Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed before Parliament today that based upon a completed "value for money review" of the United Kingdom's deterrent, "the decision to start construction of the new submarines need not now be taken until around 2016."
The Prime Minister also highlighted other changes in the nuclear posture:
"…extend the life of the Vanguard class so that the first replacement submarine is not required until 2028;
…reduce the number of operational launch tubes on those new submarines from 12 to eight…
…reduce the number of warheads on our submarine at sea from 48 to 40…..
…and reduce our stockpile of operational warheads from less than 160 to fewer than 120.
The next phase of the programme to renew our deterrent will start by the end of this year."
Although the changes are intended to reflect a new security environment and efforts to promote nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, the announcement also comes at a time when the country is facing enormous budgetary pressures and defense cuts. Cameron said that the United Kingdom "will save around £1.2 billion and defer a further £2 billion of spending from the next ten years" because of these changes.
Follow-on comment from Paul Ingram, Executive Director, 20 October 2010:
The media response to the Strategic Defence and Security Review has been to focus on the cuts in this context of budgetary pressures, and that is no doubt the principal driver behind many of the decisions contained within the review. But there are also some important decisions that involve rebalancing limited resources, and this applies to the announcements on nuclear posture. Britain's declaratory policy now sits more comfortably with the US posture announced earlier in the year. The cuts in warhead numbers will not save a great deal of money, serving more as an indication that the new government is full square behind the multilateral disarmament agenda announced by the previous government, and is prepared to demonstrate this commitment by real reductions in the numbers of warheads deployed and in the stockpile. This takes further the disarmament momentum, and it should be welcomed elsewhere and seen as an important indication of potential intent.
For the Prime Minister's presentation before Parliament, see the Statement on Strategic Defence and Security Review on the Prime Minister's official website.
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