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Issue No. 28, July 1998

The Strategic Defence Review: Extracts & Documentation

United Kingdom Strategic Defence Review (SDR), 'Modern Forces for a Modern World,' UK Ministry of Defence (MoD), 8 July 1998

Editor's note: the full text of the SDR, plus supporting documentation, can be found on the Ministry of Defence website at http://www.mod.uk/policy/sdr/index.htm

Introduction Introduction by the Secretary of State for Defence, the Rt. Hon. George Robertson MP

"1. The British people are rightly proud of their Armed Forces. They want, indeed expect, the Government to provide strong defence. The Strategic Defence Review does just that. By modernising and reshaping our Armed Forces to meet the challenges of the 21st century, this Review will give our Services the firm foundation they need to plan for the long term.

2. The Review is radical, reflecting a changing world, in which the confrontation of the Cold War has been replaced by a complex mixture of uncertainty and instability. These problems pose a real threat to our security, whether in the Balkans, the Middle East or in some troublespot yet to ignite. If we are to discharge our international responsibilities in such areas, we must retain the power to act. Our Armed Forces are Britain's insurance against a huge variety of risks.

3. While the Review will lead to a fundamental reshaping of our forces, I have ensured that it is firmly grounded in foreign policy and sound military experience. It builds on the strengths of our people as well as our long and distinguished military traditions. This mixture of radical change and solid planning has been fused through a process of wide consultation to produce a package which has the wholehearted support of the Service Chiefs of Staff. I too am confident that the Strategic Defence Review will give them the tools to do the job.

4. At the heart of the Review is a series of initiatives across defence to co-ordinate the activities of the three Services more closely, pooling their expertise and maximising their punch, while at the same time eliminating duplication and waste. The most important of these tri-Service 'Joint' approaches is the new Joint Rapid Reaction Forces, which will be the spearhead of Britain's modernised, rapidly deployable and better supported front line.

5. As the result of a historic proposal from the First Sea Lord and the Chief of the Air Staff, the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force will build on the success of recent operations in the Gulf and co-operate to develop a new Joint Force 2000. The RAF and RN Harrier jets of this force will be able to operate equally effectively from aircraft carriers or land bases. We will also bring together our battlefield helicopters under a single command, and expand the responsibilities and role of our Chief of Joint Operations.

6. In the post Cold War world, we must be prepared to go to the crisis, rather than have the crisis come to us. So we plan to buy two new larger aircraft carriers to project power more flexibly around the world. New transport aircraft and ships will move our people and equipment rapidly to troublespots.

7. If we ask our forces to fight, we must be sure they will win. That means we must correct the deep-seated problems we inherited from the previous government, most obviously in the medical and logistics areas, to ensure that our forces are properly supported. Past cuts in support have been presented as 'trimming the tail without blunting the teeth'. The reality is that logistic support is the life-blood of the forces, and we must ensure that our forces get the back up they need.

8. At the same time we must focus our effort on the capabilities we need to be successful today. That will mean reductions in some areas which were needed primarily to meet Cold War threats. So we will place somewhat less emphasis on open ocean anti-submarine warfare and have fewer tanks and fast jets in the front line. We will retain our nuclear deterrent with fewer warheads to meet our twin challenges of minimum credible deterrence backed by a firm commitment to arms control. We will also radically reorganise our procurement and logistics organisations to spur efficiency and drive through best business practice. Then we will use the headroom we have generated to ensure that we have the forces we need to meet the new challenges.

9. Our Reserve Forces must also adapt to the new world. We must make our Reserves relevant and usable by integrating them more closely with regular units and improving their training and specialist skills so that we can deploy them more easily on operations.

10. We should also have a weather eye to the much longer term. Technology is likely to race ahead. It will pose new threats and challenges, such as systematic attacks on computer networks. We must work closely with our Allies to counter these problems. Yet technology may also open up radically new ways for our Armed Forces to operate. Again, we are alive to the possibilities and will work closely with our Allies to ensure that we reap the maximum benefit from such change.

11. This is a massive agenda for change. To design it we have drawn on the skills of all of our people in what I believe is the most open and inclusive defence review ever conducted. Hundreds of experts from within the MoD, the Armed Forces and elsewhere have given a great deal of time over the past year to produce the most significant reshaping of our Armed Forces in a generation. I am very grateful to all of them for the time, energy and ideas they have so generously given.

12. It is absolutely right that we should have consulted so widely; we need to harness the enthusiasm of all of our people to implement these changes and set defence on to a positive road once more. People throughout the Armed Forces have a very large stake in that future, and I have tried to take on as many of their ideas as possible. After a decade of cuts and drift, our people are looking for a positive vision for the future of the Armed Forces, and I believe the Review delivers that.

13. All too often in the past the importance of people in delivering the results we want has been ignored. All three Services have been overstretched because of the demanding pattern of our operations, and I am determined to put that right.

14. We also need to attract and retain the brightest and the best of our young people. To achieve that I intend to expand dramatically the educational opportunities open to members of the Armed Forces, both while they are serving and after they leave the Services. My 'Learning Forces' initiative, tied into the Government's 'Learning Age' proposals, will give our young people the skills they need to make the best possible contribution to the Armed Forces, and equip them with the transferable qualifications they want once they return to civilian life.

15. We ask our people to do difficult and dangerous jobs, and many of them regularly put their lives on the line. It is therefore right that we should provide them with the best possible equipment. Led by projects such as the world-beating Eurofighter, we will completely overhaul the equipment used by the forces over the next decade. That will be good for our people, and good for Britain's defence industry.

16. To complete this ambitious programme we must apply modern management methods to ensure that we deliver results as efficiently as possible for the taxpayer. Indeed, the continuing push for greater efficiency is an integral part of our plans to drive down costs to pay for the modernisation of our forces. To assist the process we will establish a tri-Service Chief of Defence Logistics, who will be responsible for delivering best business practice throughout our support services. This is another huge change for the Ministry, which will allow us to co-ordinate and standardise our support services properly for the first time.

17. We are also determined to introduce the best of modern commercial management techniques to the procurement of defence equipment. Too often in the past our new equipment has been too expensive and delivered too late. That is why, as part of the Review, we asked a team from industry, the Services and the consultants McKinsey to study the best ways to learn from companies in areas as diverse as oil exploration and car production, in our search for better ways to provide equipment. Their conclusions will lead to a fundamental overhaul of our procurement processes in my Smart Procurement Initiative.

18. Underpinning the changes to our forces is our reinforced international commitment. NATO will continue as the cornerstone of our defence planning, and we intend to build on our role as a leading European member of the Alliance. Our commitment to the United Nations, through our permanent membership of the Security Council, is also strengthened. We support efforts to help make the UN a more effective tool in resolving international problems. We are also prominent members of the OSCE and the WEU.

19. The British are, by instinct, an internationalist people. We believe that as well as defending our rights, we should discharge our responsibilities in the world. We do not want to stand idly by and watch humanitarian disasters or the aggression of dictators go unchecked. We want to give a lead, we want to be a force for good.

20. That is why the Government is committed to strong defence, and sound defence is sound foreign policy. As Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General, said 'You can do a lot with diplomacy but, of course, you can do a lot more with diplomacy backed up with firmness and force'. It is my strong belief that the Strategic Defence Review will deliver Modern Forces for the Modern World which will enable Britain to achieve a 'lot more' in the 21st century."

Chapter Four: Deterrence and Disarmament

"60. Deterrence is about preventing war rather than fighting it. All our forces have an important deterrent role but nuclear deterrence raises particularly difficult issues because of the nature of nuclear war. The Government wishes to see a safer world in which there is no place for nuclear weapons. Progress on arms control is therefore an important objective of foreign and defence policy. Nevertheless, while large nuclear arsenals and risks of proliferation remain, our minimum deterrent remains a necessary element of our security.

61. The Strategic Defence Review has conducted a rigorous re-examination of our deterrence requirements. This does not depend on the size of other nation's arsenals but on the minimum necessary to deter any threat to our vital interests. We have concluded that we can safely make further significant reductions from Cold War levels, both in the number of weapons and in our day-to-day operating posture. Transparency about nuclear weapons holdings also plays a part in arms control and, although we cannot give precise details of all aspects of our deterrent, we intend to be significantly more open in some areas.


62. With the withdrawal of the last RAF WE177 bombs in March 1998, Trident is our only nuclear weapon. We need to ensure that it can remain an effective deterrent for up to 30 years. This is why we need a force of four Trident submarines. The last of these, VENGEANCE, will be launched later this year.

63. Similarly, we must judge our weapons requirements against the worst circumstances that we might face over Trident's life, however remote they may seem today. The credibility of deterrence also depends on retaining an option for a limited strike that would not automatically lead to a full scale nuclear exchange. Unlike Polaris and Chevaline, Trident must also be capable of performing this 'sub-strategic' role.

64. Against this background, taking into account Trident's greater accuracy than Polaris, the Review has concluded that we need a stockpile of less than 200 operationally available warheads. This is a reduction of a third from the maximum of 300 announced by the previous government and represents a reduction of more than 70% in the potential explosive power of the deterrent since the end of the Cold War.

65. We have also concluded, in the light of improved strategic circumstances, that the 58 missile bodies we have already purchased are sufficient to maintain a credible deterrent.

Operating Posture

66. We intend to maintain continuous at-sea deterrent patrols, not least to avoid misunderstanding or escalation if a Trident submarine were to sail during a period of crisis. But the relaxation of tension and vast improvement in current strategic conditions since the end of the Cold War also permit us to adopt a reduced day-to-day alert state.

67. We will have only one submarine on patrol at a time, carrying a reduced load of 48 warheads. This compares with the previous government's announced ceiling of 96. This is a huge step change from the Polaris era. Although Trident is now our only nuclear weapon and covers both strategic and sub-strategic requirements, the potential explosive power deployed on a Trident submarine is one third less than a Polaris submarine armed with Chevaline.

68. The submarine's missiles will not be targeted and it will normally be at several days 'notice to fire'. This reduced state of alert will enable greater use of ballistic missile submarines for secondary tasks such as exercises with other vessels, equipment trials and hydrographic work. Similarly, current threat levels do not require large numbers of conventional forces permanently allocated to the protection of the deterrent. We will, however, ensure that we can restore a higher state of alert should this become necessary at any time.

Arms Control

69. Arms control plays an important part in our security. The United Kingdom is party to several arms control agreements which have contributed significantly to lowering tensions in Europe and to limiting the spread of weapons of mass destruction. We are committed to building on these agreements to further develop international confidence and stability. A key current task is the revision of the 1990 Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty to ensure its continued relevance in the new strategic circumstances. We are also contributing to a number of other arms control initiatives and enhancing our national monitoring capabilities.

70. On nuclear arms control, the Government hopes for further bilateral reductions in US and Russian strategic weapons through the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty process. We also hope to see progress towards reducing the thousands of Russian shorter range weapons. Our own arsenal, following the further reductions described above, is the minimum necessary to provide for our security for the foreseeable future and very much smaller than those of the major nuclear powers. Considerable further reductions in the latter would be needed before further British reductions could become feasible.

71. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty are key elements in nuclear arms control. We have ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and we hope that other States - particularly including India and Pakistan - will quickly follow our example to enable it to enter into force. Greater transparency about nuclear programmes also adds to international trust and security. The measures described earlier in this chapter will be a significant step in this direction.

72. We can also be more open about fissile materials. Our current defence stocks are 7.6 tonnes of plutonium, 21.9 tonnes of highly enriched uranium and 15,000 tonnes of other forms of uranium. The reduction in planned warhead numbers will allow us to place a surplus of 0.3 tonnes of weapons grade plutonium under international safeguards (along with surplus non-weapons grade material). We will also cease exercising our right as a nuclear-weapon State under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to withdraw fissile material from safeguarded stocks for nuclear weapons. Future withdrawals will be limited to small quantities of materials not suitable for weapons purposes and the details will be made public. No material withdrawn from safeguards will be used in nuclear weapons. All planned future reprocessing will also be carried out under safeguards and we intend to publish an initial report by 2000 on past defence fissile material production.

73. The effectiveness of arms control agreements depends heavily on verification. The United Kingdom has developed particular expertise in the monitoring of fissile materials and nuclear tests. We plan to add to this by developing capabilities which could be used to verify reductions in nuclear weapons, drawing on the expertise of the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston. This will begin with a study lasting some 18 months to identify the technologies, skills and techniques required and what is available in this country.


74. We estimate the total cost of acquiring the Trident system to be about £12.5Bn, almost all of which has already been spent. On the basis of our experience so far, we estimate that the running cost of the Trident submarine force will average some £280M a year over its life time. The current annual cost of our warhead and fissile material programme is some £400M a year. About one third is directly related to Trident, almost a third is related to costs arising from previous nuclear weapons and the remainder is infrastructure costs.

75. These are very substantial costs but need to be seen in perspective. The annual cost (including the continuing costs from earlier programmes) is little more than 3% of the defence budget. This is not a disproportionate investment in a capability of such vital importance to our national security."

Chapter Eleven, Conclusion: Modern Forces for the Modern World

"199. The purpose of the Strategic Defence Review is to remodel Britain's defence policy and Armed Forces to meet the challenges of the next century. The Government's aim is strong, modern and cost- effective defence, now and for the longer term.

200. Strong defence provides our essential insurance against both short and longer term risks. NATO remains the foundation of Europe's and our own security. The Government will therefore seek to ensure that the Alliance maintains its credibility and effectiveness by adapting to new strategic circumstances. This requires us to continue to build positive security relationships with non-NATO countries and to maintain the effectiveness of NATO's collective security structure, including the development of a European Security and Defence Identity within the Alliance.

201. In an interdependent world, our security and safety is also tied up with wider security interests in international peace and stability. Here too, strong defence is the essential underpinning of a successful foreign policy. The importance of the role our forces can play in helping to build trust and reduce underlying causes of conflict, both in Europe and more widely, is reflected in the creation of the new Defence Diplomacy Mission. Our forces must also be able to back up our influence as a leading force for good in the world and meet our responsibilities towards the UN, by helping to prevent or manage crises. In the words of the UN Secretary General after this year's climbdown by Saddam Hussein, 'You can do a lot more with diplomacy backed up by firmness and force'. Ultimately, the Armed Forces must therefore be able to fight and win in modern conventional warfare.

202. Our forces contribute in many other ways to the community and our national life. Britain is rightly proud of its Armed Forces and what they have achieved. The Review maintains this tradition and seeks to develop it in line with the Government's wider objectives for a modern and forward looking Britain, for example through the investment we make in education and training, in research and development, and in support for defence industry and exports.

203. Our first priority in modernising our forces has been to maximise their effectiveness in today's strategic environment. A process of transformation has been under way since the end of the Cold War, and much has already been achieved. But the Strategic Defence Review has confirmed our view in Opposition that the transformation was incomplete, that it had taken some wrong turnings and left some vital capabilities inadequately resourced, that people had in some ways been neglected and that a more radical approach was needed in many areas.

204. The Review will reshape our forces to give them genuine utility for dealing with the problems of the future, rather than just an appearance of strength. A properly manned, well trained and more flexible front line will be complemented by more effective and more usable Reserves. One of our highest priorities will be the improvement of our defences against chemical and biological attacks on our deployed forces. We will also press ahead with implementing the Review's measures to improve our capability for overseas operations particularly through the creation of powerful Joint Rapid Reaction Forces, extra investment in essential enabling capabilities such as strategic transport, medical and logistic support, and the further extension of joint operational capabilities.

205. The Strategic Defence Review looks well into the 2lst century because we need to provide the armed forces with a clear vision of their role in a changing world. The Review also looks a long way ahead because equipment being developed will be in service well into the next century, because capabilities given up today could take more than a decade to recreate, and because the ethos and professionalism of our people are irreplaceable. It has not tried to predict the future decades in advance but to ensure that our defence plans are robust against a range of eventualities. The Review's plans are also designed to enable us to exploit developments in technology, training, tactics and strategy.

206. By 2015, the Review expects further major change in methods of warfare. Operations will no longer be characterised as land, sea or air. There will instead be a single battlespace in which land, maritime and air forces will be directed, targeted and supplemented by a new generation of intelligence, surveillance, information and communications systems offering a step change in military capability. But to take full advantage of this we will need to evolve new ways of organising and fighting. Above all, we will need highly skilled and adaptable personnel.

207. Success will depend even more than now on rapid and precise military action to achieve political objectives. And we can expect the advance of civil technology not only to drive what some call a revolution in vital areas of military capability but also to confront us with new and unconventional threats. The Review will continue the evolution of our forces to meet these challenges: well equipped and supported, designed for joint and multi-national operations and fully manned with highly motivated and skilled people.

208. By 2015, the Review plans a new generation of military equipment. This includes attack helicopters, long range precision munitions, digitised command and control systems, a new generation of aircraft carriers, submarines and escorts, the Eurofighter multi-role fighter and the development of a successor to the Tornado bomber. Our radical reform of the procurement process will also make it easier to exploit new technology as it becomes available.

209. The development of the joint approach to defence, integrating the resources and skills of the three Services and their civilian support to produce the maximum capability, runs through all our plans. The Review has also emphasised that military effectiveness of modern armed forces depends more than ever on the quality of their logistic and other support. It has added impetus to the drive for extra effectiveness and efficiency, adopting and where necessary adapting modern means and best practice. In particular, the Review marks a major extension of Joint Service activity into the support area, including the introduction of a Chief of Defence Logistics.

210. But the Review is far from a technological or equipment based vision. It has put people at the heart of its long term plans as well as tackling immediate problems of undermanning and overstretch. The challenges of the future will make it even more critical that we are able to recruit and retain the brightest and best for the Armed Forces and the Ministry of Defence. The Review incorporates long term personnel strategies aimed at making both military and civilian careers in defence more attractive, particularly through training and development. Crucially, it also provides a vision of defence relevant to the needs of our society in the 21st century.


211. The Strategic Defence Review has lived up to the Government's manifesto commitments. It has been based on our foreign and security policy needs in the new strategic environment. It builds on the strengths of our Armed Forces, remedies their weaknesses and provides a framework for a comprehensive process of modernisation which will:

  • provide strong defence and long term security insurance;
  • meet our national and NATO obligations;
  • promote our wider foreign and security policy interests; and
  • contribute to broader national objectives.

212. In short, the Strategic Defence Review will give Britain robust and modern defence at a reducing cost in real terms to underpin our foreign and security policies, now and well into the next century."

Supporting Essay: Deterrence, Arms Control, and Proliferation

"1. Deterrence, arms control and proliferation are critically important to Britain's security. All three issues have inspired sometimes heated public debate, and they have been the subject of many of the submissions made to the Strategic Defence Review and a major focus of the Review itself. ...


2. All of Britain's military capabilities have a role to play in preventing war. The possession of robust military forces, in conjunction with those of our Allies, presents potential adversaries with the prospect of losses outweighing any gains they might hope to make from aggression. Both nuclear and conventional forces therefore contribute to deterrence, providing a credible range of options for responding proportionately to an aggressor's behaviour.

3. But nuclear deterrence remains a controversial and complex issue because of the terrible consequences of any use of nuclear weapons. There are no easy answers here. The world would be a better place if such weapons were not still necessary, but the conditions for complete nuclear disarmament do not yet exist.

4. Progress has been made through the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty process in reducing Russian and United States strategic range nuclear forces and deployed warheads. Nonetheless, very large numbers of strategic and shorter range nuclear weapons, and substantial conventional military capabilities, remain as a potent potential threat to the security of Britain and our Allies should current circumstances change for the worse. We and NATO have radically reduced our reliance on nuclear weapons, but in present conditions nuclear deterrence still has an important contribution to make in insuring against the re-emergence of major strategic military threats, in preventing nuclear coercion, and in preserving peace and stability in Europe.

5. The Government's General Election Manifesto therefore promised to retain Trident as the ultimate guarantee of the United Kingdom's security while pressing for multilateral negotiations towards mutual, balanced and verifiable reductions in nuclear weapons. When we are satisfied with progress towards our goal of the global elimination of nuclear weapons, we will ensure that British nuclear weapons are included in negotiations.

Britain's Nuclear Capability

6. Against this background, we have undertaken a fundamental re-examination of all aspects of Britain's nuclear posture. Three Trident submarines are already in service. The fourth and last, VENGEANCE, will be launched later this year and will enter service around the turn of the century. This fleet of four submarines will enable us to maintain continuous deterrent patrols over the lifetime of the Trident force.

Nuclear Force Reductions

7. Circumstances have, however, changed dramatically since Trident was ordered. The improvements in the strategic landscape have clearly reduced the nuclear deterrent capability we need to underpin our security.

8. Reductions have already been made in our nuclear forces. Since 1992, the United Kingdom has given up:

  • the nuclear Lance missile and artillery roles we undertook previously with US nuclear weapons held under dual-key arrangements;
  • our maritime tactical nuclear capability, so that Royal Navy surface ships no longer have any capability to carry or deploy nuclear weapons;
  • all of our air-launched nuclear weapons.

Trident is now Britain's only nuclear system. We are the only nuclear power that has so far been prepared to take such an important step on the route to nuclear disarmament.

Warhead Numbers

9. The reductions described above are very significant. But the Strategic Defence Review has concluded that in the improved strategic environment we can now go further. We have decided that:

  • we will maintain fewer than 200 operationally available nuclear warheads, a reduction of one third from the previous government's plans;
  • Trident submarines on deterrent patrol will carry 48 warheads. This is the same number as carried on our Polaris submarines when they entered service. It compares with the previous government's ceiling of 96 warheads on each submarine.
  • we have no operational need for any more than the 58 Trident missile bodies already delivered or on order.

10. At the end of the Cold War, our nuclear forces comprised Chevaline warheads on Polaris missiles and several hundred WE177 free-fall bombs in the sub-strategic role. In future:

  • we will have only half the number of operationally available nuclear weapons, with less than 30% of the explosive power;
  • the 48 warheads deployed on each Trident submarine to meet both our strategic and sub-strategic requirements will have an explosive power one third less than the 32 Chevaline warheads which were eventually deployed on each Polaris submarine. ...

Nuclear Operational Posture

12. The new strategic environment also enables us to maintain our nuclear forces at reduced readiness:

  • only one Trident submarine is on deterrent patrol at any time;
  • the submarines are routinely at a 'notice to fire' measured in days rather than the few minutes' quick reaction alert sustained throughout the Cold War. Their missiles are de-targeted;
  • submarines on patrol will carry out a variety of secondary tasks, without compromising their security, including hydrographic data collection, equipment trials and exercises with other vessels;
  • over time we plan to reduce from double to single crews for each submarine, reflecting reduced operational tempo.

Other Options Considered in the Review

13. During the Review, consideration was given to more radical de-alerting measures, such as taking submarines off deterrent patrol, and removing warheads from their missiles and storing them separately ashore. Some of the outside inputs to the Review suggested Britain should move in these or similar directions. Our work concluded, however, that neither step would be compatible in current circumstances with maintaining a credible minimum deterrent with a submarine-based nuclear system. Ending continuous deterrent patrols would create new risks of crisis escalation if it proved necessary to sail a Trident submarine in a period of rising tension or crisis. The further step of removing warheads from missiles would also add a new vulnerability to our deterrent posture. This is a particular concern given our reduction to a single nuclear system. It could force a government into earlier and hastier decision making if strategic circumstances were to deteriorate. Either step would undermine the stabilising role that Britain's nuclear deterrent forces would otherwise play in a developing crisis.

Atomic Weapons Establishment

14. For as long as Britain has nuclear forces, we will ensure that we have a robust capability at the Atomic Weapons Establishment to underwrite the safety and reliability of our nuclear warheads, without recourse to nuclear testing. There are no current plans for any replacement for Trident, and no decision on any possible successor system would be needed for several years. But we have concluded that it would be premature to abandon a minimum capability to design and produce a successor to Trident should this prove necessary. However, the Government's aim is to take forward the process of nuclear disarmament to ensure that our security can in future be secured without nuclear weapons.

Nuclear Transparency

15. Maintaining a degree of uncertainty about our precise capabilities is a necessary element of credible deterrence. Nonetheless, this Government is committed to being as open as possible about Britain's nuclear forces. The information we have now given about the number of warheads deployed on our Trident submarines and on aspects of previous systems such as our WE177 bombs, Polaris and Chevaline goes considerably further than previous governments. We will also be more open about stocks of fissile material; details are set out in paragraph 26.

Trident Acquisition Costs

16. The principle of greater openness applies to the costs of nuclear forces. The current estimate of the total acquisition cost of the Trident programme is £12.52Bn. This figure (known as the non-hybrid estimate) covers all expenditure, including payments already made, at the price base and exchange rate assumed in the latest long term costing of the Defence programme. It represents a reduction in real terms of £177M from last year.

17. The programme shows an overall reduction in costs, including the savings resulting from the decision to process missiles at the United States facility at Kings Bay, of some £3.7Bn compared with the original estimate. The vast majority of the costs of procuring Trident have now been spent. Expenditure on the Trident acquisition programme to the end of February 1998 represented some 91% of the estimate expressed in actual outturn prices.

Trident Operating Costs

18. Within the Review, the operating costs of the Trident force have been re-examined to ensure that all the costs relevant to the support of Trident have been identified and to take into account recent operating experience. This has shown that the average annual operating cost of the Trident force over a planned thirty-year life is expected to be around £280M. Earlier estimates derived from a less rigorous exercise conducted in advance of actual operating experience. This figure does not represent the amount that would be saved by giving up our deterrent given the substantial transitional costs that would be involved.

Nuclear Warhead Programme Costs

19. The nuclear warhead programme costs directly related to Trident in financial year 1997/98 are estimated at £114M. Expenditure on our nuclear warhead programme as a whole amounted to £410M. This included the cost of decommissioning weapons withdrawn from service; substantial continuing costs arising from earlier stages of our nuclear warhead programme; infrastructure costs at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (including expenditure to achieve safety and environmental improvements); and other activities, including support to other Government Departments and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty verification.

Arms Control

20. Consideration of how best to carry forward the Government's commitment to the elimination of nuclear weapons has been a key aspect of the Review. But this goal cannot be achieved in isolation from wider political and security realities, including the recent nuclear tests in India and Pakistan. The challenge is to create the conditions in which no State judges that it needs nuclear weapons to guarantee its security. The radical improvements in European security in recent years have shown that this is not an impossible objective. But it is not a task for the Nuclear-weapon States alone. All States have their part to play.

21. The Government welcomes the continuing bilateral START process between the US and Russia, and looks forward to prompt Russian ratification of START II, to enable early negotiations on further bilateral reductions in their strategic holdings, under START III, as agreed by Presidents Clinton and Yeltsin at Helsinki in March 1997. In parallel, with our NATO Allies, we are consulting with Russia in the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council on issues relating to Russia's continuing substantial holdings of non-strategic nuclear weapons.

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

22. The Government is unequivocally committed to Britain's obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The effective implementation of all its provisions is vital for global peace and security, and we attach great importance to the strengthened review process agreed in 1995. We also welcome the various measures taken by the International Atomic Energy Agency in recent years to strengthen its safeguards systems.

23. We have to stop nuclear proliferation to reach our goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. There is a clear international consensus that the way to achieve this is through the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). By testing, India and Pakistan have challenged this consensus. They risk igniting a dangerous arms race and endangering stability in and beyond their region. This is the wrong way to go. We and many other States, including through a resolution by the UN Security Council, have called upon both countries to join the global regime against nuclear proliferation by signing the CTBT and joining in negotiations on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty without conditions. We are seeking commitments that they will not weaponise or deploy nuclear weapons or missiles. Our goal continues to be the adherence by all States, including India and Pakistan, to the NPT as it stands. This treaty is the cornerstone of the international non-proliferation regime and the essential foundation for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament.

The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty

24. Britain ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty on 6 April this year, alongside France. We were the first two Nuclear-weapon States to do so, and hope the others will soon follow; this is a prerequisite for the Treaty to enter into force. By ending nuclear testing the Treaty constrains the development of new types of nuclear weapons. It therefore represents an important step towards global disarmament. Britain played an important role in the Treaty negotiations, particularly in the design of the International Monitoring System to verify compliance. The Government is working for its effective establishment at the earliest practicable date. Britain is one of the few countries so far to have paid its contributions to it in full. We will also maintain our national monitoring and analysis capability.

A Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty

25. To complement the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, a key priority is a verifiable, legally binding convention banning the future production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices (a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty). This is an essential step towards global elimination of nuclear weapons, and the Government is prepared to enter into immediate negotiations for such a treaty in the Conference on Disarmament.

Fissile Material Management

26. Britain is legally entitled to hold stocks of nuclear materials needed for national security outside international safeguards. As part of our commitment to the control of fissile material, the Government is now ready to be the first Nuclear-weapon State to declare the total size of these stocks. They comprise:

  • 7.6 tonnes of plutonium;
  • 21.9 tonnes of highly enriched uranium; and
  • 15,000 tonnes of other forms of uranium.

Much of this stock is no longer required for defence purposes, and 4.4 tonnes of plutonium, including 0.3 tonnes of weapons-grade plutonium, and over 9,000 tonnes of non-highly enriched uranium will now be placed under European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) safeguards, and made liable to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). All stocks of highly enriched uranium will, however, be retained outside safeguards, since material no longer needed for nuclear weapons will be used for the naval propulsion programme. We have considered whether further disaggregation of these totals at this time would be compatible with our continuing, if reduced, security requirement. We have concluded that it would not.

27. All re-processing of spent fuel from defence reactors at Chapelcross will in future be conducted under EURATOM safeguards and made liable to inspection by the IAEA. This will mean that all planned future reprocessing and enrichment in the UK will take place under international safeguards. We will, however, retain the right to resume such activities outside safeguards until agreement is reached on a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty. Britain also has the right to withdraw material from safeguards for reasons of national security (including such purposes as radiography at defence nuclear facilities), but withdrawals will be limited to small quantities of materials not suitable for explosive purposes, and the details will be made public. Defence nuclear facilities will continue to remain outside international supervision.

28. Eliminating nuclear weapons will require States which have had nuclear programmes outside international safeguards to account for fissile material produced. We will therefore begin a process of declassification and historical accounting with the aim of producing by Spring 2000 an initial report of defence fissile material production since the start of Britain's defence nuclear programme in the 1940s.

Nuclear Verification

29. Verification of arms control and non-proliferation agreements is critical to their effectiveness, and has therefore been examined in the Review. It has traditionally been an issue on which Britain has made a substantial contribution. Over time we have developed particular expertise in the nuclear field in the monitoring of fissile materials, particularly through our involvement in the development of the IAEA's safeguards system, and in monitoring of nuclear tests. The Government intends to maintain these strengths, which will be important in implementing the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and in negotiating a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty.

30. But Britain has only a very limited capability at present to verify the reduction and elimination of nuclear weapons. A programme is therefore being set in hand to develop expertise in this area, drawing in particular on the skills of specialists at the Atomic Weapons Establishment. A small team will be established to consider technologies, skills and techniques, and to identify what is already available to us in the United Kingdom. The Government will consider how to take this programme forward in the light of the team's interim conclusions. The aim is to ensure that, when the time comes for the inclusion of British nuclear weapons in multilateral negotiations, we will have a significant national capability to contribute to the verification process.

Negative Security Assurances

31. Britain has repeatedly made it clear that we will not use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear-weapon State not in material breach of its nuclear non-proliferation obligations, unless it attacks us, our Allies or a State to which we have a security commitment, in association or alliance with a nuclear-weapon State. Britain has also undertaken to seek immediate UN Security Council action to assist any non-nuclear-weapon State party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty that is attacked or threatened with nuclear weapons. In addition, we would be prepared to take appropriate measures in response to a request from the victim for technical, medical, scientific or humanitarian assistance.

32. We:

  • welcome and support the recent re-establishment of an Ad Hoc Committee on Security Assurances at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva;
  • believe that the further extension of regional nuclear-weapon-free zones has an important role to play where the conditions are right;
  • ratified the relevant protocols to the Treaty of Raratonga (South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone) in September 1997;
  • intend to ratify the protocols to the Treaty of Pelindaba (African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone) soon;
  • hope to be able to sign the protocol to the Treaty of Bangkok (South East Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone);
  • support the initiative by the States of Central Asia to establish a nuclear-weapon-free zone in their region.

33. In the modern world, nuclear weapons are not the only weapon of mass destruction. The Review therefore addressed the continuing risks arising from the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons. The Government is committed to their elimination. But the difficulty and complexity of this task should not be underestimated.

34. The Government's policy has two main strands:

  • existing international arms control and non-proliferation regimes must be strengthened, increasing the political and economic costs to proliferators, and the risk of their being detected by the international community;
  • as long as risks remain, British forces must be trained and equipped to operate in a chemical or biological environment. This fulfils our duty of care to our people and, by ensuring that there is no military benefit from using chemical or biological weapons, it reduces the incentives for a proliferator to acquire them.

In the long term, we seek to create the conditions where no State can credibly judge that the gains from acquiring such weapons would be equal to the costs and risks involved.

Chemical Weapons

35. The Chemical Weapons Convention was opened for signature in 1993 and entered into force last year. It bans the development, production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons, and requires the destruction of existing stockpiles. The Government is working closely with the international inspectorate - the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) - to ensure that the Treaty is implemented in full as soon as possible. The Chemical and Biological Defence sector at Porton Down has a programme to develop chemical and biological arms control technologies. We are also considering whether we can assist Russia in dismantling the vast stocks of chemical weapons it inherited from the Soviet Union.

36. Implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention in the United Kingdom is the responsibility of the Department of Trade and Industry. Britain was one of the first States to agree to have its relevant defence and industrial facilities inspected under the Convention, and all these inspections to date have been completed successfully. We are working with the OPCW in developing its inspection capabilities; in February this year, at our invitation, the OPCW conducted its first joint practice challenge inspection at RAF Valley in Anglesey.

Biological Weapons

37. The Government also wants to strengthen the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC), which entered into force in 1975. It is now known that at least two States, the Soviet Union and Iraq, conducted illegal offensive programmes for many years after signing it. Since 1996 negotiations have been underway in Geneva on measures to strengthen the Convention.

38. Britain is playing a major role in the BTWC negotiations and, during our Presidency, the European Union agreed a common position. This contains an undertaking to seek to conclude substantive negotiations this year, to allow an agreed Protocol to be adopted by the States Parties to the BTWC at a Special Conference early in 1999. It spells out four key elements which we believe must be in the Protocol:

  • declarations of a range of facilities and activities of potential relevance under the Convention, so as to enhance transparency;
  • provision for visits to facilities in order to promote accurate and complete declarations, and thus further enhance transparency and confidence;
  • provision for rapid and effective investigations into concerns over non-compliance, including facility and field investigations;
  • a cost-effective and independent organisation, including a small permanent staff, capable of implementing the Protocol effectively.

39. Britain has firmly supported the efforts of the United Nations Special Commission on Iraq (UNSCOM) to identify and destroy Iraq's arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, along with its nuclear weapons programmes and its ballistic missile delivery systems, in accordance with Iraq's own undertakings to this effect. But Iraq's latest attempts to evade its commitments under numerous UN Security Council resolutions, and the Soviet Union's previous clandestine offensive biological weapons programme, have demonstrated how difficult it is to prevent a nation determined to ignore international norms and controls from acquiring chemical or biological weapons.

The Risks From Proliferation

40. Our assessment is that there could be around 20 countries that either possess or have shown an interest in developing offensive chemical and/or biological warfare capabilities. The Government is also concerned about the nuclear programmes of some non-nuclear-weapons States, as well as India and Pakistan. Proliferation is not simply a matter of weapons but of delivery systems as well. These include ballistic missiles, which may be used to deliver nuclear, biological or chemical weapons. At present, any risk to Britain from the ballistic missiles of nations of concern in terms of proliferation is many years off, but the risk to some of our NATO allies is less distant; and British forces must be able to operate in regions, such as the Gulf, where they might face these risks.

Non-Proliferation and Export Controls

41. The Government strongly supports diplomatic measures to prevent the proliferation and development of chemical and biological weapons, and their means of delivery, and will continue to work actively to this end. Britain is a founding member of all the export control regimes (the Nuclear Suppliers Group, Zangger Committee, Australia Group, the Missile Technology Control Regime and the Wassenaar Arrangement) and we are committed to improving their effectiveness.

Defence Responses to Proliferation

42. In addition to these measures, we need military capabilities to address the risks to British forces deployed overseas posed by nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and their means of delivery. To do otherwise would be an unacceptable constraint on our political freedom of action and could put our people at undue risk. Britain has played a pivotal role in NATO work in defining the capabilities needed to respond to these risks. The Strategic Defence Review addressed responses which might now be required at the national level.

43. A crucial element is to ensure the fullest possible information on the intentions and capabilities of countries of concern. It is often difficult to establish the facts but we will continue to devote significant resources to this effort.

44. There is no 'silver bullet' which will provide a complete answer to the risks posed by chemical and biological weapons. What is needed is a balance of capabilities, to deter, counter, and defend against the use of such weapons. Protective measures will play an important part, including detection capabilities and the possibility of immunising personnel; so too will other conventional capabilities which can play a role in defeating key targets relating to the programmes of countries of concern.

Ballistic Missile Defence

45. A number of systems intended to destroy ballistic missiles are under development, notably in the United States. These may play a role within a balanced spectrum of capabilities to counter the risks posed by chemical and biological weapons and their means of delivery. But technologies in this area are changing rapidly and it would, at this stage, be premature to decide on acquiring such a capability. We will, however, monitor developments in the risks posed by ballistic missiles and in the technology available to counter them, participate in NATO studies, and work closely with our Allies to inform future decisions.

Review of Defence Responses to Proliferation

46. The Strategic Defence Review has heightened awareness of the challenge British forces would face if they had to operate in a potentially hostile nuclear, biological or chemical environment and has identified various inherited shortfalls in Britain's defensive capabilities against these weapons. To address these shortfalls, we will:

  • increase planned procurement of land-based biological detection equipments;
  • establish a joint Army and Royal Air Force nuclear, biological and chemical defence capability, manned mostly by Regular personnel, available at high readiness to help protect deployed forces;
  • continue to develop vaccines against known biological agents.

47. These measures will help meet immediate problems. In the longer term, we intend to go further to ensure a coherent national response to these threats. A further detailed review, building on work undertaken in NATO, has been set in hand. Work should be completed by the Summer Recess. A summary of the resulting conclusions will then be made public.

Conventional Arms Control

48. Conventional arms control has contributed very significantly to the overall lowering of tension in Europe. The Government is firmly committed, with our Allies and Partners, to proceed with this process. The main conventional arms control agreements involving the United Kingdom are the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE and CFE1A), the Vienna Document 94 and the Open Skies Treaty.

CFE Adaptation

49. The central challenge at present is to ensure the continuing relevance of the 1990 CFE Treaty. This limits the numbers of heavy weapons in the 30 countries of NATO and the former Warsaw Pact. Over 50,000 heavy weapons have now been destroyed or otherwise reduced since the Treaty was signed. But the Treaty was negotiated at the end of the Cold War, and now needs adapting to reflect changes in the European security environment. Negotiations between the 30 States Parties started in Vienna in January 1997, and are likely to last well into 1999. The Government is fully committed to their successful conclusion. As CFE is at the heart of co-operative European security, its adaptation is a fundamental part of NATO's developing relationship with Russia and other partners, and of the process of building security conditions in Europe which in time may allow us to dispense with nuclear weapons.

The Vienna Document and Open Skies

50. In the same vein and a similar timescale, work is under way to revise the Vienna Document 94. This is a politically binding agreement by the 54 participating States of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which promotes transparency, stability and openness in military affairs. Britain also continues to use contacts with Russia, Ukraine and Belarus to encourage their ratification of the 1992 Open Skies Treaty. When it enters into force, this will enhance other arms control agreements by providing for the over-flight and photography of participating States Parties' territory. To demonstrate that we are committed to putting principles into action, the Government will restore Britain's active contribution to Open Skies implementation by committing a specialised Andover aircraft to conduct photographic overflights, and encourage other States to undertake similar flights over Britain.

The Dayton Agreement

51. Britain also actively supports the Dayton Arms Control process as a member of the Contact Group. We welcomed the OSCE decision last December to initiate consultations and negotiations on a new agreement to further enhance stability and security in the Balkans and the surrounding region. This will build on the successes of the current agreements under Dayton Articles II (confidence and security building measures) and IV (CFE-style reductions and limitations).

Humanitarian Obligations

52. All States have an obligation to minimise and alleviate the consequences of conflict for innocent civilians. This is fundamental to an ethical security and defence policy, and we have clearly shown our commitment in this area, in particular by our efforts to ban anti-personnel landmines, and to ratify the Additional Protocols to the Geneva Convention.

Anti-Personnel Landmines

53. The Government has devoted much energy to the issue of anti-personnel landmines (APLs) since coming to office, and we were delighted to be among the first signatories of the Ottawa Convention on 3 December 1997. Our intention is to ratify the Convention as quickly as possible. In the meantime, work is well under way to fulfil our obligations under the Convention by, for example, a programme to destroy stockpiled operational APLs by 1 January 2000, well in advance of the agreed deadline. We have also considerably enhanced our activities in the area of humanitarian demining, for example by establishing a Mine Information and Training Centre at Minley, and by the gift of ten demining tractors to the HALO Trust.

Additional Protocols

54. The United Kingdom signed but did not ratify the Additional Protocols to the 1949 Geneva Conventions in 1977. They further codify and develop the laws of armed conflict set out in the Geneva Conventions and Britain played a leading role in their negotiation. Additional Protocol I contains rules protecting the victims of international armed conflict, particularly women and children. Additional Protocol II governs internal armed conflict and provides fundamental guarantees of humane treatment for persons who do not take part or have ceased to take a direct part in hostilities. We regarded our ratification after 20 years as a matter of priority. The United Kingdom accordingly ratified on 28 January 1998.


55. The Government is committed to the goal of the global elimination of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. We will work to create conditions in which even a minimum level of nuclear deterrence is no longer necessary. Until then, Britain will maintain the minimum level of nuclear deterrent necessary to prevent the possibility of major war in Europe. At the same time, we will work to remove the risk of proliferation of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons worldwide, while maintaining a robust defensive capability to protect British interests in the event of their use. The Government is convinced that the interconnecting policies and programmes set out above, which have either emerged from or been confirmed by the analysis and conclusions of the Strategic Defence Review, represent a coherent, ethical and militarily sound contribution to British security."

Fact Sheet: Land-Based Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Defences

"Although the threat of direct use of nuclear weapons against Britain has diminished since the end of the Cold War, more nations are gaining a military nuclear capability. And the proliferation of biological and chemical weapons programmes presents a continuing threat to our deployed forces. The SDR has therefore placed great emphasis on providing the Armed Forces with modern and effective nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) defences.

  • Recent operations, particularly in the Gulf, have confirmed the need for an improved joint land-based NBC defence capability as an integral part of our readily available forces.
  • New NBC capabilities are being developed and current capabilities reconfigured within the Army and RAF to equip our forces better for the more varied roles anticipated in the SDR.
  • To ensure that these capabilities are as effective as possible, we will develop a joint Army/RAF structure to operate them. We therefore plan to establish a joint Army/RAF NBC defence unit, which will provide an operational capability in NBC detection, reconnaissance and survey.
  • This unit will deliver a NBC defence capability at high and very high states of readiness for deployment on operations. It will also maximise joint training opportunities, build on current single Service expertise and establish joint performance standards.
  • The unit will comprise both Regular and Reserve components, which it will integrate to provide a high degree of operational capability across a broad range of readiness states."

Fact Sheet: Nuclear Deterrent

"The SDR has confirmed that in a changing and uncertain world, Britain continues to require a credible and effective minimum nuclear deterrent based on the Trident submarine force. This has provided Britain's only nuclear system since the withdrawal of the last of the RAF's free-fall nuclear bombs earlier this year, performing both the strategic and sub-strategic role.

  • We will therefore continue to maintain a posture of continuous deterrent patrols with a total force of four Trident ballistic missile submarines. The last Trident submarine, VENGEANCE, will enter service as previously planned around the turn of the century.
  • Our Trident force will continue to be allocated to NATO in both the strategic and sub-strategic roles. It will however remain operationally independent and available for use by the United Kingdom alone in a case of supreme national need.
  • But continuing improvements in the overall international environment allow us to maintain our nuclear forces at reduced readiness and to make reductions in warhead numbers.
  • The SDR has concluded that we can maintain a credible deterrent while making the following changes in our nuclear posture:

- the single Trident submarine on deterrent patrol at any time will carry 48 warheads (the same number as deployed on each Polaris submarine when they entered service);

- we will maintain a stockpile of fewer than 200 operationally available warheads;

- the submarines will routinely be at a 'notice to fire' measured in days rather than the few minutes quick reaction alert that we sustained throughout the Cold War;

- submarines on patrol will carry out a variety of secondary tasks, without compromising their security, including hydrographic data collection, equipment trials and exercises with other vessels;

- we plan over time to reduce to single crews for each submarine, reflecting reduced operational tempo and reducing operating costs.

  • We have also taken an initiative to increase openness about our nuclear capabilities by releasing details of our defence stocks of plutonium and highly enriched uranium.
  • In parallel, the Government will press for multilateral negotiations towards mutual, balanced and verifiable reductions in nuclear weapons. British nuclear weapons will be included in such negotiations when the Government is satisfied with verified progress towards the goal of the global elimination of nuclear weapons."

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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