British Parliament Votes to Replace Nuclear Submarines

BAE Systems is the industrial lead for the Successor program to replace the United Kingdom's four Vanguard-class nuclear-armed submarines. (Photo illustration courtesy BAE Systems)BAE Systems is the industrial lead for the Successor program to replace the United Kingdom's four Vanguard-class nuclear-armed submarines. (Photo illustration courtesy BAE Systems)

The British parliament on Monday voted in favor of a program to replace the military’s four nuclear-armed submarines, according to multiple news reports.

A total of 472 members supported the motion and 117 opposed it, with almost half of the opposition registered by members from Scotland, where the submarines are based on the west coast at the Clyde Naval Base known as Faslane, according to an article in Sky News.

The vote was seen as a victory for the new British Prime Minster Theresa May.

“Some people suggest that we should actually be removing our nuclear deterrent,” she said, according to an article in The Scotsman. “This has been an essential part of our national security and defence for nearly half a century now, and it would be quite wrong for us to go down that particular path.”

The cost of the Successor submarine replacement program is estimated at $54 billion (41 billion pounds) over three decades.

BAE Systems Plc has teamed with Rolls-Royce Plc and Babcock International Group Plc on the acquisition effort. The vessels would be built at the British defense giant’s facility in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, with the first new sub scheduled to enter service in 2028, according to the company.

With most Scots opposed to the nuclear presence in country and the recent referendum in the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, the fate of the submarine base remains uncertain.

Currently, Britain’s four nuclear Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarines armed with Trident missiles — HMS Vanguard, Victorious, Vengeance, and Vigilant — are based at Faslane on the River Clyde, and all of its nuclear warheads are stored at Coulport about eight miles away.

There are no alternative sites for Faslane and Coulport in England, according to George Washington University analyst Hugh Gusterson, and building alternative sites and coming up with replacements for the aging Trident subs would cost upwards of $20 billion and take possibly 20 years.

British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon touted Britain’s nuclear deterrent as a mainstay of NATO.

–Richard Sisk contributed to this report.

About the Author

Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of Military.com. He can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.