Defense Secretary Philip Hammond risked inflaming coalition tensions by saying an upgrade of Britain’s submarine-based Trident deterrent would be cheaper than alternatives being examined by the Liberal Democrats.
Trident missiles and warheads have years of life left and only the Vanguard-class submarines that carry them need to be replaced, Hammond, a Conservative Party lawmaker, told the Royal United Services Institute in London today.
“It is difficult to envisage a new complete system in which you would have to design everything -- warheads, missiles, carriers, platforms -- from scratch could ever be a more economical proposition,” he said.
Hammond pledged 353 million pounds ($570 million) for the development of submarines on Oct. 29, prompting Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to accuse people of “jumping the gun” after U.K. media reported that the investment amounted to a government commitment to retaining Trident. Clegg’s Liberal Democrat party is committed to making the case for alternative deterrents.
In May last year the U.K. announced 3 billion pounds of spending for the design phase of Trident replacement. On the same day the government said it was setting up the Trident Alternatives Review, headed by Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander.
The review, to be published either later this year or early next year, will help inform the Liberal Democrats’ position on a replacement for Trident in the run-up to the next general election in 2015.