In 2015, the contours of the renewal of the British nuclear deterrent forces became clearer and more definite. Four second-generation nuclear submarines with ballistic missiles (SSBNs), which will begin to leave the system at the end of the second and early third decades of our century, will be replaced by four next-generation SSBNs, which will be larger, but with the same type of weaponry. The first one will be commissioned at the beginning of the 2030s. Such is the decision of the government to be approved by the parliament soon.
THE APPEARANCE OF THE ROCKET SUN
Analysis of information from open sources suggests that the new SSBN will have an underwater displacement of 17 000 T and 12 SLBM launchers (operating only 8). Missiles - first 8 missiles of old and then a new type with ammunition in 40 nuclear warheads (YABZ) for strategic and sub-strategic response and power of each in 80 – 100 and 5 – 10 kilotons (kt), respectively. The submarines created under the Successor project (Successor) will continue to carry out Operation Relentless, which has the goal of nuclear deterrence by intimidation through continuous patrols of at least one SSBN at sea.
Preliminary work on the project started back in 2007 year. In 2011 – 2015, the “assessment phase” was carried out, and since 2016, the “construction phase” has been carried out with appropriate funding for building equipment and individual components and components of the ship and with the completion of the second phase of design work. The final time for laying the head SSBN has not yet been announced.
The need for SSBNs, now and in the indefinite future, is justified by the existence of nuclear arsenals from other countries, the possibility of the further spread of nuclear weapons in the world, as well as the risk of nuclear blackmail, the promotion of nuclear terrorism, the impact on the UK decision-making during the crisis by the nuclear-weapon countries. The government document “National Security Strategy and Strategic Defense and Security” dated November 2015 stresses: “We cannot rule out further moves that would put us or our NATO allies in grave danger.” Judging by this and other documents on the country's nuclear policy, the UK intends to have:
- the minimum number of nuclear weapons and their total nuclear power and the minimum number of carriers and means of delivery of nuclear weapons to deter intimidation of any aggressor, guaranteeing the security and defense of the country and its allies;
- guaranteed nuclear deterrent by deterrence (at least one SSBN will always be at sea, being undetectable and thus invulnerable from the preventive or preemptive attack of the aggressor);
- convincing forces of nuclear deterrence with deterrence that can inflict damage to any adversary that would outweigh the adversary’s benefits from its attack.
Nuclear weapons (NW) of Great Britain can be used only by order of the Prime Minister of the country (here it should be borne in mind that the monarch has the power in special cases to dismiss the Prime Minister and dissolve the lower house of parliament). The formal condition for the transition to the use of nuclear weapons is the creation of an emergency situation in which the use of British nuclear weapons for self-defense and the defense of NATO allies is required. The UK does not refuse to use nuclear weapons first and intends to maintain uncertainty about the specific conditions for the transition to its use (time, methods and scope). When it comes to Britain and its vital interests, the circle of which is not intentionally outlined, a direct threat to the use, development and distribution of chemical and biological weapons from the states developing these types of weapons of mass destruction, the UK retains the right to use its nuclear weapons in such states. The UK will not use its nuclear weapons for non-nuclear weapons countries - parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons that comply with them.
At the end of the 50s, the British did not think about minimal nuclear deterrence with intimidation, they sought to build up their nuclear ammunition by creating national YABZs and “renting” American YABZs. In those years, the English list of facilities for the destruction of nuclear weapons contained about 500 civilian and military facilities, mainly in the European part of the USSR. Then, in the plans for delivering massed nuclear strikes, the main role was assigned to the British medium bombers of type “V” and the US-based ground-based “Thor” assigned to the British. The main objective of the massive nuclear strikes was to inflict the maximum possible damage to the Soviet Union. For example, at the beginning of 60, a statement was made to target 230 objects in the USSR 230 Mt of nuclear weapons of the British Air Force.
After the end of the Cold War, the prudent British, besides being in NATO under cover of the “nuclear umbrella” of the USA, completely abandoned the nuclear weapons of the air force and tactical nuclear weapons of the ground forces and navy, concentrating the country's nuclear power in the form of strategic and non-strategic nuclear weapons from the beginning of 1998. The "Trident 2" SLBM of "V" ("Vanguard") nuclear submarines. According to the plan announced in the middle of 90-ies by the Minister of Defense, after the decommissioning of nuclear bombs, the United Kingdom should have 21% less ammunition and 59% less nuclear ammunition capacity than in 70-ies. In 1998, it was announced that it would have one-third fewer deployed YBZs in the country’s nuclear ammunition than was previously planned. The British spoke of their intention to possess the minimum forces of nuclear deterrence by intimidation. At the same time, the main unit of measurement for minimality was the undetectable and therefore invulnerable SSBN with its smallest ammunition for missiles and nuclear warheads that was on patrol. The derived values from this unit of measurement were deployed YABZ for three SSBNs and the total nuclear weapon of the country, which included deployed and non-deployed YABZ. So there was a transition from deterring the enemy with the threat of causing maximum damage with the use of 230 Mt to the ability to do it with the threat of using ammunition with one patrol SSBN with a power of up to 4 Mt and three to 12 Mt. The number of targets hit can be judged by the currently officially quoted ratio: each English high-power YABZ delivered to the aiming point (the intended epicenter of the explosion) should, on average, neutralize one and a half objects.
In 60 – 70s, on each patrolling SSRB of type “R” (“Resolution”) in 16 PU there were 16 SLBM “Polaris” with 48 YABZ (three YABZ on a rocket) with a total power of 9,6 Mt. With the arrival of the second generation of the Vanguard type with 90 launchers for the Trident-16 SLBMs in 2-s, each of which was capable of carrying eight YABZs, the British had a theoretical opportunity to have 128, 96, 64, or 48 YABZ. Taking into account the ability to deploy with 1996 on one or several missiles of each SSBN, one low-power sub-strategic YABZ would become below the given figures. Ammunition in 128 YABZ on each SSBN (as assumed in 1982 – 1985) was clearly inaccessible, “up to 128 YABZ” (as it was thought in 1987 – 1992) was speculative, “up to 96 YABZ” (as it was said in 1993 – 1997 years ) became closer to reality, although there were reports in the media that, with the ceiling announced “before 96 YABZ”, the 60 YABZ was sometimes on a submarine.
The Strategic Defense Review of 1998 reported that each patrolling SSBN would carry 48 YABZ, in contrast to the decision of the previous government to have “no more than 96 YABZ”. It also stated: “The 48 YABZ deployed on each SSBN with the Trident SLBM to solve both strategic and sub-strategic tasks will have one-third less power than the 32 YABZ Shevalin installed on each SSBN with the SBRB Polaris ". As is known, the YABZ on the head of the Shevalin had a capacity of 200 kt. In accordance with the decision announced in 2010’s Strategic Defense and Security Review of the Year, the number of GAS on each patrolling SSBN from 48 to 40 and the number of deployed GAS from “less than 160” to “no more than 120” in the coming years, and the number YABZ in general nuclear weapons with “no more than 225” to “no more than 180” by the middle of 20-s. The reduction in the number of YABZs on each patrol SSRB to 40 and the number of deployed YABZs to 120 was performed in 2011 – 2015. Time will tell whether the new SSBNs will have 120 deployed YBZs and whether the country’s total nuclear weapons will not exceed 2025 YABZs by 180, because everything in the world is changeable and the unexpected happens.
It should be recalled that the SSRB of the “Resolution” type had, first, the Polaris A3T SLBM, each of which housed the warhead (MS) of the scattering type with simultaneous dilution of three warheads. The warhead (warhead) carried one YABZ 200 power kt. All three YABZ were supposed to explode at a distance of 800 m from each other. Then it was the turn of the Polaris A3ТК with the Shevalin-type warheads, which differed from the previous bundle (two 200 CT missiles and several anti-missile defense weapons) and the ability to undermine the YaBZ at a much greater distance from each other.
Vangard type SSBNs are armed with Trident-2 SLBMs. The rocket is equipped with warheads, which can carry up to eight warheads of individual guidance with their successive breeding. They are able to hit objects in a circle with a diameter of several hundred kilometers. A missile can also have one-piece equipment - carry one combat unit with one YaBZ. The design of the YABZ was verified during five nuclear tests in 1986 – 1991. Multi-charge SLBMs carry YABZs with a fixed power of 100 kt, monoblock ones with a fixed power somewhere between 5 – 10 kt.
The estimated power of English YABZ, which is a copy of the American W76 / W76-1 YABZ, must be treated with caution, since the exact capacity of the existing YABZ is among the information that cannot be disclosed. What will be the power of the new English YABZ, whether they will have a variable power of the explosion, is still unknown. It’s only clear that from the beginning of the development of the new YABZ, it will take 17 years to reach the fleet of the first production product. In the meantime, judging by the official statement, "new replacement YABZs are not required, at least until the end of 30, perhaps later."
ROLE AND PLACE
The British SSBNs, like the American ones, were created for a retaliatory nuclear strike in a general nuclear war. First, their purpose was to destroy the cities of the attacking country. Judging by the rationale for the need for SSBNs made at the end of 50, the future British SSBNs should have destroyed 50% of the largest cities of the USSR at 44% when there was a sudden start of nuclear war and 87 - in the presence of a threatened period. According to Americans, two SSBNs of the Resolution type were capable of destroying up to 15% of the population and up to 24% of the industry of the Soviet Union. Time passed quickly, and in the plans for a nuclear war for SSBNs, the lot was prepared to apply not only retaliatory, but also preemptive strikes. An important place in the plans of 80's was occupied by the destruction of state and military authorities.
In the second half of the 90-ies, the nuclear-based SSBN of the UK was divided into strategic (multi-charge missiles from YaBZ to 100 kt) and sub-strategic (one-piece rockets with one YaBZ of 5 – 10 CT). Each SSBN that was at sea or at the base ready to go to sea could carry a mixed ammunition set consisting of an overwhelming number of high-powered strategic missiles with one large-capacity missile and one or two or more Trident-2 sub-strategic missiles with one small-capable YaBZ.
The Trident ballistic missile during a test launch from the British submarine Vanguard. Photo from www.defenceimagery.mod.uk
According to the views of that time, the substrategic nuclear weapons were intended for proactive and retaliatory actions. It was assumed that it would be used in the form of demonstrative preventive nuclear strikes to prevent large-scale conflict and in response to the use of weapons of mass destruction (for example, chemical or biological weapons) as a punishment for those countries that did not heed the warning about possible use of nuclear weapons on them. This is what the British Marine Doctrine of 1999 says: “SSBNs carry the Trident missile system, which performs strategic and sub-strategic nuclear deterrence for the UK and NATO.” “Strategic nuclear deterrence with deterrence is deterrence of aggression carried out by the existence of long-range nuclear weapons capable of keeping important objects in the territory of any possible aggressor at risk.” Substrategic nuclear deterrence with deterrence is the ability to "carry out more limited nuclear attacks than those provided for strategic nuclear deterrence in order to carry out nuclear deterrence with deterrence in circumstances where the threat of a strategic nuclear attack can become unconvincing."
The absence of the long-range sub-strategic nuclear weapons of Great Britain was keenly felt in the FNK 1982 war of the year. Directed to the central part of the Atlantic, the SSBN “Resolution” could use at least one Polaris SLBM against Argentina, but this would be the use of excessive force (the total power of three SARs on one rocket was 0,6 Mt). Getting the ability to use fast and long-range sub-strategic nuclear weapons unleashed the hands of the British. Already in 1998, the defense ministry discussed the feasibility of including Iraqi, Libya and DPRK facilities in the list of objects for SSBNs in response to the anticipated use of biological weapons by Iraq, the continued creation of Libyan chemical weapons and long-range ballistic missile tests in the DPRK. And just before the war with Iraq in 2003, the Minister of Defense declared that his country “is ready to use nuclear weapons against Iraq if weapons of mass destruction are used against the British during an operation in Iraq”.
From the second half of the 90s, the UK has clearly adhered to the doctrine of minimal nuclear deterrence, which, as we know, holds the city hostage. Prior to this, during the Cold War, the British SSBNs were designed to carry out both national and bloc (for example, the NATO SSP plan) coordinated with the US nuclear war plans against the USSR. One must be a very naive person to believe that the plans for the use of nuclear weapons by the United States, France and Great Britain against the Russian Federation, which were in force in the twentieth century, ceased to exist in the twenty-first century.
DISPUTES ABOUT NUMBER
How many SSBNs should the UK have and how much SSBNs can it have to maintain to maintain the continuity of nuclear deterrence? In 1959, the British admirals dreamed of 16 SSBNs, but they would agree to nine. In 1963, they managed to get a government decision to build only five SSBNs. The presence of five SSBNs allowed two of them to be continuously at sea, and when one of the two failed, to have the guaranteed ability of the remaining SSBNs to launch missiles. But already in 1965, the government found such a number of SSBNs a luxury and canceled the order for the construction of the fifth submarine. As a result, 1,87 SSBNs were constantly in the sea first, and in general 1,46 SSBNs of the “Resolution” type (continuous patrols have been carried out since April 1969).
When deciding to build a Vengard-class SSBN, the need for five submarines was not taken into account. Four SSBNs of this type were transferred the fleet in 1993, 1995, 1996 and 1999. At first, the continuity of patrolling was provided by two SSBNs (Vengard with 16 SLBMs and Victories with 12 SLBMs), which replaced each other at sea. The same situation often developed later, and it has developed now. At the end of 2015, the Vengeance SSBN came out of the overhaul and began the overhaul of the Vengard SSBN, for a long time they will remain sky-ready. Alternately, Victories and Vigillent patrol. After each patrol of the submarine, lasting 60–98 days, it is repaired for several weeks, and sometimes months, when it is temporarily ready. It may happen that the SSBN on patrol due to an emergency will not be able to launch missiles, and its replacement, due to repairs, will not be able to quickly go to sea for replacement. Then there will be no talk of the vaunted continuous nuclear deterrence by intimidation, but it will have to be recognized that five SSBNs are better than four.
But back in the year 2006, when the Prime Minister convinced parliamentarians that alternatives to SSBNs - in the form of cruise missiles on converted civil aircraft and Trident missiles on surface ships or on land in mining PUs - do not exist due to high prices, vulnerability and danger these alternatives. He expressed the opinion on the sufficiency of three new SSBNs. The point in the dispute was put in the government review “National Security Strategy and Strategic Defense and Security” at the end of 2015 - four SSBNs need to be built. It should be noted here that the British do not reckon with the possibility of the creation by probable opponents of space detection facilities for submarines at depths greater than 50 m, believing that the “successors” cannot be found in the ocean expanses in any conditions of navigation. One episode is interesting because of the difficulties in carrying out continuous patrols. In 2010, France turned to the UK with a proposal to alternately patrol SSBNs of both countries as part of joint deterrence control (so that there would always be only one submarine in the sea - the British or the French alternately). The rationale behind this proposal was to reduce the cost of repairs and maintenance and to preserve the existing composition of forces as long as possible. But the British rejected such an undertaking and decided to overhaul their SSBNs in order to extend their service life precisely in the interests of maintaining national continuity of patrols.
OPERATIONAL VOLTAGE AND SPECIAL FEATURES OF OPERATION
When financing strategic armaments, the correct determination of the terms of their exploitation is important, especially this concerns such expensive nuclear weapons carriers as SSBNs. The first-generation English SSBNs performed an average 57 patrols — with an average 2,3 pace per year per submarine — for 22 – 27 years. By the beginning of the spring 2013, the SSBNs operated with the average rate of 1,6 patrols per year per submarine. With such a pace, each SSBN could perform 30 in 48 years, and 35 patrols in 56 years, which would be quite achievable given the previous generation submarine operating experience. Apparently, on this basis, decisions were made to postpone the start of decommissioning of the Vangard-type SSBNs from the 2017 of the year to the 2022, then to the 2028 of the year, and now “to the beginning of the 30's”. This means that the government is counting on their stay in the fleet for at least 35 years. The life of the new SSBN is carefully defined in 30 years. To some extent, it is associated with the hope that the new PWR-3 reactor without recharging the core will be able to work guaranteed 25 years, and when extending the service life - all 30 years.
Imitating the Americans, on their first-generation SSBNs of the “Resolution” type with a displacement in 8500, they placed as many PUs as there were on the American submarines of the “Washington” type with almost the same displacement - 16. When deciding on the number of PUs on a second-generation SSBN, the British thought this: eight PUs are too few, 24 PUs are a bit too much, 12 PUs seem to be just right, but 16 PUs are better, because it gives flexibility in placing more missiles in the event improving missile defense in the USSR. So on the second generation VANgard type SSBNs with underwater displacement in 16 KT were placed on the 16 PU, although American second generation SSBNs of the Ohio type with a displacement of around 18 KT were carried on the 24 PU. As it is known, four PUs are combined into one module, therefore, on one USGS and the United Kingdom SSBNs there may be 8, 12, 16, 20 or 24 PU. Third-generation SSBNs, which will be “the largest submarines ever built in the UK” (as stated in the 2014 document of the year), were designed to have active launchers before 2010, “in 12,“ only eight PU ”and in 2010 year - to have PU for“ no more than eight operating missiles ”(new American SSBNs, which will have an underwater displacement, as they say, on 2015 thousand tons more than previous ones, will be limited to 2 launchers instead of the planned 16). Given the past approach of the British to determining the number of launchers on existing submarines (20 operating, four empty, all 12 launchers), it can be assumed that their new SSBNs will have 16 launchers (eight operational and four inactive). Another question on PU is also interesting. As far as we know, in 12, the Americans abandoned the design of launchers for new SSBNs with a diameter of 2010, returned to the previous standard in 305, and now intend to deploy the new generation ICBMs and SLBMs in existing types of "without significant rework". Nevertheless, the costly joint American-British work on the creation of a new rocket module (in 221, the British agreed with the Americans on the size of the launcher) continues. The question is, if there is a product whose design is suitable for existing and prospective SLBMs before and after 2010, then why are they planting a garden and inventing new ones?
For four of the first-generation SSBNs with the 64 PU, the 133 SLBM Polaris was purchased, of which 49 was spent on combat training launches. For four second-generation SSBNs, the Trident 2 SLBM procurement plan provided for the acquisition of 100 missiles, then dropped to 58 missiles, 10 of which were used for training and combat SSBNs and SLBMs and for the 25 year were already spent . In connection with the extension of the service life of the American Trident-2013 SLBMs on the American and British SSBNs, the expenditure of missiles on second-generation and third-generation British SSBNs is increasing in missile expenditure on combat training launches. And this leads to a decrease in ammunition for combat-ready submarines. If in the 2s the submarine carried 40, 90 or 16 missiles, then from 14 – 12 it carries only eight (in eight active launchers). In the 2011s, the third-generation English SSBMs with a nominal ammunition of eight SLBMs in eight operational launchers will clearly have the ability to carry 2015 missiles to operational and inactive launchers. Fortunately, one can always borrow a “big brother” with an excess of the Trident 30 SLBMs of a small fraction of such missiles.
ON SPECIAL ACCOUNT
Strategic missile submarines have always been maintained in a high degree of readiness for the use of nuclear weapons. During the Cold War years, the first-generation American and British SSBNs were able to launch missiles in 15 mines. after receiving the order during a patrol at sea and after 25 min. - while being in the surface position in the base. The technical capabilities of modern SSBNs make it possible to complete the launch of missiles from SSBNs at sea in 30 min. after receiving the order. The British constantly have at least one SSBN on patrol in the sea, while there are two submarines in the sea when a patrol submarine is being replaced - alternating and alternating.
In the UK, they make it clear that its independent nuclear deterrence forces use purely national systems, means and methods of control, communications, navigation and encryption, have their own database of targets and their plans for the use of nuclear weapons (although in fact the plans for the use of nuclear weapons are coordinated with American). The British repeat that since 1994, their missiles are not aimed at any country, and that submarines are kept in low readiness for launching missiles. As if in confirmation of this, the British claim that the coordinates of the targets are transmitted to the SSBN by the coastal headquarters by radio, that there are no special safety devices on British nuclear weapons that require the input of the unlock code transmitted from the coast, that the handheld SSBN contains a handwritten and addressed personally to the commander, the Prime Minister’s letter of testament with instructions on how to act when the UK ceases to exist as a result of an enemy nuclear strike. However, it is not accepted in the country to say what data should always be on board the SSBNs in case there is a need for a rapid transition to a high degree of readiness.
It is noteworthy that the official documents of 1998-2015 persistently reiterate the position that nuclear deterrence patrols patrolling at sea are intimidated by the intimidation of launching missiles, lasting several days, but are capable of maintaining high readiness for a long time. I involuntarily recall one American study of a sudden disarming strike against the Russian Federation with Trident-2 missiles. The suddenness was ensured by the maximum approach of SSBNs to the intended targets of destruction and by reducing to a minimum the time of approaching missiles to targets by using a lay trajectory (2225 km in 9,5 minutes of flight). But after all, for the American and British SSBNs to leave their usual patrol areas and occupy their launch lines with the maximum approximation to objects in the Russian Federation, it just takes several days. This has to be taken into account now, when against the background of the growing military activity of the USA and NATO in the East Atlantic and in Europe, including with the participation of strategic aviation, Americans are letting us know about the resumption of patrolling in these areas by submarines of the 144th operational compound of the Joint Strategic Command by demonstratively entering the US SSBNs at the base of the 345th operational connection of the English SSBNs.
But back to the future British nuclear deterrent with deterrence. The British postponed the replacement of the second-generation SSBNs with the intention of squeezing out of them all the pledged resources and postponing the beginning of an expensive upgrade as far as possible. By stretching the program of procurement, construction, testing and commissioning of SSBNs for decades, they seek to allocate annual expenditures on nuclear forces so as not to impair the development of general-purpose forces. Using domestic and American experience and developments, the country, following the United States, increases the displacement of the new SSBN, reduces the number of launchers on the new SSBN, reduces the SLBM ammunition load on it and almost simultaneously with the US puts it into operation. Of course, the new British SSBN will incorporate all the achievements of science and technology in the areas of movement, control, stealth, observation and security, leaving enough space for the subsequent improvement of weapons and equipment. “Minimally convincing nuclear deterrent forces with intimidation” with their “minimal destructive power” provide the UK with optimal opportunities to maintain its security in the future.