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Trident Fleet Lifespan may be Extended

Ian Bruce, Defence Correspondent of the Herald reported that the UK is to try to stretch the operational lifespan of its four Trident missile submarin es until at least 2035 to maintain its nuclear deterrent at minimal cost and risk. Tony Blair and John Reid, defence secretary, have both insisted recently that no decisions have been taken, but sources say they have already scrapped alternative plans for aircraft or submarine-launched cruise missiles tipped with nuclear warheads. They have also rejected building a new generation of submarines despite the fact that replacing ageing intercontinental missiles, installing new reactor cores, and redesigning the existing British warheads could cost more than the original £12.2bn paid for the Trident system in the 1990s. Ministers and senior commanders were also swayed by the fact that the US has begun refitting its own 14-strong Trident fleet to extend its life until 2042, effectively stretching the boats\' frontline service by 15 years. Mr Reid is believed to favour a similar approach because strategic submarines are almost impossible to detect while on patrol and that, by opting for the same solution as the Americans, some major costs can be shared and reduced.