It’s a common myth that the United States has control over the UK’s Trident missile system, that is not the case. Here’s proof.

The Trident missile system is housed on the UK’s four Vanguard class submarines which form the UK’s strategic nuclear deterrent force. Each of the four boats are armed with up to 16 Trident II D5 SLBMs, carrying up to 8 warheads each.

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.

The argument is often 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.

In summary, the UK retains full operational control, to the extent that the US could not stop a launch.

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

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Andy Berry
Guest

didn’t know people were that dumb – mind you they’re probably the same ones arguing we should buy the sea typhoon or F4 phantom instead of the Argentinian made F35

Mark .Benitez
Guest

Common sense people .

Ross Hendrie
Guest

My history lecturer pedals this myth to his students when talking about the fall from grace of the British Empire. “Even today the UK does not have an independent nuclear weapons system.” Nonsense.

Tom Glyde
Guest

There were clauses in the Nassau Agreement 1962 negotiated by Macmillan that stated that the UK would contribute to the NATO deterrent but would retain control of her SSBN’s and ICBM’s in the case of an imminent and over-riding threat to the UK. Of course, in the days of the Cold War a coordinated UK-US and for that matter NATO nuclear strike policy had to be adopted … targeting, deterrent patrols etc. The Prime Minister or surviving appointed Deputies are the only people authorised to relaese UK owned nuclear weapons

Kk
Guest
Kk

I think you have missed the point that both defence academics and politians make re the UK independent nuclear wespons and that is like the French we would not lunch an independent strike without 1 UN agreement 2 USA agreement and cooperation and 3 there would have to have been a first strike against us to to invalidate 1 and 2 – for those of us who research this matter this is what is meant by a non indepent deterant. The UK pays for this system which then allows us to dit at the top table of many organisations ‘punching… Read more »

jon livesey
Guest
jon livesey

You think *we* are missing the point? Independent use of Trident includes situations where our allies no longer exist.

Keith Holderness
Guest

Better tell Corbyns new shadow defence secretary, because she is telling everyone its controlled by the US.

jon livesey
Guest
jon livesey

No surprises there. She is a CND member and this is standard CND propaganda.

John Gough
Guest
John Gough

KK – I think it’s you who have missed the point. The deterrent is independently controlled and would only be used in conjunction with our allies for NATO purposes, in response to attack or where ‘supreme national interests’ are at stake. The UN has nothing to do with it.

Tom Jones
Guest

Andrew Parker Michael Powell from the horses mouth…

Michael Powell
Guest

Still not convinced it’s the best value for money. £40bn would buy a lot of security capability against the threats we currently face who don’t care whether we have a nuclear deterrent or not.

jon livesey
Guest
jon livesey

That makes at least as much sense as saying you should get rid of a gun and buy two peashooters because there are some kids out there who don’t care if you have a gun.

What about the muggers out there who *do* care if you have a gun. Are they going to be deterred by your two pea-shooters?

Andrew Parker
Guest

Borrocks, as they say in N Korea

Andrew Parker
Guest

Its still a waste of money

jon livesey
Guest
jon livesey

Way to lose the argument and then talk as if you won it.

Tom Jones
Guest

I’m not sure either of you understand the significance of the diplomatic adavantage that comes from being a nuclear state.

Do you think you will carry the day with your moral authority?

Or do you think the asymmetric threats currently faced won’t be emboldened by a loss of nuclear status? We would become a pawn on the chessboard instead of a rook or bishop.

Michael Powell
Guest

I have yet to find anyone who can explain why the Nato “nuclear umbrella” requires three separate national nuclear deterrents, rather than one collective one.

jon livesey
Guest
jon livesey

Nato does not “require” three nuclear forces. It allows them. At one time there actually was a proposal for a common NATO nuclear force, but I don’t think it went anywhere. Something about worrying about the Germans.

Tom Jones
Guest

Redundancy. If the first shooter is compromised or destroyed the second or third ensure the response.

Same principle as on the grass knoll. Ask Lee Harvey Oswald.

David
Guest
David

Kk – Theoretically we can nuke any thing or anyone we want. The reality of using a nuclear weapon is of course very different, but not because anyone can stop us, simply because the retaliation would be devastating.

Bloke down the pub
Guest
Bloke down the pub

Its easy to imagine the USA with a president so weak and feeble that a potential enemy felt able to attack the West without fear of retaliation. The UK and France having independent forces means that retaliation is more likely, and it would inevitably draw in the US, making the deterrent more viable.

Kevin Blaze
Guest

What means now there is no need to get permission from American for usage of it ???

Chris Harding
Guest

that means that unless the question to use Nuclear weapons comes up in a NATO affiliated conflict (a russian invasion of a NATO Alliance country in Europe as an extreme example)

the British can and has always been able to do what they damned well please with their nukes.

Kevin Blaze
Guest

Trident Are Most Potent Element Of Full Spectrum Deterrence Of Yours And Don’t Forget Its Symbol Of Yours Friendship. Non Nation Provide Their Strategic Assets To Other Nations. But They Given You. It’s Biggest Thing In Matters Of Trust And Friendship

Kevin Blaze
Guest

Chris Harding

Kevin Blaze
Guest

Congratulation. Your Sovereignty Your Deterrence

Chris Harding
Guest

I have to admit… that was very informative… far more was answered than I actually expected.

now if all the myths about the F-35 both good and bad were put to bed like this…

Andrew Clark
Guest

Send one to isis..

Jason Buck
Guest
David L Thomas
Guest

Excellent news in one way but wish these things didn’t exist – i am not anti war / defence I just not keen on these weapons some may say.

Tom Glyde
Guest

They exist so that no one dares to use them. H.M Government has never purusued a first strike policy

David L Thomas
Guest

Thanks Tom – Probably what NK is trying to achieve as well…

Colin Milne New
Guest

We will need is as world war 3 is simmering and it will be nuclear

Keith Kellett
Guest

Corbyn and co..it doesnt mean sod all…anti trident…anti nuclear…Livingstone doesnt even think we need to be part of NATO…heaven help the UK…

PKCasimir
Guest
PKCasimir

While the statement that the UK has full operational control over Trident is accurate; that doesn’t mean that the UK has total control of its Trident program. First, the UK’s Trident missiles are leased from and maintained by the US. Second. There is not a uniquely British component in any Trident missile. Third. The UK has no test range or test facilities and is totally reliant on the US for these. Fourth. The US, should it wish to do so in a future situation in which relations have deteriorated ( not inconceivable given Osborne’s continual backstabbing of the US in… Read more »

Chish
Guest
Chish

@ PKCasimir So how many of these missiles do you think needs to be launched to basically end the world as we know it. We have 4 subs and, presumably, the missiles to fill their silos if needed in Scotland. And even if it was just one sub there is global destruction right there. If we launched and President Trump didn’t like it well tough. Its too late and tearing up the lease agreement would be like realising your house insurance premium wasn’t paid as your house burned down. What you seem to forget is these things are only used… Read more »

PKCasimir
Guest
PKCasimir

Your views on nuclear deterrence and nuclear war short of Armageddon reflect a profound naiveté and lack of understanding. There are multiple scenarios for limited nuclear war. Your know-it-all tone is only a mask for this ignorance. One UK sub firing its missiles hardly necessitates WW3. The UK is now a third rate power and wouldn’t dare fire its missiles without US approval. That is the reality. Further, your knee-jerk ignorant statement presuming a President Trump reflects a knowledge of the current US Presidential primary process that could only be obtained from believing the ignorant English tabloid press which understands… Read more »

Chish
Guest
Chish

Wow your ignorance is only exceeded by your arrogance. And in all that monologue of anti-British crap you never answered any of my points. Always amazes me the ability of some people to be able to write and yet not be able to read.

David Flandry
Guest
David Flandry

The SSBNs could carry 16 missile, but they will carry only 8. Each missile could carry
8 warheads, but will carry only 5. That is 40 warheads per boat, with one boat in overhaul or deep maintenance. So the UK has 120 deployed warheads, less than Pakistan or France. The UK is the sixth largest nuclear power. OK, fifth, if you consider that Pakistan’s are mostly short-range tactical nukes for use against India. Meanwhile the number of nuclear armed states keeps increasing.

David
Guest
David

PK Casimir – Yes there are multiple scenarios for limited strike use of nuclear weapons, but how do you think that happens ? “we will only fire one if you only fire one ? ” Get a grip. What happens in all scenarios is simple, one gets used, two gets used in retaliation, and so the snowball continues to roll down hill until there is no world left. The unloading of 120 nuclear warheads would have a large impact on our climate and ability to live on this planet, and by your dumb reckoning we fire 120 the bad guys… Read more »

ella fritz
Guest
ella fritz

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James
Guest
James

Commons Select Committee in 2015 actually proves this article is false. https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/cmselect/cmdfence/986/986we13.htm

It is all very being able to push a button, and launch a weapon, and sail the boats around. However the US has overall control on the system, indeed all tests of Trident are done under US supervision. They also control the GPS system, and while you can fire a missile, you want it to hit a specific target, as opposed to land anywhere. This could be the difference between hitting Tehran, and Telford.