The British House of Commons has voted to renew the Trident nuclear programme which will replace the Royal Navy’s four Vanguard-class submarines with new ones.
The parliament took the vote after five hours of debate on July 18. The decision to renew the programme was backed by 472 votes to 117.
“We have voted to protect our nation from the most serious threats we may face in the 2030s, 2040s and 2050s,” Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said. “We will now get on with building the next generation of nuclear submarines to help keep the nation, and our allies, safe for decades to come.”
Whether to renew or scrap the program entirely gained a lot of publicity in the wake of the “Brexit”, Scottish opposition to the programme and claims that it would soon become obsolete.
Only one of Scotland’s 59 members of parliament backed the renewal of the nuclear deterrent. Claims that the at sea deterrent would become obsolete due to the advancing “sub-hunting drone” technology and increasing cyber threats further underpinned the controversy.
Greenpeace also voiced its opinion ahead of the decision fueling the debate. “Replacing Trident is economically unjustifiable, strategically ill-conceived and morally reprehensible. To commit billions of pounds to replace a relic from the Cold War is not just a ludicrous folly, it’s also incredibly dangerous. If Britain declares that we need nuclear weapons for our security, then who are we to tell others not to do the same? We know where that road leads,” Greenpeace UK Executive Director John Sauven said.
Since 1992 the four boats of the Vanguard-class have maintained British continuous at sea deterrence (CASD), ensuring at all times one submarine was deployed. As the Vanguard submarines progressed to the end of their lifespan, the UK started looking at the next generation of submarines to carry forward the role.
This is where the Successor submarine programme comes in. Work on the submarines has already started and the programme’s assessment costs rose to £3.9 billion in March 2016 when Fallon announced additional £642 (approx. $907.2M) million of investment. New parts and facilities, as well as further design work were to be funded by the latest investment.
The British Ministry of Defence estimates that construction of four new submarines would cost the nation around £25 billion while costs for the maintenance of the system over its lifetime would amount to six per cent of the annual defense budget.
According to calculations done by Reuters and Conservative MP Crispin Blunt, overall costs of the programme would reach £167 billion, more than double the proportion of the defence budget of its predecessor.