Answers that are not easily obtainable elsewhere to the questions we all should be asking

Commander Robert Forsyth RN 

   Trident will cost between 1/3 and a 1/2 of the entire defence procurement budget in the 2020s


Professor Stephen Hawking and 15 other scientists urge MPs to vote against Trident renewal in a letter to the Saturday Telegraph 17 July 2016


 Dr Nick Ritchie, Lecturer in International Security, University of York, in a paper for the European Leadership Network, clearly spells out the risks associated with ownership of nuclear weapons and the chances of an accidental nuclear exchange with its consequential severe effect on the whole world never mind the devastating destruction of the unwitting recipients.

These two informed contributions to the Trident debate are exceptions rather than the rule. In the absence of any leadership by others to explain just what the ownership of Nuclear Weapons as powerful as Trident entails, I set out to create this website, bring my former experience as a Polaris submariner to bear, to provide some answers to key questions that we should all be asking.The process has led me to change my views and I now strongly believe that the cost of maintaining the deterrent against future unknown threats makes the UK less safe because the compensating reductions in our armed forces means that we do not have the ships, men or aircraft to counter today's threats.     


 Going on patrol

As HMS Repulse's Executive Officer I was one of the officers with the responsibility of authorising the missile firing using exactly the same routine as for firing fully armed missiles on patrol.


 HMS Repulse - test missile firing Florida 1973

I feel entitled to speak on this subject from my submarine service in the Cold War. I sailed on a war patrol within months of joining my very first submarine just as the Cuban Missile crisis unfolded. I commanded a conventional powered submarine HMS Alliance , was Executive Officer (2nd-in-command) of the Polaris submarine HMS Repulse, Teacher to the submarine CO's Command Course aka  Perisher and commanded a nuclear Hunter Killer submarine HMS Sceptre.

The Trident weapon system is now significantly more powerful than Polaris was in my time and the threat has changed but the fundamental questions remain the same. The answers that follow may help form opinions.  

Click on the blue links for expanded discussions on Questions 1-5.

I - The Trident Weapon System

The total capability of the present Trident weapon system with a full load of missiles and their warheads is 144 x 100Kt warheads which can be fired at 144 different targets with a total explosive power many hundreds of times more powerful than Hiroshima - see fact sheet.

If you wish to see what a nuclear explosion will do follow this link and insert just one 100Kt bomb yield in the relevant box. Note this does not predict the enormous amount of radiation fall out that would travel down wind and could kill hundreds of thousands more. 

II - Who is Trident meant to deter - and will it?

"What I cannot be absolutely confident about is whether or not that (threat of firing Trident) would be sufficient to deter them from using a weapon of mass destruction in the first place." - Secretary of State Defence. 2002 

III - Is UK Trident independent of the US and, if not, do we need it as well?

"If the United States were to withdraw their cooperation completely, the UK nuclear capability would probably have a life expectancy measured in months rather than years...." Report in July 2014 by British American Security Council (BASIC).

House of Commons Defence Committee evidence shows just how dependent on the US the UK Trident weapon system is.

IV - Can the UK afford both Trident and adequate conventional armed forces?

“Trident is likely to take up between a third and a half of the entire defence procurement budget for the 2020s.” - Independent newspaper 23 January 2016.

V - is there a more affordable alternative deterrent?

I believe that there is. An edited version of an article that I wrote for my family explaining why I no longer believed that there was any military justification for the UK to possess nuclear weapons (published on the authoritative think-tank Oxford Research Group's website) concludes that the only justification put forward by Government is a political one.  If, despite the large body of opinion against nuclear weapons., Government cannot be shifted from its position, then I say it does not require the full force of Trident on Continuous at Sea Deterrent patrol and suggest the alternative. 

VI - Trident needs to remain invulnerable beyond 2030 - will it?

“By the time they get in the water there will have been roughly 45 generations of development of anti-submarine warfare technology.  Deep-sea drones and other new means of finding secret subs are on their way. It is heroic, to say the least, to suggest that 45 generations later they’re not going to be able to detect the submarines. If the sub can be seen, it’s useless. If there is no hiding place for the vessels gliding through the deep, dark depths in the early 2030s, the billions we will have spent on a new Trident will be blown out of the water." - Mr Paul Ingram, member of BASIC group.

Chatham House report of January 2018 assesses system vulnerability to Cyber attack and suggests this impairs its value as a deterrent.

VII - Is there a conventional war head as an alternative to the nuclear one?

Yes. The US revealed in 2006 that they had developed a warhead which utilises the enormous amount of kinetic energy that a mass of tungsten steel rods arriving at super-sonic speed from the stratosphere would have. Delivered to pin point accuracy such a warhead could penetrate deep bunkers. Follow up cruise or air launched missiles could exploit the damage initially caused by what one might call 'the shock and awe' of an unexpected first strike attack.

VIII - What about unemployment if Trident is cancelled?

Much has been made of the fact that the Trident system employs thousands of people who will be put of a job. I personally find it unacceptably immoral to consider retaining a nuclear capability just to avoid unemployment. The fact is, that with the money saved, jobs could be created in building more ships, submarines, aircraft and military vehicles - and still have some left over for reducing the national debt.

IX - What happens if Scotland becomes independent?

The Faslane Naval Base can continue to be a major naval facility for ships and nuclear submarines armed with conventional weapons and Scotland would almost certainly allow nuclear missile firing submarines to undergo maintenance in the base provided their nuclear missiles were not embarked at the time. The RN would therefore have to seek an alternative location for the stage, loading and unloading of the missiles. In view of the fact that the missiles come from a common pool located in Kings Bay, USA, one alternative is to load/unload there before/after each patrol. Otherwise a new facility  will have to be constructed south of the Scottish border. There are a number of possible sites.

X - Banned by International Humanitarian Laws


Further reading


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