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MOD orders 48 missile tubes for Trident replacement


The Ministry of Defence have ordered missile tubes for new nuclear-armed submarines, Rob Edwards reveals in an article in the Sunday Herald. £37 million is being spent on the first 12 missile tubes, part of a total order for 48 tubes for 4 submarines. This preempts the decision on how many submarines Britain will build, which is not due to be taken by the House of Commons until 2016. 

On 30 October the US Navy issued a press release which said 

"To support construction of OR and UK Successor ships, a total of 241 missile tubes will be manufactured: 192 for OR's 12 ships, 48 for Successor's four ships, one one for the SWSA."

"OR" is the US Navy's Ohio Replacement, "Successor" is the planned new British nuclear-armed submarine. SWSA is the support facility at Cape Canaveral in Florida.

MPs have been repeatedly told that the "main gate" decision on the new submarines will not be taken until 2016. 

The decision to have 12 launch tubes on each of the new submarines shows that the Government have been deliberately misleading MPs, the public and the United Nations.

On 19 October 2010 John Duncan, the British ambassador for multilateral arms control and disarmament, told the UN that Britain would "configure the next generation of submarines with only eight operational missile tubes".

The MOD are likely to argue that the additional four missile tubes will remain empty. But their are two problems with this.

One is that, if correct, this would be an extreme example of MOD waste. They are incurring not just the direct cost of these four tubes, but they are also making the vessel bigger, requiring more reactor power, than would otherwise be required.

The second concern is that the extra tubes will leave open the possibility that a future government could increase the firepower of Britain's nuclear arsenal by 50%. When Britain opted for the D5, rather than C4, Trident missile in 1982 Mrs Thatcher's government decided that the new submarines would only need to carry 12 missiles, but the Vanguard class were built with 16 launch tubes in case they wanted to add more missiles later. This was revealed in a key paper from Ron Mason, Chief Scientific Adviser at the MOD, which advocated the move from C4 to D5. Mason argued the spare tubes would enable the UK to respond to any increase in Soviet ABM defences around Moscow.

This order also reveals the Government lie about creating jobs in Scotland. In the case of the current Vanguard class submarine, the tubes for the first boat were built in the US, but the tubes for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th vessels were all built in Renfrew by Babcock. This time it is clear that the Government have decided to place the multi million pound contract with General Dynamics in America, and not with the Clyde-based manufacturer.

The photo below shows a block of four new missile tubes.





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