Westminster has agreed a £37 million deal with the US government for a dozen huge new Trident missile launchers more than a year before the UK parliament is due to decide whether the nuclear weapons system should be renewed.
The US defence giant, General Dynamics, has been contracted by the US Navy to make 12 launch tubes for a UK submarine that could start to replace those currently on the Clyde next decade. According to the US Navy, the company will end up making a total of 48 missile tubes for four new UK nuclear submarines.
But the UK parliament is not scheduled to take the main decision on whether or not Trident nuclear weapons should be renewed, or how many submarines there should be, until 2016 after next year’s general election. This has angered leading Nationalist and Labour politicians, who accuse the UK government of preempting a democratic decision.
The deal to equip UK submarines with 12 missile launch tubes each is also at odds with the UK government’s oft-repeated disarmament promise that it would only use eight. Critics fear that future governments could load the four additional tubes with missiles and hugely expand the UK’s nuclear firepower. The UK government is also facing allegations that it misled the public and the United Nations (UN) over the number of tubes, though this is denied.