Replacing Trident makes no sense, Centreforum argues

One of the UK's Vanguard submarines The renewal of Trident has major financial and political implications

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The government is being urged to cancel the "nonsensical" replacement of the Trident nuclear submarines and use the money to "revitalise" the armed forces.

Liberal policy think tank Centreforum says Britain is "sleepwalking" into replacing Trident at a cost of £25bn, while cutting the navy, Army and RAF.

It argues there is no current or medium-term threat to justify the cost.

The MoD said the government was committed to maintaining a continuous submarine-based nuclear deterrent.

In May 2011, the then Defence Secretary Liam Fox approved the £3bn first design stage for the new submarines.

However, the coalition government has delayed a final decision until after the next election amid concerns from the Liberal Democrats about the cost.

Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy supports the renewal of Trident, although many backbench Labour MPs are opposed to the idea.


  • 2007: MPs approve plans for renewal in Commons vote. "Concept phase" launched to assess future submarine designs and consider value for money of project
  • 2010: Defence review decides to delay final decision on renewal to 2016
  • May 2011: "Initial Gate" procurement phase begins. Some building materials and components of nuclear propulsion system to be purchased over five years
  • 2016: "Main Gate" decision due to be taken. Submarine design and missile component contracts to be finalised
  • 2028: First replacement submarine to be delivered

Centreforum proposes that Britain should retain the capability to design and build nuclear weapons in case they are needed in the future.

But, it says, the UK's ballistic missile submarines should now be converted to an attack fleet and equipped with conventionally armed cruise missiles.

It says the government should invest the billions saved by cancelling Trident in Britain's conventional forces, which would otherwise face further cuts by 2020.

Report author Toby Fenwick said: "Replacing Trident is nonsensical. There is no current or medium-term threat to the UK which justifies the huge costs involved.

"A critical assessment of the UK's strategic position and military requirements leads to a clear conclusion: Trident makes no effective contribution to our security. Cancelling it will provide a unique opportunity to rebalance and revitalise Britain's forces for the 21st century."

The issue of a like-for-like replacement of Trident is one that has divided the coalition.

The Ministry of Defence said that as part of the coalition agreement, the Liberal Democrats would continue to explore the possibility of an alternative approach to delivering a credible nuclear deterrent, with a report to the prime minister and deputy prime minister due to be published later this year.

Liberal Democrat MP Sir Menzies Campbell, who is chairing the cross-party commission looking into the nuclear issue, said the report was ill-timed.

MPs were still considering a variety of evidence from experts and confidential sources and it seemed "premature to jump to a conclusion", he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

The chief executive of Centreforum, Chris Nicholson, said: "We are pleased that the government is carrying out a study of alternatives to Trident.

"It is important that the option of removing Trident from service immediately is considered as part of this review."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 670.

    lol the Armchair Generals are out in force this afternoon. Our top defence strategists need all your useful ideas. Also of benefit would be a well informed discussion on how to defend against the threat of alien civilisations invading our planet and zombies taking over shopping malls.

  • rate this

    Comment number 669.

    It is very simple we are not permit by our master the USA to no replace Trident.
    Until the UK government stop to be the puppet of the USA will no be able to take a sensible decision for the people of the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 668.

    So far as I know, since 1914, mine is the first generation of my family that has neither fought or lost lives in a war. I believe that this is mostly due to our having a nuclear deterent. Perhaps the people who want to scrap it either do not understand their history or would be happy to fight?

  • rate this

    Comment number 667.

    I unfortunately have things to do and have to leave. Mayna you are right re guidance. I will always admit my mistakes. I have just looked it up on wiki

    However, I would still rather be red than dead (as per Kennedy + as far as nuclear war goes), as the alternative gives me the opportunity to decide my own status and not some lunatic with his finger on a button doing it out of "conviction" or ego

  • rate this

    Comment number 666.

    661.I Trade with Europe
    6 Minutes ago
    657.monkhousebyproxy... Yes I know. I think your addressing your comment to the wrong person.


  • rate this

    Comment number 665.

    We must retain a nuclear deterrent as long as potential enemies possess them. Nevertheless, Trident was designed to defeat high-tech defences to deliver a massive continental strike. Assuming we are not going to war with Russia or China, a credible deterrent could be maintained more cheaply with cruise missiles (1500 mile range) or even, for the middle east, submarine launched harpoon missiles.

  • rate this

    Comment number 664.

    Re 654

    I think you must be quite insane. You have no answer to the points made so you just insult the person making them. Clearly you have never received any training in conducting a debate but just use ad hominem attacks as a means of shouting at your opponents. If you can't answer sensibly then don't answer at all

  • rate this

    Comment number 663.

    628.Total Mass Retain
    Basically you don't know and you are still welded to the fence.
    Good luck with that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 662.


    Excluding MAD to a more limited exchange, what NW provides is a threat of a retaliation which renders the gains less than what is lost in the attempt. USA would kill its own people if it turned off GPS - flights crash - so not likely to do that

    It depends on what you consider important and the price worth paying - remembering the idea is never to actually use them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 661.

    657.monkhousebyproxy... Yes I know. I think your addressing your comment to the wrong person.

    For the record; I think we need Trident. I think MAD works, I think it works as a deterrent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 660.

    As cuts are made to essential services, benefit, armed forces cut to the bone in a desperate bid to reduce service personel pensions we have to put up with Politicians ego trip when they can say at a UN, Common Wealth or the EU conference that we have the nuclear deterant. With some MPs it should be refered to as the Nuclear Rant as they boast and prance around just like Mr Bean

  • rate this

    Comment number 659.

    652, zipperty

    I don't think anyone wants to see the end of the world for trivial or any other reason.

    And I agree that nuclear weapons are awful. My point is that now there are so many with, we can't afford to do without.

    If an attack materialized in my vicinity vengeance would be little comfort.

    The UK&US have a shared base in Yorkshire. We could fire independently.

    Their use - A deterrent.

  • rate this

    Comment number 658.

    Completion of the planned two aircraft carriers is a much better use of the defence budget than nuclear weapons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 657.

    Itradewitheurope 642

    I don't know how many warheads trident has, but it is not enough to iflict irreparable damage on a large country.

    A Vanguard can carry up to 16 Trident Missile - each carrying 12 warheads - each with a yield of around 80 kilotons. So potentially 16 large cities devasted. That's QUITE a lot of damage to any country, large or small. No really, it is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 656.

    Mayna 650

    But we cannot, on our own mutually assuredly destroy anyone but a country the size of Ireland.

    And then we cannot even deliver them without the consent of the USA. See my652.

    So MAD may have a perverse logic for those who can accomplish it, but that does not apply to us. And should not apply to us.

    Also please provide a scenario of when we alone would need to use our deterrent

  • rate this

    Comment number 655.

    I don't know how many warheads trident has, but it is not enough to iflict irreparable damage on a large country. Nato could- we can't + as I have said before we use USA's GPS to target them so we cannot use them independently

    It most certainly is enough to do irreparable damage.
    A Trident missile navigates by the stars. Military systems assume GPS will be the first thing to go.

  • rate this

    Comment number 654.

    653.Colin Bullen
    the fact that you even bleat about sharia law is having me in stitches

    jesus christ you are a functioning human being and you actually think like this

  • rate this

    Comment number 653.

    Re 648

    I assume that both you and I oppose sharia law. What I am saying is that by surrendering the means to oppose conquest by a nuclear armed Islamic state you would be forced to accept what they chose to impose. In the same way we could no doubt have had peace with Hitler if we had been prepared to see all our Jewish compatriots murdered. In a violent world we must keep our powder dry

  • rate this

    Comment number 652.

    Itradewitheurope 642

    I don't know how many warheads trident has, but it is not enough to iflict irreparable damage on a large country. Nato could- we can't + as I have said before we use USA's GPS to target them so we cannot use them independently.

    So what use are they?

    Do you really want to see the end of the world over some triviality.

    This debate started with my 607. You may wish to read it

  • rate this

    Comment number 651.

    635 Walrus

    I'm no supporter of Iran (who don't have nuclear weapons), North Korea or China. However, what is the basis for suggesting that the world would be less safe if they had them and we did not? US/UK and 'allies' frequently use military force overseas to dictate what 'we' want, regardless of others. Wake up.

    "Open your eyes - DON'T believe the lies."


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