Examination of Witnesses (Questions 200-208)|
L GARWIN, MR
23 JANUARY 2007
Q200 Linda Gilroy: When in your paper
you said to us that the most credible alternative would be the
submarine-launched cruise missile, you are satisfied with the
comparison that is made in the annex that really says that on
cost, effectiveness and on capability it really is not a comparison?
Dr Stocker: Indeed. In fact, as
part of the original Trident procurement decisions, there was
a study done by Chatham House in the late Seventies which did
some quite detailed open source work, and it demonstrated then
as an alternative to four or five Trident submarines, if you wanted
cruise missiles fired from submarines you would need eleven submarines
and 800 missiles. The figures probably do not exactly equate today
but it indicates the order of magnitude of difference of capability
as between cruise and ballistic.
Q201 Linda Gilroy: Professor Garwin,
if I could turn to you, invulnerability and the ability to survive
a first strike were key considerations in opting for a submarine-based
deterrent during the Cold War. Do you attach any importance to
that argument now? How would you view that?
Professor Garwin: It keeps me
awake at night to think that the submarine base will be destroyed
by a nuclear weapon, all the submarines that are in port, so a
submarine at sea with survivability is a very good thing to have.
But they are to survive, not to fire, and this question of 800
cruise missiles versus 50 D5s is not a matter of a deterrent,
that is a matter of prompt strike. A submarine at sea could, within
days or weeks, move to the shore where it wants to fire its cruise
missile so if you are satisfied with the eventual response you
do not need more cruise missiles than you need ballistic missiles.
In that regard the White Paper is incorrect in saying any programme
to develop and manufacture new cruise missiles will cost far more
than retaining the Trident D5 missile. The UK could manufacture
the Tomahawk, a perfectly good cruise missile; it would not have
to do any development but it might have to get licences from the
US manufacturer. But it did not want to do that, it wanted to
rebuild the Trident submarines without thinking, it did not mention
the small inter-continental range ballistic missiles, which is
a good thing to do. The development costs are far less than for
one of these multiple warhead missiles and would be reflected
throughout the entire system.
Dr Willett: As Dr Stocker pointed
out, we have gone round this buoy twice before with Polaris and
with Trident first time round, and the issue with the cruise missile
is discussed in detail in the White Paper, but the key issue of
course is that not only can it be shot down, as the White Paper
mentions, but then your warhead falls into the hands of whoever's
territory it happens to land on, and you cannot have that risk.
The important point about the Tomahawk is that you cannot just
take the current warhead and stick it into a Tomahawk, you would
need a new warhead and a new missile because the airframe was
designed only for conventional purposes and not as a deterrent
weapon, and the problem is that it is just not fast enough. The
interesting thing about the current decision though and going
down the road in years to come is whether there is any possibility
that the Government will look at options for multi-roling the
submarine in terms of giving it a broader range of capabilitiesD5
missiles, yes, perhaps with some intermediate range missiles,
whether they are modified Trident or others, perhaps with some
cruise missiles that have either nuclear or conventional warheads
on them. The US has conventional Tomahawks in its Ohio class submarines
so it can be done; the question of course is, is the strategic
requirement and rationale there to do that, but that would potentially
give the submarines a greater range of options.
Professor Garwin: I am sorry,
that is not true. If you do not want your nuclear warhead unexploded
to fall into other people's hands then there is a well-established
technology with insensitive high explosives or other explosives
to explode the warheadof course you disseminate the plutonium,
but that does not matter, we did that at Palomares, and you clean
Q202 Linda Gilroy: Is not a more
important issue in weighing up the pros and cons of this how it
stands in relation to missile defence systems?
Professor Garwin: Oh yes, that
is a different point, but one should not adduce all of the arguments,
some of them correct and some incorrect, so, yes. Tomahawk is
not very vulnerable to missile defence but it could be countered
by certain defences. When I inveighed against missile defence,
it was only mid-course. Terminal defence is entirely possible,
it is possible when you are defending individual silos, it is
not easy to do when you are defending cities.
Q203 Chairman: I do not want to go
into the various options, I just want to be sure that you believe
that they have been sufficiently covered by the White Paper. Dr
Pullinger, do you want to comment on that?
Dr Pullinger: Yes, specifically
on the choice of this platform which, looking from a non-proliferation
perspective, helps to give us the most stable nuclear posture
deployment. I would prefer to have designated platforms, which
this system is, I do not want to have dual use platforms with
nuclear and conventional that might get mixed up.
Chairman: That is Dr Willett's point.
Q204 Linda Gilroy: One of the issues
that is raised about the submarine platform is the possible future
developments in terms of transparency of the oceans. Do any of
you have any observations to make on that area?
Dr Willett: Very simply, people
have been trying to do it for a long time and it has not happened
Mr Ingram: However, if we were
to be in a position to delay this decision then that would be
another advantage, we would be that much closer to the point at
which we were deploying to be able to make exactly this decision
in greater confidence that it would be still possible to hide
a submarine and perhaps also to be able to deploy other missiles
than the D5, for reasons already suggested.
Q205 Willie Rennie: Professor Garwin,
could you just summarise quickly what the United States are doing
in terms of their deterrent and what the significance of the reliable
replacement warhead programme is in that deterrent?
Professor Garwin: The United States
continues to operate the three components of the deterrent: the
aircraft, which has been downplayed in importance, the land-based
missiles, mostly single-warhead missiles now, deployed in the
vast spaces of the United States in silos and the Trident submarines.
So they will continue to upgrade those. There is an initiative
for conventional strike so that some of the Trident missiles and
perhaps some of the land-based missiles will be loaded with conventional
warheads with an accuracy of a few metres so that they could attack
point targets, but it is very difficult to get the effects of
nuclear weapons in destroying large targets. You can destroy a
concrete silo with a conventional warhead, a shaped charge, delivered
by one of these missiles, but it would be easy enough, as I said,
to defend that silo by passive and active means. So this conventional
strike has not yet been realised and there are problems that people
will understand as they think more deeply about it. The United
States Navy is confident that a prudently operated strategic submarine
is invisible and essentially undetectable in any strategically
important sense, so they are not worried about that. They spend
a lot of effort to make sure that it is true and the US also spends
a lot of effort to see whether they can compromise other people's
submarines. The Reliable Replacement Warhead is a programme which
was generated a few years ago; it may or may not go forward. Its
purpose is to be able to build new-design warheads under a comprehensive
test ban treaty without testing them, and not for new military
missions but to replace the current warheads if they deteriorate.
It has just recently been announced in November by the National
Nuclear Security Agency that the metallic component of our two-stage
warheadsthe so-called "pit", containing plutonium,
surrounded by metalhas a life of at least 85 years, probably
more than 100 years. The previous official estimate was 45 yearsI
mention this in my testimonyand this has a great influence
on whether you need a so-called reliable replacement warhead or
not because all of the other parts of a nuclear weapon are testable
and replaceable apart from the pit and you just reuse the pip
while you substitute new electronics, new neutron generators and
new other things in the nuclear weapon of existing design. So
Reliable Replacement Warhead is a programme for maintaining skills,
nuclear designer skills, in case the comprehensive test ban treaty
vanishes or in case we do need to make new-design nuclear weapons,
but it is not essential for the preservation of the deterrent
and the National Nuclear Security Agency has also said that.
Chairman: That is helpful, thank you.
I would like to move on, very briefly, to the costs question.
Willie Rennie: In the White Paper it
says that the cost would be in the region of £15-£20
billion and that would be a price worth paying. First of all,
do you agree that that is an accurate estimate and, second of
all, when would it not be a price worth paying?
Q206 Chairman: Can we leave that
second question because I think we have got a general impression
from each of the witnesses as to what their view is about the
worth of it, but I would like to know whether they accept that
money estimates, please.
Dr Willett: There is a very interesting
point made in the White Paper. The £15-£20 billion of
course looks at the upfront acquisition costs and what we need
to try and understand here is not only how much it costs to buy
it but how much it costs to run it through life as well for the
50 years. The very interesting point that the White Paper raises
is that it makes reference to the running costs being between
5 and 6% of the defence budget, and that figure is a very important
one because it requires some considerable clarification as to
what it means, because it contrasts previous statements which
detailed the running costs as being between 2 and 4%. If you use
the 2 and 4% example as your baseline, then based on the calculations
that we did at the previous Trident programme the whole programme
costs come in at around £25 billion over the whole life,
which is in keeping with previous statements, and one could argue
that on that basis, if you are looking to reduce the number of
submarines, reduce the numbers of missiles, the numbers of warheads
and that you have a blueprint for doing everything as you have
done before, you actually could do it for less than last time,
but the issue of the 5 to 6% of the defence budget is a very interesting
one because it is somewhat new, so I would be looking for the
MoD to explain in coming weeks what that 5 or 6% actually consists
of and what that therefore means to what the likely overall costs
would be, because that is somewhat different from what has been
said in the past in my understanding.
Q207 Willie Rennie: Do you think
the 5 to 6% is in addition to the £15-£20 billion?
Dr Willett: It is, yes. In my
understanding it would be £15-£20 billion although of
course that is based on four submarines and probably a worst case
scenario because politically it would be unacceptable to get this
one wrong. Of course, in the past it is very important to note
that both Polaris and Trident the first time round came in on
time and on cost so there perhaps may be some fat in the estimate
to ensure that the MoD does come in under budgetunderstandably,
given the flak that it may generate. One could argue that that
£15-£20 billion could be reduced, but the issue of the
running costs through life is one that requires further clarification.
Q208 Chairman: Dr Stocker, do you
have anything to add?
Dr Stocker: I was just going to
clarify that the surprising thing about the costs is the big price
ticket put on the four submarines, which is approximately double
the cost of the Vanguards at 2005 prices. Allowing for some cost
escalation, that is surprising. The four Vanguards came in a little
under £6 billion and the Government is reckoning on double
that. That may to some extent reflect the bitter experience with
the Astute programme and the fact that as we have a much smaller
submarine force each individual boat is going to cost more, but
even so that doubling of costs of the platforms is surprising
and it might be helpful to get clarification from the MoD on why
the submarines are projected to cost as much as they are budgeted.
Mr Ingram: It is not quite double
but it is almost, and that actually reflects previous experience
where the Trident cost double Polaris and the Trident costs in
today's prices were £15 billion. I think it could well be
a reasonable estimate today, but as with so many thingsOlympics,
Domes and things like thisthings do go up in price, so
it could easily be more than £20 billion for the acquisition,
and as has already been said you have also got the running costs,
so this is where you are getting estimates of £76 billion
or whatever, which is not a particularly helpful figure because
money depends on when you spend it, how you spend it, if we do
not have £76 billion that we could spend elsewhere if we
did not spend it on Trident today. It is very difficult, but I
would say that £15-£20 billionyou can probably
go under, you can have arguments in favour of going over. If you
were simply to purchase four Vanguard class submarines as I was
hinting at earlier today it would be considerably less than £15
billion, but that is not the option that we are being given today.
There are choices that we could make to reduce that cost, but
we are not going to for some reason.
Chairman: That is it for this morning.
Can I say thank you very much indeed to all the witnesses, particularly,
if I may say so, to Professor Garwin for coming such a long way
to help another country with decisions that are very important
to us; we are most grateful. We are most grateful to all of you,