Jump to search Jump to main navigation Jump to main content Jump to footer navigation

Global Security Newswire

Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues

Produced by
NationalJournal logo

'Bloody' Infighting Precedes Release of U.K. Trident Alternatives Study

The British ballistic missile submarine HMS Victorious leaves its home port at Faslane in Scotland. British officials have reportedly clashed over next week's planned publication of a government study of alternatives for maintaining the United Kingdom's nuclear forces (AP Photo/Royal Navy). The British ballistic missile submarine HMS Victorious leaves its home port at Faslane in Scotland. British officials have reportedly clashed over next week's planned publication of a government study of alternatives for maintaining the United Kingdom's nuclear forces (AP Photo/Royal Navy).

The British government is toiling to resolve internal objections at its Defense Ministry on the findings of a comprehensive official study into alternatives for maintaining the country's nuclear forces, the London Guardian reported.

Whitehall is understood to have protested the report's publication on Tuesday as it might bolster the argument for abandoning or reducing the current plan to fully replace the United Kingdom's aging fleet of four Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarines equipped with nuclear-tipped Trident SLBMs.

Prime Minister David Cameron is reported to have told Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood to do whatever was needed to determine quickly what information in the report would be kept classified and what could be released. The outcome could affect the extent of public debate over the matter just two days before the House of Commons commences a lengthy summer recess.

Opponents of the Trident renewal plan argue it is too expensive and not needed in today's post-Cold War security environment.

An informed anonymous source said the fight inside the government over whether to publish the report was "pretty bloody." 

The report is the work of the coalition government's junior partner, the Liberal Democrats, who oppose the "like-for-like" replacement plan. The Conservative Party, the senior governing partner, supports carrying on with the plan to build four new SSBNs but has agreed to postpone a final decision on building the vessels until after the next general election in 2015.

There are a number of alternatives for the country's nuclear forces, including reducing the fleet of SSBNs from four to two submarines, moving to "reduced readiness," dismantling the nuclear weapons but retaining the technical knowledge to rebuild them, or completely denuclearizing.

Chief Secretary of the Treasury Danny Alexander, who managed the drafting of the report, said the study did not find any options that would produce "appreciable savings" to government coffers prior to the end of the decade, the British Press Association reported.

Meanwhile, London sought to push down on an idea recently floated by anonymous government sources that it could declare nuclear weapon bases in Scotland sovereign British possessions in the event a scheduled 2014 vote on succession is successful, the Press Association separately reported.

Declaring the nuclear installations at Faslane British territory is not a "credible or sensible" plan, a spokesman for Cameron said. The rumored proposal has not been presented to the British leader or his Defense secretary, Philip Hammond, the aide said.

"This government has not commissioned contingency plans over Faslane," the spokesman said. "No such ideas have come to the secretary of State or the prime minister. They would not support them if they did."

The locally governing Scottish National Party has vowed to order the removal from Scotland of the SSBN fleet and their Trident missiles if the territory becomes independent.

NTI Analysis

  • Ukraine Must Not Become a New Berlin Wall

    March 13, 2014

    On Friday, March 14, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meet to discuss the crisis in Ukraine. Five statesmen from Germany, Poland, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States call for the urgent formation of a Contact Group of Foreign Ministers to address the crisis and more broadly, create a new approach to building mutual security in the Euro-Atlantic region.

  • Submarine Proliferation Resource Collection

    Oct. 21, 2013

    The submarine proliferation resource collection is designed to highlight global trends in the sale and acquisition of diesel- and nuclear-powered submarines. It is structured on a country-by-country basis, with each country profile consisting of information on capabilities, imports and exports.

Country Profile

Flag of United Kingdom

United Kingdom

This article provides an overview of the United Kingdom’s historical and current policies relating to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile proliferation.

Learn More →