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Dueling Trident Replacements

March 25, 2010

Just thought I would add to the discussion on the impending Trident replacements for the UK and USA, since ironically, both nations are facing the impending decision to replace their respective deterrents at sea, including concerns over the massive costs.

The Next Vanguard

First, with Britain, there is a need to replace the 4-Vanguard class subs built in the 1980s and 1990s. The price for the replacements is estimated £20 billion or about $30 billion USD. If purchased there will likely only be 3 vessels as things now stand. Proposals are that a stretched version of the current Astute attack submarine would be a possible candidate.

Recently the Guardian paper revealed plans for the possible combining of the French and British deterrents to reduce costs. I think this idea has merit, considering the obvious reluctance to use such weapons since they have been developed, there would be little risk involved. In other words, here is a very important weapon but one with only a slight risk in ever being used, so I think that it should be considered. But some, like Gwynne Dyer writing in Gulf News Daily, aren’t convinced:

Let’s suppose that it’s a British submarine out on patrol, and some evil country strikes France with nuclear weapons, eliminating all of France’s boomers in port. Does the British submarine retaliate with its own nuclear weapons, knowing that to do so means that Britain may also be attacked by nuclear weapons?
If I were French, I wouldn’t trust British promises about this. And if I were running the evil country in question, I would likewise doubt that Britain would really retaliate against me on France’s behalf, knowing that I might then hit British cities too. So deterrence fails, and all that money is wasted.

He’s makes a good case, but again, when would this ever happen? Especially considering the possibility of nuclear war being so remote as he concedes– “However, the Cold War ended almost 20 years ago. No great power lives in fear of an attack from any other” So isn’t the same idea that nation states must keep these weapons from the Cold War to ensure their sovereignty an equal relic of the past? But cooperation, which has been the norm for defense of late,  is the future.


The Ohio Replacement

Proposals have been for a stretched Virginia class. These would be a class of 14 and I assume carrying the same number of 24 missiles as the older Ohio. The Navy has estimated each vessel would price $4 billion each but likely it will be closer to $7 billion, considering the Pentagon’s habit of drastically underestimating costs.

As with the British, there are few funds available in the US defense budget for a program reaching $100 billion total including development funds. The first half-billion is already in the 2010 defense budget. Before Congress, Defense Secretary Gates had this to say, according to Navy Times:

Gates said Navy plans to pursue a new ballistic missile submarine in a few years will “suck all of the air out of the shipbuilding budget.” He said Congress “faces a huge challenge at the end of this decade” in deciding whether to inflate the Navy’s annual shipbuilding budget to accommodate the new SSBN program and maintain the current surface ship and submarine plan.

Several subcommittee members said the White House, Navy and Office of Secretary of Defense share responsibility for budget planning. Some questioned why the Pentagon is not already planning for this looming expense.

The Navy doesn’t want to foot the bill for these essential vessels, since it will cut deep into their already sparse shipbuilding resources. Personally I think the savings are there but the admirals are unwilling to budge on their many high ticket items, even though they are so much over-kill in the age of insurgency. But perhaps we can put the lessons we have learned since 9/11 to use to save the nuclear deterrent at sea.

Consider for a moment that the primary weapon for fighting COIN on land has not been huge fleets of ships and planes, or powerful tank divisions, but something more tactical and focused. For instance, light teams of soldier sent into the cities and villages, the “smaller footprint” has been very adept at breaking of insurgent terrorist networks. Likewise instead of massive carpet bombing reminding us of the Vietnam and Gulf Wars, we have precision strikes by individual drones like the Predator UAV.

About the time the US is retiring her nuclear Tomahawk cruise missiles from service, they might be the ideal weapon for a new era of warfare. Tomahawk missiles already fit on attack submarines without major adaptation and the British boats carry them too. It seems that for a Trident replacement, these off the shelf weapons would be ideal especially since their 1000 mile range is “enough to reach 96 per cent of the planet’s populated areas from the sea.”

Imagine then an attack submarine which is always on patrol, that can respond instantly to an Iranian missile launch against the West by targeting another Iranian city or military base, no massive retaliation required. In other words, the Tactical nukes would be more flexible to respond to the varying scenarios brought on by the Fall of the Iron Curtain. JCS vice chairman Gen. James E. Cartwright preceded this idea last year with the following statement:

U.S. defense planners are now seeking “to tailor our deterrence for the types of actors that were not present during the Cold War but are going to be present in the future.”

Because they will be deployed on more numerous attack submarines, they would also be more survivable, with each boat having a secondary nuclear counter-strike mission. The return of  nuclear cruise missiles then becomes more affordable and more logical for a changing era of warfare. Britain could keep her independent deterrent, and the US Navy her Fleet.


24 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike Burleson permalink*
    July 8, 2010 6:45 am

    martin-thanks for your comments!

    I also believe nuclear power is preferable, sometimes overrated, but increasingly not affordable. I think some SSK’s are essential otherwise we are going to end up with a “Navy of One”, meaning the capability of nuclear boats doesn’t replace the always vital availability needed from global navies.

  2. martin permalink
    July 8, 2010 6:20 am

    I can see the benefit of opting for SLBM as apposed to a cruise missile launched from an SSN however in the modern age this could be accomplished far cheaper with a diesel electric or fuel cell sub. The SSN’s operated by the RN and USN need nuclear propulsion to transit from there home ports to the places they are needed IE Indian Ocean however Trident patrols tend not to venture more than a few hundred miles off the coast. There are already proposals for a diesel electric version of Astute. Surly A stretched diesel electric version of Astue for the RN and Virginia for the USN is the best most affordable option.

    We are talking about a warship which will have to be designed today and will remain in service almost until the 22nd century. No matter how much we spend on it Nuclear propulsion will always generate some noise as the pumps must constantly run to cool the reactor. If you want a weapons platform to travel a short distance and sit quietly then the obvious answer to me is Diesel Electric/Fuel Cell.

    Trident D5 has a 12000 km range. An RM boat stationed in the North Sea or Northern Atlantic could hit almost any target in the world with out moving including North Korea and Iran.

    Using manned aircraft land based missiles or submarine cruise missiles will never on there own generate an effective deterrent. Only an SLBM can truly give the desired effect. However moving to a non nuclear version would not only save a fortune, it would give us a more effective and flexible deterrent.

    Lets also not forget that in the modern economic environment war between major powers will never happen. The only reason any major power maintains a nuclear arsenal is for diplomatic reasons and because everyone else in the big boys club has them.

    Its time for both the RN and the USN to show some balls here and come up with sum unconventional ideas to replace there declining fleets of ships.

  3. March 28, 2010 1:19 pm

    Again I don’t see what the mystery behind building new SSBNs.

    I am sure if today’s defence departments were asked to design the wheel they would start with a fresh sheet of paper and come up with a square.

    There is only so much cost that can be shaved off a project.

    A warhead delivered by ballistic missile is (virtually) impossible to shoot down. A Western nuclear submarine is the stealthiest platform at sea.

    Why not build more of what we already have? OK polish the design a bit. Perhaps reshape the sail/conning tower. Perhaps use a newer material for the anechoic tiles. But I can’t see unless there is a major jump in tech’ what more can be done to improve the design of the submarine. And same for the missiles and MIRVs.

  4. nico permalink
    March 26, 2010 10:31 pm

    I am no expert in SSBNs and SLBMs but I think you need more than 4 missiles per sub.Even if you somehow produce 16 SSBN which won’t happen that’s 64 missiles. Assuming a few development ones you get a production run of 70, maybe. tack on a few for the Brits, maybe 100 total?

    I think 10 SSBNs at $7 billion a pop would be pushing it. maybe 8 SSBN’s is more realistic in terms of money and need, I mean, the Cold war is over, the odds of using MAD against Russia or China are really slim to none. If you go with 10 SSBNs with 14 SLBMs you have a production run of at least 140 plus dev plus British missiles, you probably get 175 . Seems that would help cost to have a longer production run. With 6 MIRVS, you are looking at 840 warheads at the disposal of the US Navy. That leaves you with between 700 to 800 for the Airforce.

    I don’t believe we will see 12 MIRVs again. One you would break the new treaty and second you need to manufacture all these new warheads which is expensive. Also you will new room on these new SLBMs for new decoys to penetrate Russian or Chinese air space.

    Bomber force should be used only as conventional forces and keep around 100 or so Minutemen. By the way, if we produce a new SLBM, why don’t we replace the Minutemen with it. Ooooppppss, there again I keep thinking the Airforce would buy something the Navy developed. well, it was worth the thought.

  5. Heretic permalink
    March 26, 2010 1:23 pm

    Looks like even my guesstimates in advance of a New START agreement announcement were too generous to the nuclear capacity.

    New START Details

    The new Treaty will contain limits on U.S. and Russian nuclear forces significantly below the levels established by the START treaty signed in 1991, and the Moscow Treaty signed in 2002. The new START Treaty will specify limits of:

    · 1,550 deployed warheads, which is about 30% lower than the upper warhead limit of the Moscow Treaty;

    · 800 deployed and non-deployed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launchers, submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) launchers, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear weapons; and

    · 700 for deployed ICBMs, SLBMs, and heavy bombers equipped for nuclear weapons.

    The New START treaty’s verification regime will provide the ability to monitor all aspects of the Treaty. At the same time, the inspections and other verification procedures in this Treaty will be simpler and less costly to implement than the old START treaty. In part, this is possible due to the experience and knowledge gained from 15 years of START implementation.

    The most interesting point here is that there is both a warhead limit (1550) and a launchers limit (800+700 ICBMs, SLBMs and bombers). This points towards a dramatic shift away from a multiple warheads per missile regime … or a nuclear weapons delivery system which severely curtails the number of MIRVs per missile.

    It also looks like the language is crafted such that there can be up to 700 active duty delivery systems (ie. on patrol or on alert) with an additional 800 delivery systems “in reserve” which are *capable* of delivering nuclear weapons but which are not on “ready” status (ie. maintenance, training, etc. rotations).

    This actually sounds very smart … so long as your goal is arms reduction. You limit both the weapons (warheads) and means of delivery (missiles and bombers) on independent tracks and allow each nation to work out their own mix in order to stay under the cap.

    And here’s where it gets fun. Missiles with MIRVs are going to be the “most economical” way to deploy SLBMs because of volume constraints (volume is *always* at a premium in a sub!). But because of the language used, if a high MIRV count missile gets deployed as a SLBM, the number of missiles that can be deployed drops dramatically.

    Which means that if New START goes through, we’re going to be moving away from an Ohio class setup of 14 boats with 24 missiles and 12 warheads each to perhaps something as “small” as 4 missiles with 12 warheads each … which is a radical redesign of any SSBN(X) requirement!

    14 boats x 4 missiles x 12 warheads = 672 warheads on 56 missiles

    In this kind of scenario, the USN would have no problem staying under the 700 deployed launchers (let alone the 800 reserve launchers) … but it would be taking a big bite out of the 1550 limit of warheads “permitted” under the treaty.

    Heck … with that sort of a SSBN(X) loudout (4 missiles, 48 warheads) … I see no reason NOT to go to 16 boats (for the added reserve to smooth deployment rotations) which would comprise 768 warheads … which is 49.5% of the total number of warheads the treaty allows. That would then allocate 782 warheads to the USAF deployable from ICBMs or bombers … with almost no problems whatsoever getting under the cap(s) on delivery systems.

  6. Heretic permalink
    March 26, 2010 12:23 pm

    The New START agreement may actually decide this question for us.

    1500-1675 warheads puts some pretty strict upper limits on how many SLBMs you’re going to be building towards, and how many MIRVs you’re going to want to put on each missile. Right now with the Ohio class (14 boats), you’re looking at 24 Trident II D5 missiles with (up to) 12 MIRV warheads each.

    14 x 24 x 12 = 4032 warhead capacity

    That’s a few in excess of 1500-1675 …

    If the nuclear triad of the US is going to fit under the New START cap, you’re going to either be reducing missiles, MIRVs and/or SSBNs to carry them all in. The thing is, you really don’t want to go “too low” on the number of hulls you can have in the water simultaneously … because it’s boats in the water that are the deterrent, not boats tied up at the pier. The 14 boat requirement is actually rather sensible for deployment rotation reasons, and so if you’re going to be shrinking your nuclear strike capacity, the most obvious thing to do is to reduce the number of missiles and/or warheads per boat.

    8 Trident II D5 missiles with 12 warheads each = 96 warheads per SSBN
    14 SSBN with 96 warheads each = 1344 warheads under USN control

    This would “fit” under New START, and would leave 156-331 warheads under the control of the USAF, which arguably should be quite sufficent (especially with only 20 B-2 bombers!). The decision then would be whether or not we still need a Nuclear Triad of land based missiles, land based bombers *and* sea based missiles in order to maintain a CREDIBLE nuclear deterrent. I’d easily argue that the “need” for a TRIO of means to deliver nuclear weapons has passed once New START is ratified.

    Which then begs the question of … which leg of the Triad ought to be cut? Honestly, the answer to that ought to be obvious … the Nuclear Bombers. If you “need” to be launching nuclear weapons at a hostile nation-state, the manned nuclear bomber is (in today’s day and age) going to be the LEAST reliable method of delivery with the greatest possible risks. Plus the USAF has proven to be somewhat “lax” in this past decade with nuclear security procedures (complacency?).

    Even reducing the number of warheads per missile, both on land and at sea, to only 8 MIRVs per missile would place an upper bound of 209 missiles under New START. If you want to keep a “balanced” sea-based and land-based ballistic missile deterrent with 14 SSBNs, that means 14 boats carrying no more than 8 missiles each.

    14 boats x 8 missiles x 8 warheads = 896 warheads under USN control

    Using the same computations, if land based missiles were also limited to no more than 8 MIRVs each (just for the sake of argument), that would leave:

    1675 – 896 = 779 warheads / 8 MIRVs = 97.375 missiles under USAF control

    Call it 90 land-based missiles with 8 MIRVs each and you have 720 warheads.

    896 (USN) + 720 (USAF) = 1616 warheads

    The important point here is that with the New START treaty waiting in the wings, the USN would be beyond foolish to build any SSBN(X) design which presumes a large complement of missiles (24) each loaded to the max with MIRVs (12 each) and still think that they’re going to get a fleet of 14 boats past a Congress that ratifies New START (assuming the Gratuitously Obstructionist Patriarchs don’t throw a temper tantrum again just because they want America to FAIL so they can grab power again). Once you start thinking in terms of fewer MIRVs on fewer missiles per boat … the numbers start aligning again, and you can seriously start thinking in terms of a Stretched Virginia class boat which can discharge the SSBN role credibly, successfully, and without breaking the bank (which is “too big to fail”).

  7. Brian permalink
    March 26, 2010 10:59 am

    $7 billion for 1 boat?

    This is my “WTF moment” of the day.

  8. March 26, 2010 3:52 am

    Some error for the futur SSBN (X) program….
    Look more official news :

    Although the Navy has not finalized its design for the new submarine, it will probably be based on the Virginia-class attack submarines, because, as Admiral Johnson has said, leveraging the “success of the Virginia-class SSN program” will help hold down costs. Its also likely that the missile compartment will carry only 16, rather than 24, ballistic missiles, if the Nuclear Posture Review reduces the number of weapons and targets associated with the submarine fleet.
    According to Admiral Johnson, the number of submarines in the fleet is derived from the number that must be at sea to provide a “survivable deterrent.” Since this number is not likely to decline, a decline in the number of warheads is likely to come through a decline in the number of missiles on each submarine.

    My opinion on the futur SSBN (X)
    – Improved Virginia design (Batch IV ?)
    – Number: 12 maximum, maybe 10 ?
    – 16 missiles per boat

  9. Hudson permalink
    March 26, 2010 1:26 am

    I like Jed’s idea of a new design of the old Soviet ‘Golf’ SSBN with three missiles behind the tower as a minimum ballistic missile sub. Three missiles with four MIRVs each is six times the number of nukes used to date in warfare. The idea of the SLBN/SSBN is to unleash assured devastation if attacked, not necessarily to completely destroy an opponent. The idea is to prevent war. If the deterrent fails and war breaks out, then it is better for all concerned not to pollute the planet. Machetes are an excellent weapon of mass genocide, more efficient by one analysis than the Nazi gas chambers in extinguishing lives.

    So no, continuing the SSBNs at sea need not suck all the air from the Navy’s budget. We are not likely to go to war with a country we can never successfully invade, like Russia or China. The threat will come from a rogue state like N. Korea or Iran, or from terrorists with a suitcase bomb.

    Nuclear war among the big powers might be less likely over the decades. But the idea of nuclear war, especially in popular culture, is becoming chillingly too familiar. The will to peace of the 1960s is going, going, gone–replaced by a warrior culture that almost dares the world to go up in flames.

    One of the tactics used by British pilots to deal with V-1’s was to nudge their wing underneath the wing of the bomb and tip it on a path into the ocean. Of course, that wouldn’t work so well with a nuke.

  10. MatR permalink
    March 26, 2010 12:53 am

    Is joint ownership of a sub practical? Who decides where it patrols? Who drives the bus? What if one party wants to pay for upgrades, and another doesn’t?

    The UK and France are close, but not that close. I can’t imagine that the Ministry of Defence is happy at France selling Mistrals to Russia, for example. And during the Falklands conflict in ’82, the French let their technicians who were working in Argentina integrate Exocet missiles onto Argentine Super Etendards, leading to British losses. Whilst both countries have been close enough to work on sharing design and production (Jaguar aircraft, for example) the idea of joint operation would be mired in problems. Much more likely that both countries would co-produce platforms that they operate independently.

  11. nico permalink
    March 25, 2010 11:21 pm

    Do we really need 14 boomers? Do they need to carry 24 SLBMs? Why is the requirement so high? I thought the Cold War was over.

    Why can’t the French and Brits operate SSBN at the same time. One red team and one gold team shift? Also why can’t you have 6 SLBM under control of the French and 6 SLBMs under control of the Brits?

  12. Jed permalink
    March 25, 2010 8:48 pm

    I like the idea of a stretched Astute with 4 SLBM silo’s in an enlarged fin, do we really care if the missile / warhead technology is U.S. or French – no, because once we have had to launch the buggers the whole world has changed, so it probably won’t matter if they won’t sell us any more !

  13. March 25, 2010 5:46 pm

    Sharing with the French? :)

  14. MatR permalink
    March 25, 2010 2:45 pm

    Mike, here’s a scary thought: nuclear warheads on Brahmos. Launch it at Russia, look on in amazement as it impacts on Belgium ;o)

    Do agree that the US might be able to pull it off, though.

  15. MatR permalink
    March 25, 2010 2:42 pm

    I d0n’t know what the failure rate for ICBMs/MIRVs is, but 5 to 10 percent of Tomahawks used in the gulf in ’91 and ’03 crashed in transit – what they term ‘slaloming’ into terrain. Typically, Tomahawks navigate through at least one transit country before reaching a target state (partly to locate known navigational waypoints): that would raise the significant risk of placing a nuclear warhead in a friendly state (major political flak) and possibly even see an unused, functional warhead crash intact in a hostile state. Turkey saw this happen; it’s been calculated to be a near-certainty if the US lobbed a large number of Tomahawks at North Korea, with some of them falling on South Korea and Japan.

    And as noted, Tomahawks can be shot down by even relatively pedestrian air defenses – according to some people, even the Iraqis managed to achieve this in ’91.

    Nuclear cruise missiles would be useful ‘in a pinch’ or ‘on a shoestring’, but an SSBN’s hypersonic re-entry vehicle would be darn harder to intercept.

    Anyone want to bet the the UK will be relegated to diesel electric subs firing nuclearised Scalp Navals in twenty years time? If our glorious leaders don’t just unilaterally disarm by then. Got to fund our international aid budget somehow, ahem…

  16. Mike Burleson permalink*
    March 25, 2010 2:41 pm

    Concerning the nuclear Tomahawk, think of it this way:

    It is much easier to improve the missile than it is to buy a new boat. It will be decades before the new SSBN come in, and governments will have come and gone, wars will be fought and won (or lost). In about 5 years more or less you can build and deploy a supersonic or hypersonic cruise missile, that can launch from ready-made platforms, the ones you have today.

    Even if it took 10 years, thats still over a decade sooner than either the British or American ships will hit water. If they ever do because of costs.

  17. Moose permalink
    March 25, 2010 2:38 pm

    Horrible idea.

    Putting TLAM-Ns in SSN tubes reduces their conventional payload, reducing a key ability of an already too-small SSN force. As you point out SSBN(x) production will have to be funded with monies not currently in the budget, so eliminating it is not going to allow you to dramatically increase the SSN force.

    Subsonic cruise missiles may be able to reach “96% of the world’s populated areas from “the sea,” but they don’t spring from the sea foam like Aphrodite. Keeping SSN patrols close to shore, or ceding the ability to retaliate promptly, are both poor options for preserving deterrence.

    SSNs cannot devote themselves to protecting their nuclear payload and still carry out other missions effectively. There’s a reason SSBNs don’t do any mission beyond Deterrence, because no other mission is compatible with protecting that payload.

    Subsonic cruise missiles can be felled by fairly conventional air defenses. And they’re more vulnerable to environmental obstacles in-transit. Most missile will leak through, but accepting a > 20% loss rate on your nuclear deterrent salvos is fairly daunting.

    As Jed points out, this expands the “conventional ICBM” problem from Prompt Global Strike into all sub-based launches. The few conventional TLAMs left on subs would be used less, particularly in a situation with high tensions between nuclear powers.

    You’re freeing any notional opposition from 2 major headaches they now have. One is the hunt to find the Ohios, which are bar none the hardest submarines to find in the ocean. If you know that the deterrence is all on SSNs, and you know the max TLAM-N range keeps them within 1000 miles of their targets, you have reduced the complexity in locating them by several orders of magnitude. Second headache is that the SLBM is potentially the hardest of all ballistics to intercept, since you do not even roughly know the launch position and flight time is less.

    A limited or single-target nuclear strike is not going to be against a city or surface installation. A limited nuclear strike against specific targets will ONLY be against hardened military or quasi-military installations like Iran’s underground nuclear sites. Anything less would be better struck conventionally, and not just for geopolitical reasons. TLAM-N is not a penetrator, developing a penetrating warhead is likely to be a huge political and fiscal headache. Therefore, the flexibility to single-strike with TLAM-N is not an useful asset.

  18. March 25, 2010 2:26 pm

    I think the UK is now looking at 4 boats again not 3. It probably wouldn’t save that much money and by the 2020s Brown won’t be around anymore so won’t have to appease his fellow communists.

  19. papa legba permalink
    March 25, 2010 2:15 pm


    You make a decent point, but tomahawks are much more vulnerable to air defenses. They are basically subsonic, single-use airplanes, and can be shot down by anything that could reasonably expect to destroy a fighter plane. As opposed to ballistic missile defense, which comes screaming out of the upper atmosphere at mach 12, a tomahawk comes cruising in at an almost leisurely 550 MPH. Its terrain-following capabilities make it a more difficult target, but compared to a ballistic missile, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

    The main reason that we don’t hear about Tomahawks getting shot down is that A) they’re not cost-effective targets for the enemy, and B) when they do get shot down, no one dies.

    A is significant. If you have scarce air-defense resources, then shooting down a single flying bomb is not the best way to use them. It’s much more effective to direct your SAMs at airplanes that can attack multiple targets and be back the next day for more. That equation changes if it becomes known that the Tomahawk might be carrying a city’s worth of destruction. The pricetag on protection against an all-cruise nuclear deterrent becomes a workable (though expensive) issue, instead of an impossibility.

    Also, a nuclear sub is as probably a deterrent to discourage future threats from materializing, as much as it is a threat against current rogue states. I’d like to believe we’re at the end of history, with no more great wars to kill my children or grandchildren, but I don’t think we are. Ballistic missiles are a threat against any potential opponent in my lifetime; cruise missiles are a threat only against the regional conflicts of today.

  20. Distiller permalink
    March 25, 2010 2:11 pm

    Cruise missiles are no alternative to SLBMs. Period.

    If the U.S. is serious about the reduction of the strategic nuclear arsenal (in a couple of days we’ll know), resulting in a considerable lower number of warheads, the survivability of the whole deterrence complex has to be increased. The Ohio boats with their D5 missiles are the perfect first strike platform, but are suboptimal for a defensive setup. MORE boats with LESS missiles each would then become necessary. And since the overall number of warheads would be lower, there is no need for a missile capable of carrying 10 MIRV 5000nm, but rather like 3 or 4 MIRV. Such a missile would be considerably lighter than the D5 (about half, maybe more), and thus much smaller. And I think a smaller and lighter missile would be prerequisite for using the Virginia hull as basis. Building just a replacement for the Ohios would be wrong.

    Regarding the Brits – well, Churchill sold his soul to the U.S. and the contract still stands. Though the French M51/TN75 combo seems interesting, the Brits will never go that way. (That’s how I read the idea of a joint British-French force de frappe, not that the Brits forgo their capability!)
    That would be the right time for a discussion about a European strategic nuclear deterrence capability!

  21. Jed permalink
    March 25, 2010 12:57 pm

    Ref Tomahawk – that was my thinking too, but saw an article the other day that suggested the UK could not use conventional and nuclear armed Tomahawk. The argument is that your enemy picks up in coming cruise missiles, does not know if they are nukes, and sure as hell can’t wait until one goes off to find out, and thus launches his own nuclear retaliation.

    I think there are flaws to this argument. The whole point of nuclear ‘deterence’ is MAD – mutually assured destruction – if you nuke me, I can nuke you right back, even though I may already be dead….. etc etc

    So if nuclear ‘great’ power for some bizarre reason went all ICBM on the UK, be it Russia, China, France or the US (well who else has ICBM / SLBM ?) then I have no problem at all with blasting a corridor through their air defences using nuclear Tomahawks, blasting a path to the ‘real’ targets, be they Military C3 or industrial or whatever. Thats because this is a weapon of final resort.

    The problem is neither low flying cruise missiles or ballistic missiles are the correct response to the rogue state / non-state actors who sail a home-made nuke into a port on a steamer and then blow said port away !


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