A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Good news

This is very heartening news.


Blogger Hughes Views said...

Yes indeed. And, although some of my lefter leaning friends won't comprehend why, it should save the defence budget quite a bit of cash...

10:54 am, November 17, 2006

Anonymous Andy said...

Very heartening. However, I am not convinced that we need to go the whole hog and replace trident with another sub launched ICBM system. The Astute class submarines currently under construction could be used to fire nuclear tipped tomahawks at a fraction of the cost of a new ICBM sub.

Granted, tomahawks don't have the range, and are easier to shoot down than ICBMs, but given the type of people we are likely to want to nuke (i.e. we are unlikely to need to go up against Soviet style anti-missile defences) I think they would provide a perfectly adequate deterrent. I am suprised that no one is talking about this as an option. What do you think Luke?

1:53 pm, November 17, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

It depends whether you expect Russia and China to always over the coming decades be friendly trading partners as opposed to reverting to being a military threat (perhaps because of competition for mineral resources or similar). I don't expect them to turn nasty but wouldn't want to lose our ICBM insurance policy, just in case.

I would also be concerned that a tactical as opposed to strategic, ICBM based nuclear force might have a lower threshold for use i.e. start being a tool for warfighting rather than war-detering.

Additionally the Trident system gives you subs that can hide away in the deep ocean nowhere near their target and undetectable - essential to avoid losing our deterrent in a first strike (indeed if a deterrent can be knocked out it incentivises a pre-emptive strike) whereas Astute + Cruise would have to be in a vulnerable semi-littoral area near the target for range reasons. It has to get there too - and subs don't go very fast - so can't provide the instant 24/7 365 days a year deterrent threat Trident does.

2:08 pm, November 17, 2006

Anonymous Andy said...

You are right to identify the vulnerability of Astute at the point of firing, but I think it unlikely that Astute boats could be knocked out in a first strike. They are almost as difficult to detect as the Trident subs.

I also think the trident system is more vulnerable than your analysis implies. Remember that we only have one Trident boat on station at any one time so although it is difficult to detect, it is placing all of our eggs in one basket.

While with the Astute, if it took on the deterrent carrying role in addition to the attack role, we would have more of them (up to 6?) so you could actually increase the size of the deterrent bearing force and scatter it around a bit if the international situation warranted it.

2:30 pm, November 17, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

I'm not sure I fancy the idea of mixing up the role of a boat lobbing conventional Tomahawks for land attack in with carrying nuclear ones.

The particular psychological factors inherent in crewing and commanding boats that carry nukes and whose role is to deter mean that I'm not sure you want them double-roled for a job that required a rather more liberal attitude to pushing the "fire" button.

However, if the Navy think it's workable...

Stand by though as soon as sub launched ICBMs are questioned for inter-service rivalry as the RAF start arguing to resurrect their V-bomber era role as guardians of the strategic deterrent - (nuclear equipped Storm Shadow for stand-off air launched cruise effect?)

John Hutton might have something to say about the future of Barrow shipyard if there's no new generation of SSBNs...

2:49 pm, November 17, 2006

Anonymous Andy said...

As the Astutes are built in Barrow, and we'd need more of them if we they were to take on a deterrent bearing role, I'm not sure that your last point is an issue.

I see nothing wrong with developing a nuclear tipped storm shadow too. Surely the more cost effective deterrent options we have the better? We could have loads more nukes for the price and that's got to be a good thing?

2:56 pm, November 17, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

It is an issue - keeping the skills needed to sustain a nuclear-powered submarine industry mean you always need some boats being designed & built. Once they stop building the Astute class, if there is not a new class i.e. SSBN replacements for Vanguard, that's it, no submarine industry because no need for designers so the skills are lost - whereas a new class would sustain the skills through until you start designing the replacements for Astute... There's a defence committee hearing taking evidence from the unions on this on Tuesday.

3:09 pm, November 17, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

" ... indeed if a deterrent can be knocked out it incentivises a pre-emptive strike ... "



Yuk! Your opinions on defence are odious enough; but to use language like that is disgusting. Wash your mouth out with London tap water and start using English again, please!

8:14 am, November 18, 2006

Blogger Harry Perkins said...

Are there any interests you wish to declare which might relate to this subject, Lukey boy?

5:15 pm, November 18, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Harry - fair question but no I don't have any interests to declare on this as whilst it's no secret that I work advising defence companies I don't work on this issue and nor does anyone else at my company. If I did, I wouldn't be able to write about it here as my professional code of conduct means I have to keep my political life (which this blog is part of) separate from my work life. The people that make subs at Barrow (BAE) are actually a client of my main commercial rivals.

5:59 pm, November 18, 2006

Anonymous Alex said...

The comment that this is 'very heartening news', and the tone of conversation on this thread is stomach turningly repulsive.

Heartening news would be that the genocide in Darfur was coming to an end; heartening news would be a significant improvement in the situation in Iraq.

You could take the view the that this is a sad but neccesary decision, but you could never call it 'very heartening'.

What's more, the way the technicalities of strikes have been discussed, and the gross use of the phrase 'incentivise', (as noted by anonymous), suggest that you take a perverse pleasure in the griom glamour of war. And I know that you'll justify it by saying that all you're doing is facing tough realities, but what it smacks of to me is a gross lack of humanity.

And before you dismiss me as some bleeding heart liberal, you might want to know that my dad works in the Faslane naval base. That's where the bread I ate as a child came from. So this isn't a position I take without much thought.

7:31 pm, November 18, 2006

Blogger Harry Perkins said...

You are a fascinating creature, aren't you Luke? You work for companies which make money out of killing and maiming people - and you're also a supporter of weapons, which if used, would result in the extermination of human civilisation.

Tell me, do you ever look in the mirror and consider what a truly abhorrent human being you actually are?

11:01 pm, November 18, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Replacement yes. Renewal, no.

China shouldn't be our friendly trading partners anyway, I'm with the US Dems on this one. How come it's OK for us to go off bombing Iraq to spread democracy, yet we want to trade with China (even sell the bastards weapons!), and bush is off chatting to the vietnamese?

Bring back the ethical foreign policy, says I.

On that Issue however, it must be said that in current conditions, North Korea poses more of a threat than the Soviets ever did... at least they were motivated by competing with the US, and economic cookies. Kim and his mates in Tehran all appear to be unpredictable, and generally raving bonkers.

Isolate, contain, destabilise, congratulate.

2:20 am, November 19, 2006

Anonymous Larry Critter said...

Luke, if renewing the Trident Weapon of mass destruction is heartening news, perhaps if you and your family were to get cancer would be heartening news for the rest of us? :)

2:24 pm, November 19, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

It's reassuring to see that the nuclear debate stills brings out such rational and measured responses from people.

Harry,Larry, Alex et al do you ever look in the mirror and consider why you don't want your own country to either be able to defend itself adequately or equiped to do anything militarily about the tyranny and genocide still experienced in parts of the world?

I find nothing "sad but necessary" about this country - thanks to decisions by Clem Attlee and Ernie Bevin - having nuclear weapons - it should be (and is to most people) a matter of national pride.

6:46 pm, November 19, 2006

Anonymous the anecdotal said...

"It should be and is to most people, a matter of national pride"?

What evidence is there that it is a matter of national pride to most people? Have you asked them? Have you asked Mori to conduct a poll? What is the evidence?

Reclaiming the Ashes would be a matter of national pride. A brit winning a Nobel prize would be a matter of national pride. Again, replacing weapons is at best a sad but unavoidable measure. But I can't see us getting a public holiday for it.

Admit it Luke, you grossly misjudged the tone of your post, and your being made to feel that. My response to the issue of nuclear weapons isn't emotional; my response to your repulsive glorification of the subject is.

Let us not forget- 140,000 dead at Hiroshima- 74,000 dead at Nagasaki. I implore you to consider the morality of the subject Luke, and change the tone of your comment.

9:20 pm, November 19, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Dear "Anecdotal", don't be stupid. I have spent the whole of my 18 years as a Labour Party member arguing that the UK needed to keep its nuclear deterrent. Of course I am pleased if it looks like part of Blair's legacy to renew it. It would be grossly hyprocritical for me to pretend otherwise.

Please don't assume everyone else buys into your particular moral paradigm because I don't.

9:35 am, November 20, 2006

Anonymous the anecdotal said...

Answer the question Luke, where is the evidence that the majority of the british public are proud of the nuclear detterent?

I assume the complete failure to answer, or even address that point, is a tacit admittance that you have no evidence to support it.

And what is my moral paradigm? My only argument is that nuclear weapons are not something to be celebrated with grubby delight. They may be neccesary, but they don't give pleasure to me in the same way that they do to you.

I suggest you stop trying to smear me, and actually engage with the points I am making.

And perhaps you would like to go on record stating which defence company you are employed by.

12:45 pm, November 20, 2006


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