Replacement of Trident

April 22nd, 2010

Various retired generals have waded into the political arena (Times 21st April) with their attack on the policy of replacing the Trident strategic nuclear deterrent when that becomes necessary in around 12-14 years’ time on the grounds of age.  One of their number, Field Marshal Lord Bramall, has written before to the Times (January 16th 2009) on this subject so we can take it this latest missive is no off-the-cuff remark, but part of a campaign to sway the politicians and give credence to the anti-nuclear brigade at this crucial point of the general election campaign.

Needless to say, I hope, I am totally opposed to the abandonment of Trident, either completely or in favour of some cut-price, totally unconvincing system, based on cruise missiles, somehow carried on Hunter-Killer submarines.  This arrangement is advocated by David Owen (BBC2 Newsnight on 21st April) former foreign secretary in the Labour government 1978-79 until he broke away in 1981 to form the Social Democrats, who later merged with the Liberals to form the LibDems.

In this brief comment, I won’t go into the technical details of the impracticability of David Owen’s proposal (like the impracticability of most of the current LibDem policies), but restate the national interest in this matter, which is also UKIP’s standpoint.

As an aside one might observe that to a considerable extent this is an argument against Trident by the generals and some in the RAF who have never got over the fact that it is the Royal Navy which is responsible for Britain’s ultimate weapons system.

One might also observe that the cost of £80 billion being bandied about is the whole life cost over 40 years.  The capital cost of the four submarines and their missiles and warheads is about £20 billion spread over 10 years of construction and commissioning.  So we are basically talking in cost terms of about £2 billion per annum, which would pay for at most 1,000 extra soldiers (if they could be recruited and properly equipped), fewer than this if we allow for real wage inflation over 40 years.

By contrast if we abandon Trident, we shall leave France as the only strategic power in Europe, and we shall come under irresistible pressure to give up our permanent seat on the UN Security Council, while France will continue to retain hers. 

A nuclear submarine armed with ballistic missiles is the only weapons system that allows pressure to be brought on an enemy state anywhere in the world. Coupled with the two planned carriers, an updated Trident system will give the UK the most potent force projection that can be bought for the money (as stated above about £20 billion spread over 10 years for the capital cost of the equipment).  This should be compared with the £10 billion net per annum we shall soon be spending in direct contributions to the EU or £3 billion plus per annum on local authority “cultural services”.

Can anyone seriously suggest that we will derive better value as a nation from these other expenditures?

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