This “initial gate” investment represents the first of two decisions that must be made for the replacement to go forward. The second (“main gate”) decision to begin constructing the submarines is scheduled for 2016, as the British government outlined in its strategic defense review last October. (See ACT, November 2010.)
In a May 18 speech, Fox said the new fleet of submarines “will be powered by a new generation of nuclear propulsion system,” which “will allow our submarines to deliver our nuclear deterrent capability well into the 2060s if required.” The government also agreed on the outline of the submarine’s design and the amount of material and parts that will need to be purchased prior to the main gate decision, he added.
Fox explained the
In advance of the main gate decision, the government will conduct a review of “the costs, feasibility, and credibility of alternative systems and postures” to the proposed replacement plan, Fox said. The review is to be led by Nick Harvey, the minister of state for the armed forces and a member of the Liberal Democrats.
The Liberal Democrats, the Conservative Party’s partners in the coalition government that assumed power last year, generally oppose the current plan and favor greater steps toward nuclear disarmament. In contrast to the current plan of maintaining “continuous at-sea deterrence” based on submarine-launched ballistic missiles, the review will consider options such as putting nuclear warheads on cruise missiles, Harvey told the Financial Times May 24. This would be cheaper and could provide a future government with more flexibility,
Fox estimated the cost of the submarine replacement to be 20-25 billion pounds ($33-41 billion), of which approximately 3 billion pounds is scheduled to be spent before 2016.