Monday, 23 January 2017

Why We Need Answers About the Trident Test Debate

by Layla Link

It’s a simple question, but somehow our Prime Minister could not answer it. Did she, or did she not know that something had gone wrong with our nuclear weapons, when she asked MPs to vote to renew the costly Trident system? Questioned by the BBC's Andrew Marr on Sunday, Prime Minister Theresa May refused four times to answer questions about when she had been aware of the “misfire”.

The Trident system was acquired by the Thatcher government in the early 1980s as a replacement for the Polaris missile system, which the UK had possessed since the 1960s. At any one time there is one submarine armed and at sea, one underground, and two in port or on training manoeuvres. One submarine can carry 8 missiles and 40 warheads. HMS Vengeance, one of the UK's four Vanguard-class submarines, which are 150m long, more than an airbus A380, returned to sea for trials in December 2015 after a £350m refit, which included the installation of new missile launch equipment and upgraded computer systems. According to the Sunday Times, the unarmed Trident II D5 missile was intended to be fired 5,600 miles from the coast of Florida to a sea target off the West coast of Africa - but veered towards the US.

True, Mrs May wasn't in charge when the alleged misfire of the Trident missiles system took place-reportedly aiming off at Florida, rather than at its target. However, the incident reportedly happened a few weeks before MPs voted to renew the UK's nuclear weapons system in July, days after Mrs May had become prime minister following David Cameron's resignation, when MPs backed the £40 billion renewal of Trident by 472 votes to 117. During the debate, Mrs May told MPs it would be "an act of gross irresponsibility" for the UK to abandon its nuclear weapons. Yet 52 SNP MPs voted against it, as did 47 Labour MPs, including party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The Ministry of Defence claims submarine HMS Vengeance and its crew were "successfully tested" last June and a statement issued by Downing Street and the MoD said the capability and effectiveness of Trident was “unquestionable". So is this just another cover up? And if the Prime Minister did know, why didn't he make the matter public before the vote to renew the system? A missile veering off course is deeply concerning and should not be taken lightly.

Is there anything else we don't know about our country’s defence systems?

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