The Dreadnought class is the replacement for the Vanguard class of ballistic missile submarines and they will carry Trident D-5 missiles – the UK’s nuclear weapons.
The class has generated controversy because of its cost and also as some political parties and campaign groups such as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) or Trident Ploughshares oppose the retention of any nuclear weapons by the UK on moral or financial grounds.
We’re just going to look at the cost.
“We estimate the four new Dreadnought submarines will cost £31 billion spread over 35 years. On top of this, we are setting a contingency of £10 billion.”
We understand that the figure of £31 billion for the lifetime costs include inflation.
It’s expected that just the submarines and their infrastructure will cost an immediate £15 billion to build. 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.
According to a series of statements made in Parliament by ministers and the MoD, the annual operating costs of the Trident programme itself will be around 5 to 6 per cent of the defence budget.
This means that the Trident programme as a whole, including the submarines, will have a running cost of around £2 billion per year over their 35 years of life, equating to around £70 billion.
Estimates of the long term costs of big capital spends are notoriously hard to predict and can often fall or rise drastically.
The costs associated with the programme are comparable to the procurement costs of major weapons systems such as Typhoon or Lightning aircraft.