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The British parliament have voted to renew the Trident weapons system, replacing the Vanguard class submarines that carry the UK’s nuclear missiles.

The vote today was to decide whether to press ahead with the manufacture of the next generation of nuclear submarines, pictured above.

MPs have agreed to the renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons system by 472 votes to 117 after a five-hour debate.

The term ‘Trident’ is often used to cover the whole system including the nuclear missiles themselves and the means to deliver them, in this case the submarines that carry them.

‘Trident’ is an operational system of four Vanguard class submarines armed with Trident II D-5 ballistic missiles, able to deliver thermonuclear warheads from multiple independently-targetable re-entry vehicles.

Operated by the Royal Navy and based at Clyde Naval Base on the west coast of Scotland, at least one submarine is always on patrol to provide a continuous at-sea capability. Each one is armed with up to 8 missiles and 40 warheads; their capacity is much larger.

The Successor class is the proposed replacement for the Vanguard class ballistic missile submarines. They will carry Trident D-5 missiles, the vehicle for delivering the UK’s nuclear weapons.

If you wish to read more on the details of the system, we’ve written an article on the facts surrounding the system that can be found here.

There’s a great deal of variation in how much the system is expected to cost with some claiming it’ll cost the taxpayer £200 billion over the life of the system, but what is the money actually being spent on?

The SNP’s Westminster leader, Angus Robertson, had said during the debate that it is “remarkable that two hours into the debate, we still have no idea whatsoever of what the through-life costs of Trident replacement are”.

It’s expected that the four Successor submarines and their infrastructure will cost around £15 billion initially. This can be broken down as such:

  • £0.25 billion to participate in the Trident D5 missile life extension programme.
  • £11 billion for a class of four new submarines.
  • £2 billion for possible refurbishing of the warheads.
  • £2–3 billion for infrastructure (spent over 30 years).

According to a series of statements made in Parliament by ministers of the MoD, the annual operating costs of the Trident programme will be around 5 to 6 per cent of the defence budget.

However, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee Crispin Blunt has claimed that the Trident renewal will cost £179bn throughout the course of its life, Mr Blunt says this figure is based on the government’s announcements of “capital costs of £31bn with £10bn contingency” and that the programme will cost “6% of the defence budget”.

When the initial procurement costs are added on, most however estimate that the total programme cost will be an estimated £75 billion however, £60 billion of this figure is spread over the lifetime of the vessels.

One of the most common myths around the system is that the United States has control over the UK’s Trident missile system, that is not the case.

It’s often said that the UK’s Trident nuclear weapons system is not ‘independent’ or that the UK doesn’t have the ability to use the system without the US agreeing to it, in reality the UK does retain full operational control over the system.

One common argument is that the US can simply ‘turn off’ the GPS system and therefore can stop the UK using Trident, this is also a myth, Trident isn’t guided by satellite.

The missile uses a kind of stellar sighting guidance system and inertial navigation to take a reading from the stars to work out the missile’s position and make any adjustments necessary. They do not require GPS.

One source for the confusion could be the fact that, aside from those currently deployed, the missiles are held in a communal pool at the US Strategic Weapons facility at King’s Bay, Georgia, USA where maintenance and in-service support of the missiles is undertaken at periodic intervals.

The missiles are jointly maintained, this is much cheaper than the UK doing it on its own and does not give the United States control over any of the weapons deployed on the submarines.

216 COMMENTS

      • A deterrent only works as long as it is effective. In order for Trident to remain effective it needed to be renewed.

    • Technology is forever advancing, I think that the way the world is at the moment with NATO troops being deployed to baltic states sending Russia a message that we won’t just stand by and let them bully their way about and we will stand by these NATO members, and our missile defence/offence programs are at the forefront of our defence capabilities and deterrents also imperative to keep them upto date, they’ll be good for another 30 years or more after this upgrade. Money spent in advancing our defence is money well spent.

    • I think the cost is a major down side to it and possibly the only one, as we’ll hopefully never have to use it. My issue is that money can be found to spend on bombing raids and trident and not student nurse bursaries, junior doctor contracts, minimum wages so that people aren’t relying on foodbanks. Fair enough if we can afford it after everything else isn’t being cut or reduced.

      • Weapons will need to be addressed at some point and cost estimates (additional to the announced £31bn + £10bn contingency) for that have been floating around. From Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Successor-class_submarine#Munitions)…

        “The remaining warheads are expected to last until the mid-2020s, with a decision to either replace or refurbish them taken closer to that time. The government-owned nuclear weapons research company Atomic Weapons Establishment would likely play a key role in either, with over £1 billion being invested between 2005 and 2008 to maintain “key skills and facilities.” The replacement of the Trident missiles was also deferred, as the UK intends to participate in a US programme to lengthen the missiles’ lives from the 2020s through to the 2040s.”

        Has the decision been taken to refurb the warheads rather than replace? I read stuff in the past about AWE designing a new warhead to go on the US Trident replacement missile. That’s one reason why we’re cooperating with the US common missile compartment work, so that we can use next-gen US missiles.

        If subs are coming with the first in 2028 and life is stretched to Vanguard’s 30 year (up from 25) expected life that puts OSD of Successor at 2058 with missile life extension only taking missiles to about 2042 and warheads probably even more of an issue. Weapons will need to be upgraded at some point.

    • Nuclear weapons spending comes to all of 6% of the defence spending. The biggest slice of the pie is spending on personnel: 40% of the defence budget goes on salaries, pensions, benefits…

  1. Fantastic, finally someone sees to common sense, we need a bloody good defence and trident is one of the best and don’t know why Scotland are pissed, trident keeps thousands employed right ? Be happy that our country has a form a great defence

  2. Good news but I’d rather the construction didn’t start until the scotish question was put to bed, I don’t want uk money being spent there if there going to leave the union.

  3. Should never even be voted on national security is not an option to be put in jeopardy by stupid votes open to helmets like jeromy corbin and Jimmy crankie in Scotland,

  4. Let’s set about using the old nukes now, nearly past their sell by date. Let’s start with someone big, just to show them how hard we are. Could be a great way of getting the empire back on track now we’ve ditched Europe. But not a potential trading partner like muldova or anyone like that. Don’t want to burn our bridges do we?

  5. Would be better off building something that’s more likely to be used to keep ship building jobs at BAE, invest in the armed forces and use the rest for infrastructure, NHS etc. The fact is we won’t be using it without the US say so, so why waste the money, plenty of other successful countries in the world without them.

    • There is literally an article, on this website, which explains why the UK, not the US, has operational control of the deterrent. Indeed, it if a few clicks away. I suggest you go read it.

  6. Nuclear weapons are totally useless. If you fire first, you’re a maniac. If you fire second, they weren’t a deterrent. So what is the point in having them? For that money we could have more conventional surface ships, more aircraft and more soldiers with the right equipment. In this day and age, our battles will be against groups like ISIS and the Taliban where we need conventional weapons.

    • Whilst i agree with what you say you appear to have forgotten N. Korea and a resurgent and belligerent Russia bent on re-taking the Baltic States. As a former soldier ( with a son who was one as well) I fully accept your call for mire soldiers and conventional weaponry. Sadly we also need this nuclear deterrent .

    • Nukes are an important deterent. If you fire first or second then it hasn’t worked. The fact we still have them means they are working as planned. When corbin said he would never use them that in itself should mean he can never be prime minister. No rational person would launch after having been clobbered, that’s obvious. what’s the point in killing millions more after the event… but saying that that is your intention completely kills the deterrent. What a moron???

      • The issue with the whole MAD idea is it doesn’t fully add up, it was used as an excuse to invest heavily in the military and make people feel safe.

        The reason that neither the US or Russia used them wasn’t become of the fear of being nuked back, but because of the implications of pulling the trigger. You need to be insane or really backed into a corner to use a nuke, as it means millions of civilans are killed and the person that made the decision has that on their conscience, combined with mass media making it policitical suicide. Effectively it would take a mad man to use a nuke, at which case it doesn’t matter if you have a deterent or not, since rational decisions are not being made.

        Saying that, it does raise the question of why America was willing to nuke two cities, which maybe is the only arguement for a deterent.

        The issue is that now we have them, it is hard to go back to not having them, and the cost isn’t really that high all things considered.

    • I have had a rock since I was a kid that stops me being attacked by rabid polar bears. Seeing as I’ve never been attacked by a rabid polar bear it must be working.

    • Even if we got nuked I would hope that we wouldn’t retaliate what would be the point of millions more innocent civilians being sentenced to death and misery just because we had.

  7. We need these. Just look at whats goin on in the world.. and the UK is a big target.
    Now we need to axe our international aid and fund our struggling necessities……

  8. Win win alround. Employment, security and it makes Nichola an unhappy girl. If she wants rid of thousands of support jobs because of an untenable political position, she is a poor leader.

  9. No they didn’t they voted on replacing the Vanguard class subs the weapons go in. Wealons remain as is
    Get your headlines right if you purport to be a defence journalism specialist site.😎

    • Hi Kevin Hood,

      Our article begins with the text:

      “The British parliament have voted to renew the Trident weapons system, replacing the Vanguard class submarines that carry the UK’s nuclear missiles.

      The vote today was to decide whether to press ahead with the manufacture of the next generation of nuclear submarines, pictured above.

      The term ‘Trident’ is often used to cover the whole system including the nuclear missiles themselves and the means to deliver them, in this case the submarines that carry them.”

      With the greatest of respect, you seem to be the only one who has had trouble with this, everyone seems to understand what’s being replaced.

  10. How can we afford this?…We are continually told that the deficit is so bad that we cannot resource proper public services, yet when it comes to weapons of mass destruction, capable of killing millions, costing billions, there is no issue. This is just further evidence that alleged austerity is a political choice, rather than economic necessity.
    I believe that if WMD are necessary it should be a decision taken by NATO and not sovereign nations, individually. The irony is that we need the someone else’s decision to fire them, should the worst come to the worst. So much for homeland security!

  11. There really was no other outcome! You don’t need to be Einstein to realise that as a deterrent, “it does what it says on the tin”. I personally feel that in this uncertain chaotic world we can feel much safer than being without it. Well done all those politicians that voted in favour.

    • I have had a rock since I was a kid that stops me being attacked by rabid polar bears. Seeing as I’ve never been attacked by a rabid polar bear it must be working.

  12. British parliment votes to keep trident wrong English mps voted for it.if you are all so fond of trident why don’t you park the subs in devenport oh no that would make you a prime target can’t have that now can we

    • Excellent idea. I’m sure Devonport would appreciate the opportunity to boost it’s economy and the creation of thousands of new jobs. Not sure how the people who live in the areas in and around Faslaine would take it. Helensbrough isn’t exactly central to anywhere and too far out of the way and difficult to get to for it to suddenly become a massive business and industrial centre. How would you explain that to the people who live there and have lost their livelihoods?

    • I wish the snp and it’s supporters would stop moaning in the event of a nuclear exchange we would all be dead no matter where you are in the uk. And I’m sure the area I live in would make a much better target gchq, abby wood a secret place in corsham many army bases and Portsmouth all within the blast area of a well placed nuke at any one of them. We don’t moan about it though it’s all part of life in the uk and yes before any snp supporter asks I’d be more than happy to have the new subs based down in the south west after all we already have the nuclear attack subs here more money more investment more local jobs it’s all good.

    • The SNP mps and there fanatical support make me chuckle with there woe me, grievence politics. Before the indy ref ….. nooooo one gave a monkeys and half the people makin noise now probably didnt even know where Faslane or Coulport is on the clyde. But the brainwashed continue to jump up and down ….. the SNP dont speak for me or a vast majority of Scots and never ever will.

      Great to see it renewed, the jobs created in new subs and the massive infrastructure in and around the base. (Y)

  13. We need them as a major deterrent . If Scotland or should I say Sturgeon not like it, then just move them from Scotland, then see how many vote for SNP once thousands of jobs are lost.

  14. Waste of money totally ott to have submarines a land based system more than adequate and really they are of no use at all because if anybosy ever gets to use em whether we have em or not the whole planet is fucked.

    • I think, from stringing your sentences together; you mean to say that in your opinion we should have a land-based system? Interesting idea. Very interesting. Indeed so interesting, you would have thought that perhaps, maybe, just maybe, the MoD, and its legions of civil servants have looked into the idea. Perhaps there is even a report somewhere? Maybe even the internet…

  15. Totally the wrong system. Far more sense to convert a couple of the boats to cruise middle platforms, I don’t see any reason they couldn’t carry say 40/50 missles. Imagine a very stealthy presision strike weapon lsunching 20/30 weapons at once with no notice. Nukes are outdated.

    • Really? Then it takes away the ability to remain undetected, which is one of the key points for a deterrent, the fact that it’s in an undisclosed location has quite the impact. Putting them on a ‘boat’ is amusing to say the least.

    • Ok so subs are referred to “boats” second they are still undetect that’s the point. They remain hiding until they are needed. This is a bigger deterent to a country than nukes which are very unlikely to be used.

      • Here is why: it goes back to definitions: ships carry boats; that is to say, a sea-going vessel that can be carried, launched, and/or tended by another sea-going vessel is a ‘boat’, and a ship cannot be carried by another ship. Since early submersibles could be carried by ships (and were often tended by ships called “submarine tenders”, even if they were very large) , they were boats, and the designation held, even though there is no way a 5+ KT displacement ‘boomer boat’ could be carried by any vessel other than a floating dock.

    • If another country had nuclear weapons say in a silo or mobile launcher like North Korea let’s say they make credible threats to nuke another country nuclear weapons could be used to destroy the launch sites and mobile launchers before they launch the “deterrent” also has a tactical use

      • No chance, no way a western leader would ever authorise a first strike. If the inteligence was proven incorrect (highly likely) than that countries reputation on the international stage would be destroyed and whoever authorised the strike would be out of a job.

    • You are arguing against your own argument, a nuclear could potentially bring the world as we know it to an end , hence the reason to have the deterrent! You are also correct , you do not need nukes to pose a threat , hence different strategies for different threats

    • The misnomer of naming nuclear weapons a deterrent is agonising. The whole deterrent argument is based around a rationale that the opposition have a semblance of sanity. Really nuclear weapons should be called invitation weapons. An invitation for irrational nation’s to launch pre-emptive nuclear strikes.

      The nuclear weapons budget could do wonders for our intelligence and conventional armed forces enforcing or maintaining peace when and where it is required.

    • That thought process does not really make sense or work, how? the simple answer is history itself. Based upon the point you try to make there would have been at least a couple of pre-emptive nuclear strikes, history of course shows otherwise. Take NK for example, no matter how crazy, do you really think that if and when they manage to put together a long range missile, then possibly be in the position to add a couple of nuclear war heads that they will simply point and shoot to the west coast of the USA simply because they feel invited , I am sorry but I think you are wrong, as even NK itself would be very concerned about the possible retaliation if they did that, yes NK could destroy a couple of cities , the USA however could wipe out the country. Hence Deterrent.

      Now again, based upon your points, do you think it is feasible to just pack away the weapons and then if someone does launch a strike we then just pull together a few hundred landing craft and hit the seas for a few days to go and land and then sort it all out? Hmm not really sure that has been thought through.

    • If you say NK are a threat for nuclear weapons. Then why not build nuclear bunkers as well as building more subs. Best be safe than sorry. Was it Saddam Hussain who was supposed to have weapons of mass destruction as well. (I know he’s not around). But those weapons were never found because they didn’t exist. Why have nukes ourselves when there are no threats. Oh yeah sorry forgot Isis have got nukes as well

    • Why are you putting ISIS into the equation? that is a totally different kind of threat, of course you cannot combat ISIS with nukes.

      I was putting NK into the discussion as that is possibly the most rogue of states at the moment which is pressing to have long range missiles with nuke war heads fitted (surely you have seen that), but as i pointed out, if they did manage to have that capability it would be very small and the aftermath of retaliation from say the USA would be far far worse for them , hence deterrent!

      As you compare what you have, it is clear you really have no idea about different threats and how different threats are managed, or at least the attempts to manage.

      Maybe we should cancel the new Aircraft carriers also and the orders for the lightening aircraft to go with them because as you say, what use are they to fighting ISIS, maybe the new Destroyers also? better yet, maybe we should all just put on a tin hat, pick up a garden fork and march up the streets humming the tune from Dads Army?

    • Don’t really care what you say. Still has changed my mind on it. If North Korea wanted to use nukes they would’ve done so by now. They know the consequences are a nuclear war end of

    • Hmm maybe you don’t care as you have no idea , and yet another point you have no clue about, and that is what it takes in order to put together such a war head. You don’t just walk into the local shop and pick one up. Again that is the point, they do not have it yet but want it, so what happens when/if they do?

      Your last sentence has confirmed the point, they know the consequences , hence they will not do it, but if that “deterrent” was not there, then what? ohh back to the tin hats again.

      Deterrent – a thing that discourages or is intended to discourage someone from doing something.

    • Really. That’s what deterrent means??!! I would’ve never of guessed. So why build subs for it which cost a he’ll of a lot to build and test. Why not just deliver a warhead by plane? Maybe it is right to have nukes(it’s not) but there are plenty of other weapons that can put a point across with out having to threaten the lives of innocent civilians. Get it.

    • Because retaliation cannot happen from a plane because they will target that Airfield first. The Sub can be anywhere and the enemy don’t know so they are reluctant to attack with nukes because they will get hit, thus deterrent.

    • And now you do not understand the purpose of a Sub? my word , seriously!!

      Submarine – A submarine is a watercraft capable of independent operation underwater , notice the word Independent , as Terry correctly points out, an Aircraft is limited because of a potential attack on the airfields, hence not independent. get it?

  16. P.J.M
    YOU hit it on the head.who is going to use it.
    M.A.D MUTUAL ASSURED DISTRUCTION.
    THATS THE DETERRENT.
    and that my friend is whats keeping someone knocking on the door.
    If you say conventional forces well ,some Countries have Millions of troops ,how would you stop that

  17. Are the vanguard really that old now… Its good that the British navy seems to keep updating hulls and boats too but Look at the Arleigh Burke class… They’re quite old and America are keeping them on for years… We could have kept the batch 3 type 22s while we waitfor the 26s…

    • Hi Philip David Hall, no, we will not be doing that. The term ‘Trident’ is often used to cover the whole system including the nuclear missiles themselves and the means to deliver them, in this case the submarines that carry them.

      Our article begins with the text:

      “The British parliament have voted to renew the Trident weapons system, replacing the Vanguard class submarines that carry the UK’s nuclear missiles.

      The vote today was to decide whether to press ahead with the manufacture of the next generation of nuclear submarines, pictured above.”

      With the greatest of respect, everyone seems to understand what’s being replaced. Oh, also, £2 billion is going to refurbishing the warheads.

      Thanks for your input regardless.

    • As said above, the term ‘Trident’ is commonly used to cover the whole system including the nuclear missiles themselves and the means to deliver them, in this case the submarines that carry them. Work has already started on long-lead activity for the refurb as of the vote.

  18. If anybody thinks that there will never be another nuclear detonation on this planet in a war is seriously deluded. If you think the uk doesn’t need then now more then ever, your deluded. If you think we will never be a target, your deluded. If you think they wouldn’t be used on us if we didn’t have them anymore, you are deluded. Wake up ppl. This is 2016 not 1960s. There is no peace and love. That died with hippies. The threat is real and it’s getting worse. There is so much hate in the world and we need to wake up and stop fantasising that the world will live in harmony. It’s not and never will happen. You can’t be a world power or taken seriously if you take a plastic fork to a gun fight

  19. The most sense that’s come out of parliament for the past 2 months!!!! Didn’t the vote include arresting Jeremy Corbyn, for treason, for wanting to do away with them?

  20. Why r people getting angry with this I mean seriously come on do u want us to b the only country that hasnt got nukes. It’s about time we dropped 1 on Isis that would sort the fuckers out n stop all this shit

  21. yay we have 1% of the world nukes! yep 1%! that makes us world a player.. hahahahaha.! yeah…. nukes sold to us by america, maintained by an american company.. serco ( the fuckwhits who couldnt find their own arse with both hand’s tied behind their back!) effectively all these nukes do is paint a massive target on the uk.. it’s not they have ever done any thing else.. they didn’t stop the genocide in rwanda.. they didn’t stop the ethnic cleansing in bosnia, the cant stop deash, their just expensive ornaments… that will only ever be used when every other country has used theirs… think about that.. just for a minute.. isn’t that really pointless??? now the cost.. conservative estimates, the total bill will be 167 billion, holy fuck yes thats 167 billion! so when no one can get care for themselves or their loved ones for cancer, or 6 months waiting to see a real doctor, no affordable dentists, and a 20% rate vat.. just remember how safe trident makes us! also no other country, apart from america who are leasing them to us, none of the real palpable threats that we face in reality gives a fuck that we have them…

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