The facts on Trident 'cuts': What the Lib Dems want is disarmament

This topic was created by ScottAS2 .

  1. ScottAS2
    Mushroom

    The facts on Trident 'cuts': What the Lib Dems want is disarmament

    Since El Reg can't be arsed to start a topic on this themselves, here is one.

    1. proto-robbie
      Facepalm

      Re: The facts on Trident 'cuts': What the Lib Dems want is disarmament

      Yes, don't see why they can't just have comments as per usual. I've now lost the inclination...

    2. Don Jefe

      Re: The facts on Trident 'cuts': What the Lib Dems want is disarmament

      They're only forcing forum use on controversial articles. I'm pretty sure it is to discourage 'new' readers from posting ranty things. It sure does suck though and is kind of a wuss move. That and the forums seem to be the unloved stepchild of the site and they want to draw attention to them. I suppose that's why they don't link to the specific thead, just the main forums landing page.

      I just came over to see if their strategy was working. Doesn't appear to be.

    3. brain_flakes

      Why on earth didn't the review cost up silos?

      Given the nature of the threat that the UK faces (limited size attack from a rogue country rather than an all-out cold-war style nuclear war) having several hardened silos would seem like a sensible enough solution, and after all any nuclear attack on the UK large enough to knock out all silo sites would have a large impact on the rest of Europe from fallout etc. so they're likely to want to get involved. Not to mention the fact that NATO membership guarantees mutual defence.

      All in all it seems to me the report has been created simply to "prove" that we should keep Trident rather than actually look at all alternatives.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Why on earth didn't the review cost up silos?

        brain_flakes,

        Who knows what threat the UK faces? Or to be more precise, will face in 2030, when the new system comes on stream. The whole point is that you have to plan for a world you know very little about, as it's still over 15 years away. This is the problem with planning military capabilities. If you're serious about it, you need to over-spend, because you need to be able to respond to potential threats, or at least have enough capability to tide you over while you upgrade something that almost does the job, or build something new.

        Can you tell me who'll be governing Russia in 2030? Given they've got a few thousand nukes on ICBMs. Of course it may be that Putin is still President, in which case he's probably quite predictable...

        And even that's assuming we trust the French! Well I suppose they haven't attacked us in a few years now, so maybe it's safe to turn our backs...

        As for NATO guaranteeing mutual defence, do you even know if that will exist by 2030? Also it's less of a guarantee when you're talking about nukes. As no-one else will fancy a dose of the same. As was mentioned in the article. Once you're paranoid enough to feel you need nukes, you're going to be too paranoid to trust anyone else's.

        Finally:

        All in all it seems to me the report has been created simply to "prove" that we should keep Trident rather than actually look at all alternatives.

        You are aware that the report was chaired by Danny Alexander of the Lib Dems, who wanted not to replace Trident. What he's found is that the alternatives are Trident, a bit less Trident or nothing. Anything else costs more for a less effective weapons system. Although 3 squadrons of F35s could obviously do other duties as well as nuclear ones, so would cost lots for lots of capability. But they're too short range to be a fully effective deterrent.

        I suppose you could argue that land based missiles might be cheaper, if we could buy the US Minuteman system. Assuming they'd be willing to sell. And assuming the warheads were compatible, and didn't need a re-design. But the report doesn't, so I'd imagine they looked into that rather obvious idea. Plus land-based missiles are less effective at the stated job.

        1. brain_flakes

          Re: Why on earth didn't the review cost up silos?

          But if you take such a negative prediction of the future then surely the only way to be safe would be a massive nuclear arsenal on par with Russia or the US' current stockpile, after all at some point soon the technology to intercept ballistic missiles will be practical (especially if there is another cold war style arms race) so a sub or two's worth of missiles won't be any guarantee of a strike.

          Also I don't care who the report was chaired by, skimming through it it just felt like it was discounting silos with out doing a full cost benefit analysis - if the cost saving was marginal or non-existent then obviously subs would be the better option, if the cost saving was very large then it would be worth considering further in my opinion.

      2. Kerry Hoskin

        Re: Why on earth didn't the review cost up silos?

        can you imagine the planning permission headaches with this!

        HMG "oh hello mr householder we'd like to place this chuffing great hardened nuclear silo next to your house"

        householder "feck off"

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Tim Jenkins

          "can you imagine the planning permission headaches with this"

          Given that yesterdays meeja was also covering an apparently seriously proposal to permit a private company to compulsory-purchase and demolish a minimum of hundreds, and perhaps even thousands of homes for an airport expansion, I shouldn't think planning controls would be a huge obstacle to a strategic defence project...

  2. John 90

    forum pages

    Lose them. Bring back the comments link. I don't want to have to search for comments on an article. Call me lazy, but I don't see what benefit it brings to me.

  3. John Ruddy

    Well, it was an interesting article, apart from the fact it didnt discuss the real question - what is our nuclear force actually for?

    The question over trident, and its replacement, is not how big it should be, but what do we need it to do?

    Th threats this country faces now, and in the foreseeable future are not necessarily best met with by a Trident-type nuclear force. Trident was designed to deal with a Soviet Union hell bent on our destruction. That threat has gone, in so much as it ever existed. (they'd have used salami tactics in any case).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @John Ruddy

      "Well, it was an interesting article, apart from the fact it didnt discuss the real question - what is our nuclear force actually for?"

      The way I would put it in UK terms is the rise of gangs. People wont do anything about them because to attack one would cause the others to duff you in. As the article makes clear we cannot rely on someone else (our allies) stepping in to protect our irradiated remains but by having the sub somewhere in the world and able to respond regardless of the UK's situation we have the equivalent of the unknown members of our gang ready to brick their windows, slash their tires and kill them in the street.

      The same principal works in school and prison that you want to project an appearance of strength and actually having strength is even more important. It makes a tiny island frequently invaded and attacked less likely to be invaded and attacked. War has changed from countries with defined borders to groups of terrorists, but thats because these nuclear deterrents make it difficult to justify normal warfare.

      In a utopia these things wouldnt be needed, do we have a utopia? No. Instead we have the stronger in your face and threatening and the weaker trying to stab you in the back. By reducing the people willing to get in your face you are left defending against backstabbers. But if you let your guard down some bully (look to the US over snowden and iran) will get in your face.

      Finally there are the plain crazy. NK is a great case for a nut case. We have delusional warmongers developing nukes. If they want to start firing I would be much happier knowing they were reduced to a wasteland. Might even stop them firing off more and save many lives.

      "Trident was designed to deal with a Soviet Union hell bent on our destruction. That threat has gone"

      I assume you clean your home? Do you do it once and have no future fear of germs/etc? Or do you keep it up to keep yourself protected.

    2. Dom 3

      "what is our nuclear force actually for?" - maintaining a veto-wielding permanent seat on the UN Security Council. I thought everyone knew that.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Mushroom

        Let's run with this idea, and take it all the way through to a newly nuclear weapon-free United Kingdom being ejected from the permanent members of the UN Security Council.

        Can you begin to imagine the geo-political implications of such an action and what it would do to the efforts to contain nuclear proliferation?

    3. FutureShock999
      Alert

      Gone? Hardly...

      You say that the threat of a large Soviet-style aggressor is gone? I think you are daft. The ONLY reason the threat is gone is because of Mutual Assured Destruction. No one will risk an all-out nuclear war if everyone is armed to the hilt. Large aggressor states historically can only survive by growing...they actually are terrible if static, and constrained over time. That is in large part why the Soviet threat faded.

      But remove MAD, and the rise of such states is inevitable. The germs of such a state exist in today's Russian, and to a lesser extent China, and possibly the Gulf. And removing Trident is the beginning of the removal of MAD.

      Worse, the removal of a purely British deterrent would be the effective rise in power of the US in specifying the UK's foreign and even domestic policy. While we traditionally have been close friends, the rise of religious extremism in the US (as judged by the gradual outlawing of abortions, new swearing of allegiance to God as part of high school graduations in Arizona state high schools, etc.) should VERY much make you wonder where that trend will be by 2030, and how much power you would want them to have. Suppose an Evangelical-dominated political scene in the US made continued US "nuclear umbrella" coverage contingent upon eliminating UK abortion choice, changes to the Anglican Church, and other religious and social interference?

      Otherwise, you forget about Pakistan. Suppose a fundamentalist Islam government came to power in Pakistan (NOT a stretch of the imagination, is it?), and simply said that the UK had to open our borders and permit the massive immigration of millions of Pakistanis into the UK, under Pakistani nuclear threat if we have disarmed? It would essentially allow a take-over of Britain from forced immigration. Such a threat would not even have to be made public, but routed through diplomatic channels quietly.

      One of the worst things that a successful nation can do is FORGET WHAT MADE IT SUCCESSFUL. In the case of the UK, that has been a continued ability to defend itself. Why we think that ANY better use for the money for Trident can be found is a blatant example of FORGETTING WHAT GOT US HERE. In any military cost calculus, nuclear weapons are cheap, cheap, cheap - compare the new missile's costs to fighting in Afghanistan for example. Or WWII.

    4. Ian 55
      Mushroom

      It's to threaten the USA

      If Britain used its nuclear weapons to vaporise Moscow - what they were designed to do - the Russians would not sit around going 'Oh, those were British nukes, we'll just invade / wipe out the UK'. They'd launch at the Americans.

      Fairly obviously, the Americans would prefer that this did not happen, so they have a vested interest in making sure that the Brits don't ever feel the need to use their nuclear weapons.

      As long as Britain and America are seen as allies, this goes for any other potential nuclear armed enemy. If the Brits nuke them, they're going to hit out at the Americans, because it might have been them who did it.

      So ultimately the British nuclear force is indirectly pointed at Washington, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, etc etc etc.

  4. John Deeb

    About this fear of a comment section being raided. Perhaps because that's what you get when you start posting strong ideological pieces which aren't in any way a.) journalistic or b.) IT-related?

    One example from Page's underlying ideology:

    "...to be pretty sure of tearing the guts out of pretty much any nation on Earth in one salvo"

    This is an ideological view: the philosophy of mutually assured destruction being in some way being connected to security and stability. The historical facts of the cold war do not support this at all. All depending on how historical facts would be interpreted. Depending how you make the calculations with the many assumptions connected to your ideology.

    From historical perspective the article is mostly immature posturing and then putting a firewall up against other ideologists coming in for the kill? Not to mention people pointing out the obvious: writing flaming articles is one thing, defending them a whole other.

    1. monkeyfish
      Stop

      I'd also put forward this view: Nukes might be a deterrent for those who care about their countries well-being... But they're not much good if the leaders of a country are either mad as a bicycle or don't might a bit of 'suicide bombing' (suicide being letting off the nukes and waiting for the inevitable response).

      So, of the worlds countries who either have nukes or will in the future, is a nuclear deterrent actually a deterrent at all?

      1. FutureShock999

        Bullpucky

        Show me ONE major Shia cleric that has strapped on a suicide vest HIMSELF and detonated it? Or show me a senior Sunni cleric that has done so?

        NO - they use poor 16-24 year old boys and girls for a reason - like ALL religious leaders, it is "do as I say, not as I do". (idiots that follow these "branded mythologies" DO set themselves up to be used this way....)

        To stop a supposed Iranian nuclear threat, you don't bomb Natanz. You don't threaten Tehran and it's huge pro-Western population of middle-class Iranians. NO - you point a nuclear-tipped missile at the holy city of Qum, where the large body of Shia clerics resides...and you LET THEM KNOW that is your strategy. See if they will be willing to find their 72 virgins en masse then...

  5. markw:

    I want comments as usual...

  6. Mike Richards Silver badge

    US involvement

    Isn't the US's involvement a bit more than allowing us access to GPS... like that they build and service the missiles and do the hard work of designing the warheads? The British haven't had an independent nuclear deterrent since Operation Grapple.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: US involvement

      The UK build the warheads.

      I'm not sure how it works with the missiles. As I understand it, they're drawn from a central pool of operational missiles. I don't know if after each Trident patrol they're taken out and sent back to the US to be overhauled, or if the UK do the local servicing but full regular overhauls are done in some Central facility. However given that the US also used the base at Faslane, it wouldn't surprise me if there wasn't some kind of joint facility there. The Navy are going to have a lot of experience of use and general maintenance on the missiles though, boats have to be able to fix them at sea - so they're going to know quite a lot about them.

      Obviously the missiles are US designed/built. UK is responsible for its own warheads, boats and communications.

      1. Vimes

        Re: US involvement

        Regardless of who builds the warheads, if the idea is to keep the UK safe I would still be *very* worried...

        http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/7097101.stm

        I wonder what the situation is like these days?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: US involvement

        missiles are sent back to the US when the boats are refitted at Devonport

  7. PyLETS

    How to maintain the careers of naval officers

    Argue the case to maintain defences concerning threats which no longer exist, by pretending new threats (Iran, North Korea ?) are in some way equivalent to the old ones.

  8. Rampant Spaniel

    Given the amount of money pissed up the wall we should welcome something that will actually put some of the money in workers pockets.

    It pains me greatly yo admit it, but it would seem for once they have done the right thing and at least looked at what different options will cost. I do not think we are in a situation where we want to be without a nuclear option, at least not yet (hopefully one day).

    Compared to all the twatting around over the aircraft carrier(s), that launch mechanism, what planes they will have and if we are going to timeshare with the french, actually sitting down and making an informed decision is preferable. Ok the cost is likely to at least double before we get the subs but that would apply to each option anyway. The only other vaguely sensible option could be a pan european designed sub and missile package but after the eurofighter that doesn't smell too good.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A terrible article

    "it's terrible news for those who want to try and achieve gradual UK unilateral disarmament by stealth, like the Lib Dems"

    -Do the lib dems want this? I can't remember seeing it in their manifesto. The purpose of the review as i understand it was to see if cost savings could be made through a scaled-down trident.

    "So the right choice is ICBMs on submarines"

    -The right choice, if you were to decide that Trident must be renewed. But not the right choice if you conside that £87bn (costs saved through cancelling Trident) could be better spent elsewhere!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A terrible article

      To be fair, just because something isn't in a manifesto doesn't mean it isn't an aim. The Tea Party would have you believe the are objectivists when in reality they are a Christian extremeist party and opposed to some objectivist principals. Not that they would state that in as many words.

      Politics isn't always totally honest, it doesn't always do what it says on the tin.

    2. graeme leggett

      Re: A terrible article

      Liberal democrat website - "We will strive for global nuclear disarmament, showing leadership by committing not to replace the Trident nuclear weapons system on a like-for-like basis" is the party policy, what individuals may think......

      1. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

        Re: A terrible article

        I'm pretty sure that as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the UK as a whole is (theoretically) committed to gradual disarmament, with complete disarmament as the final goal.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Still don't really see the point in Trident.

    Who's going to attack? Lets try some scenarios....

    - Russia, China etc, (Conventional war type thing.) In an invasion of Europe. They're committed to total war at this point and as the article points out we aren't going to nuke them so the conventional war would play through first. Nukes don't come into it until they are losing at which point they might fancy their chances anyway as most of their cities are already rubble.

    - Iran etc (Rabid loony state) Unlikely to care about the response as god will look after them.

    - Terrorists (Individuals/Organisations/non-state actors whatever) Who are you going to retaliate against?

    Finally, if they do attack, subs are sat in the ocean ready to avenge a trashed Britain, at the push of a button millions will be dead and vast tracts of land laid waste. Why bother? It's too late.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Still don't really see the point in Trident.

      "Finally, if they do attack, subs are sat in the ocean ready to avenge a trashed Britain, at the push of a button millions will be dead and vast tracts of land laid waste. Why bother? It's too late."

      Why bother? Because they will launch to avenge the trashed britain. Is it worth destroying britain when the result is to be destroyed? Mutually assured destruction works. It is illegal to blackmail but it still works due to the same principal.

      The result of destroying us is so horrific and becomes so pointless that no country would dare. That is the point. True that leaves us with terrorists (existed anyway) but now that leaves us with just terrorists.

      1. Don Jefe

        Re: Still don't really see the point in Trident.

        There's really no evidence mutually assured destruction as a deterrent applies to small nations. In the event of a nuclear attack on Britian there'd really be nothing left and the current scale of any British nuclear response is a rounding error in the scheme of MAD policies between gigantic nations.

        There's also strong arguments that the most effective part of MAD was the impact on the economy of participants. Basically it is like suing your competition into the ground in court. You force them to play the game and the country with the biggest wallet wins as the negative consequences of diverted funds drive the populace into despair and make them desperate for change.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: Still don't really see the point in Trident.

          In the event of a nuclear attack on Britian there'd really be nothing left and the current scale of any British nuclear response is a rounding error in the scheme of MAD policies between gigantic nations.

          16 missiles per boat x 3 warheads per missile = 48 cities with large holes in the middle. Which country has 48 cities that it wouldn't mind missing?

          That's assuming an attack with no warning. And that a second boat isn't out on exercise with another lot of 48 warheads.

          If a threat builds up over time, that number of warheads can also be increased. You can't build new boats in just a couple of years, but Trident can carry more warheads. I think we used to put 6 on them, but took 3 off each after the cold war. There are probably still warheads in storage, and we've plenty of plutonium to make more. So we could probably double the striking power of each boat pretty quickly.

          Most nuclear policy tended to expect some warning of attack as well. After all, you've got to really piss someone off for them to want to nuke you. Even if plans were designed to cover the surprise attack. So Trident would expect to get at least 2, if not 3, boats to sea at any time of serious crisis. One will always be in repairs. So that could easily be quite a lot of nukes.

          It's a rounding error in terms of the ten thousand warheads on ICBMs each side had at the height of the Cold War. But that was truly a silly number of warheads. Even accounting for the size of force needed to make a first strike even slightly, vaguely plausible.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Still don't really see the point in Trident.

            That's assuming an attack with no warning. And that a second boat isn't out on exercise with another lot of 48 warheads.

            Not a valid assumption though is it? True enough it's a deterrence against a sudden strike, but what enemy is just blasting away for the hell of it? You know they either want to do it, or need to do it because you've already backed them into a corner. If they do it out of blind faith the following destruction is irrelevant to them, if they do it as a last resort the following destruction is irrelevant to them because they feel they've already lost. Either way there is nothing to gain from actually following through on the threat.

            So really all Trident deters is a pearl harbour style nuclear attack, where the attacker isn't interested in taking the country (because there won't be anything there) but just wants to disable it.

          2. Dom 3

            Re: Still don't really see the point in Trident.

            "That's assuming an attack with no warning. And that a second boat isn't out on exercise with another lot of 48 warheads." My understanding is that the missiles have limited life "at sea" before they need to be brought in for (expensive) overhaul, and that therefore standard peactime practice is to run the boats with only four (IIRC) missiles aboard.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Still don't really see the point in Trident.

              there's pretty much always one boat in here at Devonport being refitted

    2. FutureShock999
      FAIL

      Re: Still don't really see the point in Trident.

      As I have written above - show me ONE "Islamic leader" that has strapped on HIS OWN suicide vest in the pursuit of his god... Funny enough, it is always some poor 16 -24 year old kids being told to do it. There is a hint there as to how well the religious and Islamic political leaders think heaven is supplied with 72 virgins for each of them. Even OBL hid in caves and built a massively secure compounds because he feared death of HIMSELF. So basically the theory that "they will commit suicide in attacking us" is bunk - the leaders always want to live.

      In the case of terrorists, you retaliate against THE MAJOR STATE THAT SUPPLIED THEM THE BOMB. Which you can tell, due it is's fissile fingerprint. And the major states that have the bombs know this.

      Oh, and lastly - without nukes, NATO couldn't reduce Russia's cities to rubble. Their air defences are simply too good against planes, and non-nuclear cruise missiles carry a very paltry warhead compared to a B-52 dropping tons of conventional bombs per plane. Cruise missiles are great at targeting precision military targets, but pretty useless at levelling cities. We would have to hope that the cruise missiles could tear up the entirely of Russia's air defences first, thus allowing larger bombers to fly though unopposed. By the time that happens, it would have gone nuclear anyway, at least at a tactical battlefield level.

      Basically, EVERY scenario you describe is bunk, poorly thought through, and shows a massive lack of understanding of basic military and political knowledge. Keep the day job, which hopefully does not involve politics.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Facepalm

        Re: Still don't really see the point in Trident.

        > show me ONE "Islamic leader"

        I agree, it was a generic scenario rather than a particular belief in it being a real threat.

        Even if the Iranians were intent on suicidal war then they'd go for Israel or the US first.

        If they are worried about dying then it becomes a conventional war scenario just like the Russians.

        > Which you can tell, due it is's fissile fingerprint.

        What if that says it came from the US but they deny all knowledge?

        You will not nuke anyone in response to a terrorist attack, it will not happen.

        > NATO couldn't reduce Russia's cities to rubble.

        The point of the scenario, was that if Russia wasn't losing it wouldn't need to nuke and since we will only nuke in response to a nuclear attack Russia winning is a no-nuke scenario. The only way they would nuke is if they were losing.

        It doesn't matter whether NATO could or could not defeat Russia. It's a thought experiment.

  11. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  12. AndyC

    The article missed one vital point....

    When you see an ICBM rising out of the ocean, you know what is going to happen (BIG BOOM), when you see a cruise missile/plane/drone coming at you, you don't know what is going to happen (could be a small bang, or a BIG BOOM).

    The one thing that states want is certainty. That's why the Soviets were so mad at Reagan for Star Wars. True, it was deliberatly designed to bankrupt the USSR, but, had it worked, the whole notion of certainty would have gone out of the window. They would not be certain that a missile fired by them could have got through. That makes people very frightened.

    Getting back to the point, if you have an ICBM coming at you, you know to fire your own (should you have them) back. If you see anything else coming at you, what do you do if you can't shoot it down? Do you know it hasn't got a nuclear warhead on it? Is it just conventional? In the absence of knowing, you then take the worst case scenario and lob your nukes at the enemy.

    Rightly or wrongly, you've just started a nuclear war. THAT's why nation states need the certainty of ICBMs. A fact that is lost on most commentators. (Maybe not El Reg commentators, but we'll see).

    1. Graham Marsden
      Boffin

      Star Wars [...] deliberately designed to bankrupt the USSR

      Was it really? Or was that just a post-facto justification for what turned out to be a colossal waste of money inspired by Reagan letting a couple of sci-fi authors propose an unworkable scheme?

      I know which my money would be on...

  13. bonkers
    Mushroom

    CND twitbook liberals masquerading as loyal commentards

    Much as I appreciate Lewis's regular articles on hopeless decisions and moronic waste within the MOD, it's a bit naughty to get the retaliation in first regarding commentard backlash. I thought we didn't go in for 'ad hominem' arguments, web2.0 indeed...?

    Much of what is discussed here is not really vote-winner politics, the Murdochs and Daily Mails seem to be able to define what that is, I prefer informed rational argument.

    On that note, what would we actually do if someone lets off a nuke? Do we respond with Trident? Ever? Really? - I suspect the paperwork alone would kill us.

    I say lets put the cold war behind us, big nukes got us through it but it was at a level of risk we should now be able to avoid. The thought of spending 25 billion on Trident scares me, we'd have nothing left to give the bankers, a much closer and more malevolent threat than rogue states.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: CND twitbook liberals masquerading as loyal commentards

      Agree, but why not start shortening the debt The debt in the UK is something like +900% of the GDP. No outside threat is needed to sink the country.

      1. Mark 78
        Thumb Down

        Re: CND twitbook liberals masquerading as loyal commentards

        <quote>

        The debt in the UK is something like +900% of the GDP.

        </quote>

        You're only out by a factor of 10:

        http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united-kingdom/government-debt-to-gdp

  14. graeme leggett

    The MAD question

    There was a good radio play/audio drama on BBC radio a few weeks back that explored this subject.

    "The Letter of Last Resort" in the Saturday Drama slot

    The new Prime Minister on their first evening at No.10 is asked by one of the staff to write the letter that is placed in the safes of the submarines for their captains to be opened if Britain is the subject of nuclear attack and effectively wiped out. Its good listening.

    A quote from play as given on the BBC website

    PM: "Are you saying that in the end it all rests on what I write on this piece of paper now -"

    John: "Yes, Madam."

    PM:"To write 'retaliate' is monstrous and irrational. To write 'don't retaliate' renders the whole nuclear project valueless."

    John: "Yes, Madam"

    1. Werner McGoole
      Facepalm

      Re: The MAD question

      Well if you've been dumbed-down sufficiently by long-term consumption of BBC content maybe that'd make sense to you.

      But the value of the nuclear project actually lies in the fact the enemy doesn't know what's written in the letter.

      It's, like, game theory, innit?

      1. breakfast
        Mushroom

        Re: The MAD question

        What enemy? What state is doing this? Why are they doing it to an ever-dwindling former power, puffed up by the memory of the historical importance we once had?

        If they are rational enough to be playing with game theory, what imaginable reason would they have for attacking Britain?

        1. Don Jefe
          Happy

          Re: The MAD question

          "If they are rational enough to be playing with game theory, what imaginable reason would they have for attacking Britain"

          Ah! That's an common oversimplification of game theory, where you assume your opponent (real or imagined) is using a strategy where you are the actual target as opposed to using you as a pawn in a greater game against another opponent. An attack on Britain would destabilize not only Europe and the US, it could serve as a distraction to draw attention away from the occupation of Australia. A nation rich in resources and low in population, thus easy to conquer for a nation willing and capable of launching a nuclear strike on a Western nation.

          Game theory is a good exercise, but it has serious flaws as one must assume a logic chain similar to your own in order to play out scenarios. The insanity necessary to instigate a nuclear war cannot be simulated or accurately modeled, that's why it is called insanity. The best defence ends up being one of ridiculous over readiness or refusal to play the game in the first place. Refusing to play would be the most effective and responsible but that wouldn't satisfy the 'biggest gun' egos of most countries goverments.

          1. FutureShock999

            Re: The MAD question

            Er, "biggest gun" egos?

            How about simply having foreign policy options that simply don't end up with backing down every time someone looks your way with a sharp look?

            1. Don Jefe

              Re: The MAD question

              Nuclear weapons don't impact real foreign policy decisions. No one negotiates anymore based on nukes and only two countries ever really did, everyone else just wanted to feel big too. The U.S. and Russia have been the only two countries that ever the capabilities and the institutional madness to use MAD as a strategic deterrent.

              MAD was never about having a few nukes to lob at the bad guy for tactical advantage, it was about having 30,000+ nukes to lob at them and completely and utterly destroy everything. Not just Capitol cities and manufacturing hubs and military resources but everything. It was packaged xenocide. Geographically small countries were foolish to ever get involved in nuclear armament. They made themselves targets that could be destroyed with stock that had rolled under warehouse shelves and never had enough power to retaliate in a comparable manner.

              The US still has 5,000+ nukes ready to go and Russia has who knows how many. Why would anyone even bother building 50 or 100? Spend the money on something useful in situations that are going to occur: Carriers, ground forces and such, stuff that can actually be used.

      2. graeme leggett

        Re: The MAD question

        @McGoole

        One of the points in the drama is that no-one must know what the contents are.

        But also that if the PM doesn't order the retaliation strike, no matter that it makes not a scrap of difference to the burning British cities and condemns another nation's population (but not its leadership) to annihilation, then it is not a deterrent.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Only £50m a year for a nuclear sub?

    Interesting that the savings if we reduce the number of subs is so small. I suppose that's because all the cost is in the development work and actually putting the bits together is relatively cheap.

    If that is really so, then it would actually make sense to build a few more at £50m a year - as that's less than a quid per person per year. If the UK really wants to punch above its weight (a policy I'm not altogether happy with, but it seems it does) then a few more nuclear subs looks like quite a good deal at that price.

    But probably the quoted savings are designed more for political effect than having any real basis in fact.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Only £50m a year for a nuclear sub?

      Well assuming that figure is accurate £50m x 20 years = £1bn. So it's a pretty big amount of cash. That'll probably be a non-inflation billion as well.

      You'd have to have pretty much the same infrastructure, training and maintenance regimes whatever you do, so the difference is the cost of 1 boat, plus crew costs. As you say, the boats probably cost a lot less than the price tag, as cutting one will put the price of all the others up.

      2 crews of 100 at an average of £50k per year each is £10m. Leaving £40m for the boat. So even if wrong, the figure isn't totally unreasonable.

  16. EddieD

    The grand design...

    Episode 1, series 1, Yes, Prime minister (first broadcast in 1986) satirised the whole idea of Britain having Trident, with the conclusion that even then it was a useless vanity. Satire aside, the arguments used (involving mainly how unlikely it was that Britain would ever face nuclear attack from another superpower) are even more relevant now - the cold war is over, and the threat - at the moment - no longer comes from a monolithic block we can bomb /be bombed by to buggery, so the cost is ridiculous. If we have to spend this amount of money on military equipment, it would far better be invested in conventional forces.

    And this is without the uncertainty surrounding the fate of the Trident base at Faslane - if that has to move following a Yes vote for Scottish independence, you can tack on 10+billion to the costs for relocating the base.

    Personally, I think the Health service would be a better target for money that is to be pissed against a wall.

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: The grand design...

      Personally, I think the Health service would be a better target for money that is to be pissed against a wall.

      Or some urinals? I reckon we could build everybody a urinal for the cost of trident. Mine's the one that stinks of piss, thanks.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lessons from Snowden

    So, we are all to assume that the US haven't put a backdoor override button into the Trident missiles, then? Is that supposed to be a joke?

    The US would not let us have these things unless the knew there was absolutely no chance of us firing them without permission. None at all.

    So, whatever the cost, it's 100% waste as we could just let the Yanks nuke their own targets (as they have previously) and pay for the costs themselves while we spend a few billion on something more worth having than these dole-by-another-name projects, like buns and crisps.

    1. Dom 3

      Re: Lessons from Snowden

      "The US would not let us have these things unless the knew there was absolutely no chance of us firing them without permission" - in actual fact the USA's nukes are controlled by PALs: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permissive_Action_Link while the UK's nukes can be launched long after everything on the surface is toast.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lessons from Snowden

        "while the UK's nukes can be launched long after everything on the surface is toast."

        I know of no reason to believe that. Do you? And quoting the opinion of some military bloke who's ability to pay the mortgage depends on him not rocking the boat (ho ho) does not count.

        The only thing that would amaze me more than us being able to target Trident at the US (which is the claim, in fact) would be anyone finding a modern opponent who was in any way deterred from attacking British interests because we have it.

  18. nigglec
    Mushroom

    Other options?

    I'd like to see the costing for building more than four Vanguard replacement subs. Would it not be possible to design them to be able to switch from the ICBM role to a conventional cruise missile launcher like the US did with their old subs (Ohio class?).

    How much more expensive would they be over the Astutes? Drop a couple of planned extra Astute class boats and replace with the dual capable SSBNs. Its not as if some of the roles that the current attack subs are designed for couldn't be done by a conventionally armed SSBN, like firing cruise missiles at Afghanistan. Would give us extra options, and if you're planning for the future you need to keep your options open.

    1. Kerry Hoskin

      Re: Other options?

      I think that you'd landed up with a bit of an half assed weapons platform if you did this. The Asute are hunter killer replacements for the S-boats (swiftsure) 5 boats and a couple T-boats (Trafalgar class), with the same ability as Trafalgar to lunch cruises missiles but their primary role is to hunt down other sub's so I think its a like for like replacement ie 7 Astute to replace 5 swiftsure and 2 Trafalgar. they're pretty big 2000T bigger than a Trafalgar at over 7000T but nothing like the size of the V-boats that carry Trident at over 16000T. I think the astute are about the same'ish size as the old Polaris boats.

      Vengeance is currently down here in Plymouth being refitted

  19. Graham Jordan

    Trident isn't worth shit in a globalised world

    There isn't a nation on this planet that would risk economic disaster by starting a nuclear war. Because that's what would happen.

    I beg to differ in our allies wouldn't step up should we become a target of a nuclear flattening (only an attack from Russia or China would put the nerves up the US, anyone else would probably find missiles en route before the dust has settled on London) but let’s just assume this theory is correct.

    The UK is a baron wasteland having been smashed to shit by Pakistan. The rest of the world, including Russia and China, are outraged by the devastating attack that’s left England in an apocalyptic state and Western Europe under a thick cloud of radioactive waste. No one has the balls to retaliate on our behalf but they can starve the nation dry by sanctioning them to death. No one would dream of breaking the sanctions for fear of being cut off themselves. The results are Pakistan becomes a two bit nation surviving on dust or they start another fight, one that doesn’t go unnoticed.

    The only real threat to nuclear devastation is a terrorist attack. A couple of rogue scientists at an Iranian camp steal enough supplies to build a fragile but destructive suitcase bomb. They detonate it at the peak of the Shard and a sizeable chunk of London is vaporised. A few days later the terrorist group “all your capitals R belong to us” takes credit for the bomb. Who are we going to nuke? Iran? The entire Middle East? It’s not going to work.

    The world is becoming a smaller place by the day, our economies are intertwined to the point where when one falls a whole heap follow, as the credit crunch has proven. We don’t need nukes any more. Their only use would be to battle an alien race however this is almost certainly a none starter as any race that’s mastered interstellar travel has almost certainly devised a far superior technology to a big fucking bomb on a very large firework.

  20. nigglec

    When is a terrorist not a terrorist

    I think everyone agrees that trident won't protect against a genuine independent terrorist attack. However, is it realistic to think that a genuine terrorist could get hold of a true to god nuke (not a dirty bomb) without support from a government? They might try like mad by themselves but as they haven't managed it yet are they likely to in future?

    Any government that helped a terrorist attack another nuclear armed country would have to be real certain that it couldn't be traced back to them. If it was, you know their capital would be number one on the targeting list. That in itself would deter many a rogue government. Not foolproof but certainly not to be ignored.

    1. monkeyfish

      Re: When is a terrorist not a terrorist

      Sure, but you don't need a nuke to lay waste to a rogue state, do you? If said state lets off a nuke that takes out London, then maybe the US/UN would fire a nuke back at them, but you can be pretty sure the place will be burning down via more conventional weapons before the day is out.

      Besides, if we're serious about telling other nations that they don't need/shouldn't have nukes, then it's a pretty poor show to contradict that ourselves.

  21. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Should we worry?

    Is North Korea, India or Pakistan close enough to nuke us? Would they both?

    1. FutureShock999
      Holmes

      Re: Should we worry?

      Yes, they are certainly close enough to nuke the UK.

      There is this thing called a "shipping container"....

  22. michael cadoux

    "given the threat the UK faces ..." begins one post above. Why are WE particularly at risk from Iran etc, whereas Spain, Italy, Brazil, Turkey, Germany - to name but a few of the world's non-nuclear nations - don't feel the need? Also I remember being repeatedly and scornfully told in the 70s & 80s that no nation would ever divest itself of nuclear weapons. When the USSR collapsed, every constituent republic - even those with mad dictators like Byelorus and Uzbekistan - swiftly handed the weapons on their soil over to Russia, partly for practical reasons but also realising that they're militarily useless.

  23. C. P. Cosgrove

    I know Lewis Page used to work for the Gray Funnel Line, and even I once upon a time wore a green and brown suit and carried a rifle for Her Majesty - if only on a part time basis - but there is an old military principle of 'Honour the threat'.

    I have to ask myself what threat are we honouring by keeping nuclear weapons ? I find it difficult to think of any realistic nuclear threat against the UK in the present day. It was different during the cold war - British ports, airfields and other installations were a vital part of NATO basing and reinforcement and therefore were justifiable targets to the Warsaw Pact forces, but we are no longer waiting for the Group of Soviet Forces (Germany) to come charging through the Fulda and Weser gaps.

    I agree with both Lewis Page and Robert McNamara that, in terms of bang for buck, nuclear weapons are the cheapest way around of killing people in large numbers - but you need large numbers of people to kill before the investment has a potential pay back. And killing people in this sort of quantity has gone out of fashion, thank God ! Nowadays we get upset if two or three squaddies get blown away in Afghanistan.

    Leaving aside the question of how fighting a war in Afghanistan is doing anything to improve our security, or further British interests, the sorts of war we are gearing up for today seem to be rather infantry heavy and the Government is reducing our establishment of infantry with a gusto. I know infantry are relatively expensive - they have to be paid on a regular basis and training them and keeping them trained is expensive, but they do at least get used !

    No, I am a long way short of agreeing that Britain gains anything useful from having a nuclear deterrent. Still, I do agree with Lewis Page on the subject of carriers and catapults !

    Chris Cosgrove

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "It was different during the cold war"

      It wasn't actually; you were just told it was. There was never a serious nuclear threat from the Soviets and even the conventional threat died with Stalin. Sir John Scarlett knew the truth and used it to save the world from an apocalypse prompted by US/NATO provocation of the USSR. We nearly all died in 1983, and it wasn't because of "enemy" aggression. Even the CIA's official history acknowledges this to a limited extent.

  24. ted frater

    To put it simply,

    if this article is good enough for the front page of the Register, then the comments should be as well.

    Comments on the register are as important as the articles, because theres a lot of old fashioned British common sense out there without which the register in my opinion ,wouldnt be worth going to on a daily basis.

    There, ive sorted it for you. Get it right next time. OK?

  25. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

    I was completely lost...

    ...and I only found these comments by going through the entire set of all forum topics, one by one.

    This is no way to run a comments section... :(

  26. Steve1949

    Those who carry a big stick do not get attacked.

    How many A bombs would the US have dropped on Japan if they could have retaliated?

    The cost of good defense is high. The cost of poor defense can be all we have and you only have to be wrong once.

    4 Trident Subs is the best bang for the buck and as a Tax payer, I am happy to see the money spent there.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Those who carry a big stick do not get attacked.

      This is very expensive kit, spending the money and achieving nothing is being wrong over and over again.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Those who carry a big stick do not get attacked.

        @ZanzibarRastapopulous

        "This is very expensive kit, spending the money and achieving nothing is being wrong over and over again."

        And for that reason you dont believe in burglar alarms. Because those houses which bought one and it didnt go off just wasted their money.

        Not using it but having it can easily be seen as it is working. Because how many countries have tried to take britain since the WW2 demo by the americans? The cold war was a certainty of 2 superpowers attacking each other in a global dominance match. Yet they didnt. Because to do so would set off a chain of events causing the no win scenario.

        When the best outcome is to lose it makes the war pointless

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Forget Cold War defence models - our model should be Israel

    Israel is at far greater risk of nuclear attack than we are, and they are perfectly happy with using conventional means to deliver their Samson Option.

    They see little point in buying and maintaining dedicated weapons systems that exist solely to not be used, and we should be the same.

    1. OrsonX

      Re: Forget Cold War defence models - our model should be Israel

      but wouldn't the Americans step up if Israel got nuked?

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