submarines

The outcome of the Trident vote will not be the last word

Parliament has today voted in favour of the government's plans to replace the four Vanguard class submarines with Successor submarines, based upon continuous submarine patrolling. This vote may have provided the country's new Prime Minister Theresa May a quick and immediate opportunity to demonstrate business as usual, a new government keen to get things done post Brexit. But it will not close down the issue, for these reasons:

Voting for Trident before the Scotland question is settled is illogical

Vanguard at Faslane

The UK Parliament will be voting tonight on the principle of replacing Trident nuclear weapons system. It is a symbolic commitment, unconnected to any contracts or procurement timetable. Meanwhile, the government commitment to leave the EU is stoking calls for a second Scottish referendum. As the UK’s nuclear weapons submarines have their only base in Scotland, voting for Trident before coming to an agreement about the UK’s future makes no sense.

A Primer on Trident’s Cyber Vulnerabilities

HMS Westminster

The second of BASIC's 2016 Parliamentary Briefing series relating to the Trident debate is a primer on Trident's cyber vulnerabilities. Cyber threats impact both critical civilian infrastructure and all military systems dependent upon digital control and communications. Trident systems must be seen as a valuable cyber target for adversaries keen to neutralise any nuclear threat against them.  If they can have some confidence of preventing a Trident launch, where does that leave nuclear deterrence? Cyber vulnerability also raises critical questions of strategic stability.

Commons Vote on Trident Imminent?

House of Commons

Whilst the UK media is relishing the drama over Britain’s leaving the EU, speculation this week suggests the Conservative government may rush a Trident vote through the Commons in July. It would do this to move on from a damaged referendum debate, and divert attention to a deeply divided Labour Party. This is clearly a temptation, but if they do go down this route it would represent an infantile inability to delay gratification for much greater political return later. Trident is a goose that just keeps laying the golden eggs for the Conservatives. An early slaughter would be the height of madness. The clever money is on a vote rather closer to or after the end of the year.

Concerning SSBN Vulnerability ­- recent papers

Two BASIC papers published in recent months (The Inescapable Net: Unmanned Systems in Anti-Submarine Warfare and A Primer on Trident's Cyber Vulnerabilities), have asserted the UK’s strategic nuclear deterrent is in danger of becoming vulnerable in such a way that it can no longer be relied upon to fulfil its primary role.

Trident Advocates Target the Air-Launched Option

As Emily Thornberry, Shadow Defence Secretary, closes the consultation period on her defence review, critics of the review have been engaging on the substance. They worry that minds currently are just a little too open to alternatives for comfort, and that a non-Trident alternative could become Labour policy.

Feeding the ‘Monster’: Escalating Capital Costs for the Trident Successor Programme

In October 2015 Jon Thomson, Permanent Under Secretary at the Ministry of Defence, described the Trident Successor programme as a “monster” that kept him up at night, “the biggest project the Ministry of Defence will ever take on” and “an incredibly complicated area in which to try to estimate future costs.”  

Understanding the new arms race

The stand-off between Russia and the West has prompted triggered fears of a renewed East-West clash. Amidst this climate of confrontation, nuclear weapons have regained some relevance for strategists on both sides, and political leaders have implied veiled nuclear threats. Against this background, the nuclear arsenals of both the US and Russian are undergoing important and costly modernisation programmes.

Trident is Vulnerable

A debate is now raging over BASIC's exposure of the threat emerging technologies present to the future viability of Trident submarines. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) states they do not believe it is a problem, and that even if it were submarines would still be the best, most stealthy platform for nuclear missiles. The confidence implied in the MoD's public line is unjustified, and must surely cover up a deep concern held by strategists for the future viability of its most expensive weapon system.

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