England expects.....to need to replace the Trident ICMB and submarine delivery system in the next 5 to 10 years.
The arguements for a UK contribution to the USAs deterrant as it would be anyway, are laughable and pander to a self image of the Empire circa 1952. However the proposal to invest in Son of Trident is plain ridiculous.
When the UK troops leave Afganistan for good we will be at a cross roads and likely to be moving away from being 'Airstrip one' for a US dominated NATO towards a UN and EU centre of gravity. Finally we may be able to leave the US to make its own mess in the middle east and spend money on poor muslim communities in the UK rather than chasing bogey men in the dusts of the 'stans, or standing with our bayonets pointed at Putin.
Sabres are still in high demand amongst some of the admiralty establishment and in the non twittering class in the Home Counties who see Britain as a major player in the world. A bit like Norwegians, if you are bloody minded enough to think you can punch more than your weight then actually you will by sheer bluff and determination. Trident II, would be an expensive white elephant which would appease strategists who are experts on the cold war and are paranoid about a Russian attack on the UK.
Why is Trident II a waste of money ?
Firstly it has no real detente element to play. Russia and China are stable enough now for the forseeable lifetime of a new weapon system that it really would be an embarressing sabre to rattle given how much the investment would drain from a strangled defence budget. We are likely to recieve other tasking for our armed forces> even David Cameron is sceptical to the US far right who want to invade Iran vis a vis secure more oil. We will be in an EU and NATO which will be most interested in defending borders, responding to attacks from rogue states and of cours e doing UN peace keeping duties.
Why is Trident a toothless tiger? because it will never be used and it performs no real detente function against major powers who may believe the UK would be allowed to use it in the abscence of a US lead WWIII. The Argentines knew this as much as Maggie Thatcher in 1982. A "leak" in the late 80s suggested that Polaris was remissioned to Buenos AIres but that leak was probably just Tory propaganda against a Labour movement still hijacked by duffle coat CNDers and Leninist Militants. The legacy of the Cold War, Polaris folloed by Trident, didn't stop the argies taking the Falklands and it didnt stop the lockerbie Bombing nor any other attack on the UKs interests since the fall of communism.
The alternative delivery system is the far cheaper cruise missile system. In fact the navy had a nuclear delivery capability possible in the torpedo tube launched cruise missiles it introduced in the 1990s. It is a proven technology and there are diifferent ranges it can cope with depending on which system y ou buy, plus the missiles can be repurposed for air drop launch for retasking to a different sphere of influence.
The other "benefit" if you can call that such, is that the smaller U boats can also carry out hunter killer and surveillance operations and that the missile itself can be used
with alternativce payloads such as propoganda leaflets (seriously, dropping one of those in the middle of Tehran wouldmake them think)
The trouble with them is that an enemy will not be able to discriminate between a non nuclear tactical explosive and a full on nuclear attack and may choose to take a default stance of counter attacking with nuclear force. Here we are talking for the moment Russia and China. Who own our football clubs and most of our industries.
I counter argue going back to the fact that despite Putin being a bit prickly and China not being a democracy, neither are in the ball game with us for detente any more, not with the UK. Our future forseeable missioning will be against rogue states such as perhaps Iran and any other middle eastern country which turns radical and acts as a centre of terrorism or military aggression against UK interests and allies. These type of targets will be softened up by stealth incursion disabling their ability in radar to detect cruise weapons. We saw this in desert storm where the weapons were used such. Iran is arguably more sophisticated in detection but they as yet cannot launch a nuclear reprisal and if attacked would probably not care too much about what type the 12 incoming missiles from the gulf or the black sea actually are.
As I argue, the theatre of conflict will maybe change to SE Asia again or to outer mongolia for that matter, however, a cruise missile capacity is a good investment in both protecting our assets by nuclear deterrance and in effecting fairly accurate incursions to far flung targets with no casualties on our side.
Another thing too is that such weaponry and submarines can be entirely well catered for in England and Wales, such that a move for Scottish Independence in 2017 would not render the land based facilities at the deep water approaches at Loch Long a liability.
The opt out is to as with polaris, extend the life and utility of the current trident fleet to 2025 and hence three general elections away at least. This leaves us with a rather rusty white elephant who would get in effect a blank check book to patch up and even re/mission to some extent. The uk has a rather awful list of expensive patching ups, probably incluing the Chevroline update for Polaris and definetly the Nimrod surveillance aircraft and the blue streak missile. Like fixing a victorian villa, refurbishment nearly always uncovers greater ills or unforseen building work and then of course there may be a move to further standardise the fleet, which are in effect each different submarines by the time they are finished for various reasons.
30 years ago Cruise missiles were the hot thing, the new way to provoke the Russians. around the cold war meeting table. They were stealthy, being under radar and low infra red footprint, while they were long enough range to hit the major USSR targets from , yes you remember it, Greenham Common in the southern UK.
At least with a cruise system you get some utility in minor conflict time and a decent enough capacity to wreck any arab states military machine if committing to this as a major part of the fleet. Also woh betide me if the UK actuall sees sense and dumps an over priced and useless arsenel of US controlled H bombs, you then are not left with a scrapped white elephant.