At Faslane in Argyll & Bute this morning to make the announcement, Chancellor George Osborne has allocated half a billion pounds to construction projects to be built over ten years at the naval base, supporting its function as the UK’s national submarine base, sustaining the jobs of the 6,700 currently dependent on it and projected to create a further 8,000.
And yes, when they start coming into service from 2028, Faslane will host the Successor-class submarines carrying the new Trident missiles. There is an interesting piece on this issue here.
This is a heavily conflicted subject with valid views for retention and abolition – but unilateral nuclear disarmament remains a serious defence issue in today’s world. It is not impossible to do it, but some of the costs can be calibrated and others are no more than conjecture.
Trident is the Armageddon option, with its possibility alone seen as the ultimate deterrent.
It is interesting to note that Exercise Square Leg, carried out by the UK government in 1980 to test the MoD and governmental response readiness to nuclear attack assumed a very modest 500 kiloton to 3 megaton attack ‘yield’. Nevertheless, this was estimated to cause the following impacts on the UK population of the day:
- 29 million dead [53%];
- 7 million seriously injured [12%];
- 19 million short term survivors (our italics) [35%].
This adds up to a wipe out of 100% population of the country, since the 12% seriously injured are unlikely to be more than ‘short tem’ survivors along with the uninjured 35%. The scenario for the exercise, while working to a maximum delivery of 3 megatons, nevertheless acknowledged that it was within probability for such an attack to deliver over 1,000 megatons.
Exercise Square Leg – which was of course carried out in the Cold War and under the perspectives of the time – assumed attack delivery in 69 ground bursts and 62 air bursts – but since 1998 the UK – as now the case with all nuclear armed members of NATO – has no airborne delivered nuclear weapons but has concentrated on submarine-delivered missile launches. Submarine-based deterrence is reckoned to be the safest and most assured.
The outcome of the ongoing debate on whether or not the UK continues basing its ultimate defence strategy on first strike nuclear deterrence will depend on what level of which risk the country is prepared to accept.
In his announcement this morning, Mr Osborne made reference to the Successor-class submarines that will be based at Faslane as they come into service from 2028. These are the successors to the ageing Vanguards that currently carry the Trident missiles.
The UK government signed off initial contract development – known in defence procurement as ‘initial gate’ – for the Successor-class submarines in May 2011.
Public domain details of what the Successors will be are pretty scant and it seems as if that may be the actual situation. We do know that they will share with the American submarines a common missile compartment and probably common launch tubes. This is imperative where the UK buys the missiles from the USA but it is an imperative that, bizarrely, was very belatedly recognised. [For those interested in this there is a useful piece here, from April 2015, in the UK Defence Journal.]
There is discussion going on as to whether the Successor-lass submarines should have multi-missile capability – meaning a sub-nuclear role -an issue on which expert opinion seems quite polarised.
The £500M construction projects lined up for the next decade at Faslane include more ship lifts to add to the one they already have – clearly to support the presence of a greater number of operational submarines, with the new Astute hunter-killers coming into service and the Successors to come; sea walls; and jetties. The MoD is already building more accommodation blocks there.