit or economic issues.

    Throwing such balls into your argument about whether to replace Trident or not really makes me wonder whether the rest of it is balls as well.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Ah but ah!

    Ah but ah - the murky word is: politics.

    Sometimes it is not a question of what something costs and how well it will do its job but more of something like: what do we have to do with out to pay for it, and if we do do without it will we get elected at the next general election?

    That is where the politics fits in.

    Do with potential to be undone at the next general election OR do without with greater certainty of being returned at the next election?

    You see, the problem that the Coalition has is this: should it do something terribly, terribly, ... terribly unpopular well then that disfavours two parties (the obvious ones) and favourably favours another party (the obvious one).

    Whatever analysis is placed on the do or don't of Trident/subs/... the backdrop is: will the consequences cost the Coalition dearly in next general election?

  41. King Edward I

    *sigh*

    So trident defendants riddle me this: If you state that we *need* a nuclear deterrent, do you also agree that every other nation in the worl should be allowed to buy nukes for the same reason (Or even if we limit it to just every democratic nation)

    If yes, fair enough. You're consistent at least, but yours is a world I dont want to live in.

    If no, what (apart from blind patriotism) is different about the Uk?

  42. JaitcH
    Unhappy

    Independent nuclear deterrent

    The UK should opt for the cheaper alternative subs armed with nuclear Tomahawks. Why invest all that money if the U.S.A. can object to their use. Remember the Falklands where the U.S. objected to some of the content relayed through their satellites.

    Besides, just who is the enemy? I suspect China heads the list - they have got a little more pushy in the East China Sea where a number of bordering countries claim interest the Spratly Islands but China is claiming the whole damn sea.

    China also gets really horny with alleged border/sea limit incursions as many fishers have been shot and killed.

    The oceans might get kind of crowded, too, given all the countries getting their own status symbol submarine fleets.

    And where would UK submarines be based? Long way to sail to China.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    NATO is the real deterrent

    Looking at it from abroad, and as a foreigner, NATO membership is a much bigger deterrent than Trident.

    The chances of war, never mind nuclear war, between UNSC members is very low. For the foreseeable future the only real nuclear risk is from a rogue state or non-state actor. In either case, the odds of anything other than a unanimous NATO response is minuscule.

    So why the requirement for a specifically UK second strike capability? It looks a bit like self-aggrandizement.

    Is the UK even a Great Power any longer? By comparison with China or even Russia? I don't think so. You can't beat industrial and military capability, and the ruthlessness to use them in your own interest.

    More truthfully it's a Middle Power, along with some other G20 states, in a more multi-polar world. A nuclear stockpile does not a Power make. However, the UK invests enough in its military to (just about) maintain an independent foreign & military policy position. Through conventional weaponry. I am not sure if it is globe spanning any longer. Could the RAF mount a Falklands air strike now? But it is at least a regional military power (certainly) and global economic power (just about and bolstered by EU membership).

    The geopolitical position could always change and therefore the UK should maintain the ability to escalate its defense posture to include an independent ICBM capability within 12-24 months of a significant threat increase (it's hard to see the geopolitical position deteriorating to the point of NATO dysfunction faster than that). Export approval from multiple manufacturing states (say French, Russian and US) would meet that need, is as likely to be available as actual sales, but would still be cheaper than reacquiring UK production capability or purchasing a Trident replacement when it is withdrawn.

    But right now, given its geopolitical status and alliances, it seems to me that force projection capability for its conventional forces is a much more realistic objective for the UK, and will maintain its geo-military relevance (and justify a UNSC seat) far longer than a nuclear second-strike capability.

    1. Keith T
      Thumb Up

      As an ex-pat living in Canada I agree

      The UK has access to much more international power through credible diplomacy and credible negotiations, through its strong relations with other nations of the world.

      The USA, China and Russia can't compete there, because they do not have the recent track record of (relative) honesty and (relative) integrity.

      As well, as the USA is finding out, money spent on weapons and fighting is money not available for education, industrial growth and culture (I mean national culture, not just arts).

      Why should the UK fund the nuclear protection of Germany and Belgium, if the Germans and Belgians don't see a credible threat that nuclear protection could address?

      Plus, the UK's land mass is too small for any foreigner to credibly think the UK would escalate a conflict to nuclear war. Yes, non-nuclear armed forces are far more expensive than nuclear armed forces, but non-nuclear armed forces are the only ones anyone believes we'd use.

  44. Pat 11

    Sub necessary?

    I don't buy the idea that a sub is the only way to ensure nobody knows where they are. A nation with considerably less resources that the UK managed to keep the world completely in the dark about whether they had WMDs. As long as there is uncertainty, there is a deterrent

    I'm guessing it gets a bit cheaper if you don't buy the vehicle.

    1. Keith T

      They hid them by not having them.

      Only hawks and a gullible press believed Saddam had the resources to re-start his nuclear program.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Oh Really

    "Given the pressure from the MoD and the Coalition cabinet in favour of postponement, it will be quite surprising if Cameron has the guts to do what he promised and what most of the electorate voted for - replace Trident like-for-like on time"

    The majority of people may have voted for Cameron and Clegg but how do you extrapolate that to arrive at the above statement? Do you honestly believe that people vote because they accept every "promise" in an election manifesto? Do people even read the f****ing things? maybe people just voted Cameron or Clegg to get Irn Broon out.

    Twat

  46. Matt Bryant Silver badge
    Pirate

    Just a few points not considered by Lewis.

    1. Cruise missiles are easy to defeat ONLY if you have a top-notch air-defence system. Of our potential enemies, only Russia has enough jets, low-atlitude AA missiles and the control and radar systems (and possily IR detection systems) to be able to stop even two dozen Tomahawks being fired from the Baltic at Mother Russia. The Iraqis had probably the most extensive and expensive air-def setup outside of NATO and Russia at the time of the Second Gulf War, and still couldn't shoot down a fraction of the Tomahawks fired by the Americans. Even the Russians are worried - their latest radar and missile system got completely stymied by the Israelis using big and none-stealthy F-16s when they bombed the reactor in Syria in 2008, and a combined ELINT and cruise attack could degrade even their air-def to a defenceless state. With stealth cruise missiles already undervelopment, it is no certainty that modern cruise missiles will not be able to penetrate even the most sophisticated air-def even without ELINT support.

    2. Cruise does however have very limited range, the Tomahawk having a maximum of 2500km at the slowest (most vulnerable) engine settings. Trident can strike just about any potentially hostile point on the planet, it could even be designed so a replacement acts as an orbital launcher, going higher so it can manouvere in orbit and choose a re-entry point delayed for even several days, making anywhere in the World within range.

    3. If we had to defend against a cruise missile attack, the primary defence would be the same Typhoons that Lewis likes to bash so much. We simply don't have enough AA missiles to be able to take out a serious cruise attack. Against cruise, the F-22's and F-35's so-called stealth advantage is inconsequential, what matters is endurance, numbers of missiles carried (the F-35 at best can only carry four, of which two are dogfight missiles), and the ability to look down and shoot down (either via radar or IR) in co-operation with other fighters, AWACS and ground radar. Typhoon has been designed for that job from the start, and is probably one of the best air-def platforms going. Apart from Iran and the Norks who may try ICBMs (and ignoring Russia), the majority of likely enemies will probably go the cruise missile route launched from a ship in international waters in the Atlantic, so air-def Typhoon is now actually vital.

    4. If we were to come under a nuke attack, it is currently just as likely to be from terrorists as a foreign state. If a Jihadi sets off a suitcase nuke in London, who do we fire our Tridents at? We are actually much more likely to want to use the Tranche 3 Typhoons to go drop some satellite-guided bombs on their camps, or send in the SAS to assassinate their leadership. In that case, it is unlikely we would need Trident or even the conventional Tomahawks.

    So, for a viable defence, what we actually need is air-def Typhoons, which are much better than F-35s in that role. For deterrence, we need Trident TNG and possibly Tomahawks (or a European equivalent), and Tranche 3 Typhoons (instead of F-35s). My option would be to cancel the whole F-35 purchase instead, and give the Navy cats for the carrier(s) with maybe some secondhand F/A-18s or hooked Typhoons, and get on with building Trident TNG now.

    /Yeeeaaarrggghhhhh - well, it is a vaguely nautical article.

    1. Jean-Luc Silver badge

      defense against a cruise missile attack?

      Conventional or nuke?

      If conventional, there wouldn't be that much damage to worry about. Think the Blitz V2s, more or less. Very, very unpleasant for those at the receiving end, but hardly an existential menace to the UK.

      If nuclear, your best defense remains MAD, best done through Tridents. You really think say a 90% success rate with your Typhoons against a wave of nuke-tipped cruise missiles will cut the mustard?

      Either Tridents or cruise missiles may become vulnerable in the next 30 years. But that is much less likely to happen with Tridents than cruise where penetration is already not guaranteed against a top rate opponent. And your point about only Russia being able to intercept cruise missiles is moot. Tridents are NOT an instrument of coercion against second rate powers. They are a last resort "we'll kill you if you kill us" threat against a first-rate military.

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
        Boffin

        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.

  47. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    IT Angle

    Design ? development?

    Why bother with these when we've already got the blueprints for a very nice 16 missile trident submarine sitting in the MoD somewhere.

    And a great factory oop north somewhere that can build the things so that when the current 4 reach their end of life limit, we can simply replace them with like for like.

    All we need is to get Lockheed martin to carry on servicing/repairing the D5 missiles our boats carry.

    PS we build the warheads here as well

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Pirate

      RE: Design ? development?

      "Why bother with these when we've already got the blueprints for a very nice 16 missile trident submarine sitting in the MoD somewhere....." A very sane and reasonable idea, but then who said either sanity or reason will apply in either the MoD or No.10? The Yanks do have a Life Extension Program (D5LE) for the Trident2 type missile we have, but that is for the US warheads and could entail very expensive work just to go with our current warheads, let alone more modern warheads with new tricks like sub-orbital manouvering. Having said that, such an upgrade would keep Trident in place until 2040 at least. In theory, Blair has already commited us to the D5LE program but with new subs, so I don't see why we can't just refit or build new versions of the existing Vanguard calss subs. Aparently, a Yank Prof Grawin has already advised that this could save us £5bn (that's off the MoD's rosy forcasts for complete replacement, so probably nearer £15bn in real money).

      No, I think the main problem is that the LibDems will see this as the means to get rid of our nuke capability. Having retired all our RAF nuke bombs, if Trident goes too then we will have lost all our deterent capability and be reliant on good will (yeah, I'm really banking on that).....

  48. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Mutually Assured Destruction and the British Shed

    The point of deterrent is that if the Russkies/French/Germans/Iraqis/(delete as appropriate) ever try and nuke us - we will blow them to bits.

    To make this threat credible we need a massive amount of nukes - a coupe of 100kt Trident warheads aren't going to destroy the USSR.

    The obvious solution is to forget the expensive submarines and missiles and just put them all in a big shed in Berkshire - with say 100-200 * 10MT weapons the blast from the home counties would damage the enemy wherever they were in europe without the inconvenience of having to deliver the devices to them.

  49. Alan Firminger

    An observation and a question

    Margaret Thatcher repeatedly told us that nukes delivered 40 years, as of then, of peace in Europe. Since then not quite accurate but we have never fought the Soviet Union or Russia. On that logic we should give a dozen nukes to Hamas and Arab israeli peace would be assured.

    Now where do we go after assessing the risks to us.

    Suppose Osama bin Laden, or someone with similar power and intent, assembled $250M out of drugs, oil and donations. Provide this as $100k credit cards from the Cayman Islands. Assemble a dedicated team to infiltrate the defence industry and military of a suitable country, Pakistan is an obvious choice but all humans have failings so it could be anywhere, even here. By gentle friendship and help find the people with knowledge and power over manufacture, storage and codes. Lead the targets through happiness to whatever is their weakness, but addiction is very powerful. Effectiverly, buy a nuke. Perhaps replace it with a dummy. A dozen individuals will retire to chateaux in the hills. And the primed nuke is stuffed into a container for delivery to a warehouse in East London for July 2012.

    Now the question is, after the bang what should be the actions of the civilised nations ?

    1. Keith T

      Bin Laden would likely stage his attack from the USA, like he did last time

      Bin Laden's attack on 9-11 was staged in the USA, not Pakistan. (I've always wondered why they didn't invade Florida in retaliation. Or perhaps Saudi Arabia, the homeland of the attackers.)

      Any future major terrorist attack would also likely be staged in the target country.

      With nukes, one is looking at attacking an innocent country for the actions of a handful of visitors, in the case of al Qada in Afghanistan immediately prior to 9-11, unwanted visitors.

  50. Jean-Luc Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    good article.

    Would we have avoided WW3 with the bad ol' Soviets if there had been no nukes? On both sides? You seriously think so? As far as deterring irrational governments go, you don't make much more irrational than Hitler and even he did not use gas in battles.

    At the top end of conflict intensity, the UK should aim for Trident (or my fellow surrender monkeys' SLBMs) . It should also aim for low intensity warfighting capability (a la Afghanistan, Bosnia, etc).

    If it has to, and it will probably have to, it should skimp in the middle. The very pricey, very fancy kit like the Eurofighter, new tanks, and those shiny aircraft carriers. Those are expensive, look good, but achieve very little against the likely low-end opponents. They would not deter China, but Tridents would. Against anyone else, they are overkill. That leaves a gap in the middle, yes, but what mid-sized power does the UK expect to be fighting against by itself anyway?

    Expect a muddle instead, with all options being kept open with lower acquisition numbers and lengthened acquisition times. All in the names of preserving jobs and giving the generals some shiny toys to play with.

  51. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    A solution?

    First, I must say I found this article well-written and insightful. I rather disagree with the view that UK (along with US, etc.) MUST keep the current level of arms though.

    "Labour long ago learned that disarmament is electoral suicide in this country"

    So, it appears to me some parties have found a solution to this problem. I think they will not SAY they support disarmament, but they also do not want to commit to spending the money to replacing old armament systems as they age, putting it off another 5 or 10 years. Well, eventually the existing arms systems will be so old as to no longer be economically maintainable, and there will be no replacement -- this is de facto disarmament without any party having to commit to it.

  52. asdf Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    long live Lewis

    Though many disagree with him his articles are almost always the highlight on the week on El Reg. Once again good job sir. If nothing else the posts from the usual suspects on his articles are usually worth the time to read through.

  53. Rogerborg
    Grenade

    I don't mind the military having nukes

    It's politicians that worry me.

    If the thought of Saint Tony and Gordoom having access the the nukular briefcase didn't keep you awake, then it ought to have. At least Etonian toffs aren't minded to blow up their personal property (the whole planet), but can you imagine a nukular-armed Miliband (either version) shouldering that bus-sized chip in to the office?

    The major threat to our safety aren't foreign, they're domestic.

  54. Paul 129
    Joke

    Deterrents

    You lot are missing the point Trident is about Deterents! As you saw on LOTR those Ents are hard to put down.

  55. asdf Silver badge
    Joke

    nukes are so inefficient

    They only convert a small percentage of matter into energy. Where are the Dan Brown antimatter bombs that are %100 effective. Oh yeah nm antimatter is a bitch to make and store.

  56. Saucerhead Tharpe
    FAIL

    Something Lewis said this morning

    I hadn't known that Lewis was a mouthpiece for the military business, his presence on El Reg had persuaded me that he might have journalistic leanings, but he was saying that putting off giving the Navy more money for Trident was a bad idea because Military inflation rises faster than normal inflation.

    The fact he presented that as fact, and did not question it, suggests he is fully house-trained

  57. Tom 7 Silver badge

    With 95% of the money going to non foreign owned companies

    I think our biggest military threat comes from the industries that make so much money out of this.

    I bet there aren't any top military in the UK who have not had serious contact with the people who will make a financial killing out of this.

    And, like all things built to last these days there will be an accidental or deliberate design flaw that will require serious money to fix.

    Like what if Iran get the bomb? Oh you mean people who think they will go straight to heaven if killed in a jihad. A trident replacement merely means their route to heaven is a nanosecond faster.

    1. Keith T
      Jobs Horns

      If Iran had the bomb,

      As was noted by an earlier poster, Maggie Thatcher's theory is that having a nuclear bomb on both sides brings 40 years of peace.

      So 40 years of peace in the middle east where Israel's nuke becomes a credible usable deterrent because its opposition has a nuke too. So Hamas has to listen. And Israel has to listen too.

  58. Adam 37

    Why not simply dock them

    When things get politically warm send em to sea.

    Else save the wear & tear with 3 or 4 dry docks.

    Maybe keep one in the water but tied up.

    I thought the whole point of Trident was to hit anywhere from anywhere which means hit anywhere from Scotland.

    1. Jean-Luc Silver badge

      docked SLBMs == land ICBMs

      The whole point is to _always_ have at least one boat at sea, where no one knows where it is. So that there is no way a nation will first-strike you, unless they are willing to get hit by that boat's missiles.

      If you are going to dock it, might as well base your missiles on land, cheaper. Though I see your point about making an exception and sending them out just at touchy political times.

      Mind you, that could trigger a whole escalation of tension, precisely at touchy political times when you want folks to remain as calm as possible. You could also be quiet about going out to sea, but then they would not be deterring.

      Tricky, tricky, tricky.

  59. Alan Firminger

    Only two left standing

    The US won the cold war by raising the cost of preparing for conflict. The SU was broke and capitulated.

    Now it is our turn to feel the economic heat. It may well be game over for this minor power adrift off north west Europe.

    The final round for the world economic military championship will be US v China.

  60. Michael 28
    Alert

    Think I cracked their cunning plan...

    ......Death Star!!!!

    1. Keith T

      Of course,

      As well, just because nuclear submarines cannot be tracked for long under water with currently unclassified technology does not mean that they will be untrackable in the 10 to 40 year period any new nuclear weapons will be deployed during.

      We'll wake up one day, hear that China and the USA have gone to the next level of technology, and our nuclear submarines have lost their effectiveness as unstoppable deterrents against superpowers.

      Meanwhile, nuclear weapons were never credible deterrents against terrorists.

  61. Oliver Brown

    Does the UK really care?

    I think that the nuclear passion of the electorate is overestimated. Most probably wouldn't give a shit about nuclear dis/rearmament. In fact, just from the people I know, they think that the cost of Trident is money better spent elsewhere - nothing to do with disarming or renewing our deterrent.

    So, sure, some people might actually care. I highly doubt that any significant number of 18-24 year olds really care, let alone actually want nukes.

    Fighting 21st century war with 20th century weapons is so last.. er.. century. If anyone actually launched an attack against the UK we would all be screwed, whether or not we have our own nukes. I think that, as a deterrent, it is pretty redundant. Besides, we can just rely on America to be our deterrent!

  62. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    old and poor

    Like all bullies we have a long history of pissing people off around the world for the last couple of hundred years.

    Obviously now we are old and feeble we assume the once 3rd world now 1st world countries out there in the east want to give us a kicking .

    Hence hysterical attachment to weapons . A bit like an feeble old lady with 30 locks on her front door and a pepper spray peeping out the window at the kid's on the estate.

    the only kicking we will get from them is economic. Maybe that's what we are scared of.

  63. Alex King
    Thumb Down

    All we are sayin...

    Trident is not an independent nuclear deterrent - we can't do a damn thing with it without the USA's say-so, so they're effectively just big expensive metal tubes of Angel Delight that we can never eat.

    As others have pointed out nuclear weapons don't deter terrorist organisations or crazy rogue states, and our piddling complement of nukes isn't exactly going to put Russia, China or the US off firing theirs at us (if we thought they were likely to...), so these are clearly to deter France, Israel or aliens.

    (Actually, maybe we should just fire them at the Israelis - that could solve the Israel/Palestine dispute at a stroke, and Iran would become our best friend! - But I digress.)

    Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying we should just bin the whole nuclear shooting match so that we can spend more on conventional forces - I'm saying we should cut those too; other western nations manage fine with no nukes and much smaller conventional forces, and we could too if we stopped throwing our weight around on the world scene.

    In maintaining disproportionately large armed forces, UK taxpayers are subsidising the military capability of our European and NATO 'partners', and making ourselves the prime target of any crazies.

    Has foreign policy really not moved beyond who has the biggest gun? Perhaps a non-military perspective on defence spending wouldbe appropriate on these pages, and in government.

  64. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD
    Headmaster

    The LHC

    Beware the Swiss. Claiming neutrality they have actually fiendishly created the most powerful uberweapon in the world, capable of imploding the world into a blackhole in less that 0,45 msecs. While this is terrifying enough, some theories exist that the LHC could be used to instantaneously project smaller self limiting blackholes to any point of the universe to swallow up any given arbitrary mass, leaving naught but an empty space and not much fallout. Think cities of opposing states here.

    An ingenious solution given that they are effectively landlocked.

    Don't you believe for a moment this isn't true.

    Don't take my word for it. In every facet be it economically, geopolitically, whatever, Switzerland as a nation has been actually been faring better than ever before since the facility became operational. Upon closer statistical analysis, it would appear that there is little chance that this change of fortune is due to chance alone.

    I would hypothesize that there have been "words exchanged in secret" between this tiny nation and the more well known players in power and that silently but surely, Switzerland has now begun to mold the world's future.

    They as a nation have long lusted for power and world domination and it is likely this insidious hunger of theirs really began many many years ago.

    Don't believe me? What is this www you're now reading this on? Who invented it?

    They are a member of the EU yet choose to retain their own currency. (I know you Brits do that too, but you like to pretend the hasn't set on the Union Jack etc...)

    Neutrality? BS...

    Uh oh..no. CERN agents after me... ARRGGHH>..kjnjlkjlm lk

  65. Hugo CHAV

    Trident

    I agree with Lewis on this, we should just bite the bullet and cough up.

    Technology wise we should do what the yanks do if they will transfer the technology, Attempts to build something cheaper locally will cost much more.

  66. Alastair MacDiarmid
    WTF?

    give it up you fools

    Here's an idea, how about the UK and the british people stop pissing around pretending they're a world superpower and their opinions and politics are more valid than anywhere else.

    Then all this money squandered on these useless ego inflating arms could be spent looking after the poor and disenfranchised in the UK.

    Look how little sympathy Pakistan has had recently over the floods and earthquakes, they squandered massive amounts of their money on nuclear arms.

    Frankly, given a big natural disaster ( and I don't mean a bit of anticipate-able snow this winter) the rest of the world is going to look the same way at your arrogant country as we do on Pakistan, pretty much like everyone does at the States when shit goes wrong.

    Get over yourselves, nobody cares about you, if you didn't insist on arrogantly meddling in other's perfectly legitimate politics nobody would be in the slightest bit interested in bombing the tube, which is what you need to be looking at, not some crazy nuclear deterrent.

  67. A J Stiles

    Better idea

    Scrap the MoD altogether, and concentrate spending on civilian taxpayers.

    In the event that we do get unavoidably involved in some sort of conflict, it will almost certainly work out cheaper to hire mercenaries.

  68. Keith T
    Pirate

    Britains nukes protect the UK by protecting the EU.

    Britain's nukes protect the UK by protecting front-line EU states.

    Therefore the EU should participate in paying the costs of the UK's nuclear deterrent.

    If other EU states, states much closer to Russia, China, Pakistan, India and Israel don't see any value in paying for the EU to have a nuclear deterrent, then there probably isn't any value. In which case we should not pay for a nuclear deterrent either, but instead rely on the USA, Israel and India to protect us.

    1. John G Imrie Silver badge

      Read Maciavelii

      Mercenaries are the worst kind of troupes

  69. Mips
    Jobs Halo

    Trident and the balance of terror

    Trident carries multiple heads of small capacity and is essentially a battlefield weapon. It is not a city destroyer though it could be used that way; it is a weapon of response not of first use.

    We are in an era of nuclear disarmament and the power size and number of warheads are being reduced. Our ability to reduce a nation to dust has gone. In actual fact Trident is just about UK bragging rights to ensure we get a seat at the world top table.

    So who are we aiming at?

    Be serious do the possibilities include other nuclear nations: USA, Russia, France, Israel, China, India?

    The likely options are: North Korea, Pakistan, Iran; there may be others.

    We could in fact achieve our defensive task with something far simpler than Trident. We do not need Trident and we underfunded on what we do need. So why Trident? Not only that why Eurofighter? Why new aircraft carriers? Why new tanks? They are all for fighting wars that no longer exist.

    Then again it has been said that we have the worlds best fighting force; is this true? I do not doubt the bravery of the serving men and women nor the leadership, but the US forces seem to punch above their weight whilst we punch below. Clearly our troops have inadequate support. Perhaps it is a case of too many chiefs and not enough indians.

  70. Keith T
    Pint

    Lewis left out "unusable"

    "an unstoppable, unfindable nuclear hammer capable of shattering a nation in an afternoon," and sadly unusable because they cause so much wide spread devastation.

    I do not believe for one minute that the UK would deploy nuclear weapons against the China, Russia, Pakistan, India or Israel that will exist in 10 years from now in retaliation for anything. Even if they attacked an ally, took our PM hostage during a state visit, or did to our children what employees of Vatican City did to our children, we would not see that as worth the price of a nuclear war.

    It is even less likely that we'd use nuclear weapons against a non-state terrorist or pirate group.

    I know it. You know it. Our enemies know it. Nuclear deterrence only works when the threat of use is credible, and our little island nation can't credibly make that threat.

    It would be as if the UK spent huge amounts of money on biological and chemical warfare weapons in the years between WWI and WWII. A total waste because we are not prepared to actually deploy them under any circumstances.

    On the other hand, spending money on nukes when "our boys" are fighting in Afghanistan, will not happen because our boys are supposed to be home by 2012.

    So our boys will be home well before physical construction of any new nuclear submarines could begin. So taking money from our deployed troops to pay for nuclear subs isn't a choice we are being faced with.

  71. william henderson 1

    quote:

    *A Trident boat spends a months-long deterrent patrol driving about very slowly in a given box somewhere in the Atlantic............................... It is very hard for a keen young sub-driver to develop his skills or his career in this situation."

    not only that; when you join the bomber/boomer fleet, their seaships like you to stay there.

    that can effectively leave your career very trucated.

  72. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm not sure I understand this... at all...

    The economics of replacement are, surely, at the margin. If I don't replace then I must maintain. What is the marginal cost difference between operating in year N and in year N+1 were N is the last year of projected operating life?

    Also, Why is 'ballistic' better than, say, 'Cruise'? As technology advances I suspect that the shooting down/disabling of ballistic a missile will become easier but cruise missiles may become harder and harder to detect? Again, my ignorance here.

    The 'willy waving' associated with Nuclear weapons is all a bit daft. Nuclear weapons club of ignorant despots (France, Britain, USA, China, Russia, Israel, Pakistan, India.... with the soon to be added RoK and Iran) is not one I really want to be a part of if the money spent is going to detract from our economic and social development.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Why Ballistic is better than Cruise

      "Also, Why is 'ballistic' better than, say, 'Cruise'? As technology advances I suspect that the shooting down/disabling of ballistic a missile will become easier but cruise missiles may become harder and harder to detect? Again, my ignorance here."

      Its quite simple really, Cruise missiles fly their entire journey at a lower altitude towards their targets. This means they can be shot down before they reach your country at any point during the trip, and the Nuclear warhead would fall into the sea or onto what ever country it was passing over, as conventional Anti Air technology improves it will only become easier to do this.

      Now an ICBM takes a very high altitude arcing flight plan practically into space. This means that for most of its travel it is out of range of anything you have to fight it. (the USA's proposed Star Wars system tries to intercept them during the trip with an Anti-Ballistic Missile, but hitting a missile with another missile is like shooting a bullet out of the air, very unreliable even when you know exactly where it is being shot from)

      After that you are left with it only really vulnerable at two points of it's journey, just after Launch and just before Landing on target.

      Anti-Ballistic Missile technology such as the Patriot relies heavily on destroying the missile as it is heading downwards towards you, so yes you can destroy the missile but the warhead will still fall to earth above you going off and leaving your country to still deal with the consequences of a nuclear attack on your soil.

      Shooting down an ICBM in its launch phase is the only real choice to stop them as it means the warhead will fall back on the country that launched it and nowhere near your country. (The USA is developing their Air Laser to try to do this) the problem is you don't have long to shoot it down and you need to know where the attack is coming from in advanced to have any hope of intercepting it above enemy territory.

      At the moment even shooting down an ICBM from a launcher you know the exact position of is too unreliable, to say nothing for those sneaky nuclear submarines who cannot be tracked and can survive a nuclear war to launch their payload literally from anywhere.

      Sub launched ICBM's are the way to go for nukes.

  73. william henderson 1

    what independant detterrent?

    we still have to go to america for reloads after a test firing.

    only the warheads are ours and they are about as much use as a whitehall penpusher without the rest of the gubbins, which are leased.

    rent a bomb will always leave questions over our control of it.

    as a previouse poster noted, we would be far better off joining a joint program with France, our subs, their fireworks.

    shared developement costs.

    no american imposed hamstrings over serviceing/maintenance or who we bash.

    win-win.

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      FAIL

      RE: what independant detterrent?

      Please tell me that was an attempt at humour?

      ".....we still have to go to america for reloads after a test firing....." In times of peace that's not an issue, it's a sale the US companies like and hence so do the US politicos. In a time of war we'd only need the one firing and we probably wouldn't worry about reloads (remember, it's called "mutually assured DESTRUCTION", reloads just aren't factored in).

      "....rent a bomb will always leave questions over our control of it....." On the contrary, the points have already been hammered out and are well known. Making a new agreement with Fwance would involve a whole new negotiation, and then we'd have to make double-sure our translation of the Fwench terms actually meant the same thing as the Fwench ones!

      ".....we would be far better off joining a joint program with France...." Please name three military co-development projects with France that have succeeded. Jaguar doesn't count as the British had to bully the Fwench into an aircraft that was suitable for the RAF against the Fwench trying to protect Dassault's Mirage sales, and the Fwench didn't miss a chance to undermine it at every stage. Projects like the SP70 fiasco just show what a porkfest the European joint-ventures usually turn out to be, with the much better AS-90 also showing what British industry can do when just left to get on with the job without politicians messing it all up. Challenger? Direct result of the failure of the European MBT programs. BAe Hawk? British and independent effort that has totally thrashed the European (Fwench-led) Alphajet equivalent in both capability and foreign sales. Rapier? A BAC project that got borged into the Matra-BAe hookup long after the missile had been developed. Eurofighter only saw daylight because BAe had already done most of the groundwork and because the Fwench were ejected from the room at an early stage (the Germans made the mistake of following the Fwench out and had to buy their way back in later when the Fwench threw another of their infamous tantrums). Lewis like to bash PAAMS and the truth is that has only succeeded because the countries involved had such a similar requirement (and the Fwench were allowed control of parts of the project).

      In short, even if Thales got the contract (and remember, Thales's buddies in NuLabour aren't in control anymore), it is highly unlikley any joint ICBM project with France would get anywhere. Any other Fwench company would be treated with such suspicion as to make the likleyhood of an eventual success very unlikely.

      ".....no american imposed hamstrings over serviceing/maintenance or who we bash....." No, just Fwench ones instead, if we ever got a working system. And I'm sure the Fwench would try and force us into a European deterrent as part of the deal, which would be a collossal waste of time and taxpayers money and even less likely to be used in the event of someone taking a crack at us.

      ".....win-win." Very unlikely.

      1. william henderson 1

        "In times of peace that's not an issue,.........".

        no, its in times of peace it is an issue.

        concord, shows we can work together, if only to beat the yanks.

        "Challenger? Direct result of the failure of the European MBT programs."

        direct result of the iranian revolution more like.

        we got what the persians/iranians originaly ordered.

        if the french want us in on a eurocentric deterence why is theirs still dedicated to french defence?

        i think youll find plenty of american programs that failed or morphed also.

        remember the sargeant york, or how the f18 or f16 started out?

  74. Sandtreader
    Thumb Down

    Moral aspect

    Lots of good strategic and cost reasons not to replace Trident discussed above, but for me the biggest reason is a simple moral one: Use of a nuclear weapon is primarily designed to kill civilians and destroy civilian infrastructure, and hence is /ipso facto/ a war crime. No amount of outdated banging on about 'deterrence' is going to change that, because the receivers of the punishment (the civilians) are not the actors (probably some terrorist nutcases or out of control military junta). They never really were even in the Cold War, but they certainly aren't now.

    So it would good if renewal were kicked into touch for a while, but it's a missed opportunity. If the UK took a proactive stance and said "for moral, strategic and cost reasons we are not replacing, and will retire existing capability by X", that would be a leading example in global disarmament and non-proliferation, on which our current policy is simply hypocritical.

  75. eric 2
    Thumb Up

    nicely done

    Good article, submarines are outdated technologically before the first of a new class even hits the water, so keeping these aging boats about doesn't make sense. New missile boats will operate with less crew, cost less to deploy and maintain, and be harder to detect.

    Yes, I'm a retired fast attack guy, wouldn't catch me on one of these three knots to nowhwere busses but they serve a purpose.

    Da Chief

    1. william henderson 1

      nicely done

      "submarines are outdated technologically before the first of a new class even hits the water"

      hunted by boats that are even more outdated.

  76. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Thank god for the bomb?

    If all we ever aim to evolve into is mass destruction of ourselves perhaps the best and biggest and swiftest is better than best?

    Defence seems something to get defensive about?

  77. Jemma Silver badge
    FAIL

    ... bang for the buck...

    You know, its struck me as interesting that no one has made the obvious point in all this.

    The government of every single country in the world is paying through the nose for something that is entirely and utterly useless.

    Before you howl, I'll explain. Imagine you are back in 1880 and you are a UK government minister. Someone comes up to you and says this is a contract to build a battleship - please sign it. You sign it. You just spent god knows how much money on something that was never ever used. Not once. Never. Ever.

    All of this is specious garbage. It doesnt matter what we buy because whatever we buy its worthless unless there is a war which no one wants anyway, and the way things we are we'll be dead anyway... and dont quote me the 'mutually assured destruction' or 'deterrant' crap because to quote blackadder "there was a slight problem with the plan.." "what was that?" "It was bollocks!"

    ironically Lewis Page himself is just as specious, not meaning to be nasty. Since all I ever see his name on is articles whinging about the armed farces he's a part, admittedly a fairly remote part, but a part of the whole idiotic system.

    The best part of all is that if we didnt spend all this money on weapons because of retard politicians and ass-protecting self interested executives... we'd be spending money on decent schools, decent healthcare and generally a better standard of life - and there would be less idiotic tossers getting into politics and arms procurement than there are now (because most of the non-rich intelligent people in our current education get sick and tired of it aged about 8 and sod off to trade cocaine futures down the park - and that was me, hold the potential goldman sachs employee part) and there would be less chance of the probable/possible/imaginary wars we are stocking up for now... All the people, all the time - everyone would be able to fulfil their potential instead of the world relying for government on the sort of chinless wazzocks who act as if they have the gene pool of an inbred dalmatian.

    case in point is Labour right now - im waiting with baited breath for the first "better Ed, than Red" headline...

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