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  • Writer's pictureThe Paladins

Fragments from a War Diary, Part #347

Yesterday it was reported that a Trident missile, a so-called submarine-launched ballistic missile (“SLBM”), fired from one of the United Kingdom’s Vanguard class of submarines, had failed in a test launch. Instead of heading towards its target in an unspecified location between West Africa and Brazil, it flopped harmlessly into the sea in a location close to the launch position. The Trident missiles carry Britain’s and the United States’ nuclear deterrent - or, in the United States’ case, one component of it. The theory underlying Britain’s nuclear deterrent is that the various Vanguard class submarines serve to undertake a “second strike” capacity with nuclear warheads on Russian cities: that is to say, in the event of a reported attack with nuclear weapons on the United Kingdom, then the Trident missiles, installed on submarines hidden in the depths of the seas around Russia and unable to be located by Russian sonar or similar technology due to their depth and their radio silence, will launch these missiles with nuclear warheads at Moscow and other Russian principal population centres, obliterating them and destroying Russian civilisation completely.

Indeed they are designed in such a way as to do this automatically should they not periodically receive a signal from London, routinely sent in radio waves, confirming that the United Kingdom has not been struck by nuclear weapons. In this way, deterrence of the Russian Federation from attacking the United Kingdom using nuclear warheads is complete: any strike upon the United Kingdom would result in the total destruction of the Russian Federation. Even the United Kingdom’s relatively modest SLBM nuclear deterrent is enough to wipe Russia off the face of the map. Knowing that an attack upon the United Kingdom will trigger such a response with SLBM nuclear warheads, Russian leaders are fully and effectively deterred from issuing orders to strike the United Kingdom with nuclear weapons, because they know that to do so would entail their owns deaths in a matter of minutes. Trident SLBM’s travel at Mach 18, and each can carry multiple nuclear warheads creating a burst effect over several Russian cities at once. Therefore there is no prospect of Russian air defences shooting them down. They travel too fast. Hence the deterrent effect of Trident SLBM’s is absolute.

Unless they don’t work.

Notwithstanding various platitudinous reassurances on the part of the British Ministry of Defence yesterday, it turns out that the last time the British government tested one of these missiles was eight years ago, in 2016, and that failed too. In fact the last successful launch of an SLBM by any country was in 2012. In other words, it has been over 12 years since this technology has been tested successfully, and we have no idea whether it still works, The British government has stated that Trident remains the most effective SLBM in the world, but frankly that is a piece of hyperbole; there are very few of these complex weapons systems, and nobody has tried using one successfully for over a decade (except for the Russians who fired one from the Caspian Sea into Syria during the Syrian Civil war, with a conventional warhead, just to show off their technological prowess - but that was not a sub-spatial SLBM in the nature of Trident designed to detonate multiple nuclear warheads on different locations simultaneously).

SLBM technology is intricate and complex. It requires opening a hatch in a submarine and launching a complex ballistic missile with solid state rocket fuel up through the water, from significant depth; then once the missile is clear of the water, it hovers and pivots simultaneously to launch itself into a sub-spatial orbit whereupon it divides into a series of missiles each of which have nuclear warheads on them that are directed towards different targets and each of which will detonate in an air burst above ground to maximise destructive impact. Each warhead (and each missile carries several warheads) will typically involve a hydrogen bomb whose fuse itself is a regular atomic bomb (the so-called “spark plug) that itself has a regular detonator to reach the requisite heat for nuclear fission. And nobody has tested an SLBM with a nuclear warhead, with all this complex technology, in living memory.

There are so many things that could go wrong. The guidance systems might malfunction - a software or satellite problem. The electronics may corrode. The mechanical features of this very intricate technology might fail. Operators may simply forget how to use them - if you are only testing them once every eight years, presumably you don’t have many skilled personnel with the experience of frequent use. The warheads might fail in a wide variety of ways. And we are supposed not to worry.

We are told that it costs GBP17 million to test each Trident missile - and that’s without a warhead. So the taxpayer has been saved money. But the net result is that the United Kingdom has been left without a credible nuclear deterrent, something the Russians must find incredibly funny. We are now exposed to nuclear attack by Russia, at just the moment we are entering the Second Cold War.

The Russians and the Americans have the same problems. Minuteman ICBM’s, fired from silos in the western United States, have not been tested for decades either. Russian silo-based ICBM’s are likewise an unknown and that is one reason why Russia has been developing advanced nuclear-capable aeroplane-launched missiles. The Russians are testing missile technology in the course of the Ukraine invasion which is capable of carrying nuclear warheads and in doing this, whereas the West is not and its nuclear programmes are lying fallow, Russia is advancing ahead of the West in the nuclear arms race. How did all this come about? It arose through complacency, and now the United Kingdom and the West more generally are humiliated in showing their nuclear deterrent to be denuded of all capacity and Russia realises that she has the upper hand. Nuclear arms races are not things about which you can afford to be idle in World War III. It would have been better had we not tested the Trident missile at all, because at least then we would have retained an air of mystery. Now we just look foolish.

The necessary consequences? Massive reinvestment in the nuclear arms industry, to beat the Russians before they become the dominant global military power and use their new ballistic missile technology to terrorise the world.


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