British alternative to NATO INF (Cruise and Polaris)

uk 75

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The more I read about the nuclear politics of the 60s defence decisions the more I am astonished at the annoying involvement of the Germans. It seems that from joining NATO onwards they either agitated to have their own fingers on the nuclear trigger, or later, as put by Helmut Schmidt, they distrusted British and Americans politicians assurances that destruction of German cities by Soviet bombs or missiles would be met by a nuclear response from NATO.

Given that some 50,000 British military, more in fact after deployment would be dying alongside the "innocent" Germans (not to mention a larger number of US, Canadian, Danish, Belgian and Dutch, and even French personnel) I always thought this view summed up the German attitude that their fate is more important than those of their allies (has its resonance in the current Euro crisis).

Militarily there was no need for Cruise or Pershing. The operational nuclear role for NATO was adequately covered by Valiant and B47 bombers(to be replaced in the 70s by Vulcans and F111s) and by the US Polaris/Poseidon submarines stationed in the Mediterranean.

Had Britain followed the options discussed in 1962 for a national rather than a US supplied deterrent. Perhaps a Triad composed of TSR2s, cruise missiles and Black Knight derived MRBMs as well as a national SLBM force. We would have been in an excellent position in the 70s and 80s to counter Soviet SS4/5 and later 20s with our own national deterrent. We would still have had CND moaning, but at least we could have told the Germans to belt up.

In fact even with the Vulcans and Polaris we were more than able to ensure that a US administration did not leave Europe in the lurch. In fact the whole cost and inconvenience of the INF deployment was due to the Germans...
 

zen

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German desire for involvement and control over the decision processess related to nuclear weapons is hardly surprising. As is their mistrust of others intentions to 'avenge' them. In essence the UK sought nukes for similar reasons.
Certainly one could examine the Alternative History scenario of a UK persuing its own triad of nuclear weapons systems. But it does pose the question "when" should that start from?
To my reading the case is strongest if the US continues to not share nuclear weapons technology with the UK, forcing the UK's hand. This suggests further development of Granit series.
Likely this will sap other areas further of funds. Does this force the RAF to take the already funded Buccaneer instead of pushing the TSR.2?
The whole CVA-01 saga is likely to founder much earlier if the UK tries to persue its own SSBN and SLBM.
And of course this reminds me of the 'other UK' thread I tried to get going.
However another scenario is the US retreating somewhat from Europe, perhaps due to events elsewhere and the UK having to shoulder more of the burden of providing nuclear forces. Here we can envision the 'as per history' nuclear weapons developed, and efforts to ensure the UK can provide that force.
Which poses a curious question, which is 'cheaper' for the US? Its own forces, of part funding UK forces?
 

uk 75

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Zen

Using Hennessy I would suggest a diversion point in 1962. Instead of facing down the Russians
over the Cuban missile crisis the White House bargains away the missiles in Europe and decides
that Europe should look after itself. No sacrifice of Miami for Munich.

This then forces the British to go down the path of developing a national deterrent as outlined in the minute to Macmillan. TSR 2 is an integral part of this, as it is a primary nuclear delivery system replacing the Valiant. More anon

UK 75
 

PMN1

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Ahh, Zen's already mentioned the point I was going to make...they trust the US more than we do...amusing considering the 'special relationship' we are told we have.
 

zen

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There will still be the need for the SSBN and SLBM. The logic is inescapable for a country like the UK.
 

bmdefiant

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I agree. The UK does not have the size to put any survivable land-based nuclear deterrent away from its major population centres in terms of counter-force strategy as opposed to an all out nuclear strike. Even its SSBN and storage facilities at Faslane and Coulport respectively are close to the major population in West of Scotland.
Was it due to financial reasons that the UK had gone for the bomber route prior to Skybolt ?
 

uk 75

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From my reading of Peter Hennessy's two excellent books "Cabinet and the Bomb" and
the "Secret State" as well as other sources I am now pretty clear about what the UK
wanted.
Once Blue Streak was found to be vulnerable to Soviet missiles, the UK sought a "mobile" alternative from the United States. Even though Skybolt was ordered for the short term, it was
always planned to follow this up in the 70s with Polaris or an equivalent. Skybolt was thought to
be vulnerable to Soviet Air Defences (or rather its Vulcan carriers) from the 70s.
 

JFC Fuller

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Given that West Germany rapidly became one of the, if not the largest provider of tactical aircraft (original target of 20 wings with 1246 aircraft- 4 day-fighter wings, 8 fighter-bomber wings, 3 all-weather fighter wings, 3 recce wings and 2 transport) and ground forces (3 corps with 12 divisions- 8 infantry 4 armoured) in the European theatre and that their rearmament was pushed heavily by the British after Britain realised that it could not even dream of getting close to the 9 regular divisions and 9 reserve divisions they signed up to provide to NATO under the 1952 Lisbon treaty by 1954 (Thus renegotiated at the 1954 Paris conference for Britain to provide 4 divisions and confirming the German commitment), I can kind of see their point.

Blue Streak's cancellation owed more to the massive cost overruns, programme delays and issues of finding silo locations than to its vulnerability. In fact the way the UK would have used Skybolt (Bombers sat on the ground waiting to go + a much smaller percentage of the Vulcan fleet would have been on alert at any one time compared to Blue Streak) would have made it more vulnerable than Blue Streak. For comparison; SAC bomber alert rates (15 minute ground alert; Bomber Command MBF equivalent was Readiness State 'One Five') peaked at 50% under Kennedy but were usually 30% whilst Minuteman (granted it was solid fuelled) was usually over 90% (actual number is reported at 97%). Despite studying Pofflers the UK would never have been able to sustain airborne alert (and never did, SAC only did it for 10 years [1958-68] at 15%). It makes more sense to have 90%+ of warheads on alert and buried in concrete silos than it does to have 30% on alert and sat out in the open on concrete taxiways. And Minuteman could be launched within 4 minutes of the arrival of the SIOP order and usually managed less (1-2 minutes has been quoted).
 
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PMN1

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sealordlawrence said:
bmdefiant said:
I agree. The UK does not have the size to put any survivable land-based nuclear deterrent away from its major population centres in terms of counter-force strategy as opposed to an all out nuclear strike. Even its SSBN and storage facilities at Faslane and Coulport respectively are close to the major population in West of Scotland.
Was it due to financial reasons that the UK had gone for the bomber route prior to Skybolt ?


UK deterrent prior to Polaris was very well financed by UK standards. The whole point of the V-Force (4 different aircraft prototyped with 3 procured; 2 in two different generations plus the Blue Steel programme) was to deliver nuclear weapons to Moscow: same with Blue Streak. People forget that Bomber Command was almost completely reconstituted through the 1950s almost solely for the nuclear role. Polaris was merely one facet of a massive US R&D/Procurement programme for deterrence that covered multiple systems and Polaris is one that happened to survive and thus make its way into the RN that had hitherto demonstrated little interest in the strategic nuclear deterrent role- one assumes because it was assumed to be the RAFs job.

Its been suggested on the History Politics and Current Affairs board that targeting Moscow was a mistake - it didn't have the importance to the SU that the UK put on it.
 

alertken

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Well, how do you deter a system that had taken (was it 27Mn.?) corpses and won? The Centre of High Authority, the very rigid Command and Control System, was Moscow-centric, even if the apparatchiks had been well-evacuated to a distant hole. Remember the logic of (Wellington ignoring advice that Napoleon, at Waterloo, was in artillery range) and Truman reserving Tokyo (and the Emperor) for the third, not first Bomb: someone must be able to command retreat/surrender. “Govts. did not want (USSR’s capital to be) a sanctuary’ (nature) of the concept is (to rain) warheads and decoys (to) swamp the target (Its) effect does not come from the contents of (1 FBM but) probably the (32 warhead) complement of 1 SSBN (Difficult) to disentangle the system to take on a number of targets at once” L. Freedman,The Evolution of Nuclear Strategy,Mac,81,P148. In his Memoirs Defence Scientific Adviser Solly Zuckerman is dubious of Moscow-alone: "(In) a paper on the so-called ‘Moscow Criterion’ (Staff reported) in favour (without) serious argument except that to cancel (would) damage our prestige in (US/USSR)S.Z, Monkeys, Men and Missiles, Collins, 1988,P398.

We did what we (thought we could) afford. As did France and China. The logic of Deterrence stands or falls on: the rational actor with equity he seeks to protect. That is why Israel, India and (in sane hands) Pakistan can be tolerated as Nuclear Powers, whereas Iran, old-Libya and N.Korea cannot.

On Mountbatten's disinterest, as FSL, in SSBNs: those same Hennesseys report: a) that he presumed a constant RN budget, such that SSBNs would be instead of, not extra to, proper vessels; and:
b) PM Macmillan was disposed in 1961 to exit the Deterrent business after Skybolt: just too costly. It was baying Tory backwoodsmen protecting the "Independent" Deterrent that caused him to seek a substitute. We here know, but they did not, that "Independence" was a chimera.
 

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