RESPONSE TO THE GOVERNMENT'S CHOICE
of the witnesses to our inquiry was surprised the Government had
decided to opt for a renewal of the submarine-based deterrent.
Few of them considered the SSBN option was the wrong one. But,
of course, a great many of them argued that the Government was
wrong to renew the nuclear deterrent at all, and a few thought
the Government's justification for its choice was inadequate.
132. Dr Jeremy Stocker, of the IISS, told us that
the decision was "a no-brainer" and that it was "very
difficult to fault the logic of the White Paper".
He argued that "a pretty comprehensive study has been done,
based on realistic assumptions and the conclusions are correct".
133. RUSI witnesses too endorse the Government's
decision. In written evidence to our inquiry, they state that
"the fundamental principle for an effective deterrent is
a survivable platform and weapon system which can delivery the
desired effect and the place and time of choice, holding at risk
anything which a potential adversary may value". They conclude
that "only a submarine-based system deployed in CASD cycle
can deliver this guarantee" and that "none of the other
options addressed in the White Paper would provide the requisite
strategic capability, nor would they be more affordable".
Professor John Baylis, of the University of Swansea, agrees and
states that "surviving pre-emptive actions remains a critical
part of contemporary deterrence and consequently there do not
appear to be strong arguments to diverge from this formula".
134. Some witnesses to our inquiry challenged aspects
of the Government's assessment. Dr Andrew Dorman, of King's College
London, argues that the White Paper fails to explore the possibility
of having a submarine fleet equipped with nuclear-armed cruise
missiles. He questions the Government's assumption that the UK
would need to develop a new missile and sees no reason why the
Tomahawk cruise missiles carried on the UK's SSN fleet could not
be adapted to carry a nuclear warhead in place of their conventional
he is supportive of the Government's assessment of the options,
this omission is also noted by Jeremy Stocker. Submarine-launched
cruise missiles, he suggests, would be "the most credible
or attractive alternative" to the Trident force. However,
on balance, he accepts the Government's argument that cruise missiles
lack the range and invulnerability offered by Trident ballistic
135. In its memorandum of 1 February 2007, the MoD
states that the White Paper "represented a high level summary
of a great deal of work, much of which is necessarily highly classified".
On the issue of cruise missiles versus ballistic missiles, it
argues that "in both cost and capability terms, retaining
the Trident D5 missile is by far the best approach". It suggests
that "a much larger number of cruise missiles, compared to
Trident D5 missiles, would be required to meet our minimum deterrence
requirements". And it says that "moving to a deterrent
based on submarine-launched cruise missiles could well lead to
a requirement for additional submarine hulls".
136. Dr Dorman also criticises the Government's assessment
of an air-based nuclear deterrent. He suggests that "the
civilian airliner option makes a number of assumptions that seem
designed to inflate the cost". In particular, he asks
why would a new air base need to be built?...why
does the cruise missile have to be a new one?...why does the platform
have to be a new civilian airliner?...why has the range requirement
risen so sharply compared to the existing Trident force or its
[and] what compensatory savings would result
from the Royal Navy shifting away from nuclear powered submarines?
With such questions unanswered, Dr Dorman concludes
that "there is a good deal of smoke and mirrors in these
options and their associated costings".
Secretary of State told
us that only a submarine-based deterrent was sufficiently invulnerable
to pre-emptive attack. He said that although many experts had
long predicted that the oceans would become transparent, this
has not come to pass. The White Paper states that
We have assessed carefully the potential
for future developments in anti-submarine warfare to compromise
[the submarine's] position. We believe it is unlikely there will
be any radical technological breakthrough which might diminish
materially the current advantages of a submarine over potential
we judge that a submarine will remain
by far the least vulnerable of all the platform options considered.
Mr Browne told us that "none of our submarines
have ever been detected" and that the threat of detection
"has been identified for some time now and has not become
a reality". Given that all other options were far more vulnerable
to pre-emptive attack, Mr Browne said the submarine "is still
the best option".
many of our witnesses disagreed with the Government's decision
to renew the nuclear deterrent, few challenged its choice of a
submarine-based ballistic missile over other deterrent options.
However, some have found the analysis of the options in the White
Paper not to have explored fully the option of a nuclear-powered
submarine carrying cruise missiles, noted as being the best alternative
option. The Government should set out in more detail what were
the comparative advantages of cost, range, operation and invulnerability
associated with cruise and D5 missiles which led them to conclude
in favour of the D5 missile. We believe the Government should
offer further details of its assessment of deterrent options.
Costs and funding
Table 8: The costs of renewing the deterrent