Trident upgrade likely to be cheaper than Lib Dem plan, says Philip Hammond
Upgrading Trident would probably be cheaper than any alternative nuclear deterrent proposed by the Liberal Democrats, the Defence Secretary has said.
Philip Hammond today said the Trident missiles and warheads have “many, many years of life in them” and will only need new submarines to carry them by 2028.
Any attempt to create a whole new nuclear deterrent system is unlikely to be economic, he said.
His comments are a deepening of the Coalition rift over Trident, since Mr Hammond ordered £350 million of preliminary design work on new submarines.
The Liberal Democrats accused him of “jumping the gun” as the Conservatives have promised not to think about replacing the system until 2016 in the next parliament.
During the row this week, Nick Clegg, the deputy Prime Minister, said a “like-for-like entirely unchanged replacement of Trident is basically saying we will spend billions and billions and billions of pounds on a nuclear missile system designed with the sole strategic purpose of flattening Moscow at the press of a button”.
But Mr Hammond today made it clear he is on the side of replacing the Vanguard class submarines that carry Trident missiles.
Speaking today at the Chief of the Air Staff’s Air Power Conference 2012, he said: “The question is only around whether we replace the Vanguard class submarines when they start to go out of service in 2028.
“As it is well known our Liberal Democrat coalition partners want to look at the alternatives that would still deliver a credible strategic nuclear deterrent.
“But given that we have the warheads, we have the missiles, and we are only talking about replacing the submarine, it is difficult to envisage a new complete system which you have to design everything, warheads, missiles, carriers, platforms from scratch, could ever be a more economic proposition.”
He said the Government will be able to afford to replace the Trident submarines.
“Can we afford it?”, he added. “Yes we can. Looked at over its lifetime, the submarine-based Trident deterrent costs us about 6 per cent of the defence budget to operate.”
At the same conference, Mr Hammond called on European nations to work together more on defence “in their own back yard”.
He said working in coalitions has proved particularly successful in Afghanistan and Libya.
“With the United States reflecting, in its strategic posture, the growing importance of the developing strategic challenge in the Pacific, the nations of Europe must find the political will to take on more responsibility for our own back yard, and fund the capabilities that allow us to do that,” Mr Hammond said.
Source – TDT