UK Alternatives to Polaris, 1963

alertken

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Prof.P.Hennessy, Cabinets and the Bomb, OUP, 2007,P.163 has MoA advice 15/1/63 to PM's Q:
if Polaris is not on offer, could UK, "either as a bluff or as a reality" do a simple substitute? A:
a) an ALBM, similar to Skybolt;
b) an SLBM similar to Polaris A2;
c) an ALCM benefiting from OR.1182 (IIRC: later Blue Steels, and an HP project);
d) an SR and an LR land-based BM, derived from Black Knight, benefiting from Blue Streak
(Hill's Vertical Empire has Saro Black Prince).
MoD a fortnight later said, thanks, but no thanks to all.

Is there anything behind any of this?
 

fredgell

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This link from Space UK

http://spaceuk.org/ba/siddeley.htm

would seem to confirm some aspects of this -
configuration of missile and text to diagram - warhead!

Regards

Fred
 

uk 75

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I think that the UK never had much alternative to US weapons systems for the deterrent because of the limited quantity of nuclear material available from our own industry. We now know that most of the weapons flown on the V force were US bombs and it took a long time to get enough material (coupled with the access to better and smaller US designs) for the so-called British weapons.

One also has to remember that the primary purpose of the UK deterrent was to keep us close to the US Government and gain access to its planning and decision-making. This became even more important after the humiliation of Suez.

Polaris and later Trident were the only political options acceptable to both Labour and Conservative governments from the 60s to the present day.

Another drawback of a clearly British nuclear delivery system was that its use would be tied to the British and would not make the Russians worry about a joint US-UK or follow-on US strike. Confusing the Russians and keeping them off balance as to how the West might react to Soviet activity was the primary justification for the UK bomb. A purely British missile like Blue Streak could have been marginalised by the Russians and Americans sharing their own know-how. This almost certainly happened in the case of France, whose nuclear deterrent was never taken seriously by the Russians.

UK 75
 

alertken

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One of Hennessy's notes linking these primary sources wonders if Ministers generally knew, specifically that Red Snow, thus Yellow Sun Mk.2 and Blue Steel's warhead, was in essence US Mk.28, so hardly as "independent" as Conservatives were (are) wont to assert. Wynn's Official History has Macmillan, during the Cuban Crisis, asking how long until US stores could be made available to RAF, and being surprised to find "they were here" (and had been so since May,1958, at his personal behest!)
 

zen

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From a UK perspective confusion between a UK weapon and a US weapon would seem rather central the whole philosophy of the thing.
These UK weapons even of US design where under UK control, which means the UK can strike at the USSR even if he US does not. But the confusion means the US will be as much suspected of the strike as the UK and thus must follow through with the UK or face the likely consequences.
Since the ISD of Polaris, the US cannot stand back and let the UK be nuked by the USSR since the UK SSBN will fire regardless of US policy, again the USSR cannot be sure that the weapons incomming are US or UK, so it must assume the worst.

Thus the basis of the alliance is that neither partner can appease the USSR if the other does not, nor can either partner sacrifice the other without being sucked in during the retaliation, a sort of 'fail safe' as it where.
 

fredgell

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I'm not sure it is right to say that the UK was short of nuclear materials in the early 60s.

The UK Magnox reactor programme was producing weapons grade material from 1956 onwards and by about 1962 there were at least 8 reactor units producing plutonium as well as power.
I seem to recall that the UK exported substantial quantities of plutonium to the USA from around 1958 onwards, in exchange for other materials. Something aproaching 6 tons over an extended period (enough for several hundred warheads).

So the issue was more complex than 'availabilty'.

The UK is sitting on a published stockpile approaching 100 tons of plutonium - reportedly enough for several thousand weapons in very crude terms.

Notwitstanding that, after the UK H bomb tests, most design seemed to be adaptions of US
weapons. A serious effort was made around the time of Polaris to ensure that if push came to shove there was a UK inhouse design and fabrication capability for warheads, even if it wasn't used. I recall from chats in the early 70s with engineers who had worked on Black Knight and subsequently Black Arrow and Falstaff that there was always seemed to be the thought in the back of their minds about at least a cheap and cheerful IRBM.

When you see how much(little) was spent on Black Arrow and what was achieved by these teams you would easily imagine that they could have built something if asked and funded.

Fred
 

zen

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Ultimately it was a matter of will, and the will to produce our own missile was clearly not there as such, but if pushed I guess it could have been so.

But naturaly funding it would draw funds away from other things.
 

zen

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Now that puts a different slant on things.

Perhaps DeGaulle was right after all?
 

alertken

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Zen: We are allowed some confusion over US/USSR reaction to "small nuclear Forces...dangerous, expensive, prone to obsolescence and lacking in credibility”: SecDef McNamara, 1962 chose to tell PM Macmillan that he alluded to CDG's nascent Force de Frappe, but there was then only one "small Force". UK's was integrated with USAF/SAC from 1/7/58, into USAF/USN/RAF SIOP 1/4/61, then into NATO/Saceur's Plans 23/5/63 (oddments declared to CENTO/SEATO). I don't suppose the Sovs. had much concern as to whether UK's role in Moscow rubble was to make it, or to bounce it, following-up US ICBMs/FBMs/SAC.

UK spent on all this duplication in part to buy insurance if NATO disintegrated - if a US President chose not to stake DC if Sovs rolled to W.Berlin, or onward. But that was illogical: UK voters, MPs, even Ministers, did not know of the US-dependency of all our Sunshine...but Sovs did. I doubt they ever bothered to draft a Plan to respond to a solo-UK Threat, nor to launch on us, alone. Krushchev blustered at Suez, but bluster was all there was. By the time he had some real sabres to rattle, he knew we were part of a team.

Big Charles had quite different logic in his solo-nuke spend: Force de Frappe was initiated 1954 by Mendès-France, confirmed 1956 by G.Mollet, given highest priority by CDG 6/58 enraged by Krushchev’s threats during Suez, which he chose not to dismiss as puff. B.Goldschmidt,Atomic Rivals,Ritgers,90,Pp.214/6,297,357. He later told Ike: “I have to be unbearable on my own ({just be yourself, I hear you cry} In) order to respond to an invasion of W.Europe (with no Threat to US) I shall use it. (I must) possess the necessary means to change into a nuclear war what (USSR) would have liked to have remained a classic war” J.Lacouture,de G,Harville,91,P368. D.T.Thorpe,Eden,03,Chatto,P275 has Eden sourcing CDG's Anglophobia to Mrs.Churchill 28/11/42, arguing with him over Adm.Darlan, that nice man.

I prefer this to explain his nuclear spend: if UK felt ravaged by McMahon - a cause for Attlee to spend, solo - then yet more so for France: did CDG know of advice, Lord Anderson (Minister responsible for Tube Alloys) to WSC 7/43 before Quebec Agreement putting UK in Manhattan: “moral obligations (US/UK are) indebted to certain French scientists for having been the first to attract our attention to this programme. PM took no account of this whatsoever.” Goldschmidt. It is on such human frailties that vast resources were assigned, to France's economic detriment, v.say, Japan, W.Germany, to deploy 10/64-76: 36 Mirage IVA/(AN-11/AN-22 bombs); 1971-79, 5 Le Redoubtable SSBN (16xAerospatiale M-1/2 FBM); 1974-93, 70 Aérospatiale S-2 Pluton SSM; 8/71-6/80, 18 S-2, 30 Hadès SRBM.

Despite CDG's own bluster about pointing his Force to all azimuths, despite leaving certain NATO forums in 1966, France stayed involved in high policy, and, I submit, would have been right there with us, if the balloon had ever gone up. He owed us, after all: his Frappe was not as solo as he asserted: G.Prins (Ed.), Defended to Death, Penguin, 1983,P.340: “France benefited from (July,58 easing of McMahon Act) with an import of enriched uranium for its prototype submarine reactor in 1959.” 10/62 “US agreed to sell a nuclear sub (sic: =reactor) to France”. I.Clark, Nuclear Diplomacy & the Special Relationship,OUP,94


US helped both small Forces. Hence my first post: as we scurried post-Skybolt, Buttler/Gibson, BSP IV, has many sketches of devices - Polaris on Vulcan, Blue Water resurrected, on TSR.2. Was it not all simply noise in the pricing negotiations that led to the (hugely favourable) Polaris Sales Agreement? We even got our Levy waived - our contribution to FBM R&D cost was offset, as "rent" for Diego Garcia.
 

zen

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I don't suppose the Sovs. had much concern as to whether UK's role in Moscow rubble was to make it, or to bounce it, following-up US ICBMs/FBMs/SAC.

I doubt the soviets at their higher levels thought such, they knew the UK was more likely to use the weapons if they came over the wall and was able to use them without US being able to stop that. There is after all a certain benefit to having enemy spies among you and one of them is to tell the enemy you are serious or not.

But that was illogical: UK voters, MPs, even Ministers, did not know of the US-dependency of all our Sunshine...but Sovs did.
It was entirely logical, UK made these weapons and the UK controlled these weapons, even if they where to a US design.

I doubt they ever bothered to draft a Plan to respond to a solo-UK Threat, nor to launch on us, alone.
Perhaps but then thats the point, we can force the general war into a nuclear confligration that involves everyone. Rather more expert people than I have revealed the truth that "one flies they all fly" is the inevitable result. This being due to command and control degrading with an alarming rapidity once the nukes start falling. Controlled nuclear war is a fallacy, exposed by the US's studies into how such exchanges work.
If we fire on the USSR, the USA has no choice, it must either fire or sit back and watch the Soviet missiles fly toward it as much as us.

No I'm not sure it was all noise, rather it was insurance if the US did'nt agree, and this is why it continued, to ensure that the US would agree or see us do our own thing without their influence.
I don't think it was ever a case of us not having nukes or the Deterrent.
 

JFC Fuller

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As with many of these things the UK's sudden lack of a solution to its need for an air-luanched stand-off deterrent can be traced back to the begginings of the Blue Steel programme. As TB points out in BSP4 Avro was suggesting a newly designed Mach 4.5+ flying wing with 1000nm range as early as 1956. This weapon rears its head again after the cancellation of Skybolt in 1962 by which time it is too late. Had this design have been pursued it is plausible that the UK could have had a viable stand-off deterrent weapon on a not dissimilar timeline to the real world blue steel and thus avoided the technical need to participate in Skybolt. My favourite is the Avro W.109 with a single improved stentor in a conical fuselage with full length highly swept wings and a single fin mounted on the lower fuselage. A viable doppler navigation system existed in the form of Yellow Lemon, the Stentor was already under development and the stainless steel development programme was underway along with research into other more exotic fabrication techniques.
 

alertken

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After Vickers failed with Blue Boar, Avro formed Weapons Research Divn., with many ex-RAE staff, to take on the stand-off bomb, 9/3/56: MoS was “relieved (to find an aircraft) constructor (prepared) to accept the challenge” J.E.Allen(Avro), Blue Steel & Devts, R.Ae.S 17/3/99. For Mk.2 V-Craft and Avro 730 Avro then bid numerous ASMs, all dubbed Blue Steel to sucker politicos into a low-risk mindset, but: “few (contracts caused) such bitter feelings (as) even in 1956 (Avro puffed 1,000n.m. The view in MoS was that if they) could not perfect (100n.m.) how could they (do) 10xthat?...weak management structure (criticisms) recriminations (were) common parlance (in MoS/Air Ministry)”. Wynn, Official History RAF Nuclear Forces, Pp202/4. Not cleared for Service until 28/3/63 and then for “emergency use only” as a free-fall shroud; not Released for QRA until 22/2/65; not test fired at 1,000ft. until 27/5/67 (Victor B.2R, 25n.m, nicely ahead of phase-out, 31/12/68), 31/5/67 (Vulcan B.2, 43n.m); scything through its handlers...USSR's secret weapon: you want more of this?

Turbojet Hound Dog was contracted to NAA 8/57, deployed 1960. Managerially, industrially, UK was not, is not good at GW, which is why we cancelled so many, bought in so many even from Norway.
 

Zoo Tycoon

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Alertken
NAA Hound Dog is not the best example to prove how intuitively good the US industry was;- please remember most of the Hound Dog industrial team had just served an eleven year, no expense spared, government sponsored apprenticeship on the Navaho.....aka "The no go Navaho";-ambitious but none the less a total failure. Given the chance to play with all those lovely X-10's I'm surprised that Hound Dog took as long as it did.

Blue Steel may have been a real dog but Bloodhound was pretty good for a first attempt.
 
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Hood

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Hennessy in his latest edition of 'The Secret State' goes a little further on this theme.
p69 Macmillian on Boxing Day 1962 musing what could be done if Nassau didn't hold together, secret memorandum to Home, Thorneycroft and Heath, "if we were driven into a corner, we could either as a bluff or reality, make a Polaris missile perhaps of a simplier design, ourselves from our own designs; how long would it take etc?"

They met at Admiralty House to discuss Nassau on 31 December, Thorneycroft says "we would not be able to afford starting from scratch to develop a reinsurance system."
In mid January Macmillian receives the costs and timings he asked for on Boxing Day and Hennessy says it was apparant that Thorneycroft was correct. That is TNA, PRO, PREM 11/418 'Discussions on Intermidiate Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBMs): Part Six. Therefore there must have been some projects or at least rough calcualations on paper of various IRBM projects to assess how long they would take and what it would cost. And to think Blue Steel was only cancelled in 1961... times and technology moved fast. I can't see how Britain could have developed a submraine-based IRBM and the associated submarines, the cost would have been phenominal given the USA's experience in this field.
 

JFC Fuller

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I bring you UK consideration of using the 54 inch Black Knight as a two stage IRBM, please see page 17:

http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=AD352495&Location=U2&doc=GetTRDoc.pdf

Note that the maximum possible range is listed as 1,500 Nautical Miles. Also worthy of note is that the 54 inch Black Knight was not that far off the dimensions of Polaris and could probably have been 'squished' to make an SLBM though the issue of liquid / storable fuel would have reared its head. Document is dated 1964. A truly indigenous warhead providing the required range would have been limited to a few hundred Kilotons, minimum useful weight is listed as 800lbs.

A further interesting note, courtesy of Black Arrow the UK did work on an improved Gamma engine called Larch as well as the Gamma 303 (the same engine?) which would have allowed considerably improved performance had it been developed.

for a good schematic of the 54inch Black Knight see:

http://www.spaceuk.org/hill.pdf

As for the BSE (Armstrong Siddeley) proposed IRBM, I feel it to be something of a red herring, it was really far too big for a first generation SSBN or for mobile TEL's and at the same time seems too small to fulfill the sort of role that Blue Streak was designed for.
 
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