On 22nd January the Sunday Times revealed that a routine Trident missile test conducted by HMS Vengeance off the US coast in June 2016 had been a failure. A telemetry problem had caused the unarmed missile to be destroyed in flight. Previous test-firings have been announced to the media but this test had remained secret. Government stands accused of hiding a politically inconvenient fact close to the time when Parliament was due to approve the Trident renewal program.
On 18th July the House of Commons voted to construct new Successor submarines to replace the current Vanguard boats that carry the UK nuclear deterrent. The arguments in favour of the deterrent are compelling, delivering cross-party support and carrying the vote overwhelmingly. Unsurprisingly the 58 of 59 Scottish MPs voted against and their defeat will be another ‘grievance’ used by nationalists to push for another referendum on independence. Many in Britain seem to think we could simply move the deterrent from its base in Scotland to England. Here we will look at the extensive Scottish infrastructure that supports Trident and the very limited options for moving it south.More
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2015 saw the publication of the latest in a string of fascinating titles dealing with the Cold War history of the Royal Navy Submarine Service. Secrets of the Conqueror (2012), Hunter Killers (2013) and Cold War Command (2014) were essentially based on stories told by RN submariners. The Silent Deep, the Royal Navy Submarine Service since 1945 is a lengthy and more encompassing work that tells the political, operational and personal stories of the service from the end of WWII up to the present day.More
The case for Trident – disposing of common arguments against renewing Britain’s nuclear weapons capability and the Royal Navy’s Successor submarines.
In 2016 Parliament approved the construction of 4 replacement of ‘Successor’ ballistic missile submarines for the Royal Navy. Despite majority public support, a very vocal minority opposes British nuclear weapons and the subject continues to be hotly debated.
The Scottish National Party secured a special ‘adjournment debate’ in Parliament on 28th May in the wake of the allegations made by a Royal Navy junior rating who completed one patrol aboard HMS Victorious carrying the nation’s nuclear deterrent. AB William McNeilly claimed to have witnessed multiple security and safety failures.More
On 17th May the Sunday Herald (Scotland) ran an exclusive based on an authorised ‘report’ written by a junior submariner in which he claimed “Trident is an accident waiting to happen” and the story has since been picked up by media around the world. You can read the original piece in all its rambling glory here.
ET McNeilly, is a very junior rate who served for less than 2 years in the RN and has completed a single deterrent patrol, hardly in a position to pass credible judgement on submarine operations. More
Contrary to predictions, the 2015 General Election has delivered a small majority for the Conservative party who will continue to govern but are now no longer reliant on Liberal Democrat support. Mr Cameron remains Prime Minister and has quickly re-appointed the same Chancellor of the Exchequer and Foreign Secretary while Michael Fallon will continue as Secretary of State for Defence. Instead of the horse-trading and uncertainties of minority government, this seamless transition means we can make some assumptions about the future defence planning based on Tory pre-election statements.More
In December 2014 Russia quietly signaled what maybe called the start of Cold War II when it issued a new military doctrine which lists NATO as its “main threat”. President Putin, a former KGB officer is determined to return Russia to the superpower status of the Soviet Union. Communist dogma may have gone but it has been replaced by nationalist expansionism and paranoia used to justify a military renaissance. Western nations are feeling this growing power by increasing numbers of Russian ships, aircraft and submarines to probing defences and even entering territorial waters.More
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Hot on the heels of the excellent “Hunter Killers” (2013) comes “Cold War Command” also published by Pen & Sword. Both books describe the operations of RN submarines during the same intense period from the 1960s to the end of the Cold War. While Hunter killers covers the activities of a variety of submariners, this book is a biography of Captain Dan Conley who had a diverse and interesting career. More