Monday, December 04, 2006

Juggernaut: The Trident payoff questions? 

Loads of questions on the Rush to Juggernaut on the Trident replacement issue. A couple for getting on with.

Trident is not a weapons system in which the UK is independent of the USA. The UK triad (boats, missiles, warheads) is intimately linked (in operation, servicing and the prices we pay) to conditions negotiated with the USA. Is it possible that 'we' (aka Prime Minister Blair) have a particularly advantageous offer of terms from the current US administration and this offer is not necessarily repeatable under a subsequent U.S. administration, or even a subsequent Prime Minister of the UK? Could be one reason for the rush? Is this perhaps payoff for trailing along in Iraq?

Second point - I recall when the Polaris replacement debate was burning holes in our political carpets it was patiently explained that for a credible 'independent' UK deterrent we needed a minimum of four boats. This is because each boat has to be taken off duty for servicing and refit periodically, a process that lasts about 18 months. There is then a need for working up trials before a boat is ready for full duty again. With this amount of down time, to ensure that we have at least one boat deployed at sea we need four in the rota. Usually two will be available for duty. With three in the rota the chance of being without an operational boat at some time must be quite high.

Accepting a three boat rota means accepting that the UK does not necessarily have a Permanently Independent Deterrent -unquote- available. So we accept the reality of dependence on the USA in any intervals. As we LibDems seemingly are proposing a three-boat fleet in our 'agreement to proceed' strategy suggestion, do we need to be upfront about the implications? More to the point, will Blair admit this if he does settle for a three-boat strategy? Will the make a difference to the deployment of white-ensign flying patriotic justifications for a 'British' bomb?

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