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Tim

Trident

So, maybe today's the day.

Should we replace Trident nuclear missiles?

I used to be very much in favour of having a nuclear deterrent but I've got to say that nowadays I wonder who we'd fire it at*.

The defence secretary was on Radio 4 this morning telling us that we need it to put off rogue nations and terrorist organisations but for once John Humphreys asked a sensible question and wondered which terrorist organisation that might be.

I mean if they'd known about the Nice attack by 'ISIS' in advance would it've been used there?
Of course not.
I think ISIS would be very happy for someone to fire a nuke at them because it would help them do their job.

In the meantime we've got 2 aircraft carriers with no planes to fly off them, the planes that are due to fulfil that task are expensive and unreliable but they could at least be used for real occasionally and I've got to say that I think the £100 B could be used much more effectively with our existing conventional armed forces.



* I know the obvious answer that may come along will be that its a deterrent to Putin but I'm sure he's much more worried about the Yanks (especially if The Donald gets the presidency) than us.
JohnC

I was brought up in the shadow of the Faslane base and have similarly always held the view that we need the deterrent.

I have often wondered if there is any kind of credible alternative though. Would nuclear headed cruise missiles be able to find their targets even though they take a bit longer to get there or would they get shot down and their firing vehicles destroyed before they could be fired?

Could cruise missiles be fired from a hidden submarine or do they not have sufficient range for some of the targets?

Is it the submarine which costs all the money and not really the weapons system?

I also wonder if these submarines might end up being a bit like the last of the great battleships - very impressive but realistically of next to no use in a modern war situation, whatever that might be.

I do consider Putin to be a threat and the Chinese expansion into other countries territorial waters is exceptionally dangerous. The Chinese are also building their Navy very quickly and they are considerably better equipped and informed now than they have ever been.

I still sit on the fence with a leaning towards keeping the nuclear deterrent but I wouldn't be too difficult to persuade otherwise if someone could explain how these other risks could be neutralised.

The other point to touch on are the 6,000 direct civilian jobs and probably double that in indirect jobs who rely on the maintenance of the weapon.
Michael

It's nothing to do with ISIS as they don't have access to a long range nuclear weapon. China and Russia do, North Korea is trying to achieve it. For that reason we should have it.

The other reason we should have it is that we are part of NATO and this is part of our contribution.
Bob Sacamano

Keep it. It's £3bn a year for 30 years - so less than 5% of the defence budget or less than 3% of the NHS budget, plus most of the money gets recycled into the UK economy anyway. I regard it in a similar way to my buildings insurance - it's unlikely my house will ever burn down, collapse, flood etc, but I'm not going to stop making that annual outlay any time soon.
Frank Bullitt

I too listened to Michael Fallon this morning and felt that he walked into Humphrey's trap about ISIS although the real answer (in 2030 we don't really know what our foes will look like but this will keep us in the game) wouldn't have worked as Hunphrey's would then want to know who these foes are, and of course we all mean Russia; nuclear weapons are useless against the likes of ISIS as they are are dependant upon MAD with somebody else who has them, and has an identifiable post-code.

There was a superb article on R4 last Friday afternoon where experts (haven't we had enough of them 😉) were each asked to put forward the case for the positives and negatives of retaining and disarming nuclear deterrent on a number of subjects - it was a really good article and I think my conclusive thoughts were 'probably best in a world that has them' and 'perhaps something like chemical weapons are more useful and potentially less indiscriminate'. They also talked about the different options including subs, ICBM and planes (France still has planes which surprised me) and the cheapest and likely most effective method is Subs although they are only able to fire a small number of warheads at a time (I think one is sufficient...)

Depending on the costs involved (anything from £40bn to over its total life £110bn) it's still a tiny amount of GDP (I think the figure was 0.2%)

Invest in a replacement.
Nice Guy Eddie

Bob Sacamano wrote:
Keep it. It's £3bn a year for 30 years - so less than 5% of the defence budget or less than 3% of the NHS budget, plus most of the money gets recycled into the UK economy anyway. I regard it in a similar way to my buildings insurance - it's unlikely my house will ever burn down, collapse, flood etc, but I'm not going to stop making that annual outlay any time soon.


Absolutely
Tim

Interesting stuff.
I have always assumed that if we got rid of it the money would still be spent on defence and the jobs loss would be negated.
PhilD

Re: Trident

Tim wrote:
So, maybe today's the day.

Should we replace Trident nuclear missiles?

I used to be very much in favour of having a nuclear deterrent but I've got to say that nowadays I wonder who we'd fire it at*.


* I know the obvious answer that may come along will be that its a deterrent to Putin but I'm sure he's much more worried about the Yanks (especially if The Donald gets the presidency) than us.


Maybe the answer is Trump then, before he causes too much trouble!

The thing about a deterrent is to make the other side think you might use it, which is why leaders (I'm looking at you Comrade Corbyn) should never say they won't. It's also about a show of power, a bit like walking around with your arms out to look bigger (if a little more expensive)


Bob Sacamano

Before we had the subs our nuclear deterrent was delivered by strategic bombers - the Vulcan in particular. Due to the sophisticated nature of the Moscow's air defences it was unlikely that any would have got through and aircrew were basically told that in the event of a conflict theirs was a suicide mission where they had to fly low and fast and hope that one of them got close enough to drop the bomb. I think if you're going to have a deterrent make sure that it is going to be effective and a credible threat, otherwise you're wasting your time and money.
PhilD

Bob Sacamano wrote:
Before we had the subs our nuclear deterrent was delivered by strategic bombers - the Vulcan in particular. Due to the sophisticated nature of the Moscow's air defences it was unlikely that any would have got through and aircrew were basically told that in the event of a conflict theirs was a suicide mission where they had to fly low and fast and hope that one of them got close enough to drop the bomb. I think if you're going to have a deterrent make sure that it is going to be effective and a credible threat, otherwise you're wasting your time and money.


What would we use now, drones?
JohnC

The Trident missiles have multiple warheads. I think the UK missiles have 3 but the American have the full fat version with something like 15 or more. Each of these can be programmed for a different target although I presume they have to be within a certain distance of each other to let them be carried by the same missile.

My original post was really trying to say what Phil said in his last post: is there an alternative?

Could we have swarms of nuclear drones which could overwhelm the defences and reach their targets despite heavy losses? I am sure someone is working on something!
Michael

Drones would face the same issue as bombers i.e. being shot down. If you had a swarm of drones you'd have a swarm of nuclear fall out which I think would be regarded in a similar way as napalm but on a much greater scale.

Beyond submarines I would assume we'd be looking at orbiting weapons.
Roadsterstu

Michael wrote:
It's nothing to do with ISIS as they don't have access to a long range nuclear weapon. China and Russia do, North Korea is trying to achieve it. For that reason we should have it.

The other reason we should have it is that we are part of NATO and this is part of our contribution.


This.
gooner

I don't think there's a right answer here. There are many good reasons not to have them, not least that the people they'd kill, if ever used, would be civilians not armies. On the other hand the possibility of millions of their citizens perishing and their land being uninhabitable for several generations should deter most governments from trying to invade us.

It's not the bombs themselves that are being debated today, however. It's the renewal of the submarines, the building of which would surely be a massive jobs boost and as others have pointed out, the running of the subs and their base creates many thousand more jobs for people who spend their salaries in this country, so it's not just a case of blowing £xxbn up the wall for no return.
PhilD

Michael wrote:
Drones would face the same issue as bombers i.e. being shot down. If you had a swarm of drones you'd have a swarm of nuclear fall out which I think would be regarded in a similar way as napalm but on a much greater scale.



You'd only need the bomb in one of them.
Frank Bullitt

Overwhelming vote to renew
Boxer6

Frank Bullitt wrote:
Overwhelming vote to renew


Let's face it, that was never in doubt.
PG

Bob and Michael's comments +1

NATO, deterrence, power, a trivial cost per year against everything else.

Regarding the alternatives, a cruise missile armed submarine still has to get within range of its target and so in vulnerable to attack. Whereas a Trident armed sub could hit North Korea (for example) from the Atlantic.
Alf McQueef

Look at how Putin has taken every single opportunity to cheat the system in everything from Finance/economics to Sport, and his actions in places like Ukraine, then tell me what you think he would do if he had nuclear weapons and we did not. These guys do not have any sense of the community of nations that people like Corbyn go on about - they are lying, cheating, Machiavellian types who will take any advantge, rather like Hitler and Stalin did. It's not just Russia - look at what China is doing in the ocean between itself and the Philippines, or how long South Korea would last without powerful Western friends. I'd love to live in a world where we did not need nuclear weapons, but I don't - and expensive cutting edge submarines are the best deterrent out there, in a small country where ground based weapons can easily be targeted.
gooner

Alf McQueef wrote:
Look at how Putin has taken every single opportunity to cheat the system in everything from Finance/economics to Sport, and his actions in places like Ukraine, then tell me what you think he would do if he had nuclear weapons and we did not. These guys do not have any sense of the community of nations that people like Corbyn go on about - they are lying, cheating, Machiavellian types who will take any advantge, rather like Hitler and Stalin did. It's not just Russia - look at what China is doing in the ocean between itself and the Philippines, or how long South Korea would last without powerful Western friends. I'd love to live in a world where we did not need nuclear weapons, but I don't - and expensive cutting edge submarines are the best deterrent out there, in a small country where ground based weapons can easily be targeted.


Sadly I think I have to agree. It would be nice to live in a world where the leaders of certain nations didn't dream of wiping others off the map, but we do and if that means we have to have some means of deterring them from causing mass bloodshed then so be it.

It's also worth noting that from a scientific standpoint, many important breakthroughs in our knowledge of chemistry and physics that benefit modern civilian life, have come from the scientific research of the arms trade. The accelerated advance of science is often one of the silver linings of war, so it's not all bad. If cleaner, more efficient nuclear powerplants come as a result of research into new nuclear weapons that will never be used, then this could be a good decision for mankind.
Tim

Alf McQueef wrote:
Look at how Putin has taken every single opportunity to cheat the system in everything from Finance/economics to Sport, and his actions in places like Ukraine, then tell me what you think he would do if he had nuclear weapons and we did not. These guys do not have any sense of the community of nations that people like Corbyn go on about - they are lying, cheating, Machiavellian types who will take any advantge, rather like Hitler and Stalin did. It's not just Russia - look at what China is doing in the ocean between itself and the Philippines, or how long South Korea would last without powerful Western friends. I'd love to live in a world where we did not need nuclear weapons, but I don't - and expensive cutting edge submarines are the best deterrent out there, in a small country where ground based weapons can easily be targeted.



While I agree on the deterrent aspect the simple answer to your question is that Putin would do nothing.
If we (the UK) didn't have nuclear weapons he would still know that America would retaliate as there's no way he'd just attack the UK.

I'm not suggesting unilateral disarmament by 'The West', my question was simply meant to reflect that I don't really see what we, as part of NATO, contribute with our single active submarine (my understanding is that out of the 4 we have only 1 is ever at sea).
I'm also not suggesting that any saving made by not renewing Trident should be spent on anything other than defence.


Separately, on the basis of a couple of books I've read recently, if we could time travel back to 1950 then 'we' would be better off doing everything we could to NOT help South Korea defend itself against the North but certainly do everything we could to make the resulting country feel part of a welcoming world.
Bob Sacamano

Tim wrote:



While I agree on the deterrent aspect the simple answer to your question is that Putin would do nothing.
If we (the UK) didn't have nuclear weapons he would still know that America would retaliate as there's no way he'd just attack the UK.

I'm not suggesting unilateral disarmament by 'The West', my question was simply meant to reflect that I don't really see what we, as part of NATO, contribute with our single active submarine (my understanding is that out of the 4 we have only 1 is ever at sea).
I'm also not suggesting that any saving made by not renewing Trident should be spent on anything other than defence.



Each Trident submarine can carry 16 missiles, each with 8 warheads - so we have in excess of 100 warheads at sea at any one time. I reckon it's enough.

Is it naive to think that the US will always let us shelter under its nuclear cloak and provide the bulk of the defences to protect Europe? The US followed a long path of isolationism from European conflicts before the war, might not future US governments (Trump anyone?) revert?
Michael

Bob Sacamano wrote:


Is it naive to think that the US will always let us shelter under its nuclear cloak and provide the bulk of the defences to protect Europe?


It's not only naive it's completely unreasonable. We owe the US an enormous amount for the protection they afford us here, we need to pull our weight.
Boxer6

Bob Sacamano wrote:
Tim wrote:



While I agree on the deterrent aspect the simple answer to your question is that Putin would do nothing.
If we (the UK) didn't have nuclear weapons he would still know that America would retaliate as there's no way he'd just attack the UK.

I'm not suggesting unilateral disarmament by 'The West', my question was simply meant to reflect that I don't really see what we, as part of NATO, contribute with our single active submarine (my understanding is that out of the 4 we have only 1 is ever at sea).
I'm also not suggesting that any saving made by not renewing Trident should be spent on anything other than defence.



Each Trident submarine can carry 16 missiles, each with 8 warheads - so we have in excess of 100 warheads at sea at any one time. I reckon it's enough.

Is it naive to think that the US will always let us shelter under its nuclear cloak and provide the bulk of the defences to protect Europe? The US followed a long path of isolationism from European conflicts before the war, might not future US governments (Trump anyone?) revert?


When we talk about "our" nuclear deterrent, it's important to remember it isn't actually ours; we are essentially paying to rent the missiles and warheads, paying for the maintenance of them all AND have to ask permission from the Yanks if we ever want to actually use them.

So if the Trumpet (or t'other one come to that) decides he no longer wants to be our pal, yet we're still expected to offer our input to NATO, what would we then do in respect of nukes? Well, nothing, because we couldn't!!
Alf McQueef

Michael wrote:

It's not only naive it's completely unreasonable. We owe the US an enormous amount for the protection they afford us here, we need to pull our weight.


I agree, Western European countries have relied very heavily on America's greater spending and technical expertise for their own defence. It's time for the UK, Germany, and France to spend a bit more in by view, both on useful conventional weapons and a deterrent. The trouble is, we can't save in many areas - we tried cutting back conventional heavy wespons like tanks, but we need them with Putin marauding about Europe. The deterrent requirement is as strong as it has been at any time since the Cold War in my view, and we need the flexible elite forces and all their support needs for counter-insurgency warfare. Plus we need to spend big on surveillance at home if we are to have any hope of avoiding France-style attacks here.

I love the way Trident spending is always reported as a long term cost (I forget what, 25 years?) but it is usually dwarfed by a single year's NHS spending - people like the SNP never compare like for like!
Tim

Points all taken but just remind me who else is in NATO and how many of them have nuclear capability?

I thought our membership of NATO meant we had to spend a particular amount (2% of GDP I think) on 'defence' but could otherwise spend it how we want?
See my comments earlier about aircraft carriers with nothing available to fly off them.

I also agree with ALF about the spending on 'conventional' forces and espionage - it's an area that is much more relevant in my opinion.

Boxer 6' comments about us renting the nukes now also applies to our incoming frontline aircraft - we will effectively be buying the main hardware (the plane) but will have to rent all other parts of the package. If the planes break they will be fixed by US service personnel and if one is damaged it will require to be transported back to the USA for repair.
Not a great scenario when we'll only have 24 of the damn things.



Alf McQueef wrote:
I love the way Trident spending is always reported as a long term cost (I forget what, 25 years?) but it is usually dwarfed by a single year's NHS spending - people like the SNP never compare like for like!


Granted, but then the NHS is of far more use, far more often, to far more people.
PhilD

Alf McQueef wrote:

I love the way Trident spending is always reported as a long term cost (I forget what, 25 years?) but it is usually dwarfed by a single year's NHS spending - people like the SNP never compare like for like!


By "people like the SNP" you mean politicians? They are not unique.

https://www.theguardian.com/scien...ans-dodgy-statistics-tricks-guide
Bob Sacamano

Boxer6 wrote:


When we talk about "our" nuclear deterrent, it's important to remember it isn't actually ours; we are essentially paying to rent the missiles and warheads, paying for the maintenance of them all AND have to ask permission from the Yanks if we ever want to actually use them.

So if the Trumpet (or t'other one come to that) decides he no longer wants to be our pal, yet we're still expected to offer our input to NATO, what would we then do in respect of nukes? Well, nothing, because we couldn't!!


This is actually not the case. We manufacture the subs and warheads here and lease 58 missiles from a much larger pool held by the US, which are rotated in and out as servicing demands.

Under the terms of the missile lease agreement, the US does not have any veto on the use of British nuclear weapons, which the UK may launch independently.
PhilD

Bob Sacamano wrote:
Boxer6 wrote:


When we talk about "our" nuclear deterrent, it's important to remember it isn't actually ours; we are essentially paying to rent the missiles and warheads, paying for the maintenance of them all AND have to ask permission from the Yanks if we ever want to actually use them.

So if the Trumpet (or t'other one come to that) decides he no longer wants to be our pal, yet we're still expected to offer our input to NATO, what would we then do in respect of nukes? Well, nothing, because we couldn't!!


This is actually not the case. We manufacture the subs and warheads here and lease 58 missiles from a much larger pool held by the US, which are rotated in and out as servicing demands.

Under the terms of the missile lease agreement, the US does not have any veto on the use of British nuclear weapons, which the UK may launch independently.


And presumably its easier to get hold of a few nukes than a whole fleet of subs!
PG

Tim wrote:
I thought our membership of NATO meant we had to spend a particular amount (2% of GDP I think) on 'defence' but could otherwise spend it how we want?
See my comments earlier about aircraft carriers with nothing available to fly off them.


Very few NATO countries meet their defence expenditure commitment of 2% of GDP. Some (e.g. Germany) spend 1%. We rely and shelter under the US umbrella of their 3.5% spending on defence. In fact the table below is pretty shocking.




JohnC

I remember hearing years ago that if the Navy wanted to use any equipment on a nuclear sub, it had to be purchased from the USA. The example given was an aluminium ladder for something inside the sub, that could have been purchased or made here for buttons had to be bought from the US at something crazy like £500.

I have no doubt we get well fleeced but what price do you put on security?
Bob Sacamano

JohnC wrote:
I remember hearing years ago that if the Navy wanted to use any equipment on a nuclear sub, it had to be purchased from the USA. The example given was an aluminium ladder for something inside the sub, that could have been purchased or made here for buttons had to be bought from the US at something crazy like £500.

I have no doubt we get well fleeced but what price do you put on security?


Having worked on parts of the Astute class nuclear subs it's not something I've come across there.

With regard to aluminium ladders, there's three different classes that you or I can go and buy and a class 1 one would not be shy of £500. A ladder for a nuclear sub, by the time you've designed, specified, manufactured, inspected and documented it would be well north of £500. I know we couldn't make one so cheaply.
Tim

Alf McQueef wrote:
Look at how Putin has taken every single opportunity to cheat the system in everything from Finance/economics to Sport, and his actions in places like Ukraine, then tell me what you think he would do if he had nuclear weapons and we did not.


Actually, I've re-thought this.

On the back of the Brexit vote we're told house prices will go down dramatically.
Obviously that's going to hammer London particularly badly.

So, who will lose out on that drop?
Simple. All the Russian oligarchs who've bought houses as money laundering operations.

How will they recoup their money?
If the UK doesn't have a nuclear deterrent then its simple again.
They'll ask their best buddy Vladimir to nuke London till it glows having previously topped up the house insurance  
Frank Bullitt

Bob Sacamano wrote:
JohnC wrote:
I remember hearing years ago that if the Navy wanted to use any equipment on a nuclear sub, it had to be purchased from the USA. The example given was an aluminium ladder for something inside the sub, that could have been purchased or made here for buttons had to be bought from the US at something crazy like £500.

I have no doubt we get well fleeced but what price do you put on security?


Having worked on parts of the Astute class nuclear subs it's not something I've come across there.

With regard to aluminium ladders, there's three different classes that you or I can go and buy and a class 1 one would not be shy of £500. A ladder for a nuclear sub, by the time you've designed, specified, manufactured, inspected and documented it would be well north of £500. I know we couldn't make one so cheaply.


Agreed, it's the certification that costs - same principle for medical instruments, a set of scissors costs £2.99 in the hardware store but a product that is licensed and certified to be used 3000 times in an autoclave costs 15 times that amount. A rip off perhaps, but I'm not sure who would want the high street one after it has been autoclave 1500 times opening the instruments for their operation!
JohnC

Bob Sacamano wrote:
...... inspected and documented it would be well north of £500. I know we couldn't make one so cheaply.


My wife remembers the same story told to us at a dinner table but she though the figure was over £1,000 so you're probably right.
PhilD

JohnC wrote:
Bob Sacamano wrote:
...... inspected and documented it would be well north of £500. I know we couldn't make one so cheaply.


My wife remembers the same story told to us at a dinner table but she though the figure was over £1,000 so you're probably right.


Ah, so someone made it up, or the figure is right but it doesn't matter if it's from the US or UK it's £1000. But that wouldn't make such a good story!
Clunes

Quite pertinent given some of the conversation:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-36852805

O.
Roadsterstu

Clunes wrote:
Quite pertinent given some of the conversation:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-36852805

O.


The man is a massive twatbadger
Bob Sacamano

Roadsterstu wrote:
Clunes wrote:
Quite pertinent given some of the conversation:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-36852805

O.


The man is a massive twatbadger


Erdogan is now well on the way to establishing an Islamic Turkey. His opposition is being purged and family members are being placed in positions of power. Democratic elections will soon be outlawed. This will result in the West heavily criticizing him and invoking sanctions of some sort. This will then drive him to repair his relations with Russia and a new era of Turkish/Russian cooperation will ensue. Turkey will withdraw from NATO and align with Russia resulting in a net swing of some 1.3 million troops.
Meanwhile the EU will continue its drive eastwards, seeking to bring Ukraine into the organisation, antagonising Russia and provoking confrontation. Trump may be President by then and whether or not he would decide to intervene in any conflict between Russia and the EU is anyone's business?
We're in for an interesting few years.

Now, about those cheap golf holidays in Belek?
PG

Bob Sacamano wrote:
...This will then drive him to repair his relations with Russia and a new era of Turkish/Russian cooperation will ensue. Turkey will withdraw from NATO and align with Russia resulting in a net swing of some 1.3 million troops.

Meanwhile the EU will continue its drive eastwards, seeking to bring Ukraine into the organisation, antagonising Russia and provoking confrontation. Trump may be President by then and whether or not he would decide to intervene in any conflict between Russia and the EU is anyone's business?
We're in for an interesting few years?


Agreed. The EU were mad to get involved in Ukraine and the situation in Turkey is only going to get worse for Europe.

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