Report: U.K. Plans for New Submarines Require More Debate

Global Security Newswire Staff
Feb. 11, 2014, 7:05 a.m.

A new in­de­pend­ent re­port con­tends there is a press­ing need for well in­formed U.K. de­bate over plans for mod­ern­iz­ing that na­tion’s nuc­le­ar ar­sen­al.

The Nuc­le­ar Edu­ca­tion Trust re­port, re­leased on Tues­day, raises sev­er­al factors re­lated to any de­cision on wheth­er to pro­cure four new Suc­cessor-class bal­list­ic mis­sile sub­mar­ines, in­clud­ing the cost of mod­ern­iz­ing the coun­try’s nuc­le­ar de­terrent and its po­ten­tial for be­ing in­volved in a cata­stroph­ic mis­hap or con­trib­ut­ing to pro­lif­er­a­tion, the Lon­don Guard­i­an re­ports.

“Bri­tain’s nuc­le­ar weapons should be sub­ject to the same cost-ef­fect­ive­ness test and pub­lic scru­tiny that all pub­lic ex­pendit­ure has to be sub­jec­ted to,” states the re­port.

Un­der ex­ist­ing De­fense Min­istry plans, today’s four Van­guard-class sub­mar­ines — armed with Tri­dent nuc­le­ar-tipped mis­siles — are due to be re­tired in the 2020s. The so-called “like-for-like” plan to re­place them with Suc­cessor ves­sels is pro­jec­ted to cost more than $30 bil­lion in de­vel­op­ment­al, pur­chase and op­er­at­ing costs.

The Con­ser­vat­ive Party — the seni­or part­ner in the U.K. gov­ern­ing co­ali­tion — has said Bri­tain would not make a “fi­nal gate” de­cision on wheth­er to pro­ceed with the like-for-like plan un­til after the next gen­er­al elec­tions in 2015.

That has not stopped Con­ser­vat­ives from ap­prov­ing tens of mil­lions of dol­lars in new sub­mar­ine-re­lated con­tracts. The Lib­er­al Demo­crats — the ju­ni­or gov­ern­ing party — want to see only three new bal­list­ic-mis­sile sub­mar­ines built, which could res­ult in about $3 bil­lion in plan sav­ings. There also have been signs that the op­pos­i­tion Labor Party could be waver­ing in its sup­port for the like-for-like plan.

The Nuc­le­ar Edu­ca­tion Trust — a non­profit that pro­motes edu­ca­tion in arms-con­trol mat­ters — called for in­clud­ing the U.K. nuc­le­ar de­terrent in the coun­try’s next Stra­tegic De­fense and Se­cur­ity Re­view. In pro­du­cing its own as­sess­ment, the trust in­ter­viewed a num­ber of one­time armed ser­vices chiefs and former de­fense sec­ret­ar­ies.

A sep­ar­ate re­port by Sci­ent­ists for Glob­al Re­spons­ib­il­ity on Monday con­cluded the Brit­ish gov­ern­ment spends ap­prox­im­ately $530 mil­lion an­nu­ally on nuc­le­ar arms-re­lated re­search and de­vel­op­ment.

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