Category Archives: UK Submarines

News, views and stories about UK submarines

Reactor incidents on new nuclear subs double in one year

Astute-class submarines HMS Artful (left) and HMS Astute (right), at HM Naval Base Clyde, also known as Faslane. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday January 20, 2016. See PA story DEFENCE Trident. Photo credit should read: Danny Lawson/PA Wir

Astute-class submarines HMS Artful (left) and HMS Astute (right), at HM Naval Base Clyde, also known as Faslane.

The Royal Navy’s new nuclear-powered submarines have been plagued by 69 safety incidents and “near misses” over the last four years.

The Astute class of submarines based at Faslane on the Clyde has seen reported reactor incidents at sea or on shore almost double from 12 in 2014 to 21 in 2015. Though the MoD insists that the incidents are all minor, critics warn that they undermine the boats’ reliability and safety.

The first submarine of the class, HMS Astute, has already been out on operations, and the second, HMS Ambush, was launched in 2011. The third, HMS Artful, was formally handed over to the Royal Navy in December 2015.
The four remaining Astute submarines are either still being built by the defence firm BAE Systems at its Barrow shipyard, or are due to be built there. The construction programme has been subject to a series of delays and cost overruns.

The Ministry of Defence revealed the number of safety events recorded with Astute submarine reactors between January 2012 and January 2016 in response to a request under freedom of information law. There were an average of more than 17 a year, or one every three weeks.

Reported events are not detailed. But they included “any occurrence that has, or could have, led to a reduction in nuclear or radiation safety or that provides an opportunity for operator experience feedback.”

According to the independent nuclear engineer John Large, the submarines were suffering serious problems. “This continuing experience of the Astute class reactor problems not only imperils the boats when at sea but is likely to result in cutbacks to the number of patrols, voyage durations and the extent of roaming of the high seas,” he said.
John Ainslie, coordinator of the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, pointed out that Astute submarines had been involved in a series of mishaps, including running aground on the Isle of Skye. “It is only a matter of time before one of these incidents results in a serious nuclear accident,” he said.

An MoD spokeswoman said: “In line with our high safety standards, we record all incidents regardless of how minor they are, to ensure lessons are learnt. There are no issues with the safety of the submarines and the MoD has safely operated over 80 nuclear reactor cores since 1963.”

Story – Herald Scotland

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1,000-Tonne Nuclear Submarine Passes Through Residential Streets In Barrow

1,000-Tonne Nuclear Submarine Passes Through Residential Streets In Barrow

The unit belonging to defence company BAE Systems is the heaviest ever moved and was taken to Devonshire Dock Hall in Barrow-in-Furness from the New Assembly Shop in Bridge Road, Barrow

 

People say you can’t even step out your front door these days.

That’s certainly the case if a 1,000-tonne piece of nuclear submarine happens to be rolling down your street.

But that is exactly what happened in Barrow in Cumbria on Sunday, when a submarine unit weighing more than 1,000 tonnes was transported to an indoor shipping complex.

The unit belonging to defence company BAE Systems is the heaviest ever moved and was taken to Devonshire Dock Hall in Barrow-in-Furness from the New Assembly Shop in Bridge Road, Barrow.

The unit will form part of an Astute class nuclear-powered submarine. Two such submarines – HMS Astute and HMS Ambush – are already in service.

Four more submarines are being constructed at Barrow: Audacious, Anson, Agamemnon and an as-yet-unnamed submarine.

BAE Systems was awarded the contract for the fifth submarine last month, taking the total value for work on the vessel to £1.3 billion.

Manufacture of the submarine began in 2010 and HMS Anson is on schedule to begin sea trials in 2020.

Link – Yahoo Story

Nuclear Sub Protection Plan For Rolls-Royce

Nuclear Sub Protection Plan For Rolls-Royce

The financial woes at Rolls-Royce could result in the nationalisation of its nuclear submarine division, under contingency plans.

13:49, UK,Monday 14 December 2015

HMS Vengeance

HMS Vengeance is part of UK’s Trident fleet – powered by Rolls-Royce

Plans to protect the UK’s interests if the company powering the country’s nuclear deterrent runs into deeper trouble have been reportedly drawn up by the Government.

Rolls-Royce’s nuclear submarine business – which maintains the nuclear reactor propulsion systems aboard the Navy’s four Trident-fitted submarines – could even be nationalised under the contingency plans, according to the Financial Times.

It said several options had been drawn up to cover various scenarios, including the possibility of a takeover bid for the group by a foreign firm.

While there are existing safeguards to ensure the Government must approve any such deal, investors would perhaps be forgiven for considering any interest, given the fact the Rolls-Royce share price has lost a third of its value this year alone.

The company has issued a string of profit warnings – its problems exacerbated by weaker defence spending and lower demand for its services in the oil and gas industry following the collapse in commodity prices.

The company outlined the initial phase of its turnaround strategy under new chief executive, Warren East, a fortnight ago.

It involved hundreds of senior managers losing their jobs and hundreds of millions of pounds being slashed from the company’s annual cost base.

Its biggest shareholder, the American activist fund, ValueAct, has attracted particular attention.

It is pressing Rolls to go further and sell off its marine engine division – a move Mr East has signalled he is reluctant to do.

ValueAct is also seeking a place on the board.

Sky News reported last week that Value Act’s stake in Rolls-Royce – which remains one of the Government’s most important suppliers and engineering contractors – was said to have attracted increasing attention from senior Whitehall officials.

Representatives of both firms were expected to meet in Derby this week.

A Rolls-Royce spokesperson said on Monday: “We are in contact with Government as a matter of routine and regularly keep them updated on our performance and progress.”

The defence procurement minister Philip Dunne told the FT last week the Government was “concerned” Rolls-Royce was able to maintain its nuclear obligations and would “take a view in the event there was corporate activity.”

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said today: “Rolls-Royce is a major contributor to our economy. It’s an important supplier to the government. We will continue to work closely with them. I’m not going to get into specifics about the company’s future.”

Link – Sky News story

Submarine inventor remembered 100 years on

Submarine inventor remembered 100 years on

 

 

 

Tomorrow (Tuesday) marks the 100th anniversary of the death of submarine inventor John P. Holland and to mark the anniversary a special commemorative event is being planned for later this month in his native County Clare.

The Liscannor Development Committee will host a day of events honouring the life and achievements of the local inventor on Sunday 31st August as part of Heritage Week 2014.

The event at Liscannor Harbour will feature the unveiling of a commemorative stone and a talk on Holland’s life, a film of his achievements, music and songs of the sea, and a photography and children’s art exhibition.

John Philip Holland was born in Liscannor in 1841. His father, John Holland senior patrolled the headlands of County Clare as a rider with the British Coastguard Service. The young Holland was a teacher in Ireland until 1872 when he immigrated to the USA, where he taught in Paterson, New Jersey, until 1879. He drew up plans of submarines and in 1881, with funds from Irish associates, launched a small submarine called “The Fenian Ram”. He was later awarded a contract to build a submarine for the US Navy.

In 1900, the Navy bought the Holland VI for $150,000, about half of its design cost, and later renamed it The USS Holland. The vessel could travel 800km on the surface of the sea and 40km submerged. One US newspaper described it as “Uncle Sam’s Devil of the Deep”. Other countries, including Great Britain, Japan and the Netherlands, purchased Holland’s submarine designs. He died on 12 August 1914, just months before a German submarine sank a British vessel at the start of World War I.

The John P. Holland Commemoration is one of 75 Heritage Week events being coordinated by Clare County Council and The Heritage Council, with support from the Department of Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht and Fáilte Ireland. Among the other events taking place in Clare from August 23-31st is a a lecture on the life of an Kilrush-born Boer War General Sir Thomas Kelly-Kenny, a Victorian Heritage Walk around Kilkee, a tour of Lisdoonvarna’s famous restorative waters, a tour of towerhouses around Shannon Town, and a recital of traditional Irish tunes on the Uilleann Pipes by Matt Horsely at Ennis Friary.

The centenary of the outbreak of World War One is also being marked with a lecture by historian Cormac O Comhrai’s on life in Ireland during the Great War, while Killaloe will also be marking the millennial anniversary of the death of one of its most famous citizens, Brian Ború. Meanwhile, annual festivals such as the Tulla Week of Welcomes and the Dan Furey Weekend in Labasheeda are holding heritage events as part of the weeklong celebration.

Source – The Clare Herald

UK – Submarine museum moves a fathom closer

PLANS for a submarine museum in Helensburgh have taken a step forward after an application to alter a former church hall were given the green light.

Argyll and Bute Council granted planning permission to the Scottish Submarine Trust to extend St Columba’s West King Street Hall to house a 53-foot long submarine.

The application for a single-storey extension to the existing hall will form the main entrance for the Scottish Submarine Museum. The new accesible entrance to the halls will be a timber clad pavilion extension adjoining to the West King Street Hall, and will create two extra parking spaces.

A 39-tonne or mini submarine will be displayed as the centrepiece to the museum, which will also house an interactive electronic memorial in Remembrance of the 5,329 submariners who have given their lives in the Royal Navy Submarine Service.

The project, which aims to attract 10,000 visitors to the Burgh, is spearheaded by Visit Helensburgh and this application is the first step in the development process.

Chris Terris, general manager of Visit Helensburgh, told the Advertiser the team will be ‘cracking on’.

He said: “Essentially that’s the paperwork out the way and now we get stuck in to the next phase.”

Chris added: “The extension is simply a small single story which will be the main entrance, will house the ticket office and an upgrade to the disabled toilets. It all sits well within the existing boundary.

“The most interesting and challenging part of the project is just exactly how we lift a 33 tonne, 53ft long submarine and guide it into place. This is all being worked out by specialist heavy lifting experts and our own engineers.”

The project has an estimated budget of £740,000, and has received donations so far of £200,000 from the Armed Forces Covenant; £300,000 for a World War II X-Craft mini submarine; and a grant of £140,000 from the council.

Initially it was hoped the museum would be open in time for the Commonwealth Games on July 23, but planning permission and listed building consent were needed for substantial work at former church Hall on Sinclair Street.

Source – Helensburgh Advertiser

Vernon ‘Ginger’ Coles (Midget Sub Engineer) – obituary

Vernon ‘Ginger’ Coles – obituary

Vernon ‘Ginger’ Coles was an engineer on midget submarines who steered attacks on German warships hiding off Norway

Coles returning from Bergen and leaving X24 immediately following the attack on the floating dock

Coles returning from Bergen and leaving X24 immediately following the attack on the floating dock

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X-craft were 51ft long, 5ft 9in in diameter with internal headroom of 4ft 8in and powered by a reliable 42-horse power Gardner diesel engine giving a range of 1800 nautical miles. Each carried two 2-ton explosive charges to be placed under the bow and stern of the target and detonated by a time fuse, set from inside the submarine.

For Operation Source, the attack using midget submarines on the heavy German warships Tirpitz, Scharnhorst and Lützow, which were hiding in the northern Norwegian fjords, Coles was the designated engineer and steersman of X-9. He recalled: “As the German fleet would not come out to fight, X-craft were the only means of sinking German ships that was likely to work.”

Coles as a stoker in HMS Faulknor at the beginning of the war

The craft, manned by passage crews, were towed by normal submarines into position off the Norwegian coast, where attack crews were to take over. “During the training exercises,” Coles continued, “it was realised that the manila tow-ropes stretched under tension and, after anything up to five days, snapped. The best tow-ropes were the nylon ones used by the RAF for towing gliders, however the RAF were only willing to supply three ropes.”

When, on September 11 1943, six X-craft left their base at Loch Cairnbawn, one of the suspect manila ropes was attached to X-9. “The line snapped at the parent submarine end and the weight of 500ft of wet 4in manila rope attached to the bow of the X-craft dragged it down to below the safe diving depth and beyond. The towing crew, Sub-Lieutenant “Paddy” Kearan, Able Seaman “Darkie” Hart, and Stoker “Ginger” Hollet were all lost.

“I honestly thought Tirpitz would have been blown sky high,” Coles continued. “And if everything had gone to plan she probably would have been, what with 12 tonnes of explosive under her – that would have broken her back without a doubt. But the real problem was the tow ropes. I lost three very close friends. Three dedicated people – Ginger Hollett in particular. He and I were the only two engine room people in the crews and he was a bubbly fellow, full of life and always working, doing something for the betterment of the boat.”

As it turned out, three of the remaining boats, X-5, X-6, and X-10, (later portrayed in the film Above Us the Waves (1955) starring John Mills,) extensively damaged Tirpitz. But nine men had been lost (three in X-9) and six taken prisoner. Two VCs, four DSOs, one DSC, one CGM and three MBEs were awarded.

Next Coles teamed up with the Australian X-craft captain Lieutenant Max Shean, first lieutenant Joe Brooks, and diver Frank Ogden for Operation Guidance. A lesson of Operation Source was the potential for confusion during multi-craft attacks, so on April 14 1944 Shean’s X-24 was towed to Norway for a solo attack on shipping in Bergen harbour. Explosive charges were successfully laid under a German merchant ship, Barenfels, and 24 hours later, sick and suffering from headaches caused by the stale air in the boat, Shean and his crew rendezvoused at sea with the submarine Sceptre to be towed home. Coles had steered X-24 continuously for 19 hours. Shean was awarded the DSO for his courage, and Coles was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, the highest award then available to ratings for bravery and resourcefulness, barring the VC.

“Max [Shean] was the only captain I would sail with,” Coles said later. “When we went into Bergen one would have thought we were going on exercise. He was cheerful, confident and pleased that we were doing something useful with no thought of not coming back.”

Coles (centre) with Max Shean and Joe Brooks who were crew on X24

After D-Day the X-craft were deployed to the Far East for Operation Sabre. When the experienced submariner, US Admiral Chester Nimitz, Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas, first saw one of the midget submarines he declared it a “suicide craft” which had no place in the Allies’ order of battle. But when orders came from Washington to cut two underwater telegraph cables off Japanese-occupied Saigon, he soon pressed them into service. Shean designed special grapnels to hook the cables and Coles manufactured these in the workshops of the depot ship before they set off, once more under tow, from Queensland to the Mekong river.

On July 31 1945 they began a submarine trawl for the cables, and after Coles had steered X-E4 across the river several times he snagged a cable and was suddenly brought to a halt. Just 13 minutes later a diver, Australian Sub-Lieutenant Ken Briggs, returned with a short length of cable as souvenir. Coles continued to steer underwater across the Mekong, and a second cable was found an hour later; this time Sub-Lieutenant Adam Bergius emerged from the airlock brandishing a length of cable as proof that it too had been cut. Coles was mentioned in despatches.

Vernon Coles was born on April 16 1920 at Tilehurst, Berkshire. Orphaned at the age of 5, he was brought up by an uncle and aunt. He left the local school at 14 to become an apprentice toolmaker at Huntley Boorne and Stevens, manufacturers of biscuit tins which are now collectors’ items.

Inspired by Sunday school outings to see the fleet in review at Weymouth, he joined the Navy in 1938. His first ship was the destroyer Faulknor, one of the hardest working destroyers in the fleet, which was the first ship to sink a German U-boat, and in which Coles took part in the Norwegian Campaign in 1940, served with Force H in the Mediterranean on the Malta convoys, and escorted convoys to Russia and across the Atlantic. He volunteered for submarine service in 1942.

Vernon in St Nicholas’ Church Newbury viewing the dedication the HM Submarine Tigris which was adopted by Vernon’s home town Newbury during the Second World War

Post-war he served in submarines in Sydney and Singapore, and twice in Malta before leaving the Navy in 1952.

He then joined the Ministry of Public Works and Buildings, worked in Malaysia and at Abingdon, and was chief engineer for the Americans at their base at Greenham Common before taking a position with Van Oord, a dredging company.

A Freemason, he also enjoyed speaking about his wartime exercises at schools and after dinner.

Vernon Coles married Marie Weaver in 1948. She predeceased him in 2010 and he is survived by their two daughters and a son.

Vernon ‘Ginger’ Coles, born April 16 1920, died May 2 2014

Source – The Telegraph

Scottish independence: Where might Trident go?

Map of where Trident could end up

Scottish ministers say the UK’s nuclear deterrent – the submarine-based Trident – will be banished from Scotland if it becomes independent. The UK government says there are no plans to move it. But where could it relocate to if it had to?

The UK’s nuclear weapons system – currently made up of four Vanguard-class submarines which carry Trident strategic missiles – has been based at HM Naval Base Clyde on Scotland’s west coast since the 1960s.

The site is made up of two main parts – Faslane on the Gareloch, where the submarines are based, and Coulport on Loch Long, eight miles away, where the warheads are stored. The sites are kept separate for safety reasons.

The UK has had at least one submarine on patrol at any given time for more than 40 years and has used the Trident system since the 1990s.

Both Conservative and Labour want a like-for-like replacement when the existing fleet ends its working life in the late 2020s, while the Liberal Democrats want to downsize to three submarines, saying the existing system was designed for the Cold War era.

The UK government says all Royal Navy submarines will be based at Faslane by 2017 – supporting 8,000 jobs – and there are are no plans to move the nuclear deterrent. Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has said any alternative solution would come at huge cost and take decades.

In 2012, an inquiry into independence by a cross-party group of MPs concluded that identifying and recreating a suitable base to replace Faslane and Coulport would be “highly problematic, very expensive, and fraught with political difficulties”.

However, the Scottish government says if Scotland votes “Yes” in the independence referendum on 18 September, Trident will be removed – with the weapons’ withdrawal by 2020 – and a written constitution would ban nuclear weapons from being based in Scotland.

It also says Faslane has a “strong future” as a conventional naval base and the joint HQ for defence forces of an independent Scotland, and military personnel employed there would match current numbers.

So if the UK had to relocate Trident, where might it go?

1. Milford Haven

Tanker in Milford Haven dock Milford Haven is home to two liquefied natural gas facilities

In 2012 Wales’s Labour First Minister Carwyn Jones said the UK’s nuclear-armed submarines and jobs associated with it would be “more than welcome” in Wales if they left Scotland. The remark that was met with an angry response from Plaid Cymru politicians and activists who cited safety risks.

When the original shortlist was drawn up for basing Trident’s predecessor Polaris in the 1960s, Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire was one of the candidates.

The Welsh site is an attractive option because it is a natural deep-water port. But In the 1960s Esso had just established an oil refinery in the town and the MoD decided the two were incompatible on safety grounds, according to William Walker, one of the authors of Uncharted Waters: The UK Nuclear Weapons and the Scottish Question.

“The dangers of handling and storing high explosives near major oil facilities ruled it out. Imagine a big submarine colliding with a tanker. It’s common sense – even if there is a low probability, the consequences could be horrific,” he says.

Nowadays the town’s economic and industrial output makes that line of thinking even more tricky. The haven is home to two liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities and handles 30% of the UK’s gas supply. It also hosts two oil refineries and will soon have a new power station.

Dr Nick Ritchie, a lecturer in international security at the University of York, says it’s inconceivable that the MoD would allow LNG plants and oil refineries to stay open if Trident was relocated to Milford Haven.

And he says closing the refineries and petrochemical plants would have “a pretty significant economic impact”.

Walker thinks there would also be a question over whether the port could take the submarine traffic. There is also the possibility Wales might follow in Scotland’s footsteps and call for further devolution or independence. If it voted for that, and took the same stance as Scotland, the MoD would be back to square one.

2. Plymouth

HMS Turbulent at Devonport Trafalgar-class submarine HMS Turbulent at Devonport

Devonport Dockyard in Plymouth – the biggest private-sector employer in Devon and Cornwall – is the main nuclear repair and refuelling facility for the Royal Navy.

It is also home to the Trafalgar-class submarines, which will be moved to Faslane by 2017.

The port’s size – the largest naval base in Western Europe covers more than 650 acres and has 15 dry docks, 25 tidal berths and five basins – and familiarity with submarines has led some to believe Devonport might be the best option for an alternative location for Trident.

However, the Royal United Services Institute’s Malcolm Chalmers says even though – time and expense allowing – Devonport might work as an alternative to Faslane, it couldn’t recreate Coulport.

Coulport possesses a huge floating dock where warheads are placed inside the missiles, 3km from the small village of Garelochhead on one side and the small village of Ardentinny on the other, Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee heard in 2012. Any new warhead storage facility would need similar distances from population centres for loading and offloading warheads from missiles.

Devonport naval base, Plymouth

The dockyard is also in a densely populated area, which poses a safety risk. There are about 166,000 people living within 5km of the Devonport base, compared with about 5,200 within that distance of Faslane and fewer close to Coulport. The city of Plymouth has about 250,000 residents and is within 3.5km of the dockyard. Glasgow has a population of about 600,000, but it is 25km away from Faslane.

Walker says loading warheads into the missiles on Trident is “very delicate and complicated” and a process that shouldn’t be done in or near built-up areas.

“You can’t have Trident missile bodies laden with rocket fuel and nuclear warheads near a city of quarter a million people – the UK regulatory authorities would be very uncomfortable with that,” says Ritchie.

Lifting missiles is also a safety risk. “There needs to be an explosive handling jetty that is designed for the worst case scenario – if a missile is dropped or there is an earthquake, even if this might only happen once in several thousand years, and high explosives are scattered,” says Chalmers.

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Trident facts and figures

HMS Victorious
  • UK has four Vanguard Class submarines: HMS Vanguard, HMS Victorious, HMS Vigilant, and HMS Vengeance
  • They were launched between 1992 and 1998
  • Vanguard-class vessels are 150m (492ft) long
  • Ministry of Defence estimates cost of replacing all four submarines at £20bn
  • Submarines are based at Faslane on Gareloch
  • Missiles are kept at Coulport on Loch Long
  • UK has access to 70 Trident missiles held in communal pool at strategic weapons facility in Georgia, USA
  • Trident missile system replaced the Polaris system
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In 1963, Falmouth was suggested as a warhead depot option – like Coulport – in combination with Devonport. However the MoD dismissed the idea because it wanted the ammunitions depot to be within one hour’s sailing of the submarine base. Falmouth is 70km west of Devonport. However Chalmers thinks this combination could be a runner. “But it would require substantial political will,” he says.

Falmouth was also seriously considered in its own right in the 1963 shortlist. However, the area has a strong tourist economy and the proposed site would have required National Trust land acquisition which would be very difficult, if not impossible.

Olympic games 2012 Weymouth hosted the sailing events in the 2012 Olympics

Portland, Weymouth, was the third English port to make the shortlist. It was ruled out because it didn’t have a close enough site for the warheads depot. Chalmers says it was the issue of warhead loading being kept far enough away from people and sites of economic value that meant Scottish locations made six of the 10 shortlisted 1960s options.

Portland’s naval base and the neighbouring Naval Air Station have now been closed down and replaced by a residential and commercial marina which hosted the sailing events in the 2012 Olympics.

3. Barrow-in-Furness

The BAE Systems construction hall dominates the skyline above the town of Barrow-in-Furness, The Vanguard submarines were built in Barrow-in-Furness

An existing nuclear site that could be considered is Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria, where BAE are currently building the nuclear-powered Astute-class submarines.

However, the base didn’t make it on to the 1963 shortlist because Walney Channel is thought to be too shallow for nuclear submarines.

Part of the problem is tidal. There are only a certain number of hours in each month when the tide is high enough for nuclear submarines to transit into the open sea, a 2005 investigation by research group RAND found.

Even at these restricted times the vessel has to travel fast to complete the journey.

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Trident II D5 missiles

  • Length: 44ft (13m)
  • Weight: 130,000lb (58,500kg)
  • Diameter: 6ft 11in (2.11m)
  • Range: 7,500 miles (12,000km)
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The problem isn’t just theoretical. The second Polaris submarine to be built at Barrow, HMS Repulse, ran aground when it was launched in November 1967.

However, Francis Tusa, editor of Defence Analysis, told the 2012 inquiry by a cross-party committee of MPs that Barrow’s advantage was that it already had support facilities, including a ship-lift, similar to Faslane.

Substantial dredging would also make the site more accessible.

There are other problems though. The size of the current dock means it would not have room for more than two Vanguard-class submarines and the town – which has a population of about 69,000 – is close by. There is also the issue of where the warhead depot would be.

As with most of the options, Barrow could work but it would be costly and require extensive changes. “The bottom line with all these potential sites is we are talking about huge infrastructure projects like high-speed rail or Heathrow. It’s only when the detail is looked at that it becomes clear how complicated it is, and nobody has done the very detailed feasibility [studies] that would be needed,” says Chalmers.

4. Ile Longue, Brittany, France

Submarine at Ile Longue Ile Longue base, north-west France

The idea of the UK’s nuclear deterrent being based abroad would horrify some in the British military and raise big questions about its independence.

No country has ever kept their deterrent force in its entirety in a foreign country, based on the principle that a country’s last resort has to be somewhere where it has total control of it.

However, the UK and France have recently signed up to two new defence agreements.

One of these is for a joint nuclear weapon’s research establishment – where the two countries will share the hydrodynamic test facilities but keep the data from their experiments separate – at Epure.

And there have been calls for the UK to consider patrols with France, following the collision between Le Triomphant and HMS Vanguard in February 2009.

Trident graphic

It might be possible to expand Anglo-French nuclear cooperation by asking France to host the British nuclear fleet. “I would say that’s the best option from economic and ease point of view,” says Dr Michael John Williams, a reader in international relations at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Tusa told the Scottish Affairs Committee there was also a precedence for storing warheads abroad.

“We shared American storage facilities for nuclear warheads at Iserlohn for 40 years and no-one seemed to care. There were American, German and British guards. The UK had British bunkers on German soil, but it was a US sovereign base. I did not notice anyone caring one way or the other,” he said.

However, Ritchie says a separate nuclear submarine base and nuclear armaments depot would have to be built in France because of commitments to the UK’s nuclear safety regulatory authorities and Nato.

That would be a problem at Ile Longue – where France’s fleet of nuclear-armed submarines are based – because it doesn’t have space, according to John Ainslie, co-ordinator at the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, which wants to get rid of Trident altogether.

It also shouldn’t be assumed that the French would be prepared to have a sovereign foreign nuclear weapons base on their territory, says Ron Smith, professor of Applied Economics at Birkbeck College, University of London.

5. King’s Bay, Georgia, US

Kings Bay, Georgia

The equally radical idea of re-siting to the US raises similar questions over independence as France.

However, Trident is a joint venture between the UK and the US. Trident II D5 missiles are leased from the US in King’s Bay, Georgia.

British submarines return to Georgia for their maintenance on a regular basis and the UK contributes £12m a year to the US as part of the running costs of the base. Non-nuclear warhead components are also made in the US.

Past UK prime ministers have always stressed Trident’s independence, saying its firing does not require the permission, the satellites or the codes of the US.

But Ritchie says there has always been a degree of controversy over the “incredibly high level of US support that allows the UK to remain a nuclear weapons base”.

Despite the “special relationship” between the US and the UK, as with the France option, there would be massive political obstacles to be overcome.

Essentially it comes back to independence. “Even when countries get on well, they can disagree. For the UK to have its ultimate security guaranteed, it would want to be fully independent,” says Williams.

6. It could stay put

David Cameron with Commander John Livesey aboard HMS Vanguard, 2013 David Cameron with Commander John Livesey aboard HMS Vanguard, 2013

The Scottish government says it is committed to removing Trident if it becomes independent and maintains it would not negotiate with the UK in exchange for concessions on other issues such as national debt and currency union (the UK government has ruled out the latter anyway).

But Ron Smith says there would be considerable pressure within an independent Scotland to do a deal and create a type of Sevastopol military enclave as Ukraine did, before Russia took over the Crimea.

The UK would be under pressure to do a deal too because even if it was feasible to replace the Clyde naval bases – “and it’s not clear that it is” – it would be incredibly expensive and time consuming, he says.

But Ritchie thinks the scenario is unlikely. “The SNP has staked its political credibility on getting rid of Trident – it’s unlikely to concede. The MoD would also find it very uncomfortable to have the UK’s nuclear deterrent in another country, even if it was a sovereign UK territory,” he says.

Earlier this year, First Minister Alex Salmond, leader of the SNP, ruled out the prospect of a “Cyprus-style” leaseback scheme. Chalmers says this is a distraction. “A sovereign base area would be UK territory, but a foreign base is different. The SNP has already conceded four years of basing to 2020, so there is no point of principle in extending this for some more years,” he says.

Another option would be to change the UK’s nuclear deterrent to an airborne or land-based system, according to Williams. However, they have been dismissed as too vulnerable and highly problematic the past.

But Chalmers believes it probably would be possible to find an alternative home for Trident – “given time and political will”. But it would not be easy, he says.

Source – BBC News