THE EXPECTED LIFE OF THE TRIDENT SYSTEM
1. The UK's current nuclear deterrent capability
comprises several elements: first, the nuclear warheads, which
were designed and manufactured in the UK by the Atomic Weapons
Establishment; second, the Trident D5 missiles, which were procured
from the United States under the Polaris Sales Agreement (as amended
for Trident); third, four Vanguard-class nuclear powered submarines,
built at Barrow-in-Furness by what was then Vickers Shipbuilding
and Engineering Limited, who also designed the bulk of the submarine;
and finally a range of logistic infrastructureat the naval
facilities at Coulport (weapons handling and storage), Faslane
(submarine basing) and Devonport (submarine refit and maintenance).
2. While each element of the capability
has a design life, its longevity in practice is not fixed, as
items can be withdrawn from service before the end of their design
life or, alternatively, the design life may be extended by updates,
refurbishments or by being able to run on a system for longer,
based on experience gained during its operational life. The current
situation is as follows:
a) The Warhead
The current warhead came into service with the
Trident system in 1994. An extensive research programme to assure
the safety and effectiveness of the warhead stockpile, coupled
with the additional investment at AWE Aldermaston announced on
19 July 2005, gives a high level of confidence that the current
warhead design can, if required, be maintained in service at least
into the 2020s, with some relatively minor upgrading and refurbishment
during the first half of the next decade.
b) The Ballistic Missiles
The Trident D5 missile came into service with
the Royal Navy in 1994, with a planned life of some 25 years.
The US Navy has recently announced plans for a life extension
programme for the D5 missile, which will ensure it can remain
in-service with the US Navy into the 2040s. The UK Government
has yet to decide whether or not to participate in this programme.
c) The Submarines
HMS VANGUARD entered operational service with
the Royal Navy in 1994, with the other three submarines in its
class following in 1995, 1998 and 2001. The submarines were procured
with a designed operational life of 25 years and on this basis,
they would start to be withdrawn from service late in the next
decade. A series of studies have considered whether it would be
practicable and cost effective to continue to operate the submarines
beyond the original design intent. We now believe that, if required,
this would be possible, albeit with gradually increasing cost
and some increasing risk of reduced availability, perhaps out
to the mid-2020s.
d) Shore Infrastructure
Under the Trident programme, successive Governments
have made significant investment in the facilities at Coulport,
Faslane and Devonport. We envisage that the facilities at these
locations needed to support the nuclear deterrent will not require
any significant additional investment to sustain them throughout
the currently planned in-service life of the existing system.
Clearly, the extent of any additional investment in logistics
or infrastructure beyond that point will depend on future decisions
on whether and how to maintain a nuclear deterrent beyond the
planned life of the current system.