An integrated review of Downing Street’s defense and foreign policy is expected next week to indicate a potential increase in the number of Trident nuclear warheads for the first time since the end of the Cold War.
Whitehall sources said a limit on the total number of warheads – currently set at 180 – is expected to rise, although the exact number is not yet known, a move analysts said was diplomatically provocative.
British stockpiles of nuclear weapons the peak was around 500 in the late 1970s, but has since gradually diminished as the perceived threat from the Soviet Union and now Russia was supposed to diminish.
The last strategic defense review, in 2015, obliged the UK to “reduce total nuclear weapons stockpiles to no more than 180 warheads” by mid-2020 – and reduce the number of operationally available warheads to 120.
Each warhead is estimated to have an explosive power of 100 kilotons. The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima at the end of World War II weighed about 15 kilotons.
The full reasons for the expected move are not yet clear, but they come amid speculation that it was designed to help persuade the U.S. to co-finance aspects of the Trident warhead for the 2030s. His expenses are not certain either.
“If this is confirmed, this would be a very provocative move,” said David Cullen, director of the Nuclear Information Service. “The United Kingdom has repeatedly pointed to a reduction in the stockpile of warheads as proof that it is fulfilling its legal obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
“If they tear down decades of progress in reducing the number, it will be a slap in the face to 190 other members of the agreement and will be considered a shocking violation of the faith.”
Britain has been using its own nuclear weapons since the 1950s, but for the past 60 years, following an agreement between then-Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and then-US President John F Kennedy, Britain has relied heavily on American technology.
The Trident missiles are deployed in four submarines, one of which is continuously at sea to make sure it can strike back in the event of an unprovoked nuclear attack. It draws on the existing American warhead W76, based on a 1970s design called the Holbrook.
However, the W76 is aging, and the U.S. has proposed the development of a more powerful replacement, called the W93. The UK especially wants the US to start working on W93, and last summer the Secretary of Defense, Ben Wallace, lobbied in Congress that the business goes on.
British MPs voted in favor renew Trident in principle in 2016, but it is expected that the Commons will at some point have to vote on a new warhead. In 2016, the Conservatives almost unanimously supported the reconstruction, the SNP voted against, while Labor was divided.
The MoD said the development of the next-generation Dreadnought warhead submarines would cost £ 30 billion plus £ 10 billion. But officials have so far refused to say how much it would cost a warhead.
A Defense Ministry spokesman said: “The UK is committed to maintaining its independent nuclear deterrence, which exists to deter the most extreme threats to our national security and way of life.
“The replacement of the warhead and the construction of four new Dreadnought-class submarines are sovereign programs of the United Kingdom that will maintain deterrence in the future. We will not comment on speculation about the integrated review, which will be released on Tuesday. ”