The UK has committed more than £800m to a service life extension programme for the Trident II D5 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), that are operated by the Royal Navy as part of the country’s strategic continuous at sea nuclear deterrent programme.
The figures came to light in a recent parliamentary written response, detailing the UK’s contribution to the US-led programme to keep Trident II D5 ICBMs in service until at least the 2040s. Broken down, the UK has committed £320.5m to the life extension programme, £140m in sustaining key components, and £361m to extend service life of the missile boost rocket motors – a total cost of £821.5m (approximately $1bn).
In March this year the US Department of Defense (DoD) awarded General Dynamics Mission Systems (GM) with a $43.9m modification to a previously awarded contract to exercise options for UK and US Trident II (D5) nuclear ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) fire control system and nuclear cruise missile submarine (SSGN) attack weapon control system support.
The current US Ohio-class and the UK Vanguard-class SSBNs both equip the Trident II D5 ICBM, with a US and UK agreement in placed to pool the missiles for use by their respective services.
The UK is also working to upgrade the nuclear warheads installed on the Trident II D5 missiles, with the cost of the Replacement Warhead Programme totalling £127m up to 31 March 2022. The eventual outlay is expected to be significantly higher.
Vanguard replacement programme
The UK is replacing its four Vanguard-class SSBNs with the new Dreadnought-class boats on a like-for-like basis, with the latter class also due to utilise the Trident II D5 when it enters service, likely due to take place from the mid-2030s.
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Officially scheduled to enter in service by early 2030s, the four new Dreadnought-class ballistic missile submarines, including Dreadnought, Valiant, Warspite and King George VI, are expected to be the most advanced vessels in the RN fleet.
Each submarine will be approximately 153.6m-long and have over 215 miles of cabling and 26.4 miles of pipework.