Jeffrey LewisHigh Surety Warhead

When the-Prime Minister Tony Blair sought support to replace Britain’s Trident system, he deferred the decision on a replacement warhead to the next Parliament. I’ve wondered if that meant Britain might build an RRW:

… Britain’s nuclear warhead design is essentially similar to the US W76.

As I have noted before, the W76 is the warhead slated for replacement by the Reliable Replacement Warhead, closely linking the questions of Trident replacement in Britain and RRW in the US.

Ah, well, now I’ve learned the British are now considering their own “reliable replacement warhead” program (with many of the same capabilities) as one option for Trident replacement, a warhead notionally called the “High Surety Warhead.”

This may just be a gleam in a designer’s eye. But, in 2006, Michael Smith of the Sunday Times reported that Britain’s 2006 subcritical test in Nevada was conducted with an eye toward an RRW-like program. Other journalists, including <a href="
“>Ian Bruce, Edward Heathcoat, and Tim Reid have all started asking the right questions.

As of today, a Google search for “High Surety Warhead” reveals no hits. Let’s change that, shall we?


  1. Gridlock (History)

    And with that, you did – there are now 2 results (one supplemental).

    Can’t we just secretly build a shiny cardboard cutout, say we have nukes and spend the money on something more useful, like a tunnel to Barbados or a 500-mile wide umbrella?

  2. Haninah (History)

    There have definitely been rumblings about a British RRW before, as you know, and lots of futile speculation as to whether it is or is not the same as the US RRW. High Surety Warhead is if anything an even worse name than Reliable Replacement Warhead, IMO – people complained that “RRW” is designed to make people think the old’uns are unreliable, but this ups the ante even further. I can just picture the parody of the old deodorant commercials – “sure warhead – unsure warhead!”

    Anyhow, I would imagine that the UK is simply hedging its bets, trying to do as much science as it can and get as far as it can before the public debate over Trident replacement gets hot enough (or an election gets close enough) to force them to actually elucidate a policy, one way or another. As Lewis Dunn noted, the US basically went six years and counting without offering to the public anything more than the barest bones of a formal nuclear stockpile policy.

  3. MarkoB

    They are not the only ones. A 1999 intel doc stated that Russia was conducting hydro experiments at NZ…
    “the experiments were also used to check out the characteristics of new generation chemical explosives, presumably for use in remanufactured or replacement warheads”
    A systematic pattern by the NWS?…new gen warheads under the rubric of reliability…a Chinese RRW? (the French are working on a new warhead too don’t forget)