back to article Trident delay by the Coalition: Cunning plan, or bad idea?

The Coalition government, as part of its ongoing strategic review of UK defence, may decide to postpone replacement of the Trident nuclear deterrent by five years. What would that mean? Immediately in practical terms it would mean that spending on the replacement systems would be pushed mostly back out of the ten-year …


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  1. Neil Gardner

    Go Nuke'Em

    Let me get this right. The Reg editorial team believe recent climate change is not affected by historically unprecedented levels of human activity, limits to growth are a myth, oil had nothing to do with the invasion of Iraq, we need need a nuclear deterrent.

    Yeah, OK let's all emulate Jeremy Clarkson, support __our__ troops in Afghanistan and Iraq (spreading freedom and democracy), drive our SUVs on new multilane highways spanning the former rural region of East Anglia, now converted to London overspill, and threaten the rest of the world with nuclear armageddon should these evil extremists challenge our god-given right to a high-consumption life style.

    1. Tigra 07

      The bottom line

      And why would the UK use their nukes to wage war when the only country to ever use one against another is America?

      Jeremy Clarkson might well be right on his view of global warming, as i'm sure he is.

      Whether you're a green or a BNP supporter, it doesn't matter.

      What you can't deny is that we're safer WITH nukes than without (as independance day proved)

      1. Monty Burns

        No it didn't....

        "What you can't deny is that we're safer WITH nukes than without (as independance day proved)"

        They didn't work! What you need is lots of drunken crop spraying pilots in FA18's!

        1. Tigra 07

          RE: Monty Burns

          The mother ship was eventually destroyed by the bomb in the space ship, the bullets and missiles were useless

          1. Keith T

            Mother ship destroyed by computer virus

            title says it all

    2. Anonymous Coward

      "our god-given right to a high-consumption life style"

      @Neil Gardener

      Thank you. Nothing is as funny as a self-righteous Green loonie slamming the door on his way out.

      Glad you got it off your chest, though mate. We all feel better now.

    3. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

      @Niel Gardner

      I think you need a breather, sir. El Reg’s editorial team impose no conditions on it’s writers. Some of us are by the standards of the Americans “bloody pinko commie leftist liberal scum.” Myself for example.

      I’m a socialist. I believe that the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights should be the basis for all constitutions. I believe that eventually a planetary federalist state should be enacted, based lightly off the model of the EU. (Taking into account the inefficiencies and working around them. Everything’s always better when you have a prior attempt to work from.) I believe in health care, education, spreading wealth around a little bit, reducing consumption, helping your fellow man and generally not being a selfish and self centered cockbag.

      But you know what? In my opinion, Lewis is 100% right on this one. Nuclear deterrence is important. Like it or not, there are Bad People out there. Some of them control whole countries. We don’t want to nuke ANYONE if we don’t have to…but being able to nuke them is we are required to is a great deterrent to their nuking us. It’s how the game is played. Think about it: if there were no nuclear deterrence at all, and conventional warfare were all that we had to worry about, then world war three would already have happened.

      We are stretched to the brink on this planet. The gigantic flashing neon pink elephant in the room that EvEYRONE refuses to talk about is that we just keep having too many damned BABIES. There are too many people. Not enough Oil, clean water and other critical resources to go around. Let’s take both the Great Artesian Basin and the Ogallala Aquifer as examples. Both of these are massive caches of underground water supporting powerful first world nations. Both may well be completely depleted within our lifetimes. When they go…the shit will hit the fan in a way people in the first world haven’t yet begun to comprehend.

      The third world however knows all about it. Exactly this has been happening repeatedly all over the poorer countries. They fight wars on a regular basis because of it. No matter who wins, millions die because they can’t get access to clean water. Not because there aren’t funds to drill a well…but because there’s no more clean water down there to drill a well into.

      These nations are downright desperate. If they thought they had a half a chance in hell, I honestly believe many of them would band together and make a run at the first world, because we are sitting on some of the last remaining resources on earth. Give it fifty or seventy-five years, and you may have the first world nations of this planet at eachother’s throats for the same reason.

      On that day, you’re going to be glad you have nuclear deterrence. My country doesn’t. When the shit hits the fan, America is going to walk across the border, hit us over the head with a brick, and take what is ours because theirs ran out. Thanks to my government’s short-sightedness, NOTHING will be able to stop them from doing so.

      1. Tigra 07

        RE: Trevor Pott

        "I believe that eventually a planetary federalist state should be enacted, based lightly off the model of the EU"

        That's the most ridiculous thing i ever heard.

        The EU isn't even democratic

        Unless parliament abolishes the parties and leaves all MPs indepentant then neither are we.

        How can we be a democracy when we are ignored by our elected MPs and even their boss can force them to vote how the rest of the party wants?

        I agreed with everything else in your post though so voted you up

        These nutters would want us to get rid of our nukes right before Iraq gets theirs and uses them on us, thats just crazy

        1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

          Re:"The EU isn't even democratic"

          Maybe that's why he said "based lightly off the model of the EU".

          Lightly - as in the initial idea, modified by such and such considerations.

          1. Tigra 07

            Based lightly?

            The EU is a communist organisation, ignoring the people and pressing ahead with their own agenda.

            The elected MEPs are not elected by voters and do not represent them so in no way should any government be based even lightly on their framework and be called a democracy

            By based lightly it should mean, the idea of one global government actually representing the people, and in that way only

            1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

              @Tigra 07

              Correct. Additionally, the EU isn't wholly federalist. The individual units that make it up (countries) have more autonomy than they would in a truly federalist endeavour. They do however submit to a centralised authority for judicial proceedings, single currency, a central place to bring inter-country disputed for arbitration and more.

              The EU is sort of like a UN with TEETH. It’s more and yet less than that as well. I would take me hours to explain properly. This however Is why I said “based loosely off of.” I do believe we need a planetary government co-ordinating intergovernmental relations and housing a planetary judiciary from which not even heads of state are immune. The fundamental law backing at all should be the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.

              Additionally, I do believe it should be a fundamentally socialist government; one of its mandates should be the redistribution of aid and funding to raise the quality of living for the world’s most poor. To provide planetary universal health care and education whilst providing a co-ordinated central hub for the nation’s various militaries to deal with rogue nations, or provide manpower to assist with natural disasters.

              Capitalists will hate the concept; the entire think is based on treating people /equally/ rather than exploiting them mercilessly. I also think that the planetary government can’t be allowed to /ever/ become too powerful. No single entity should be able to resist the unified forces of the majority of its constituent components. If it gets uppity, the nations that make it up need to be fully capable of bringing it down.

              To this end, whilst I believe that the proposed planetary government should co-ordinate international military objectives, it should in no way have a standing army of its own capable of going toe-to-toe with more than a small handful of its constituent nations. In fact, if it has a standing army at all, they should be dedicated peacekeepers. reliant on the component nations for transport to and from theatre so as to minimise the risk of the planetary government attempting to militarily consolidate it’s power. Ideally, all the big machines (tanks, choppers, jets, boats, etc) should be provided by constituent nations as well for the same reason. Allowing the planetary government to host a standing army of individuals, but no means to put them into a war without the approval and support of member nations.

              ANYWAYS, I didn’t want to get this far into this. Suffice it to say that my ideas really are loosely based on the EU.

              1. FatCandy

                Sounds like a Frank Herbert creation?

                This explanation sounds like it came from Dune whilst having "real world" socio-political mumbo jumbo slapped on top....

                1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge


                  That's an interesting insight. I am quite a fan of Frank Herbert (amongst many other authors.) Perhaps his works have a greater influence on my belief system that I had previously suspected...

              2. Keith T

                Would you give human rights to foreigners? The UN does.

                Few in the USA, Russia or China respect the UN because it views foreigners as human with full human rights. Citizens of superpowers know that foreigners are sub-human.

                1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

                  @Keith T

                  Foreigners and any non-human that could be proven to be both sentient and sapient. (Elephants fit into that category most certainly, as do many higher primates. New Caledonian Crows and possibly other Corvids as well. Some Cetaceans.) I would apply the same rights to any sentient and sapient individual regardless of species (or even planet or origin) that was capable of meeting a certain set of rigorous tests. Those tests not to be determined by myself, natch. I do however have a pretty good understanding of what they would probably consist of.

                  Fear of death. Desire for freedom. Ability to learn complex tasks related tool use. (Most specifically ability to learn to use new tools.) Ability to recognise one's self and ability to distinguish (and remember) other individuals from multiple species. Ability to learn any form of language. (Sign language does count: not all species have a larynx structured as we do.) Mourning the dead/funeral rituals. Demonstrated ability amongst at least some members of hte species to observe the use of tools by another individual (of their own or another species) and adapt a tool for use from that observation. (And/or ability to refine an existing tool to be more precise for a given task.)

                  On the other hand, I would NOT, EVER grant human rights to corporations. I also know that granting human rights to non-human animals would be a huge no-no least initially. A protected non-voting status in our society would be a great start. I know we are arrogant enough as a species (overall) to think we are unique in the universe; the only “sentient species” that exists. I happen to disagree. Still though, until we can even agree that OTHER HUMANS deserve the same rights as us, what chance that we will stop wiping out other species that have the potential to develop at least as far as we have?

            2. Ian Yates

              "The EU is a communist organisation"

              I assume you mean "totalitarian" rather than "communist", as I've never once heard of the EU discussing the abolition of wages or private property.

              "The elected MEPs are not elected by voters"

              I'm interested by this, as I thought I had in fact voted for my MEP. And since I receive regular updates and have attended talks by my local MEP, I got the impression that she was attempting to represent our views (even if she doesn't carry much weight by herself).

              I'm a fan for the idea of a central democratic overseeing body, similar to what Trevor describes. I'll concede heavily that the EU doesn't work well in all areas, but I'm confident (naive?) that it can be shaped over time to something better.

      2. Jonathan Richards 1


        Who wrote:

        > El Reg’s editorial team impose no conditions on it’s writers.

        Not even the condition that the verb should agree in number with its subject, nor that apostrophes should be properly placed.

        If everyone knew the difference between its and it's, we'd have no NEED for nukes.

  2. N2

    Dammed if they do

    & dammed if they don't

    Referendum anyone?

  3. GrumpyJoe
    Thumb Down

    Who are we using these against?

    Any large nuclear country (Russia,Us,China) would probably take the risk (we would do less damage than them to us). Smaller nuke countries? probably run by religious zealots or nutters (is that redundnancy there?). This would be no deterrent.

    So is it for when the aliens come?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "we would do less damage than them to us"

      If by "less damage" you mean only creating a a few years of flora and fauna killing nuclear winter, rather than a decade or more, then I see your point.

      However, we have enough nuclear warheads (somewhere around 160 to 200 at the moment) to make even the most insane leader of a nuclear power think twice.

      And that's before you get to the huge tracts of land that would be left unusable for decades, the long term health effects on the population down-wind of the detonations, and the "leakage" of these affects from the target country to surrounding countries that could cause them to destabilize - there are a lot of already fairly unstable countries in the neighbourhood of those states we'd most likely use nuclear weapons against.

    2. Mooncat

      Nuke them anyway.

      We would do plenty of damage to the other major nuclear powers. Admittedly we would not be around to see it but we would blast them back into the stone age and they don't want that. As for the countries run by nutters, well it's simple. We nuke them just before they get the bomb to use on us. harsh, but true.

      1. Keith T

        the greater chance is we'd use nukes against a country that did not have them

        We'd assume that an Iraq, Iran or Afghanistan had nukes, or was close to getting nukes, and if we could not economically afford to attack them with conventional weapons, use our nukes on them.

        Of course by nuking them there would be no evidence that they had no nuclear program, so no national political leaders going down in history as war criminals as per the attack on Iraq.

    3. MeRp


      Obviously the deterrent is necessary for thwart France... in fact, perhaps first strike capabilities should be fostered.

      1. MonkeyBot

        The French

        We don't need Trident for that, just chuck the warhead on the Eurostar.

      2. asdf

        go away or we will taunt you again

        The French are too busy deporting Roma to worry about first striking Blighty right now. Besides except for one time it hasn't went well for the French crossing the channel.

      3. mmiied

        Dam right

        hystroicley we have been at war with the french more oftern than anyboady else!!

        you can't trust them I tell you

  4. JohnG

    Does it deter? When would we use it?

    Are there any scenarios in which Britain would use the nuclear deterrent in which neither the USA nor the French would also be using theirs against the same targets? If not, given the limited nature of Britain's arsenal, is it really worth keeping if it means we then have to lose or reduce other elements of the armed forces which see regular use. How much are the Russians or Chinese really deterred by our weaponry?

    Can we even use our nuclear weapons without permission from the USA? Back when the Trident systems were first delivered, there was some discussion about dual keys: we had one set of codes and the USA had the others. At the time, we could not fire our nuclear weapons without the USA first giving us the remaining codes. Is this still the case?

    1. Chris Thomas Alpha
      Thumb Up

      I suppose the point you missed was

      that we don't really goto war anymore, the falklands, iraq(twice) and afghanistan were the only countries in 50 or so years, wars with tanks and fighter jets are largely a very small part of defence as we now know it.

      so our requirement for large numbers of tanks and jets is largely unnecessary, we only need a small amount of them and the world has been discovered now, there are no more dark corners, with satellites and being able to land a missle through somebodies window from any ocean on the planet what is the point of large numbers of what effectively boil down to "hand-to-hand" combat weapons.

      the ability to strike far and precisely is what we need now.

      for the money spent, trident is a bargain, nobody will touch us, with tomahawks, they might try it on.

      with the money lost from trident, we still have enough money to support all the weapons we need, limited nature of britains arsenal? you live on another planet than me mate, britain is one of the strongest militarily speaking countries on the planet, but that doesn't really matter anymore.

      it's not like we're going to invade france or spain in a hurry, only undemocratic countries we need to worry about have lousy militaries and inadequeate defences. What happens when they get better? we develop newer weapons to defeat them, easy. More likely, we don't fight in the first place, we just stick to our own business and let the rest of the world stick to theirs. If they poke their nose in a nuclear tipped missile flies through their window, but 99% of the time, we talk and work it out, the days of huge armies fighting until the death are gone, most of the enemies in the world are gone, just a few remnants are left over.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Ok, I'll bite

        The "not wars" that Britain alone has been involved in since, say, 1990, have been extremely numerous. 2 gulf wars, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Croatia, Bosnia, Kosovo have all seen the involvement of British forces.

        Regarding the need for modern equipment. The first gulf war is interesting. At the start of the war, the Iraqi military had 649 fighters and some 4500 tanks. Only about 200 of the tanks were T72s, the rest were older, but that is still a formidable force. The M1 Abrams and Challenger 1 tanks that dominated allied forces are a design that is about 10 years newer than the T72. Both the M1 and the Challenger 1 would probably defeat a superior force of T72s without loss, but you don't get that for free. We took 3318 tanks to the first gulf war. With the air superiority/air supremacy we had, we probably could have made do with 500 or 1000; but we would still have needed tanks. You can't go against tanks, even 1970s designs like the T72, without heavy armour of your own.

        The air superiority and later air supremacy in many places over the battlefield was a surprise. We expected Saddam to fight in the air, not to run with some of his planes to Iran. Had he fought, we would have lost some planes to it. The US were putting in large "alpha strikes" packages of jets designed to create a favourable air situation (one level below air superiority) around them as they fly through contested airspace. The package consists of fighters, bombers, and electronic warfare aircraft. Had Saddam thrown a squadron of aircraft at one of these strikes he might have taken out a jet or two in return for losing a squadron. We were better, but it seemed that we were anomalously better because Saddam didn't fight.

        We created an asymmetric war in Iraq in 91 because our gear was vastly superior to that against us. You don't maintain vastly superior gear by not replacing aging equipment. And you always need some numbers. The Germans in WW2 had a vastly superior tank in the Tiger, but couldn't produce it in large enough quantities to stop the Soviet T34 from running rings round them.

        We will always need tanks and jets, regardless of what Lewis says.

      2. Keith T

        Remember 7/7, Falklands, etc, etc.

        How can you say with Trident nobody will touch us. We have Trident and they did.

        As for there being only 3 wars in 50 years:

        Anglo-Egyptian War of 1951-1952; Mau Mau Insurgency, 1952-1956; Cyprus Emergency 1955-1959; Suez/Sinai War 1956, Muscat and Oman Intervention 1957-1959; Jordan Intervention 1958; Indonesia Conflicts, 1960-1966; Ugandan Army Mutiny 1964; Aden Conflict, 1964-1967; The Ulster Troubles, 1969-?; Falklands War, 1982; Gulf War, 1991; Former Yugoslavia Peacemaking Operations; Afghanistan War, 2001-?; Iraq War, 2003-?; Cote d'Ivoire, 2004; Iran 200?-?.

        Of course in some of those conflicts was us getting out of situations our upper classes had gotten us into during the profit making days of empire.

        In none of those wars did nuclear weapons deter our enemies.

        And our nukes don't stop other countries pushing us around diplomatically either. The USA, Russia and China know we'd never nuke them over a trade issue. Vatican City knows we wouldn't nuke them over child abuse. Canada knows we wouldn't nuke them over restrictions on beer imports or continuing seal hunts.

    2. Pemberton_

      Not quite...

      We gave the assurance to the US about the use of our nuclear weapons, but they have no veto on our actual use of them or the control to stop it.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not quite...

        "We gave the assurance to the US about the use of our nuclear weapons, but they have no veto on our actual use of them or the control to stop it."

        They have no veto on our use, but our assurance about their use is enforced by the US - they hold the launch codes and if we want to use them we have to ask nicely - fact.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          We do have control of our nuclear arsenal.

          > "They have no veto on our use, but our assurance about their use is enforced by the US - they hold the launch codes and if we want to use them we have to ask nicely - fact."

          No, they don't. The urban myth that they do is entirely CND fabrication.

          We don't have Permissible Action Links or anything else on our subs, a point that does worry the yanks quite a bit. The Sub commander has complete, total and utter control over the weapons on board. If the PM decided to land a warhead on the White House lawn then the US President couldn't do anything about it, apart from threaten to retaliate.

      2. Keith T

        We might not know if they did.

        title says it all

    3. asdf

      don't know

      You notice Iran didn't seize American sailors in International waters. Although that might have more to do with the British being more reasonable and less cowboyish (lol my new word) than nukes. Still Americans don't bargain with pirates we shoot them and with our budget crippling military and our culture no wonder we scare the piss out of the rest of the world.

  5. Mark Rendle

    Oh no, not you again.

    Another reasonably well written and yet completely bereft of sense column from the author of

    Much like the Audi TT my wife says I can't buy, of all the things we can't afford, an independent nuclear deterrent is the thing we can most afford to not be able to afford.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Cheese eating surrender monkey

      You sir are wrong

      1. Mark Rendle

        I respectfully disagree

        And you are a grotesquely ugly freak.


  6. Chris Thomas Alpha

    I downvoted your post because...

    you had clearly missed the point of the entire article and focused a response on the most unimportant part of it, you HAD to find an iraq angle didnt you, you tried SOOOOO hard, you have to say your piece about the war in afghanistan and iraq, you couldn't let it lie.

  7. Chris Thomas Alpha

    does anyone want to disagree with lewis now???

    I mean, cmon, everytime this guy writes an article you guys jump all over him like he's some florescent coloured bouncy castle.

    he's right, in EVERY paragraph, I wonder which of your "brave" people will have the nerve to tell him how wrong he is, considering your "extensive" military experience from behind your monitor, I no doubt imagine you all rattling away like crazed programmers on speed.

    Good Job Lewis, I'm glad you properly marked out your claims and answered questions you KNEW would be asked ahead of time, it puts those people back in their places.

    1. strum

      Civilians Rool

      "I wonder which of your "brave" people will have the nerve to tell him how wrong he is, considering your "extensive" military experience"

      Military experience has no relevance to political decisions. After all, the MoD swamps Lewis's 'military experience' a thousand-fold, yet they still make major cockups of it.

      No. Civvies have to make these decisions, and if it deprives the boys of their toys - too bad.

      1. Mark 65


        "Military experience has no relevance to political decisions."

        Yep, because the politicians have been bankrolling our guys so well in recent years. No shortage of kit under the previous Government that was only remedied through public outrage at articles in the media about soldiers not even having body armour on tour in the middle east.

        Politicians should consult our military, that of our allies (for potential cost sharing) and maybe some independent advisers (military strategists etc not twats like Mandelson) then set objectives of what needs to be achieved and keep the f*ck out. It's pretty much how most departments should be run. Consult those that do the job, get some independent advice and put together the targets then leave them to it given most things pollies touch turn to shit.

    2. MeRp

      I don't think the tradition is to disagree as such...

      I believe the appropriate meme for responding to a Lewis Page article is not to disagree, per se, but rather to deride his tendency to prefer purchasing ostensibly cheaper American war kit rather than buying British or European kit.

      It was very subtle in this article, and thus far I haven't seen any typical responses, but, indeed, in this article Lewis is advocating buying American kit (Trident) as opposed to British kit (land rovers, infantry equipment, etc). I suppose anyone who was inclined to disagree with that concept (of buying American vs buying British) could make the same argument here.

  8. Kevin Reilly

    Halve the cost

    split the cost of a trident replacement with the surrender monkeys across the channel. it"ll never get used anyway, unlike the carriers.

    1. It wasnt me
      Thumb Up

      This man is talking sense.

      Im not sure I agree with calling them surrender monkeys, but why cant we just buy the M51 from france? Its hugely capable, and sharing the development costs of the subs and missiles would keep the cost down for both nations? It would be fantastic european cooperation. And save money too. Why does our system need to be bespoke when we could share the dev costs and do the building in the UK? Brit jobs protected, less money spent. Everyone is happy. (Except the Lib-dems). (Which in itself will make some people more happy, thus compensating).

      1. serviceWithASmile

        re: it wasnt me

        "Why does our system need to be bespoke...?"

        because if it wasn't, alot of geeks would be out of a job -

        and alot more CEO's would lose their seat on the gravy train

      2. Mark 65

        Good idea

        Just don't let any other Euro countries join in and keep it strictly between us and the French (who seem to have good nuclear knowledge) else you'll end up with another Eurofighter.

        1. John Hughes

          And this is exactlt what would go wrong

          The sane thing to do would be just to buy the existing French system.

          The normal military procurement way would be to get together with the French and a few other countries, arse around spending billions, and end up with something that doesn't work.

    2. asdf


      Granted the performance of the systems is such (proper developed nation nuke subs all about equally effective) that this makes perfect sense on paper. Still sharing your big stick tech with French has to feel about like duct taping a testicle to your buttocks. Still I guess when your debt is about even with your GDP humble pie often is the most appealing option.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      really? :)

      and you would want the french to have a hand in our deterent? really? lol


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