Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Why the UK should scrap trident.

Replacing trident is set to cost £10 billion pounds for no real return. I'd like to suggest an alternative. Currently the RAF posses an aircraft with greater range than the Vulcan and with the ability to carry a larger payload.

The US may sell us AGM 86 ALCM for $1.16 million a time, or the more advanced AGM 129 ACM at $4.0 million or planned Anglo French Storm Shadow Naval at a similar cost. The aircraft in question has the weight capacity to carry 8 of these things, though I'm not sure they would all fit in the bomb bay. Until 1992 it was armed with nuclear weapons.

The name of this aircraft, if you hadn't already guessed is the Nimrod. Though as any large aircraft can have cruise missiles under the wigs on pylons just about anything will do. 
If and when the government finances pick up the we can build a dedicated bomber say the Vulcan B4 or Victor B3 which given an avionics suite from the Nimrod would allow 2 man operation. The Engines from the F-35 Lightning II, either the Pratt_&_Whitney_F135 or the General Electric/Rolls-Royce F136 produce enough power are over a meter shorter and only 8 cm of greater diameter. The all up package should cost no more than the MR4A even with updated materials and manufacturing. The Vulcan was always known for it's relative stealth, which could easily be improved by attention to detail and if needed the replacement of the single tail fin with a pair of canted fins removing the right angle.

The Times claims the estimate for replacing Trident is £20 billion other places estimate the cost at up to £150 billion over the 20 year life time of the project. All for a system that will hopefully never be used. With the current reduced number of MR4A Nimrods being ordered the unit cost is about £400 million. So for £5 billion you get 12 aircraft plus over 100 of the more advance cruise missile.

In reality of course the bulk savings would mean that the aircraft cost less the 400m more like somewhere between 250 and 300 billion. That would include all the Maritime Patrol Equipment which might be removed and perhaps replaced with a simpler avionics fit derived from the F35. Either way the aircraft would have a useful secondary task of either patrol or conventional bomber.

Of course the current generation of hunter killer subs can launch BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles which while not usually Nuclear armed could be. Further extending the range of Nuclear strikes, though as the place on earth furthest from the see is some 2,648 km from the sea current the longest range Tomahawk the Block II TLAM-A has a range of only 2,500 km.

The Russian Graney class submarine with it's mix of long range cruise missiles and more traditional hunter killer equipment would seem to be the Russian equivalent of a Nuclear platform without the immense cost of the trident system.

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