Andreas PersboNAO on Trident

In Europe, Britain’s National Audit Office has released a report on the United Kingdom’s Future Nuclear Deterrent Capability. It is an interesting read. The main conclusion is that:

There is a challenging timetable to meet if continuous at sea deterrence is to be maintained. The critical path for provision of a future deterrent capability is the delivery of the nuclear-powered submarine platform in time to meet an in-service date of 2024. But there are also possible time constraints from other areas of the programme. There is currently little scope for incorporating time contingency in the overall programme to deal with slippage in any of these areas.

The Office also says that a replacement cannot be made without the help of the United States, which produces its own sets of challenges. In particular, the project timeline becomes quite inelastic.

Have a read here.


  1. yousaf

    The RRW part seems more interesting — in the executive summary it says: The Government also set out its plans to participate in the United States of America’s programme to extend the life of the Trident D5 missile and to make a decision in due course about whether and how it may be necessary to refurbish or replace the current nuclear warhead.

    Can someone speak to how inter-linked the US and UK-equivalent RRW programs are? e.g. Could one country go ahead with an RRW and the other not?

    My impression is that they are fairly interdependent even to the extent of having each others personnel involved in their respective pilot studies. And I believe the UK Aldermaston nuclear facility is still partly run by Lockheed Martin(?)

  2. FSB

    The UK and US RRW-programs-to-be-if-ever are really one and the same as far as I can tell: UK cannot go ahead without US as they buy ‘em from the US…apparently

  3. Rwendland (History)

    The NAO report doesn’t mention the severe problems on the most recent (non-SLBM) nuclear subs, the Astute class. That required a U.S. engineering management team from Electric Boat to be brought in to resolve programme problems, backed up by a U.S. Navy contract for design and production drawing work, 90% done in the U.S., under the U.S. Foreign Military Sale Program. The initial U.S. Navy contract was for $144 million, but I think that was extended. The Astute programme slipped by 4 years and about £1 billion I think.

    So the NAO is right to worry about the “challenging timetable” and U.S. dependencies!

  4. Chris (History)

    One hopes Astute’s problems were a one-off because of the too-long gap between sub programmes that allowed the expertise base to degrade.

    The next SSBNs will be built straight after the Astute programme so hopefully that problem will not occur again. Well hopefully anyway.

  5. FSB

    Perhaps the NAO will also study what the point of the UK nuclear stockpile is.

    Hope springs eternal.

  6. Alex (History)

    To be more specific, we don’t buy the warheads from the US, we buy the rockets. There is some crossfertilisation in the warhead itself (IIRC some bits come from the US and some US weapons contain UK plutonium and other things) but it’s actually built at Aldermaston.

    And presumably shipped to Kings Bay to be fitted on the Trident; although, as the missiles are out of a “common pool” and the subs load up at Kings Bay, does that mean some UK warheads sail on US boomers?

  7. yousaf

    Thank you Alex.

    Would you know if (IF) RRW were to go ahead in US and UK whether it would be the same new design (i.e. the “WR1” based on the SKUA-9), or whether there is a possibility that the new US RRW and new UK RRW designs are —or would be — different? It appears that it would make life easier all around if the US and UK RRW designs would be the same(?).

    Thank you for your help.

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