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‘Wrong-sized’ missile sends new Trident cost soaring by £100m

by : Solve et Coagula
Monday May 11, 2009 - 21:01

‘Wrong-sized’ missile sends new Trident cost soaring by £100m

ompatability worries as US firm takes on contractBy Rob Edwards, Environment Editor

BRITISH TAXPAYERS are having to fork out an extra £100 million this year to replace the Trident nuclear weapons system because of fears that the missile being designed in the US could be the wrong size.

The UK government is funding all of a contract for a US company to design a new missile compartment in an attempt to ensure that it will fit submarines designed in the UK.

The revelation raises new questions about the spiralling cost of replacing Trident, and has been strongly condemned by the SNP and anti-nuclear campaigners.

The problem has arisen because the UK Trident replacement programme, which depends on the US to design and build the missiles, was five years ahead of the US programme. The Sunday Herald revealed in 2007 that this caused a major headache in ensuring that future US missiles would be compatible with UK submarines.

Tenders to bid for a test bed for future underwater-launched nuclear missiles issued by the US Navy specified a missile diameter of up to 120 inches. However, the diameter of Trident’s current missile tubes is 87 inches.

Last year the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said that the US was accelerating its replacement programme to try and overcome this problem. But it has now become apparent that this is costing British taxpayers dear.

In a parliamentary answer a few days ago, the defence secretary, John Hutton, admitted that this year’s budget for replacing Trident had jumped from £300m to £400m.

"Costs are greater in 2009-10 than previously announced due to the agreement with the US to design and manufacture a common missile compartment," he said. This was due to "re-profiling of funding rather than cost growth".

According to a defence industry newsletter, the UK government is paying General Dynamics Electric Boat Corporation in Groton, Connecticut, to design the Trident missile compartment for both UK and US submarines. The contract is initially worth $75.6m (about £50m) but could rise to $591.8m (about £392m).

Angus Robertson MP, the SNP defence spokesman, said: "It is astounding that when the UK government is demanding cuts in public services that it would plan to waste even more on Trident.

"Trident is frankly obscene, and in the current economic climate it is obvious that these resources should be better spent."

Robertson also attacked Labour claims that replacing Trident wasn’t costing taxpayers any money at present, saying: "These parliamentary answers seriously undermine that claim."

The Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) argued that the money could still be spent on launch tubes that would turn out to be the wrong size. "The work will all be carried out in the US so there will be no jobs for Scotland, or for the rest of the UK," said Alan Mackinnon, the campaign’s chairman.

"Gordon Brown should not be squandering an additional £100m on building a new nuclear weapon system while the economy plunges further into the red. He should listen to the growing calls from across the political spectrum to cut the Trident replacement programme."

Earlier this month the Conservative leader, David Cameron, said that his party’s support for Labour’s £21 billion Trident replacement programme was under review.

It was also confirmed that the UK’s entire nuclear submarine fleet would be stationed at Faslane on the Clyde, with boats relocating from Devonport near Plymouth.

The MoD stressed last night that, although costs had risen this year, there had been no increase in the overall cost of replacing Trident.

"The MoD seeks to achieve best value for money and often this is achieved by collaborating with other countries," said a ministry spokeswoman.

http://www.sundayherald.com/news/he...



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