The cost of taking part in a US programme to lengthen the lives of the D5 missiles that carry the nuclear warheads is officially forecast to rise from £5.5 million in 2010-11 to £37.5 million in 2015-16.
This has been condemned as “dodgy accounting” and a huge waste by critics, who said the money would just help boost the profits of US arms companies. But the Ministry of Defence (MoD) insisted it was “excellent value for taxpayers”.
The UK government under Prime Minister Tony Blair agreed in 2006 to take part in a US programme runs by arms giant, Lockheed Martin, to extend the lives of the D5 missiles by 14 years to 2042. This was despite the fact that the main decision to build replacement submarines to carry them is not due to be taken until 2016.
Until now, the yearly price of the D5 life extension programme for UK taxpayers has not been known. But parliamentary answers to the SNP’s defence spokesman, Angus Robertson MP, have revealed the escalating cost.
Defence ministers have said that the planned annual expenditure on the programme will rise by £32 million over six years (see table below). They have refused to specify what spending is likely to be in the years beyond 2015-16, as budgets have not yet been agreed.
“This answer shows another astonishing increase in costs connected with the unwanted Trident missile programme,” said Robertson, who is also the SNP’s leader in Westminster.