The Danish Peace Academy

Nuclear Arms & Nuclear Arms Production and Nucelar Weapons, Great Britain

The term V bomber was used for the Royal Air Force (RAF) aircraft during the 1950s and 1960s that composed the United Kingdom's strategic nuclear strike force known officially as the V-force or Bomber Command Main Force.

Polaris A-3 and A-3TK

In the 1960s, the United Kingdom began development of the A-3 Polaris missile, an intermediate range, solid fueled, MIRV capable SLBM. The missile was deployed in the 1960s, and has served as the cornerstone of Britain's strategic nuclear deterrent ever since.

The original A-3 design is a two-stage solid fueled MIRV system with three 200 kT nuclear re-entry vehicles. It has a range of 4630 km, and a CEP of 900 meters. The TK version of this missile, code named "Chevaline," is an upgrade of the A-3 design and is based on the U.S. penetration aided system "Antelope". It comprises a Penetration Aid Carrier (PAC), the British version of a warhead dispensing system, capable of maneuvering in space and fitted with guidance sensors and a computer-controlled stable platform. Although the "Chevaline" system is not a MIRV system, the re-entry vehicle can be maneuvered. Testing of this system began in September 1977. Submarine launches took place on the Eastern test range off the coast of Florida. The upgrade, testing, and operationalization of both the A-3 and A-3TK was completed in 1986.

Trident II D-5

The Trident D-5 missile was first deployed on U.S. Ohio Class nuclear submarines in 1989. It is a three-stage solid fuel, MIRV capable, SLBM with a stellar-aided guidance system. The missile has a range of 12,000 km, and a CEP of 90 meters. In 1980, the United States agreed to sell the UK an unspecified number of Trident D-5s.

The U.K.'s D-5 Trident missiles are identical to those used by the United States, except for their warhead configurations. The missiles use the US designed MIRV bus with U.S. Mk 4 RVs but with UK-built warheads. These warheads are smaller than the U.S. W-76, and have a yield of approximately 100 kT. The U.K. does not outfit the Trident D-5 to full capacity. It appears that the U.K. outfits six warheads per missile, although it could load eight warheads per missile if it chose to do so.

According to the Military Balance 1997/98, the U.K. currently has 48 active Trident D-5 ballistic missiles aboard 3 Vanguard SSBN's. Although the majority of these missiles have six warheads each, some D-5 are loaded with single warheads for sub-strategic roles.

Kilder / Sources: Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States: Appendix III: Unclassified Working Papers: System Planning Corporation: "Non-Proliferation Issues".

Materials Production

Britain has had facilities to produce weapons grade plutonium at Windscale from 1950 to 1957, at Calder Hall since 1956 and at Chapelcross since 1958. Weapons grade plutonium could also be produced at other magnox reactors. Plutonium produced in the earlier years, which was not used in bombs exploded in nuclear tests, will have been recycled for use in future weapons. Some Trident warheads will contain plutonium produced in the 1950s and 1960s and other warheads will contain plutonium produced more recently. Likewise the HEU used in Trident nuclear weapons will be from a stockpile which includes recently enriched HEU as well as some enriched many years ago. The HEU for submarine reactors will be enriched several years before the fuel core is loaded - however as the requirement is spread over a 28 year period from 1988 to 2016 only a fraction of the enrichment work may have been completed so far.

Windscale fire of 10 October 1957.
Wakeford, R. (2007). "The Windscale reactor accident--50 years on" (PDF). Journal of Radiological Protection. 27 (3): 211–5.

Weapons Production

There are two indications of the warhead production capacity:

a. It was originally planned to produce all the nuclear warheads for Trident in the A90 facility at Aldermaston within 8 to 10 years. Assuming a stockpile target of 400 warheads this suggests that A90 would have a production capacity of between 40 and 50 warhead pits per year. The A45 facility has a production capacity less than half that of A45 - "the rate within the current facilities is under half the initial rate for the new facilities". This suggest that A45 could produce 20 to 25 warhead per year.

b. The production programme was altered and it was decided to produce all the warheads for HMS Vanguard and a proportion of the warheads for HMS Victorious in A45. The first Trident warhead pit was produced from A45 in December 1988. At the time it was assumed that A45 would be replaced by A90 during 1992, which implies that it was planned to produce around 100 in A45 during a 4 year period. This suggest that A45 could produce around 25 warheads per year.

Combining these two approaches, it would appear that A45 has a production capacity of around 25 warheads per year and A90 of around 50 warheads per year. There will be a gap of several months between pit production and when the warhead is completely assembled.
Kilder / Sources:
Scottish CND Magazine
Evans, Micahel: Nuclear Warheads 'being build in secret'. The Times, August 12, 1999
Simpson, Alan: The Next Chevaline Scandal? CND Special Report, 1999.

Baser med atomvåben / Bases with Nuclear Weapons

1st Submarine Squadron, Neptune Naval Base, Faslane.
Kilder / Sources:
Forsvarsministeriet / Ministry of Defence, London

Since April 1998 all British nuclear weapons have been based in Scotland. Trident submarines operate from Faslane and the adjacent Coulport nuclear depot. The submarines are:

HMS Vanguard armed with 48 warheads, carried out its first patrol in December 1994, due to go into Devonport Dockyard for a refit in 2002
HMS Victorious armed with 48 warheads, carried out its first patrol in January 1996
HMS Vigilant armed with 48 warheads, carried out its first patrol in June 1998
HMS Vengeance launched in September 1998, due to be operational in 2001.

See also:
Ainslie, John: Trident: Britain's Weapon of Mass Destruction. Scottish CND. - 1999. - 32 pp. : ill.
Zelter, Angie: Tri-Denting it Handbook : An Open Guide to Trident Ploughshares 2000. - Norwich : Trident Ploughshares 2000, 1998. - pp. 92.

The annual cost of Trident

Operating Trident submarines [1] £277 million
Nuclear Warhead programme [2] £410 million
Conventional forces [3] £308 million
Other costs [4] £ 60 million

Annual total £1055 million (£1 billion)

Trident is costing the taxpayer over £1 billion every year. The government plans to keep Trident in service for 26 more years, until 2025, so the total cost would be over £26 billion.


[1] The average annual Trident operating cost is given as £277 million in the Strategic
Defence Review (SDR), July 1998. This is a low estimate, the equivalent average annual cost for Polaris from 1981 to 1991 was £400 million (Hansard 13/11/97)
[2] The cost of the nuclear weapon programme in 1997/98 was £410 according to the Srategic Defence Review. [3] The government have said that the average operating cost of conventional forces committed to protecting and supporting Trident is £125 million (Hansard 2/11/98). To this has been added £53 million, 30% of the operating cost of contingent forces (Hansard 2/11/98), plus an annual element of the cost of procuring the vessels and aircraft, over £3 billion.
[4] The basic operating cost figure underestimates the proportion of Coulport/Faslane running costs attributed to Trident by £30 million. Also at least £30 million should be added to allow for major modifications. The experience of Polaris shows that major upgrades would be required to keep Trident in service for 30 years. These are only some of the costs which are omitted from the official figures.
Kilder / Sources:
John Ainslie, Scottish CND Magazine

Atomvåbenproducenter / Nucelar Weapons Production, England

Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment
British Nuclear Fuels Limited
British Aerospace
British Aerospace is Britain's largest aerospace company. It was formed in 1977 by the merger of British Aircraft Corporation(BAC)… Hawker Siddeley Aviation, Hawker…
FAS Email Archives -- Arms transfer documentation.
Summaries of and links to online news reports and commentaries.
British Aerospace on defensive as activists disrupt annual meeting.
Gow, David: US offers 7.000 jobs to swing missile deal. Guardian 15-06-1997.
Burghfield Atomic Weapons Establishment
Calder Hall
Cardiff Atomic Weapons Establishment
DERA. See also annual report 1997. …"The magnetic treatment of the 3rd Trident SSBN (HMS VIGILANT)"
Devonport Dockyard
DTEO Division
"Of particular importance over the last year has been the involvement with the TRIDENT SSBN programme".
Foulness Atomic Weapons Establishment
The General Electric Company, p.l.c.
GEC Marconi
Hunting PLC
NNC Limited
Rolls Royce and Associates, Derby, Springfields and Dounray
Nuclear reactors 1 Rolls Royce PWR-2
Britain has 139 tons of plutonium. That’s a real problem.. / : Christopher Fichtlscherer, Friederike Frieß, Moritz Kütt. / Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, April 17, 2020.
The United Kingdom’s last plutonium reprocessing plant, B205, located in Sellafield in northern England, will shut down by the end of 2020. It will bring an end to the era of plutonium separation in the country, which began 68 years ago. Because the United Kingdom never used any of the material it recouped from reprocessing except in nuclear weapons, today it has amassed a stockpile of almost 139 metric tons of separated plutonium.
Vickers Shipbuilders Engineering Limited
Vectra Technologies at HM Naval Base Faslane
Vectra Technologies replaced Rosyth Defence Ltd on November 1992 with a three-year contractwith extensions to March 1997.
VSEL Submarine Machinery Installation Testing Establishment

Generelt, nyheder Nuke News :

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists -
The Conversion Project
"A-Z Antinuclear Weblinks"

Kilder / Sources:
Nuclear Age Peace Foundation -
Scottish CND
Trident Ploughshares

Hvad skal det nytte?

Hvem er de britiske atomubåde rettet imod? Under den kolde krig var målene Warshawapagtens medlemmer, men i dag er fjendebilledet grumset. Hvem kan true englænderne så meget, at de vil anvende deres atomvåben?

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