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    (Original post by Jammy Duel)
    Since when did MPs make all decisions in war?

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    They chose not to attack. In my hypothetical example, the leadership of the country has remained and communication with the government never ceased.
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    (Original post by Jammy Duel)
    Actually it's made in America.
    Not entirely (or even substantively) true. The submarines and their nuclear reactors are made in the United Kingdom. The missiles are manufactured by Lockheed Martin in the United States, and the Royal Navy leases missiles out of a common pool from the American SSBN base at King's Bay, Georgia.

    The "physics package" of the warhead that are placed on the missiles are designed and produced at the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Berkshire based on the W76 warhead design but with significant design changes (to allow a greater safety margin, and also allow variable yield).

    AWE Aldermaston and Los Alamos are working very closely on the design work that will lead to the replacement warhead and are essentially a partnership. The nuclear relationship between the UK and the US is unique. It would make no sense for the UK to develop its own delivery system from scratch if it can get in on advanced American technology at a very reasonable price.
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    (Original post by Sequin Rugby)
    A deterrent is not a deterrent if it cannot or will not be used. If we faced sufficient aggression, it absolutely would be used and would send a clear message to the world that nuclear war is undesirable. Though I think Trident is excessively expensive, unnecessarily so.
    Good point. My own view is that the existence of the variable yield (particularly the 0.3 kiloton option) lowers the threshold for use in a way that makes it a plausible deterrent.

    In a situation where we were heading towards possible use, my own view is that one option would be to send a second Trident submarine to sea to conduct a series of atmospheric nuclear tests (we haven't conducted atmospheric tests since the 1960s). A series of atmospheric tests in the South Atlantic involving full use of the system (i.e. launching a missile at a remote part of the south Atlantic, using the warheads in full yield mode) would signal to an adversary that they have gravely miscalculated our resolve and to withdraw or face a devastating attack.

    There are stages between not using it at all and using it an in overwhelming attack on an adversary
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    (Original post by uberteknik)
    The whole point of deterrence is not knowing. The enemy must believe that if they ever launch a first-strike, they are playing Russian Roulette with a few dozen nuclear warheads aimed at them.
    NATO policy and doctrine is that any strike against its members could result in nuclear retaliation. The Soviets always invited NATO to abrogate the use of first strike (as they themselves did), but that would mean an overwhelming conventional force could win a war against us with the nukes still in the silo.
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    (Original post by Plagioclase)
    I'm not going to claim to be an expert on the technical specifics of Trident but I have absolutely no idea why being launched from a submarine makes a missile any faster than if it were launched on land.
    It's not at all clear where that came from, whether it's a straw man or you are simply confused.

    In any case, why would you propose to move the nuclear deterrent to land-based silos? That makes no sense at all, it contributes nothing to your claims about arming long-range ballistic missiles with conventional explosives (which is a useless system for reasons that have already been explained, and which was the basis of your claim) or using cruise missiles instead (which are much slower than ballistic missiles, whether launched from land or sea)

    It's also not a matter of dispute that land-based MIRVed ICBMs are inherently destabilising in a way submarine-based missiles are not. Such systems place a premium on first-strike, because of how a single MIRVed land-based ICBM can take out perhaps ten land-based ICBM silos. Land-based ICBMs place you in a situation in a nuclear confrontation just short of war where you must "use them or lose them". That increases the likelihood of use compared to submarine-based missiles where you don't have to worry about using them to avoid losing them.

    The other reason submarine-based systems were favoured by the UK is that it would be politically impossible to find a community which would accept ICBM silos in their area, or to find an area where the silos are not geographically proximate to large cities or important strategic sites.

    Anyway, your tangent into land-based missiles seems odd given it really has nothing to do with your claims about an alternate, conventional-explosive warhead ICBM/SLBM system that could replace Trident. It doesn't sound like you've thought this through
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    (Original post by Good bloke)
    NATO policy and doctrine is that any strike against its members could result in nuclear retaliation. The Soviets always invited NATO to abrogate the use of first strike (as they themselves did), but that would mean an overwhelming conventional force could win a war against us with the nukes still in the silo.
    In many ways the Soviet commitment to No First Use was meaningless. There's no question that if they perceived it in their fundamental interests to do so, they would strike first. After all, in the subsequent scenario diplomatic complaints that they launched first would be somewhat beside the point.

    It's true that NATO doctrine involving the use of tactical nuclear weapons to hold back overwhelming Soviet conventional forces was somewhat dangerous, but so was the Soviets enormous conventional military buildup. On the whole, I think both sides realised how important it was to avoid a nuclear exchange
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    (Original post by BeastOfSyracuse)
    Good point. My own view is that the existence of the variable yield (particularly the 0.3 kiloton option) lowers the threshold for use in a way that makes it a plausible deterrent.
    The danger with lower yield and/or 'tactical' nuclear weapons has been that it somehow made a nuclear war winnable and therefore more likely - if a state believed that they could survive the exchange they might be more likely to begin one.

    My point of view on all things such as this has always been more military-aligned given my background, but you can't ignore the political nature to this and the public perception of 'nuclear weapon (of any size) = worst thing ever'.
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    (Original post by Drewski)
    The danger with lower yield and/or 'tactical' nuclear weapons has been that it somehow made a nuclear war winnable and therefore more likely - if a state believed that they could survive the exchange they might be more likely to begin one
    I suppose it can be viewed through the counterforce/countervalue distinction.

    The counterforce strategy of targeting Soviet missile silos, leadership bunkers, suveillance radars and microwave communications links was considered to be much more warlike than the countervalue strategy of targeting Soviet population centres to deter an attack, But a counterforce exchange would result in far fewer casualties, and I believe it was a much more credible nuclear posture as it directly targeted the means of making nuclear war.

    I believe that variable yield provides us with a credible deterrent and it provides policy-makers with options. Say 30 years from now an even more extreme faction of Shi'a radicals have come to power, and Iran has developed weaponised nuclear weapons to place on the long-range ballistic missiles they already have. Say we detected signs they were preparing to launch, and this new faction had insane views about the apocalypse, the 12th Imam returning to earth and all that madness.

    Say their missile silos were located close to population centres in Iran. A variable yield warhead would allow us to target those silos without risking tremendous damage to nearby population centres. And I do honestly believe that a more flexible system will be perceived by an adversary as more likely to be used and thus more of a deterrent. If we only had 50 megaton warheads, then the threshold for use would be so high that it simply wouldn't be a credible deterrent.
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    (Original post by BeastOfSyracuse)
    It's not at all clear where that came from, whether it's a straw man or you are simply confused.

    In any case, why would you propose to move the nuclear deterrent to land-based silos? That makes no sense at all, it contributes nothing to your claims about arming long-range ballistic missiles with conventional explosives (which is a useless system for reasons that have already been explained, and which was the basis of your claim) or using cruise missiles instead (which are much slower than ballistic missiles, whether launched from land or sea)

    It's also not a matter of dispute that land-based MIRVed ICBMs are inherently destabilising in a way submarine-based missiles are not. Such systems place a premium on first-strike, because of how a single MIRVed land-based ICBM can take out perhaps ten land-based ICBM silos. Land-based ICBMs place you in a situation in a nuclear confrontation just short of war where you must "use them or lose them". That increases the likelihood of use compared to submarine-based missiles where you don't have to worry about using them to avoid losing them.

    The other reason submarine-based systems were favoured by the UK is that it would be politically impossible to find a community which would accept ICBM silos in their area, or to find an area where the silos are not geographically proximate to large cities or important strategic sites.

    Anyway, your tangent into land-based missiles seems odd given it really has nothing to do with your claims about an alternate, conventional-explosive warhead ICBM/SLBM system that could replace Trident. It doesn't sound like you've thought this through
    You've ignored 95% of what I've written, including my main argument, I don't really get why you're getting so hung up about this matter unless you're trying to throw this conversation.

    Responding to your points though, do you have any reason to believe that an event which would require the delivery of a warhead significantly more quickly than a cruise missile is likely enough to happen to justify the immense extra costs associated with maintaining and building ICBMs? Your entire argument assumes that this is the case, but I've not seen any evidence that this is actually true. You've thought up a scenario involving biological warfare but any such scheme would have taken years of planning. What is the chance that we only just find out about it a couple of hours before deployment? Do you seriously think it is worth spending billions on ICBMs just for that absolutely tiny possibility when instead you could probably spend that money infinitely more effectively on protective measures to stop these people developing biological warfare in the first place?
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    (Original post by BeastOfSyracuse)
    Not entirely (or even substantively) true. The submarines and their nuclear reactors are made in the United Kingdom. The missiles are manufactured by Lockheed Martin in the United States, and the Royal Navy leases missiles out of a common pool from the American SSBN base at King's Bay, Georgia.

    The "physics package" of the warhead that are placed on the missiles are designed and produced at the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Berkshire based on the W76 warhead design but with significant design changes (to allow a greater safety margin, and also allow variable yield).

    AWE Aldermaston and Los Alamos are working very closely on the design work that will lead to the replacement warhead and are essentially a partnership. The nuclear relationship between the UK and the US is unique. It would make no sense for the UK to develop its own delivery system from scratch if it can get in on advanced American technology at a very reasonable price.
    Would you like to tell me how much of that is actually trident itself, given that we're looking at VANGUARD class submarines, not trident class, and a variation on the W76 warhead, not the trident warhead, oh yes, the Trident is the missile, American, other people can be pedantic smart arses too.
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    (Original post by Plagioclase)
    You've ignored 95% of what I've written, including my main argument, I don't really get why you're getting so hung up about this matter unless you're trying to throw this conversation.

    Responding to your points though, do you have any reason to believe that an event which would require the delivery of a warhead significantly more quickly than a cruise missile is likely enough to happen to justify the immense extra costs associated with maintaining and building ICBMs? Your entire argument assumes that this is the case, but I've not seen any evidence that this is actually true. You've thought up a scenario involving biological warfare but any such scheme would have taken years of planning. What is the chance that we only just find out about it a couple of hours before deployment? Do you seriously think it is worth spending billions on ICBMs just for that absolutely tiny possibility when instead you could probably spend that money infinitely more effectively on protective measures to stop these people developing biological warfare in the first place?
    Well he seems to not even know the differences beyond trajectory of a cruise missile vs an ICBM, given an ICBM travels 10+ times the speed and has a range 10+ times that of a cruise missile, with a few exceptions on range and some hyper-sonic cruise missiles in development, and to my knowledge, having looked things up just now, none that are both long range and particularly high speed. Even when you factor in the differences in trajectory ICBMs are significantly faster, but then cruise missiles don't have the same sort of payload and are much easier to swat out of the sky because they move so much slower
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    (Original post by BeastOfSyracuse)
    I suppose it can be viewed through the counterforce/countervalue distinction.

    The counterforce strategy of targeting Soviet missile silos, leadership bunkers, suveillance radars and microwave communications links was considered to be much more warlike than the countervalue strategy of targeting Soviet population centres to deter an attack, But a counterforce exchange would result in far fewer casualties, and I believe it was a much more credible nuclear posture as it directly targeted the means of making nuclear war.

    I believe that variable yield provides us with a credible deterrent and it provides policy-makers with options. Say 30 years from now an even more extreme faction of Shi'a radicals have come to power, and Iran has developed weaponised nuclear weapons to place on the long-range ballistic missiles they already have. Say we detected signs they were preparing to launch, and this new faction had insane views about the apocalypse, the 12th Imam returning to earth and all that madness.

    Say their missile silos were located close to population centres in Iran. A variable yield warhead would allow us to target those silos without risking tremendous damage to nearby population centres. And I do honestly believe that a more flexible system will be perceived by an adversary as more likely to be used and thus more of a deterrent. If we only had 50 megaton warheads, then the threshold for use would be so high that it simply wouldn't be a credible deterrent.
    I don't see what benefit a low yield nuke has in those circumstances over a precision guided conventional weapon from a stealth platform.

    Ok, silos might be hardened, but get enough weapons on target and you guarantee shock damage.

    Any use of nuclear weapons, no matter what the size, will have political ramifications that would overshadow any tactical gain.
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    (Original post by Jammy Duel)
    Would you like to tell me how much of that is actually trident itself, given that we're looking at VANGUARD class submarines, not trident class
    What on earth are you babbling about? There is no "Trident-class" submarine. The Trident D5 missile is carried in the Royal Navy by the Vanguard class and in the American Navy by the Ohio-class. The submarine that carries the D5 for the Royal Navy is built in Britain.

    It seems you have a rather superficial understanding of this subject. We tend to talk about Trident as a system, given that each component (the submarine, the missile, the re-entry body and the warhead) are part of the capability. One without the others are useless.

    and a variation on the W76 warhead, not the trident warhead
    I'm sorry, but are you thick? The UK W76 variant is what is placed on the D5 missile. For the Royal Navy's purposes it is the "Trident warhead". In the US, they use the W76 and also the W88. The warhead that the UK uses for its Trident D5 missiles are a variant that we build here in the UK.

    oh yes, the Trident is the missile
    The Trident D5 is the missile, that is correct. The Trident system encompasses all elements of the system, which is why the "Trident renewal programme" refers to building new submarines. The missile is the same as before.

    I'm really not sure how profitably we can discuss this, your knowledge of this subject is superficial (at best).
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    (Original post by Plagioclase)
    do you have any reason to believe that an event which would require the delivery of a warhead significantly more quickly than a cruise missile is likely enough to happen to justify the immense extra costs associated with maintaining and building ICBMs?
    Yes. The ability to place large amounts of firepower at short notice to any point on the Eurasian continent is not a capability that could be provided by TLAM. And that capability is not the only justification for the Trident renewal, it is one among others (the most important of which is providing a general nuclear deterrent)

    Another is that if we give up the Trident system we really can no longer justify our permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Countries without a permanent seat often have to wait 10 or 15 years between their 2 year terms, and getting elected to one of those 2 year terms takes a huge amount of lobbying. A permanent seat provides us with a permanent voice at the top table of international affairs, and the Security Council veto that comes with it. That UNSC seat alone is worth the 0.4% of our annual government spending that goes to maintaining Trident.
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    (Original post by Jammy Duel)
    Well he seems to not even know the differences beyond trajectory of a cruise missile vs an ICBM, given an ICBM travels 10+ times the speed and has a range 10+ times that of a cruise missile
    :lol: It's quite funny how butthurt you are over this.

    I was the one who was arguing that Trident's speed over and above a cruise missile is part of the major justification. But given your obvious confusion on these matters (babbling about the "Trident class", getting confused over a "Trident warhead" and not realising that the warhead if the W76 variant we use), I don't see that it's worth my time to debate this with you.

    It's clear that all you have to offer is to make up claims about how I don't know the difference between the two when that distinction is the basis of my argument. Here's a little quote for you

    This is where an understanding of the technical characteristics of delivery systems helps. A "long-range missile" (by which you presumably mean a cruise missile) would take up to 10 hours to reach a target in a remote area of Central Africa or the Middle East.
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    (Original post by BeastOfSyracuse)
    Yes. The ability to place large amounts of firepower at short notice to any point on the Eurasian continent is not a capability that could be provided by TLAM. And that capability is not the only justification for the Trident renewal, it is one among others (the most important of which is providing a general nuclear deterrent)
    When has that ability been needed in the past 50 years?

    Another is that if we give up the Trident system we really can no longer justify our permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Countries without a permanent seat often have to wait 10 or 15 years between their 2 year terms, and getting elected to one of those 2 year terms takes a huge amount of lobbying. A permanent seat provides us with a permanent voice at the top table of international affairs, and the Security Council veto that comes with it. That UNSC seat alone is worth the 0.4% of our annual government spending that goes to maintaining Trident.
    Where is it written that our seat on the UNSC is dependant on our having nuclear weapons?
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    (Original post by Drewski)
    When has that ability been needed in the past 50 years?
    You could make the same argument about nuclear weapons generally. That's not a substantive argument against having them. The scenario I offered up is just one, it's to get people thinking about flexibility in the deterrent and the particular characteristics that Trident has which could be useful in the future.

    Where is it written that our seat on the UNSC is dependant on our having nuclear weapons?
    It's a practical reality, and one with some link to international law given the five permanent security council members are the only five countries permitted by NPT to possess nuclear weapons.

    If we give up Trident, what serious claim do we have to being a top five country in the world? Germany would have just as much claim to sitting on the Security Council. India certainly would.
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    (Original post by BeastOfSyracuse)
    You could make the same argument about nuclear weapons generally. That's not a substantive argument against having them. The scenario I offered up is just one, it's to get people thinking about flexibility in the deterrent and the particular characteristics that Trident has which could be useful in the future.
    Not really, because a deterrent is a passive defence. You're talking about an active weapon.

    From a military point of view - as a former member of the military - I don't see the use of a low yield nuke like you suggest. And again, you can't ignore the political ramifications and total global disgust at the use of nuclear weapons. People won't care about size, they'll just picture a mushroom cloud and cancer.



    It's a practical reality, and one with some link to international law given the five permanent security council members are the only five countries permitted by NPT to possess nuclear weapons.

    If we give up Trident, what serious claim do we have to being a top five country in the world? Germany would have just as much claim to sitting on the Security Council. India certainly would.
    "A practical reality" in your mind, maybe. It's not written anywhere. It's not a formal agreement.

    And being permitted to have them doesn't mean we have to have them. I've got a driving licence but I don't currently own a car.
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    (Original post by Drewski)
    "A practical reality" in your mind, maybe.
    You seem to be making this personal, that's quite unnecessary. This linkage between our permanent UNSC seat and unilateral nuclear disarmament has been made before by credible figures in the national security and diplomatic establishment.

    I think they make a plausible argument there, and £3 billion a year would be a reasonable price to pay for retaining the seat.
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    Nuclear weapons don't have to be detonated to be used. Nuclear weapons were never used in anger during the Cold War but calling them "useless" would be strange when most military actions were shaped first and foremost by one's rivals nuclear capabilities.

    For their use in anger, the most likely scenarios are by a nuclear weapon state against a non-nuclear weapon state that is comparable in conventional military power (e.g. the UK or France against Saudi Arabia), and use by a nuclear weapons state against another nuclear weapons state in a first strike, where the attacker has a technological edge letting them destroy the entire arsenal of the defender with good confidence (e.g. the US vs Pakistan, the US or the PRC vs North Korea).
 
 
 
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