The government has recently announced that work has started on the third Trident replacement submarine. Eventually four new subs will go under the collective class label ‘Dreadnought’, the first two being ‘Dreadnought’ and ‘Valiant’. The third now under way is called ‘Warspite’. All three are named after British battleships launched prior to the First World War that renewed the naval arms race between Britain and Germany – a key factor in the build up to that terrible war. It’s hard to imagine a more inauspicious choice of names but it does accurately reflect the fact that the Trident replacement programme – and the increase in Britain’s nuclear arsenal – is part of an escalating nuclear threat.
According to the government, each submarine is around the length of three Olympic swimming pools, will have 26.4 miles of pipework and more than 20,000 cables stretching 215 miles. When you consider the resources and skills that go into making these submarines – and what could be built instead – it really brings home what a waste such spending is.
Meanwhile, the current Trident subs are dogged with problems. The most recent debacle was the ‘superglue’ fiasco. The Sun newspaper reported that bolts keeping vital insulation attached to essential cooling pipes broke off, due to over-tightening. Civilian contractors, who work for defence firm Babcock, then used superglue to stick the heads of the bolts back in place, instead of reporting the issue and replacing the bolts.
That news came shortly after The Times reported that three senior MoD officials from the Submarine Delivery Agency recently received more than £200,000 in performance-related bonuses.
Another recent area of concern has been the news that Trident subs have been going on patrols of record-breaking length. This has prompted fears of increased safety risks. Data provided by Nukewatch found that two Trident subs each spent 157 days out on patrol in 2022. Former Royal Navy submarine commander Rob Forsyth noted that these patrols are now regularly lasting over 150 days whereas the ones he commanded in the 1970s rarely lasted more than 60-70 days.
Forsyth has also raised issues with crews maintaining discipline and concentration during these extended patrols, pointing to recent media reports of submariners involved in drug use and inappropriate sexual behaviour towards female colleagues.
The deteriorating state of Britain’s nuclear subs and the added psychological pressure of crews spending five months at sea should be a massive cause of concern to the government and the public. These weapons are already catastrophically dangerous without the added risks of malfunctioning equipment or personal error. It’s time for the British government to put an end to the Trident programme, scrap its replacement, and instead invest in rebuilding our public services.
Image Credit: MoD