Britain approves design of new nuclear submarines

18th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Britain has agreed the design of new nuclear submarines, even if the politically-sensitive decision on whether to build them will not be taken until 2016, Defence Secretary Liam Fox said Wednesday.

The first preparations have begun on replacing the ageing submarines in the Trident system when they expire in the 2020s, to ensure there is no gap in Britain's nuclear deterrent if it is approved, Fox said.

"We have approved the 'initial gate' investment and selected a submarine design... that will allow our submarines to deliver our nuclear deterrent capability well into the 2060s if required," Fox told parliament.

He confirmed however that the main decision on whether to replace Trident would not be taken until after the next election amid tensions within the coalition government over the issue. A decision is likely in 2016.

The Conservative party of Fox and Prime Minister David Cameron are strongly committed to Trident but their junior partners, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg's Liberal Democrats, are opposed to a like-for-like replacement.

They want to look at the alternatives, and Fox announced Wednesday a study to review the costs, feasibility and credibility of alternative systems.

But he made clear his views, saying the nuclear deterrent remained "the ultimate guarantee of our national security".

He estimated the cost of four new submarines would be £20-25 billion (22.7- 28 billion euros, $32-40 billion).

"No state currently has both the intent and capability to threaten the independence or integrity of the United Kingdom," Fox said.

"But we cannot dismiss the possibility that a major direct nuclear threat to the United Kingdom might re-emerge."

© 2011 AFP

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