Friday, June 08, 2007

Astute - the ongoing Nuclear Navy issue (and the BAe row) 

So how is the Nuclear Navy getting on? We do need to keep an eye on this as at some stage in the future a decision will have to be made by the Party on accepting or not accepting the Vanguard (read ‘Trident’) deployment. Month by month 'new facts' are being created which will make alternative decisons more difficult.

And the nuclear navy is closely linked to the ongoing sagas of BAe systems, the state within the state that constructs these vessels and which is of course embroiled in the Saudi Slush Fund allegations. How much pressure are BAe able to put on Her Majesty’s Government because HMG is totally committed to nuclear propulsion for our submarines and job creation through the naval construction programme, and BAe is the only means they have to carry this through?

The first of the new Astute class hunter-killer submarines that will protect any Vanguard force was launched today, 8th June 2007. They will replace the existing Swiftsure-Class submarines and it now seems also the Trafalgar-Class submarines.

Four years late, the Astute programme is already nearly £1000 million over budget.

The Astute and its sister ships will be able to fire cruise missiles (possibly nuclear armed) – targeting South Africa or Brazil (for example) if needs be from launch locations in the Irish Sea or similar lattitude.

All Royal Navy submarines are nuclear powered. The UK has shunned the alternative of building modern diesel-electric submarines or the new ‘air-independent’ diesel propulsion used in the latest German submarines. These alternatives are markedly cheaper, and would permit the Royal Navy to purchase and deploy more vessels.

A question – by concentrating on building a few very large and expensive submarines is the Royal Navy losing the capacity to operate in the shallower waters of the seas to the east of Britain – effectively placing the responsibility for the submarine defence of our Eastern Approaches waters on the German and Dutch navies with their smaller, cheaper and more numerous vessels?

Since the first duty of the Astutes will be the protection of the Vanguard boats (which will carry our 'Ultimate Deterrent') what possible alternative operational deployments will the Royal Navy be prevented from carrying through because of these commitments? How important are these other defence stances to our security from amilitary point of view?

Are these boats being purchased because they represent the opportunity to maintain a certain kind of industrial capability rather than the best bet for long-term defence capability?

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