The Trident missile system is housed on the UK’s four Vanguard class submarines which form the UK’s strategic nuclear missile force.

Each of the four boats are armed with up to 16 Trident II D5 SLBMs, carrying up to 8 warheads each.

The Royal Navy has operated the UK’s Continuous at Sea Deterrent since 1967 when the first SSBN – or Ship Submersible Ballistic Nuclear – HMS Resolution began patrolling armed with the Polaris missile system.

In 1996 HMS Vanguard, the first submarine armed with the Trident missile system, arrived on the Clyde and took over deterrent patrol duties from the Resolution Class. The four Vanguard-class submarines form the UK’s strategic nuclear deterrent force.

Each of the four boats are armed with Trident 2 D5 nuclear missiles. Like all submarines the Vanguard Class are steam powered, their reactors converting water into steam to drive the engines and generate electricity.

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 however that is simply not the case.

Who controls Trident?

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.

The UK does rely on the US for the heavy maintenance and long term support of the system. For example, the British missiles are serviced at a port in the Georgia, US, and some warhead components are also made in America.

This is why the use of the word ‘operational’ is significant, while the UK can fire without permission, the system would likely not be sustainable without US support beyond a few years.

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.

Does the system require American codes to launch?

American operated Trident missiles are controlled through the US Navy chain of command by the US President. ‘Permissive action link technology’ prevents anyone other than the president or someone he has delegated control to authorising a launch.

In 2007, the UK Government revealed that its nuclear weapons were not equipped with Permissive Action Links. Instead, the UK’s nuclear bombs to be dropped by aircraft were armed by just inserting a key into a simple lock similar to those used to protect bicycles from theft, the UK withdrew all air-launched bombs in 1998. The current UK Trident warheads can also be launched by a submarine commander with the support of his crew without any code being transmitted from the chain of command.

The British missiles are controlled through the Royal Navy chain of command all the way up to the Prime Minister. In reality the Prime Minister would make the launch decision in concert with whatever was left of the British government.

The key point here is that the British deterrent does not have permissive action link control, which means it does not rely on the use of codes to fire the system. The UK’s Trident fleet relies purely on military discipline to prevent a launch.

In summary, the UK retains full operational control, to the extent that the US could not stop the UK from using the system, even against the United States.

A Freedom of Information request proving that the United Kingdom has full operational control over its Trident missile system can be downloaded here.

74 COMMENTS

  1. The UK government control trident and anybody who thinks different are Rather deluded or swallow CND propaganda .. Ms May said she would use trident if it came to it .. Corbyn said he would not fire even if attacked .

    • I don’t think Corbyn should say he wouldn’t use Trident, but the fact is, if it all comes down to nuclear war, everyone is screwed. Bringing down millions of innocent people with you is pointless if the whole idea of having a deterrent has already failed. They should help prevent war, not get used if war does break out. Personally I find it quite disturbing that May appeared to enjoy the idea of slaughtering people when she said so emphatically that she would press the “button”. I think Corbyn’s view is decent and honourable, although admittedly I’d rather him say he would use Trident, otherwise it isn’t much of a deterrent at all.

      • Their is no such thing as the innocent enemy civilians in a nuclear war. They would have defined that as the Rules of Engagement when their government targeted your home and killed your citizenry. Before you try to argue that was the government not the people. A nation and its people always have the government they deserve.
        That is why you must ensure if you country dies you ensure it does not die alone.

          • Allowing their government power. Citizens have the government they deserve. Their is no attack made by their government that is not done at the will of its people.
            Even the Soviet Union the most powerful evil empire in history. With the power of life and death over every citizen was dismissed at the will of the people.
            So say North Korea incinerated Tokyo every NK citizen would be complicit in the extermination of the city residents.
            The Laws of War have always been enforced by mutual Retaliation it is where we got the idea for Mutually Assured Destruction.

          • Are you suggesting that the Soviet Union, East Germany, Poland, and Romania under communism were democracies? Yet in the end in every case when their citizens found them intolerable their governments ended, in the case of Romania with bullets. No government communist, dictatorial, facist, monarchic, or democratic long survives it’s citizens displeasure.
            Therefore the citizens of a nation are inherently responsible.

          • What you’re saying is wrong, you cannot put the blame on a government/dictators actions on the civilian population, if it’s a democratic country then there will be a proportion that didn’t vote for them, and those that did would not be inclined to support starting a nuclear war.

            If it’s a dictatorship then didn’t even vote for them, probably most don’t agree with any of their actions.

            Take N Korea for example, just how are you expecting a working family man, probably worrying where his next family meal is coming from, just trying to feed his family, to be responsible for Kim Jong Uns actions?

            His family deserve to be vapourised just because he didn’t pick up a pitchfork and attack soldiers with machine guns? I’m sorry but that’s one of the sorriest excuses for nuclear weapon use I’ve ever heard.

            You keep talking about the rules of engagement and laws of war when talking about civilians being nuked are legitimate targets but that goes against every official rule of engagement and law of war there is.

            If London was hit would I want one of enemy cities hit? Yes I would, as well their entire military and industrial capacity just as much. Would I think the civilians in that city deserve what they got? Of course not, just as much as the civilians in my own city didn’t deserve it either.

            I do despair with your views sometimes Elliot, you really are drunk with something, I’ve said American power before but f**k me, civilians deserve to be killed in war? That’s bordering on sociopathy.

        • Elliott, communism in Romania ended because US & Soviet Russia decided that the communist experiment must finish and because the “Securitate” betrayed Ceausescu; the population could by no means overthrow the government !

    • Denis Healey was one of two ‘nuclear’ deputies in the 60’s & 70’s. After his time in office he said had he had to make the decision if the UK was attacked he wouldn’t authorise launch, as there would be no pint – deterrence had failed. Jim Callaghan, as PM, wrote in his letter to the captains of the subs that they should retaliate.

      As for ‘we can’t launch’ I think a lot of the confusion is down to the dual key approach to ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons which, while nominally under British command and operation couldn’t be used without US approval.

      • Can’t say I agree. If we are hit by a nuclear attack then yes the deterrent has failed in its primary purpose but I would still expect full retaliation to ensure that our attacker could not in any way profit from our destruction.

      • 2 Key approach was under UK control.
        RN buckets of sunshine could be deployed as required from a ship.
        2 people where required to draw the keys because the keys where in a safe within a safe so you needed 2 separate combinations to get to them.
        No one , not even the Captain had access to both combinations.

        • ‘2 Key approach was under UK control’ – was that a response to me ? I was referring to the dual key control of ‘tactical’ nuclear weapons in Germany which were allocated to various NATO armies but were under the ultimate control of the USA, who had to confirm the launch.

          I know of the dual key arrangement on SSBNs.

  2. Mr Corbyn refused to rule out unilateral disarmament of the UK’s nuclear weapons

    Asked if he would be in favour of cancelling the Trident programme, the Labour leader would only say it was not in the previous Labour manifesto and that the next election document had not yet been written.

    In an interview with CNN he was asked would he unilaterally disarm, where just the UK would ditch our nuclear deterrent, he replied: “That is not what’s in our manifesto. Our manifesto said work for a nuclear-free world.”

    Pushed if it was something he might pursue if he became Prime Minister, he said: “Well, we haven’t written the manifesto for the next election yet.

    • He’ll soon learn that a commitment to unilateral disarmament will mean Labour (who started and continually maintained and upgraded the deterrent) won’t be elected.

      There are quite a few very senior ex -service officers who think it’s a waste of money that could be better spent on conventional arms, btw, though I doubt many are from the RN.

  3. Much as I admire the technology, the argument over who would use it is nonsensical.

    Labour clearly has moral issues in decimating life on Earth. The Conservative party less so.

    It exists. It has a purpose (mess with us and the repercussions’ will be severe). Personally, I would love to drop the costs – but it ain’t gonna happen.

    Lets stop the dick waving – we have nukes, we don’t want to use them but we will if we have to. You want us to get rid of them, you do the same.

    Anything else is tabloid BS.

  4. Let’s not forget that the very existence of nuclear weapons prevented World War 3. The Soviet Union was so dominant in numbers that only the threat of annihilation deterred them from overrunning Europe – how many millions owE their lives to the atom bomb! MAD worked because both sides believed the other was serious, but a PM who vows never to use the deterrent makes the whole idea null and void. Given this fact, the Labour Party stance pro Trident is irrelevant, especially as other potential front bench politicians have been attending CND rallies. A Corbyn Government could actually prove to be Dangerous.

    • ‘a PM who vows never to use the deterrent makes the whole idea null and void’ – true if the dispute that may trigger nuclear attack is between the UK & ‘say’ Russia only, but given the existence of NATO that’s unlikely (even with Trump). Still, I don’t agree with Corbyn on this and his chances of being elected as a unilateralist are zero.

  5. Mike Saul your comment sounds like the middle section of a daily mail article, why when commenting about politics do you sound like a robot, trying to make it as authentic as possible to try make the smear stick.

    What you’re doing is making it sound like he has the power once PM to magically get rid of our nuclear deterrent, it’s pure low rate anti-Corbyn propaganda.

    You do understand how a parliamentary democracy works i’m sure, it seems when talking about JC you and a few others all of a sudden think we will be living in some communist dictatorship once Labour get into power, it’s so laughable.

    Corbyn fought hard against trident renewal and lost the vote overwhelmingly, he does not want trident, it goes against everything he stands for, so why was trident renewal in the Labour manifesto? it’s not the party leadership that just decide what goes in the manifesto, have a read about how the Labour party works, I’ve been a member for 10 years so believe me no matter what any leader wants to do, it will not be official party policy unless there is widespread support among members.

    The Labour party supports Trident renewal overwhelmingly, and that’s that.

    So these are the facts to the people thinking about accepting Mike Sauls poor propaganda.

    Trident renewal was voted for and passed through the house of commons overwhelmingly, the decision has been made so the question of Britain’s nuclear deterrent has been answered for the next half a century.

    The Labour manifesto, overseen by Jeremy Corbyn, released a few months ago, supported Trident renewal.

    • You may have a point about Corbyn not being able to get rid of the system himself but I notice you don’t mention the fact your hero stated he wouldn’t use it. He doesn’t need to get rid of it if he can simply make it redundant by telling the world he wouldn’t use it. I did not read anything in Mikes post except pointing out Corbyns attitude towards Trident. At no point did he say Corbyn could get rid of the system, you are just overly defensive in regard to your pacifist buddy. He eluded to Corbyn attitude towards nuclear weapons which is a valid point.

      • It’s being defensive because the first two comments on this article are about Jeremy Corbyn for gods sake lol, he is not even mentioned in the article.

        “I notice you don’t mention the fact your hero stated he wouldn’t use it”

        And that’s the problem, JC has only ever said he would not use nuclear weapons in a first strike situation, the uproar over this stems from an interview on the Andrew Marr show, if you google it and have a look he does say first strike, but then of course the media never reported that, they said what you just have.

        On the debate with Jeremy Paxman he said ‘I will write the appropriate letters to our commanders.’

        Ok he was pressed for it, but he is in a difficult situation, being a lifelong backbencher, never dreaming of being PM, lifelong anti-nuclear campaigner, has now realized its not as black and white has he first thought, he possibly has a country to protect, and he may have to retaliate.

        Nobody can deny he has changed over the last two years, he is learning, he is adapting, becoming more of a statesman, I give him credit for that.

        I could see it in his face on Paxman when an audience member said something along the lines of “you would not protect us” shouting etc, he said 3 times shaking his head “of course I would” and he believe he will write the letters of last resort, and I also believe if he was still standing after a nuclear attack on our soil (debatable as he lives in London) he would order to retaliate.

        • Yes he would write the letters but you are deluding yourself if you think that those letters would contain instructions for a retaliatory strike. I don’t care how much you think he has changed or grown, you can’t polish a turd. I will never understand how you or anyone else can see that shambling clown as some sort of political messiah.

          • So what would be in the letters of last resort? remember the sole purpose of the letters David, his aunties cottage pie recipe?

            “I don’t care how much you think he has changed or grown, you can’t polish a turd”

            How old are you? can you not contribute anything other than that? is that you trying to debate and change mine or anyone’s opinion on him.

            “I will never understand how you or anyone else can see that shambling clown as some sort of political messiah.”

            It’s quite easy really, there are a lot more things the general population care about.

            Currently he is more trusted than May on Education, NHS, Public services, Fairer country and pensioners, and he is behind on economy, immigration, security and brexit.

            We all have different views and we all have different reasons why we think some issues are worth a vote more than others, and they should really be respected.

  6. Me personally, I support the UK having a nuclear deterrent, what I think should be looked at in the future is perhaps sharing the cost with countries wanting to come under a nuclear umbrella.

    The German parliament voted to change their law earlier this year so they could be allowed to partially fund another countries nuclear program as long as they fall under that umbrella.

    It is a very expensive deterrent to have and I think any way we could look at reducing the cost and putting the money saved into our conventional armed forces would be beneficial all round.

    But we have Trident now and I’m looking forward to seeing the Dreadnought class.

    If we are still on this forum in 40/50 years complaining about what we haven’t got then surely we should look at maybe a joint deterrent with our American or European partners to massively reduce individual cost.

    • Nice idea re cost, but kind of rules out the ‘Independent’ part! Sound like rent-a-nuke! Still IF we’re complaining in 40/50 years it will mean the solution worked! (As I’m in my 50’s that time scale may be pushing it a bit though)

      • Year true but we don’t complain about our normal ultimate defense not being independent, that’s NATO of course.

        You’ll still be here pal, debating on this site takes years off you 😉

  7. Let’s not forget that the very existence of nuclear weapons prevented World War 3. The Soviet Union was so dominant in conventional numbers that only the threat of annihilation deterred them from overrunning Europe. How many millions owe their lives to the atom bomb! MAD succeeded because both sides believed the other was serious, but a PM who vows never to use the deterrent completely nullifies the idea. Jeremy Corbin has made the Labour pledge to renew Trident meaningless, especially considering shadow cabinet support of CND rallies. A Corbyn led Labour Government could actually be highly dangerous.

          • The letters contents can vary. The letters can order the Captain to launch a retaliatory strike in part or in full or they can order him to place himself under an allied government (Australia, Canada, USA) and pass the decision to them or they can order him to do nothing which is what I suspect Corbyn would choose. Maybe you need to do some more research before trying to be clever. Everyone may indeed have an opinion but as you have just demonstrated some people don’t know enough to make that opinion credible.

          • Research? You mean the Wikipedia page you have just read?

            That’s got nothing to do with the credibility of an opinion.

            The only thing that matters and that people can see in this instance is you calling soemone ‘turd’ and a ‘clown’ and then you trying to tell me your opinion of him is a credible one, no David it’s a biased opinion you have, you have demonstrated that clearly.

  8. Religion ‘a vital and much needed moral code through the ages’ is on the wain (globally! thank you internet! Humanity is my chosen religion oh and science! And what about those who understand and contribute without? Which now equates to 95% uk born irrespective of where their parents ran from! As we all would do! of the uk 20-30!?) me 27/09/2017 4am pissed and pissed off with the world, the UK, Trump, correct grammar, the Eton crew, Jezza in parts but sadly for anyone born after 1980 he is our best bet which saddens me. bar extremist nutters which there will always be personally when possible I try to take in all other aspects first before an aged teaching of morality…oh and obvs fire back no debate there

  9. Religion ‘a vital and much needed moral code through the ages’ is on the wain (globally! thank you internet! Humanity is my chosen religion oh and science! And what about those who understand and contribute without? Which now equates to 95% uk born irrespective of where their parents ran from! As we all would do! of the uk 20-30!?) me 27/09/2017 4am pissed and pissed off with the world, the UK, Trump, correct grammar, the Eton crew, Jezza in parts but sadly for anyone born after 1980 he is our best bet which saddens me. bar extremist nutters which there will always be personally when possible I try to take in all other aspects first before an aged teaching of morality…oh and obvs fire back no debate there

  10. The gradual takeover of the Labour party by momentum, will inevitably led to the abandonment of nuclear weapons by the Labour party along with bankrupting the country with its plans to nationalise and borrow

        • There is nothing else to say, I’m not sure where you’re going with this.

          You think he will write in the letter ‘do nothing’

          I think he will write something different, I think he would write retaliate, but after looking at the same Wikipedia page you obviously paraphrased, I actually think he would leave it to the submarine commanders judgement.

          My opinion is backed up through quotes I have mentioned above, having met the man in person, and knowing what the party policy is, and knowing what would be expecting of him from the majority of his voters.

          Your opinion is backed up because you thing he is a turd and a clown.

          Obviously yours is the more credible opinion 👍

          • Unlike you I didn’t need to check Wikipedia as I already knew how the letters work. You tried to be sarcastic about the contents, insinuating that the contents could only be one thing, you where wrong. I am glad your recognised that my opinion is more credible, it is hard to admit ones faults and I applaud you for doing so. Maybe if your attitude wasn’t so confrontational these exchanges could be avoided or more friendly in tone.

          • Come on David, you paraphrased what’s in the Wikipedia article, and it does say in the article that what’s in the letters are secret, it’s only been mentioned what’s in them on a radio 4 program and a guardian article, nothing official has ever been released, so me and you cannot be 100% sure in our answers.

            Are you for real, read back our first exchange on here and tell me who got confrontational first, I tried to have a laugh about it then you called me deluded in your response, as well as insulting the man, that’s hardly a friendly tone is it?

            And then I tried to have a laugh under this thread and your response was ‘don’t bother’

            Just admit you don’t like me for the sole reason of my political persuasion, maybe it’s you who needs to change your attitude and realise that not everyone who has a different opinion than you is deluded.

  11. Fakenews
    Quoted out of context
    It’s a grey area.
    Insults.
    Threats.

    The language of new old Labour, the end result is the same bankruptcy of the exchequer.

    • Any evidence Mike?

      What you are saying is fake news

      Using the word ‘inevitably’ in a half baked opinion.

      So first of all, explain to me the process you think will happen that will lead to “labour abandon our nuclear weapons”

      And tell me how having nationalised public services would bankrupt the country?

      Remember Royal Mail was only just sold, Germany and a host of European countries have nationalised railway lines, the French have EDF.

      http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/jeremy-corbyn-labour-manifesto-renationalisation-rail-energy-banks-europe-a7731961.html

      Every poll indicates that the majority of people want to see public services under public ownership, NHS, Railways, water and energy should not be run for profit, they should be run for efficiency and the best possible service to the general public.

  12. More fakenews from the guardian September 2015.

    “Jeremy Corbyn would instruct the UK’s defence chiefs never to use the Trident nuclear weapons system if he became prime minister in 2020, the new Labour leader has confirmed.

    Corbyn made his statement in an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday in which he said he had a mandate from his election to oppose the replacement of Trident and the use of nuclear weapons.”

  13. Yet more fake news.

    Labour would create a new role of ‘Minister for Peace’, Corbyn added that: ”Too much of our debate is about military security – you’re either for or against strong defence.”

    Asked directly if he would back a ‘like-for-like’ replacement of the UK’s current four nuclear-armed submarines, he replied: “The decision of Parliament was to endorse the Government’s proposals for the replacement of Trident. That’s the decision we will inherit as a Labour government. That’s what the position is.

    “We will also we will also undertake a strategic defence review looking at all aspects of our defence priorities for the future. We cannot obviously decide what the review would decide otherwise we wouldn’t have the review.”

    And we all lived happily ever after just like every other fairy tale that’s been told

      • I have never read the Wikipedia article. Just because you can only find mention of the letters on radio 4 does not mean that is the only information on them available. It’s that kind of thing that rubs me the wrong way not your political stance. I deal every day with people like you who I disagree with but can get on with regardless. In regard to my opening comments on this thread you might see them as confrontational but remember there are other threads and this is not our first conversation. Your comments on a previous discussion where again disrespectful. It is not just me the way you speak to other posters is also way off.

        • But there is no information on them David, everything is regurgitated from the same sources because they are highly secret and destroyed at the end of current PMs term.

          I also deal with people I disagree with all the time, and it doesn’t always have to be like this.

          I know it’s not our first conversation, if I started to get confrontational on another thread, although it’s unlikely because I aim to never start getting personnel or offensive, except when I have had a rant at trolls on here from time to time, then I apologise.

          But from what I can remember, I always seem to be on the defensive, i never start a comment randomly under an article slating Theresa May not only professionally but personally as well.

          If you want a fresh start then I’m game 👍

          • 🤝 fair enough Kieran. I would prefer to discuss military matters but this comments section can get us a bit sidetracked at times. Regarding the letters there is a documentary about RN submarine operations (though I can’t remember the title) that discusses the different options available to the PM. It was this documentary that yielded the surprising revelation that Australia and not the US was the ally of choice to join, if that was the option taken. Maybe the documentary was the tv version of the radio 4 one you mentioned. We will never know for sure what the contents are because as you say they are burned without ever being opened by the incoming PM. I tend to agree with you that any PM would probably leave it to the Captains judgement simply because there is no way of knowing for sure in advance who to retaliate against. The situation could be completely unforeseen.

          • Yeah I would too, it’s a waste of energy really at this moment in time and not really what this site is for.

            That sounds interesting I would like to see that definitely, it’s something I would like to learn more about, I find the letters of last resort fascinating as well as one of the tests to know wether to open the safe and read the letters depend wether radio 4 is still broadcasting, not sure how true that is but it’s what I have heard, still fascinating though.

  14. My favourite Corbyn quote

    “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every politician around the world instead of taking pride in the size of their armed forces did what the people of Costa Rica have done and abolished the army and took pride in the fact that they don’t have an army, and that their country is near the top of the global peace index. Surely that is the way we should be going forward.”

    It would be wonderful in a make believe sort of way where clouds are made of candy floss, but meanwhile in the real world.

    Scrap the army and let’s top global peace index, what could possibily go wrong?

    • “Analysis: This is the most highly edited of the quotes and makes the least sense out of context.”

      You forgot that bit mate under the article where you got it from 👍

  15. Oh dear oh dear, the truth hurts.

    Corbyn’s quotes are there for to see, yet the cultists and zealots of corbynism deny the truth.

  16. The use of nuclear weapons is actually a bit more complex than just a “hell yes press the button approach”. It’s very unlikely we ever be looking at dealing with a massive preemptive strike and most people though processes revolve around these doomsday issues. if another nation (and we are taking Russia) for some mad reason out of the blue launched a thousand warheads our way I would agree that a counter strike is the only appropriate response.

    The problem is that’s not how it would play out:
    1) Peer on Peer ( that’s Russia) Tensions would escalate, you may get warships sunk, somenutter in Russia may think a tactical strike against a US carrier group is the way forward, the US throws nuke at a Russian city in response killing a half a million people, Russia responds with a strike on Birmingham killing another half a million people….. What do you do in this case ? To strike back will inevitably lead to a strike on our nation that will kill almost all of us (50-60 million people) and end our nations history ( our 60 warheads would hurt Russia very badly but it would still be there, we would not be) Would the US then continue the conflict and undertake a massive retaliatory strike on behalf of the U.K, Knowing what would then happen to hundreds of millions of us citizens ?

    • All my reading of the cold war – and it’s extensive – made it clear to me that apart from a few hardliners – both sides were desperate to avoid using even one weapon, knowing that even won city lost would be a humanitarian disaster. Of course they all made plans for use but hoped they never would need them.

      On another subject did you see my answer from the MoD re the submarine concept article of a few weeks ago ?

    • 2) a non peer use of WMD on UK soil, it’s going to take a while to decide which state attacked or sponsored the attack. There will then always be a bit of doubt ( evidence is never 100%), you are then faced with a do we launch on this none peer state or not, what level of evidence do you use for nuclear release, is another response better and less likley to dam you in the eyes of the world….

      • If you give a single solitary damn about how you look in the eyes of the world for retaliating for the deaths of your citizens and children. Then your not really much of a country. Considering the foundation of any state is defense of the people or failing that retribution.
        On the level of evidence. Simple preponderance is sufficient due to the possibility of a follow up attack and the imperative to remove that threat.

        • So Elliott what level of evidence do you use before deploying a nuclear weapon ? 51% likley or 70% even 90%. What do you then do when it turns out your 90% likely case was a turd and you got the wrong county….say sorry and bomb the next usual suspect…….and so on

  17. “by just inserting a key into a simple lock”

    Two keys I think, simultaneously. Basically analog tech not digital (I approve of that).

    If the Yanks withdrew maintenance, they’d be useless in 9 months or so. And politically the UK would almost always consult first. Operationally completely independent, and you only have to apply a bit of logic to realise the Vulcan bomb was voluntarily given up for Polaris, and no way would the UK give up an independent deterrent for the sake of one that wasn’t, it would just have persisted in the expensive and troublesome development of the missile – the delivery system. Staging I think was the problem, but I forget.

    • ‘If the Yanks withdrew maintenance, they’d be useless in 9 months or so.’

      RN reckons 18 to 24 months.

      ‘the Vulcan bomb was voluntarily given up for Polaris’ –
      Polaris was a compensation (quite generous really) for the abandonment of the Skybolt air launched ballistic missile by the USA which was meant to give the V bombers (mainly Vulcan) a true ‘stand off’ range from Soviet air defences.

      http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/cabinetpapers/themes/skybolt-polaris-missiles.htm

      The RAF stand off missile of the time, Blue Steel, was a tricky little sucker that was hard to mate with the V bombers and had a maximum range of little more than 100 miles – reduced to around 20 miles when the bomber had to go ‘down to the weeds’ in the face of improved Soviet air defence.

  18. The only rationale for the retention of Trident, and it is a valid one, is that without it the UK no longer has any pretense of calling itself a world power. It is impossible to imagine a scenario in which the UK would launch its Trident missiles without co-ordination with and approval of the US. It is inconceivable that the UK would launch Trident against any nation that is not a foe of the US and with which the US is not involved as an adversary. Without Trident, the UK is simply a mid-level power unable to project or sustain conventional military force against even a lower level power. It simply has cut its armed forces that much. So the debate about the independent control of Trident is rather moot.

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