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"Though we have acheived progress, our work is not over. That is why I support the mission of the Arms Control Association. It is, quite simply, the most effective and important organization working in the field today." 

– Larry Weiler
Former U.S.-Russian arms control negotiator
August 7, 2018
United Kingdom

Cost Estimates Rise for UK Submarine

January/February 2016

By Kingston Reif

A new defense review by the UK government estimates the cost of building four new ballistic missile submarines to be 31 billion pounds (about $45.5 billion), an increase of 17-20 billion pounds over the last formal government estimate of 11-14 billion pounds nearly a decade ago.

The defense review also announced a new investment plan and deployment date for the new submarines.

The United Kingdom currently possesses four Vanguard-class submarines armed with Trident missiles carrying a total of 120 nuclear warheads. (The submarines sometimes are also called Tridents.) The government is planning to replace these submarines with a fleet of four new ones.

The 2015 cost estimate to build the submarines includes the effects of inflation over the 20 years it will take to acquire the boats. The review said the total cost to design the new submarine fleet would be an additional 3.9 billion pounds, a portion of which has already been spent.

The review is also setting aside a “contingency” fund of 10 billion pounds, apparently to help address potential increases in the manufacturing cost of the submarines.

The review did not include an estimate of the cost to operate the new boats over their expected lifetimes. Reuters reported last October that the cost to build and operate the fleet and its supporting infrastructure will reach 167 billion pounds, citing figures provided to Crispin Blunt, a Conservative member of Parliament, by the Ministry of Defence.

In 2011 the government approved a five-year preparatory research and design phase for the new submarines. The key set of investment decisions on the program, known as Main Gate, had been scheduled for 2016, to be followed by a vote in Parliament. But the review said the government is “moving away from a traditional single ‘Main Gate’ approach, which is not appropriate for a program of this scale and complexity, to a staged investment programme.”

The review did not detail what this new approach will look like.

It also is unclear whether and, if so, when the Conservative Party, which strongly supports the replacement of the current submarines and currently holds a majority in Parliament, will seek a vote in Parliament in favor of the replacement program.

According to the review, the first new submarine is slated to enter service in the early 2030s. Previous government statements had said the first new submarine would be in the water in 2028. 

A new defense review by the UK government estimates the cost of building four new ballistic missile submarines to be 31 billion pounds (about $45.5 billion)...

UK Party Leader Shuns Nuclear Arms Use

November 2015

By Kingston Reif

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn arrives at a Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament conference in London on October 17. [Photo credit: Chris Ratcliffe/Getty Images]Ahead of a possible decision next year to proceed with the replacement of the United Kingdom’s submarine-based nuclear deterrent, the new leader of the country’s Labour Party said he would not authorize the use of nuclear weapons if he were prime minister.

“We are not in the era of the Cold War anymore; it finished a long time ago,” Jeremy Corbyn told the BBC in a Sept. 30 interview.

“I am opposed to the use of nuclear weapons,” he said. “I am opposed to the holding of nuclear weapons.”

UK Prime Minister David Cameron strongly criticized Corbyn’s remarks, stating in an Oct. 4 interview with the BBC that “[i]f you…believe like me that Britain should keep the ultimate insurance policy of an independent nuclear deterrent, you have to accept there are circumstances in which its use would be justified.”

The UK currently possesses four Vanguard-class submarines armed with Trident missiles carrying a total of 120 nuclear warheads. (The submarines sometimes are also called Tridents.) The government is planning to replace these submarines with a fleet of four new ones.

The first new Trident submarine is slated to enter service in 2028.

Corbyn said he opposes replacing the Tridents. “There are many in the military that do not want Trident renewed because they see it as an obsolete thing they don’t need,” he said.

In 2011, the government approved a five-year preparatory research and design phase for the new submarines. A final investment decision on the program, known as Main Gate, is scheduled for 2016. But it is unclear when exactly the decision will occur or whether the Conservative Party, which strongly supports the replacement of Trident and currently holds a majority in Parliament, will submit the decision to a vote.

In 2006, the UK Ministry of Defence estimated the cost of designing and building the new submarines to be 15-20 billion pounds (about $23-31 billion). Reuters reported on Oct. 25 that the total cost to build and operate the new submarine fleet will reach 167 billion pounds, citing figures provided to Crispin Blunt, a Conservative member of Parliament, by the Ministry of Defence.

Jon Thompson, the top civil servant at the ministry, told UK lawmakers on Oct. 14 that the Trident replacement plan is “the single biggest future financial risk” facing the UK defense budget. “The project is a monster,” he added.

UK Submariner Cites Safety Flaws

July/August 2015

By Jefferson Morley

The ballistic missile submarine HMS Victorious moves through the water off the west coast of Scotland on April 4, 2013. (Photo by Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images)The UK Navy has dishonorably discharged a sailor who posted an online indictment of safety issues aboard the country’s nuclear-armed submarines.

William McNeilly was released from service June 17, a month after posting an online statement alleging up to 30 safety and security problems in and around the United Kingdom’s four nuclear-armed Trident subs. McNeilly, a 25-year-old native of Belfast, was stationed for three months earlier this year at the Faslane base where the subs are housed between tours at sea. In his 18-page letter, which was posted on the WikiLeaks website, McNeilly described himself as “a Strategic Weapons Systems engineer who has sacrificed everything to tell the public how close it is to a nuclear catastrophe.”

McNeilly said fire and floods threaten the safety of the subs’ nuclear weapons, while lax security procedures could enable terrorists to attack. Bans on electronic gear, e-cigarettes, and shaving (to keep hair particles from circulating in the air) are not enforced, he said.

After some members of parliament praised McNeilly in late May, Michael Fallon, the UK defense secretary, dismissed his claims as unwarranted.

“Most of McNeilly’s concerns proved to be either factually incorrect or the result of mis- or partial understanding,” Fallon said in May 28 statement. “Some drew on historic, previously known events, none of which had compromised our deterrent capability,” he said. When appropriate to do so, “lessons had been learned to develop our procedures as part of a continuous improvement programme,” he said.

On June 18, the day after the navy announcement, McNeilly posted a nine-page letter to supporters saying he had been dishonorably discharged.

“I believe Home Office are still doing their investigation, but that’s nothing to worry about,” McNeilly wrote on Scribd, a document-sharing site. “Most people know that I acted in the interest of national security.” 

Trident Safety Record

In an analysis of McNeilly’s comments, John Ainslie, coordinator for the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, noted that there have been several incidents involving UK nuclear subs. His compilation includes a submarine stranded in Gibraltar from 2000 to 2001, a collision between French and UK submarines in 2009, and a submarine running aground in 2010. The report says that it “places McNeilly’s allegations in the context of known safety issue[s] with British nuclear submarines.”

The Trident issue has become contentious in British politics with the rise of the Scottish National Party (SNP), which has called for nuclear disarmament. Last September, Scottish voters rejected the SNP’s call for independence and nuclear disarmament in a referendum. (See ACT, October 2014.) The results of the May 15 national parliamentary elections further fortified parliamentary supporters of the UK’s nuclear deterrent, who have pledged to provide the funding to allow replacement of the four-submarine fleet by 2030. (See ACT, June 2015.)

In his May 15 Web posting, McNeilly recounted what he called security lapses bred by the habits of daily routine and the indolence of some sailors. He also cited safety concerns about the maintenance of the submarines, particularly about the risk of fire or explosion near the Trident’s missiles in which nuclear warheads are located near one of the missile’s rocket motors.

McNeilly quoted a passage from the Trident safety manual as acknowledging the risk of “a rocket motor propellant fire.” According to McNeilly, the manual states that “an accident or enemy action may cause rupture of the RB [re-entry body, the shell of the missile], burning or possible detonation of the HE [high explosive] and release of radioactive contamination.”

Vulnerabilities

McNeilly is not the first to call attention to this aspect of Trident’s design. A 1990 Washington Post article reported that nuclear safety analysts were concerned that a volatile explosive used in the warhead of the Trident missiles could explode in an accidental fire, “producing forces that could compress the nuclear core in each bomb and begin a nuclear chain reaction.” The article went on to say that the Trident missile “is considered particularly vulnerable to such an accident because its multiple warheads are arranged in a circle around the propellant fuel in the missile’s third stage.”

Nick Ritchie, a lecturer on international security at the University of York, said in a June 19 e-mail that McNeilly “at times conflate[s] the risk of the detonation of the high explosive in a warhead and/or missile ­propellant that could scatter the warheads’ fissile material (plutonium and uranium)” with the risk of an even worse event, “the inadvertent detonation of the warheads themselves resulting in a catastrophic nuclear explosion.” 

“It is difficult to independently judge the veracity of specific claims without having experienced day-to-day operational practices at the Faslane Naval Base [on board] UK nuclear-armed submarines,” Ritchie said. “However, the account is detailed and supports a public history of problems in the UK submarine fleet and nuclear weapons enterprise.”

The Royal Navy dismissed a seaman whose online allegations of safety breaches aboard the United Kingdom’s nuclear-armed submarines were rejected by the Ministry of Defence.

UK Election Results Protect Trident

June 2015

By Jefferson Morley

The victory of Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative party in the United Kingdom’s May 8 parliamentary election will protect the country’s submarine-based nuclear deterrent from disarmament advocates hoping to curb or eliminate it, analysts say.

The Conservatives, committed to modernizing the country’s nuclear force, won an absolute majority of the 650-seat House of Commons, meaning Cameron’s government will not have to govern in coalition with the Liberal Democratic party. Liberal Democrats, who lost 49 seats, have called for scaling back the proposed replacement of the four Vanguard-class subs, which are armed with Trident missiles carrying a total of 120 nuclear warheads. (The submarines are also sometimes called Tridents.)

The Labour Party lost 24 seats, crushing leader Ed Miliband’s hopes of coming to power in coalition with the Scottish National Party (SNP). The SNP, committed to nuclear disarmament, gained 50 seats, but will have no role in the ­government.

Parliament will make a final decision on modernizing the Vanguard-class fleet in 2016, according to the UK Ministry of Defence.

“The issues of contention may be how many boats are to be replaced,” said John MacDonald, director of the Scottish Global Forum and a nuclear disarmament advocate, in a May 20 e-mail. While Conservatives are committed to a “like-for-like replacement,” in which four new submarines would replace the current four, Labour officials “have been making noises” about replacing the current fleet with three or perhaps two submarines, he said.

“The SNP will not be able to impact the Vanguard replacement decision,” MacDonald said.

Andrea Berger, analyst at the Royal United Services Institute, said in a May 21 e-mail that the new Conservative majority government “makes it a near certainty that the UK will move forward with a new class of [nuclear-armed submarine], consisting of four boats, to be deployed continuously at-sea.” At the same time, she said, SNP electoral gains “make it likely that the government will find it difficult to take that decision without at least a yelling match.”

The victory of Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative party in the United Kingdom’s May 8 parliamentary election will protect the country’s submarine-based nuclear deterrent from disarmament advocates hoping to curb or eliminate it...

UK Downsizes Its Nuclear Arsenal

March 2015

By Jefferson Morley

The United Kingdom has reduced its nuclear arsenal by 25 percent, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told the House of Commons on Jan. 20. During a debate over the replacement of UK nuclear forces, Fallon announced that the government had fulfilled a 2010 commitment to reduce the number of deployed warheads on each of the country’s four Trident submarines from 48 to 40. “The total number of operationally available warheads has therefore been reduced to 120,” Fallon said. Previously, the UK reported having 160 operational warheads.

The government’s 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review report stated the reduction would give the country a “minimum deterrent” to potential enemies, while saving money as well as honoring “our commitment vigorously to pursue multilateral global disarmament.”

In the Jan. 20 debate, Scottish National Party leader Angus Robertson and other critics said the Trident force was useless as a weapon and should be abandoned.

“I have yet to hear a supporter of Trident convincingly explain in what circumstances they would be prepared to justify the killing of hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women, and children and the causing of massive environmental damage to the world for generations to come,” Robertson said.
Fallon defended the government’s definition of minimum deterrence.

“Unfortunately, those reductions [in the number of Trident warheads] have not encouraged other states seeking a nuclear weapons capability to forgo their attempts,” he said, “nor have they encouraged some other states that already possess nuclear weapons to follow our example. It is our conclusion that it would be rash further to disarm unilaterally while the capability to threaten us remains.”

The United Kingdom has reduced its nuclear arsenal by 25 percent, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told the House of Commons on Jan. 20.

Scottish Vote Preserves UK Nuclear Force

By Jefferson Morley

Voters in Scotland rejected independence in a Sept. 18 referendum that threatened to break up the United Kingdom and force relocation of UK nuclear forces. By a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent, the electorate voted against abandoning Scotland’s 307-year-old union with England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. 

The vote spared the UK government the expensive prospect of having to move its only nuclear submarine base, at Faslane, Scotland, and nuclear arms depot, in nearby Coulport. The Scottish National Party (SNP), sponsor of the referendum, had touted independence as a way to make the country free of nuclear weapons by 2020. Relocating the two facilities to England would have cost 2.5 billion to 4 billion pounds, according to a study by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).

The Faslane base is home port for the UK’s four Trident nuclear-armed submarines, each of which is equipped with as many as 40 thermonuclear warheads on U.S.-designed and -built ballistic missiles. “Trident” technically refers to the missile, but the term is used in the UK to mean the entire system.

The SNP sought to outlaw such weapons on Scottish territory.

“Trident is an affront to basic decency with its indiscriminate and inhumane destructive power,” the Scottish government declared in a November 2013 brief for independence. 

 The UK Ministry of Defence, which plans to replace the Trident fleet in the next decade, contended in an October 2013 analysis of Scottish independence that “the UK’s strategic nuclear deterrent plays an essential part in the UK’s and NATO’s overall strategy and provides the ultimate assurance against current and future threats.” 

During the referendum campaign, the UK government promised to “devolve” more powers to the Scottish government. But defense will remain a “reserved” matter controlled by the government in London, and the Trident submarines will remain at Faslane, Malcolm Chalmers, a RUSI analyst, said in Sept. 19 e-mail.

Voters in Scotland rejected independence in a Sept. 18 referendum that threatened to break up the United Kingdom and force relocation of UK nuclear forces.

U.S.-UK Nuclear Pact Revised

Jefferson Morley

The United States and the United Kingdom revised and extended their long-standing nuclear forces cooperation agreement in July, with President Barack Obama declaring that “continu[ing] to assist the United Kingdom in maintaining a credible nuclear deterrent” is in the U.S. national interest.

A July 24 White House statement said the changes would “ensure consistency with current United States and United Kingdom policies and practice regarding nuclear threat reduction, naval nuclear propulsion, and personnel security.” Because portions of the new agreement are secret, Obama sent classified and unclassified versions of the agreement to Congress, according to the statement.

As the UK debates the long-range future of its submarine-based Trident nuclear forces, the renewed agreement authorizes U.S. support through 2024. A 1958 mutual defense pact between the two countries allows transfer of “classified information concerning atomic weapons; nuclear technology and controlled nuclear information; material and equipment for the development of defense plans; training of personnel; evaluation of potential enemy capability; development of delivery systems; and the research, development, and design of military reactors,” according to the White House.

U.S.-UK Nuclear Pact Revised

Jefferson Morley

The United States and the United Kingdom revised and extended their long-standing nuclear forces cooperation agreement in July, with President Barack Obama declaring that “continu[ing] to assist the United Kingdom in maintaining a credible nuclear deterrent” is in the U.S. national interest.

A July 24 White House statement said the changes would “ensure consistency with current United States and United Kingdom policies and practice regarding nuclear threat reduction, naval nuclear propulsion, and personnel security.” Because portions of the new agreement are secret, Obama sent classified and unclassified versions of the agreement to Congress, according to the statement.

As the UK debates the long-range future of its submarine-based Trident nuclear forces, the renewed agreement authorizes U.S. support through 2024. A 1958 mutual defense pact between the two countries allows transfer of “classified information concerning atomic weapons; nuclear technology and controlled nuclear information; material and equipment for the development of defense plans; training of personnel; evaluation of potential enemy capability; development of delivery systems; and the research, development, and design of military reactors,” according to the White House.

The United States and the United Kingdom revised and extended their long-standing nuclear forces cooperation agreement in July, with President Barack Obama declaring that “continu[ing] to assist the United Kingdom in maintaining a credible nuclear deterrent” is in the U.S. national interest.

Scottish Bid Imperils UK Nuclear Force

Jefferson Morley

The future of the United Kingdom’s nuclear arsenal is in the hands of 4.1 million Scottish voters who go to the polls Sept. 18 to decide whether to end the country’s 307-year union with England and become an independent country.

If the ballot proposal is approved, the ruling pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) has pledged to evict the UK fleet of four nuclear-armed submarines from the naval base at Faslane on Scotland’s west coast by 2020. Having no comparable submarine base, the UK government would then face expensive choices about how to maintain its exclusively sea-based nuclear force.

“It would be an enormous exercise to reproduce the facilities elsewhere,” the UK Ministry of Defence said in an October 2013 analysis of Scottish independence. “It would cost billions of pounds and take many years.”

Although issues of jobs and social welfare programs have dominated the referendum debate, the nuclear defense issue has energized anti-nuclear activists and alarmed UK leaders. Prime Minister David Cameron has taken a strong public stance against Scottish independence, as have his predecessors Gordon Brown, Tony Blair, and John Major.

The Faslane base and the nearby naval armaments depot at Coulport, where the UK’s submarine-launched ballistic missiles are stored, are key to UK defense policy. The UK navy keeps at least one submarine somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean at all times, a posture called continuous at-sea deterrence. Each of the submarines is equipped with as many as 40 highly accurate thermonuclear warheads on U.S.-designed and -built Trident II (D-5) missiles.

The SNP seeks to outlaw such weapons on Scottish territory.

“Trident is an affront to basic decency with its indiscriminate and inhumane destructive power,” the Scottish government declared in a November 2013 brief for independence. “Billions of pounds have been wasted to date on weapons that must never be used and, unless we act now, we risk wasting a further [100 billion pounds], over its lifetime, on a new nuclear weapons system.” The name “Trident” technically refers to the missile, but the term is used in the UK to mean the entire system.

The UK Ministry of Defence, which plans to replace the Trident fleet in the next decade, contends that continuous at-sea deterrence is critically important to the country and its allies. (See ACT, October 2013.) “The UK’s strategic nuclear deterrent plays an essential part in the UK’s and NATO’s overall strategy and provides the ultimate assurance against current and future threats,” according to the ministry’s October 2013 analysis.

If voters approve independence, Scotland and the UK will have to negotiate a host of other issues, from currency to membership in the European Union, that will affect resolution of the nuclear question.

“The 2020 date is, in my view, an initial bargaining position,” Malcolm Chalmers of the Royal United Services Institute in London said in a June 19 e-mail. “The UK would find it very hard to relocate safely and securely over this time frame. I think a more credible scenario is basing in Scotland for a much longer period, perhaps until new submarines come into service (needing infrastructure) around 2030.”

The Scottish government says it seeks “the speediest safe removal” of the weapons “within the first term” of an independent Scottish parliament, which will serve until 2020.

“The most likely option would be submarine basing at Devonport [in southwest England] and a new warhead/missile storage facility in [nearby] Falmouth,” said Chalmers, an opponent of independence. “But the latter, in particular, would take some considerable time—no one knows how long—to build.”

The resulting financial burden could imperil the UK’s status as a nuclear power, said Frances Burwell, director of transatlantic relations at the Atlantic Council in Washington.

“I do think that having to leave Faslane (if that is indeed the result) would add an enormous cost in terms of relocation that would make it difficult for the UK to continue with the nuclear deterrent,” Burwell wrote in a June 19 e-mail.

Chalmers, who advises Parliament on defense issues, said London would not willingly surrender its nuclear weapons.

“The UK—already bruised and humiliated by the loss of Scotland—would be determined to cling on to this symbol of its major power status,” wrote Chalmers.

The UK would be better off without nuclear weapons, argues John MacDonald, director of the Scottish Global Forum and a supporter of independence.

“Surrendering its nuclear capability would showcase the UK as a progressive example to follow and London might well find itself projecting a more authoritative global voice in areas where weapons proliferation threatens to destabilise regional and international security,” MacDonald wrote in European Security in March.

President Barack Obama made the U.S. government’s preference clear at a June 5 news conference in Brussels with Cameron. While emphasizing that the decision whether to leave the UK is “up to the people of Scotland,” Obama said, “[W]e obviously have a deep interest in making sure that one of the closest allies that we will ever have remains a strong, robust, united, and effective partner.”

Two polls taken in June found a slight majority in favor of staying in the UK, according to Reuters, citing the pollsters’ “near consensus that the race is getting ever-tighter ahead of the September referendum.”

On Sept. 18, Scotland is to vote on whether to become an independent country. The results could force costly changes in the United Kingdom’s nuclear-armed submarine fleet.

UK Review Doubts Trident Alternatives

Robert Golan-Vilella

Nearly all of the leading alternatives to the United Kingdom’s current plan for replacing its nuclear-armed submarines would cost more than the existing approach, a British government study found recently.

The “Trident Alternatives Review,” which was published July 16, examined alternative plans for the replacement of the United Kingdom’s four aging nuclear-armed submarines. The current plan of “like-for-like” renewal, championed by Prime Minister David Cameron, would involve replacing each of the retiring submarines, which are scheduled to reach the end of their service lives in the late 2020s and early 2030s, with a new successor model, which is yet to be developed.

The 64-page report, drafted by officials in the Cabinet Office, considered a variety of plans for fielding an arsenal composed of nuclear-tipped cruise missiles instead of ballistic missiles. The cruise missiles could be deployed on surface ships, submarines, or aircraft.

The report determined that all such options would be more expensive than like-for-like replacement, mainly due to the time required to produce the new weapons systems. The review concluded that a new cruise missile warhead could not be developed and deployed until about 2040, well after the current submarines had left service. The cruise missile options therefore would require the United Kingdom to build two additional nuclear-armed submarines to “bridge the gap” until a cruise missile-based system was ready for use, adding to their costs.

The study estimated that like-for-like replacement would cost approximately 20 billion pounds ($31 billion) over the life cycle of the new submarines. The only cheaper option would be to replace the county’s four Vanguard-class submarines with a fleet of three vessels, according to the report. However, it noted that doing so would force London to abandon its current posture of “continuous at-sea deterrence,” in which at least one of the submarines is kept on patrol at all times.

The review considered a range of other potential nuclear postures but concluded that none of them offered “the same degree of resilience as the current posture.” Whether any of these alternatives would constitute a viable option for the country would depend on a political calculation by the government concerning the amount of risk it would be willing to take, the review said.

Currently, the United Kingdom’s entire operational nuclear arsenal is deployed on the four submarines, each of which is armed with Trident ballistic missiles. As of 2010, London’s stockpile consisted of no more than 225 nuclear weapons, of which fewer than 160 were actively deployed, according to government figures. Those numbers are scheduled to be reduced to 180 and 120, respectively, by the mid-2020s. (See ACT, November 2010.)

The impetus for the review came from the Liberal Democrats, who in 2010 assumed power in a coalition government along with Cameron’s Conservative Party. The two parties pledged to maintain the country’s nuclear deterrent, but also agreed that plans for the replacement of its nuclear weapons systems would be “scrutinised to ensure value for money” and that the Liberal Democrats would “continue to make the case for alternatives.” The following year, the coalition government formally commissioned the Trident review.

With the review’s completion, the Conservative Party leadership argued that the report bolstered the case for like-for-like replacement.

“The Government remains 100 per cent committed to maintaining and renewing the Trident system,” Defence Secretary Philip Hammond wrote in the July 15 Daily Mail. Hammond added that “the logic for this commitment is clear: there is no alternative to Trident that provides the same level of protection and ability to deter an aggressor. The alternatives are less capable, less credible and more expensive.”

In contrast, Danny Alexander, the chief secretary to the treasury and lead minister of the review, sought to paint the review as a potential catalyst for change. Speaking in London at the report’s launch, Alexander, a Liberal Democrat, argued that the review demonstrated “that there are credible and viable alternatives to the United Kingdom’s current approach to nuclear deterrence.” The posture of continuous at-sea deterrence has become “unnecessary,” Alexander asserted. By ending this posture and moving from four submarines to three, he said, the government could save 4 billion pounds over the life of the systems.

Paul Ingram, executive director of the British American Security Information Council, told Global Security Newswire on July 16 that “the limits of the review are clear. It interprets credibility strictly, and does not consider any options that do not have the capacity of reinstituting continuous at-sea deterrence at a moment’s notice.”

The United Kingdom approved the preliminary “initial gate” investment in the new submarines in 2011, allowing preparatory work on the replacement to proceed. (See ACT, June 2011.) The “main gate” decision to begin construction on the submarines is scheduled to be made in 2016. This would be after the next British general elections, which are slated to take place no later than May 2015.

Nearly all of the leading alternatives to the United Kingdom’s current plan for replacing its nuclear-armed submarines would cost more than the existing approach, a British government study found recently.

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