While Brown and Cameron insist that Trident subs are unquestionable, it seems that top Defence brass in the States don’t necessarily share that view. According to a report in the Caledonian Mercury, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates is likely to challenge US Navy plans to spend up to $80 billion on 12 new replacements for the current Ohio class subs. These are the US equivalent of Britain’s Vanguard class subs. Both Ohio and Vanguard carry the Trident missiles which carry nuclear warheads.
Despite constant reference by the UK’s pro-nuclear lobby to Britain’s ‘independent’ nuclear weapons system, everyone knows it is dependent on the US. So if the US doesn’t make the equivalent subs then presumably US/UK cooperation on those will fall by the wayside, and our costs will massively increase.
It seems that Gates is motivated by the high cost of the US submarine replacement programme. The estimated cost of the new subs has doubled, experts have informed the US House of Representatives Armed Services Committee. The cost of each sub will rise from $3.4 billion to $7 billion. As the Mercury reports, Congressional sources say this is ‘very likely to put up the price tag’ for replacing Trident subs over here.
It seems extraordinary to me that Obama and Gates can seriously question their nuclear status quo, but neither Brown nor Cameron are even willing to include Trident in the post-election Strategic Defence Review. It is beginning to look as if they don’t want to talk about it because even they don’t have confidence in their own arguments any more. These latest developments make the situation even worse for them. Surely neither of them would be so foolish as to suggest that Britain should fork out for genuinely independent nukes???