UK MoD remains open to three-boat nuclear deterrent option
By Jon Rosamond
The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has refused to rule out replacing its four Vanguard-class ballistic nuclear missile submarines (SSBNs) with a new generation of just three boats.
However, officials said a "significant body of work" would have to be carried out before they can judge whether the UK could maintain a continuous nuclear deterrent at sea with fewer, but more reliable, submarines.
They also warned that the financial savings that accrue would not be as large as the one-quarter reduction in the size of the SSBN fleet might suggest.
The MoD was responding to a report titled 'The Future of the UK's Strategic Nuclear Deterrent: The White Paper', published in March 2007 by the House of Commons Defence Committee (HCDC).
In its report, the committee called on the UK government to "clarify when a decision will need to be made on the number of boats in the new SSBN fleet, and what is the likely level of savings from doing without a fourth boat".
In a response published on 22 May, the MoD stated: "The cost savings that might result from a decision to procure only three boats are currently unquantified, although, as was made clear in the White Paper, we believe that they would not be in proportion to the reduction in the number of submarines, because, for example, of the large fixed overhead costs associated with the deterrent programme.â? 232 of 657 words
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